Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

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Finding meaning in a beatdown (True Romance)

I've loved plenty of violent movies. I've loved plenty of movies Quentin Tarantino's been involved in.

True Romance isn't one of either set.

This is going to happen occasionally, where I don't really like the monthly KUFO Late Night Movie (hosted by Cort and Fatboy, as I've told you once a month since October 2007 when I started going to these). Most of them, of course, I will, as I trust Cort and Fatboy and their programming tastes, which greatly overlap with mine. We're geeks, and they're playing to an audience of fellow geeks, people who can find love and fondness for films ranging from Predator to Super Troopers to GoodFellas to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I already know some of this year's upcoming movies (no I won't say yet, except for May's film being The Big Lebowski again), and I know the hit-to-miss ratio will remain hella high. My reaction this time is for different reasons.

True Romance, of course, is famous for being one of Tarantino's earliest-produced scripts, one of his many blends of pop-culture ranting and ultra-violence, made on a low budget but with A-list talent: Tony Scott directing, Jeffrey Kimball doing cinematography duties, Hans Zimmer and Mark "Speed" Mancina making the music, and a fan-freakin'-tastic cast (I have a disproportionate fondness for Val Kilmer as the Ghost of Elvis). It's also famous for a mid-film attack on a major character that is such a brutal beatdown: a bad guy really, really hurts a good guy.

It's a sequence I had true trouble watching: gaze in my lap, my body cringing at the sound of the attack, glimpsing up to see how close to the end it is.

Several years ago, someone close to me who started watching True Romance with me could not get past that sequence, and asked me to stop the film. That someone -- I hadn't known this at the time -- had been abused as a kid. Abused badly. Like the character gets abused. (I'm not going to be more specific.) Said True Romance character turns the tables on the attacker, and the audience (very much on that character's side) cheers, because it's a NEEDED vengeance. This character fights back, and you see the reserves of righteous fury this character has. You've already seen the reserves of love this character has. And the bad guy is a bad, bad guy, and you want that to blow up in the bad guy's face, and there is a level of satisfaction when it does.

But if anyone in the Bagdad last night saw me with a set, sad look on my face, that was why.

Love's been on my mind a lot lately. How it happens, why it happens, how it sometimes lasts, how it sometimes doesn't, and how it's expressed. I remember the idea -- I first heard it in Thomas Harris's Red Dragon -- that people often leave funerals wanting to make love, have sex, screw, whatever word or phrase you want to use for that act...because it's a way of affirming life, of reminding us how life keeps going in the face of death. I can see that. It's a way of saying "there's more to life than death." Soon after 9/11, I remember the reports of bar-going really picking up in the attacked cities, people pairing off to find closeness and warmth after something so huge and hard to process happening to their home. The quote that stuck with me was "People are in a fuck-and-survive mode." I was sitting there in the Bagdad, watching this violence-epic...and kind of wishing I was in a relationship, so I could go back to the woman I was involved with and find love, and warmth, and closeness, to remind myself that there's more to life than the ugly stuff that happens.

I'll risk sounding high-falutin': in its weird, ultra-crude, and often hilarious way, True Romance is about love, found in an unexpected place and in tough circumstances. It survives. Love can survive a lot. ("Hope can survive a lot" is a message in The Shawshank Redemption, a much, much better film.) Ultimately, I "get" the film, and I can see why fans found it. I just never want to see it again.

*hugs you all*
Tags: film reviews, midnight movies

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