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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, June 13, 2020

entry arrow10:00 AM | The Film Meme No. 49

[49th of 100]. Parties are interesting artifice, but in the movies they're often allegories of human connection, a filmmaker's way of providing their audience a shorthand in how the characters relate to each other. Think of the contrasting parties that bookend Peque Gallaga's Oro Plata Mata, or the sumptuous ones that begin Martin Scorsese's The Age of Innocence or Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather, or the one that occupies almost the entire length of Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont's Can't Hardly Wait or Blake Edwards's The Party or Luis Buñuel's The Exterminating Angel, or the finish of Gabriel Axel's Babette's Feast. Parties introduce us to a vast array of characters at once, and allow us to nimbly extrapolate how each one regard the other with a choice glance, or word, or action; to deduce the pecking order at play; and to see the unsaid drama that's bubbling beneath the surface of things. Parties are a great, almost unfailing narrative device. When used sharply, the dividends in meaning are fantastic. When used just as well in black comedy, the result is farce of the highest order -- but here the guffaws often cannot happen because we're too busy minding the boundaries between the laughter and the hurt. This is exactly the case for Jean Renoir's 1939 classic, which was booed by audiences when it premiered, flopped spectacularly at the box office, and cut into lesser and lesser running time to salvage the loss. Decades later, its rehabilitation proved spectacular. It is now considered to be of the most important films ever made, and audiences can finally laugh with its barbed humour. It is now a film that was clearly ahead of its time. But I can understand its initial failures. Its theme, after all, was hypocrisy, and it wielded that as a mirror to audiences in 1939. People saw themselves, and hated what they beheld -- and the film was punished for making comedy out of people's foibles. The movie begins by laying out the finer strands of relationships of a handful of people, those of the privileged class, their hangers-on, and their servants. We become privy to their lies and fears and aspirations and desperations, compounded by infidelities and jealousies. And all comes to fore in the exclusive annual hunting party that unfolds in the Chateau de la Colinière in the French countryside. As the party unfolds, hijinks and pratfalls ensue, complete with situations of mistaken identities -- leading to a tragedy that nonetheless does not move most of the principals of this story. Heightened above all is the notion that everyone is shallow, has no moral center, and all just go about the business of living in utter heedless uncaring. The best line in the movie has one character telling another this unlikely summation of human existence: "The awful thing about life is this: Everyone has their reasons." Try making that the answer to your perplexed questions. Why did so-and-so hurt me? "Who knows? Everyone has their reasons." Why did this happen to so-and-so? "Who knows? Everyone has their reasons." Why did 16 million people vote for Duterte? "Who knows? Everyone has their reasons." It's grim philosophy indeed. To make that the engine of a comedy is harsh; but if only we could just laugh away all the sad connotations. What's the film?

For the introduction to this meme, read here.


[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich