Saturday, July 2, 2011
Strange, bitter, cynical, lonely, godless, slow-moving & cold while at the same time completely over-complicated, pretentious, patronising and constantly launching into pseudo-profound statements that neither impress nor connect: ultimately just plain boring,
but enough about how ex-girlfriends describe me — let's talk about Robert Altman's Quintet :
Sometimes the mood that you're in, or your general expectation levels colour the experience of watching a fillum, so I'd like to state from the outset that I couldn't have watched this film with a kinder eye than the one that I cast upon it t'other night.
I didn't mind that it was slow-moving and mad, I would have been happy to just follow the story. It has Paul Newman in it, and Paul Newman's great. Cold and depressing doesn't bother me: I miss the winters in Finland, but you cant get into this one, it actually wont let you.
Quintet depicts a frozen and lifeless dystopia heading towards complete extinction much like 'The Road', and like 'The Road' it's harsh.
People die and dogs eat them. A lot, so much in fact, that it starts to look silly. Honestly you could invent a drinking game for watching this film where everyone takes a shot everytime you see the same bunch of dogs nipping in a bored way at a blood-stained corpse and you'd be hammered by the end of it.
Speaking of alcohol, apparantly moss still grows and people ferment the moss to make alcohol and explosives that are required for the plot but otherwise there doesn't seem to be any food gathering food production or food distribution. Despite this, nobody ever eats or seems to be hungry as they are all constantly playing the mysterious and seemingly addictive game 'Quintet'.
This is another problem, there's obviously some point being made about human society's bread-and-circuses love of sport/entertainment and distractions over any engagement with political reality but that's all it is, a point. Plot and story-wise we never get to learn the rules of this game so it just remains a source of bafflement why all these presumably starving people are playing it.
The accidental death (by moss-made explosive) of Paul's wife and unborn child lead him into a b-movie intrigue where he finds a list and must figure out what's going as the people on the list keep getting murdered. ( I know that's officially 'SPOILER' but I don't care, this film already spoils itself )
To remind us that we're involved in double-dealing machinations and intrigue the characters dress as post-apocalyptic Machievellis with capes and big pentangular hats and make the film look like a kind of am-dram production of 'the life of Marco Polo' set in a fridge. To hammer this 'he could be among the Borgias' point home, a lot of them have thick Mediterranean accents and one of them even speaks Latin, all without reason or explanation of mind you.
The big reveal, ( your reward as a spectator for sitting through the whole thing) is Paul's discovery that the people on the list are bumping each other off ( wow! ) in the manner of a game of 'Quintet' ( which means nothing to us as we don't know the rules). We are told so often (via the recurring motif of dogs eating people) that human life isn't worth much so it's hard us to find any of the murders that all horrific or intriguing, or to believe that the protagonist would either.
Paul wins the 'game' and discovers that the 'prize' is simply surviving. He decides not to play a second time and the film ends as he walks north into pretty much nothing.
Regret time spent watching film.
Wonder how anyone ever let Altman make another.
Resolve to stop watching rubbish.