What do you do when you can’t acquire the rights to Bram Stoker’s Dracula in order to make your vampire flick? You make it anyway, just changing the names and a bit of the plot. Yet F.W. Murnau’s iconic silent vampire film, for all its loose plagiarism, remains a rather singular cinematic work. Even its recreations have never been able to achieve the unsettling creepiness of the original silent Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror.
Hong Kong and I are at odds at the moment. While I can appreciate the cinematic quality of such films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon the portrayals at violence turn me off to the action. I personally just don’t like the choreography of the fights. It’s too out there, breaking the very fabrics of reality and making scenes that rarely have any context in reality. Therefore, when the film tries to craft a human drama I find it hard to reconcile that to the fantastical violence I witnessed moments ago. So going into Hero I had a list of issues I was expecting and found a few more before the credits rolled.
If this film was made in the ‘90s it would be about a group of intercity African Americans who go to the championships of some high school sport—say basketball. They’d be led by their coach who tells them to believe in themselves. The only problem is that you’d have to explain the snazzy misspelling of “narcissists.” I suggest Pursuit of Happyness for inspiration. All kidding asides what the film is about ends up being far more fascinating than you’d think it would be. I mean how gripping can a film about nuns be?
If you are going to make a movie about the last man on earth you better cast the best actor you can. All you’re going to have is one man to make the audience invested in his fate and the fate of humanity. It’s has to be someone big, big enough to fill the screen as an actor and as a persona. This movie must be built upon this performance, shaped by it and anywhere it goes has to come from that. Who do you cast? Will Smith. Then you fill your movie with CG vampires, horrible plot twists and a handful of awkward scenes.
D.W. Griffith silent melodrama, Broken Blossoms, is an early demonstration of the beauty to be found in the silent era. There’s a tendency to think that beauty in films comes from the images and that the really grand and artistic stuff is to be found in the color era. Not only does this disregard many of the breathtaking black and white pictures, but it also assumes that all film has going for it is the images. D.W Griffith is perhaps the key founder of narrative filmmaking and he uses the power of narrative in film to shape a truly beautiful film in Broken Blossoms.