Friday, December 31, 1999

Ride With the Devil / ** (1999)

The advantage of war movies is that they tend to provide us with the brutal horror that textbooks cannot begin to comprehend. "Ride With The Devil," the new film from acclaimed director Ang Lee, is about Civil war guerillas who inflict their own personal horror in Missouri for reasons unknown on the surface level. It would painful for the audience trying to even guess what they stand for.

The movie is quite odd--possibly the first war film ever made that takes the perception of self-values and shuts the viewer completely out of their meanings. By this, I'm referring to what the characters stand for; each presents us with a personal (and sometimes psychological) dilemma, only to tear it away from us before we even have a chance to scratch the surface. We sit there is paralyzing frustration for over 130 minutes, hoping that one of the players will open up and let us in. Alas, like Terrence Malick's "The Thin Red Line," it just sits there and provokes a dreary series of plot developments that occur during the infamous Civil War (and yet most of them are told from a non-historical perspective).

The Talented Mr. Ripley / **** (1999)

During his life as a respected filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock showcased uncanny cinematic talents that went beyond what any of his peers had ever attempted (at that time, of course). The only difference between he and others is that, when furthering the styles and techniques of filmmaking, most directors are eventually copied by others in hopes that they can share in the success; Hitchcock's photographic and narrative brilliance went immediately noticed, however, because it was the kind that no director could successfully copy. His works, compared to most frontal horror films in modern days, were silent and subtle thrillers (timeless, but never the kind that would hold up to an audience in an age of suggestive imagery). They required a squint of thought rather than two eyes and a thirst for puddles of blood. The master of suspense also provided us with psychological dilemmas among his movies enemies. There is a moment in his "Psycho," for example, where we feel sorry for the villain and hope he succeeds in his hidden agenda; then there's a moment in "The Birds" when we ask ourselves, "how can one blame these birds for murder when we have done worse things to them?"