I’m looking forward to Before Midnight, Richard Linklater’s latest in a trilogy of films about a man and woman who forge a really contrived intimacy with one another solely on the basis of chance meet-ups that occur every nine years. The first film Before Sunrise is meandering and loose, the characters spilling their guts to each other about life and death and everything in between with the unpracticed tedium of a couple Freshman Seminar students.
The next film, Before Sunset, revisits the original concept with refinement, the characters just as oddly talky but more complicated, an added layer of adult “maturity” disguising the urgency that wills their encounters on. Their lived-in melancholy has aged like wine and the movie ends on an unforgettably ambiguous note.
And now Before Midnight has popped up nine years later still, debuting the same week as motherfucking Fast and Furious 6.
With Fast Five (2011) the series surrendered to the fact street racing isn’t interesting to people who intellectually outgrew their provisional driving license, instead developing into a steroid-infused action flick where people punch each other and things joyously explode without the willed stupidity (read that as charitably or negatively as you’d prefer) of filmmakers like Michael Bay and Neveldine/Taylor.
Fast Five isn’t a throwback to nineties-era action movies, but it has their pure, entertaining simplicity. And I’m sure Fast and Furious 6 isn’t a condemnation of modern bombastic excess, but it wasn’t shot in 3D nor was it post-converted to such, and that alone should indicate something.
For good or bad the advent of high definition Blu-ray technology has become the lens with which I come to an adult appraisal of movies from my past. They become less pieces of video entertainment and more a coordinated menagerie of crisp, clear images to actively process. I don’t use movies as background entertainment or flip through them on the teevee or watch them while I surf Facebook. I make my selections based upon a careful balance of mood and whimsy, bearing witness in a dark room with as much attention as I can afford.
I find myself reading comics and watching anime in much a similar manner. Of course the syntax is different, but this self-appointed duty of being a more thinking and feeling viewer has only increased the enjoyment I get out of these things. It’s steered me in my own eclectic directions. It’s saved me from opinions by way of social cliques.
So, when I watch Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind with these eyes it seems equally exemplative of high quality eighties animated moviemaking and the European tradition. Most visually interesting are the Ohmu, these giant shelled bugs animated with carefully painted layers that shamble against each other like they were cutout pieces animated in René Laloux’ Fantastic Planet.
What really got to me this time around, however, is how damn effective this Nausicaa movie is. If you’re watching an animated movie with environmental themes made by someone who made a lot of those and you already saw it before so you know everything that’s going to happen, it shouldn’t resonate so deeply, but this one did.