Cleansing the doors of cinematic perception... for a better now

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I aims to scan your big bald head: HITMAN and the new Male Chastity

So I had to review the Luc Besson-produced, video game adaptation HITMAN and it wasn't near as bad as some of them critics said it should be. Of course low expectations will get you through every time. Yeah it's stupid enough, and derivative, but aren't they all? What save its ass is its French n'cest pas...

Naturally the actors all speak English and whatnot but what I mean is the film has a French producer, Luc Besson, who invented the "model with a gun" genre with LA FEMME NIKITA back in 1990. He's riffed on the same sexy mix of perfume ad nonchalance and bloody violence (raw, as zee Americans love eet) ever since, gradually giving up the director reins to focus on producing and--presumably--living the high life.

What's cool with Besson is that his Gallic intellect and compassion are not subsumed by the junk food overkill that flattens most Hollywood action pics. Underneath the polish, NIKITA was genuinely warm and mythic: she starts out as a junkie punk, dies and is reborn as a mature woman. In the Besson films that followed, tough men with bald heads took care of runaway runway girls and often died for their troubles. Bruce and Milla in FIFTH ELEMENT aside, they were platonic relationships. Mon dieu! For a man to just say no, he must be some kind of already sex-saturated Frenchman.

TV-blinded America is presumed to be standing at erect attention whenever Natalie Portman or any other beauty with too much black eye-liner steps onto the killing floor. The super-model as signifier is the glitter-covered cardboard angel atop capitalism's overloaded Xmas tree. Friends, family and the French know the truth: gorgeous looks have their drawbacks and all is balanced in the end on the serpentine scales of karma. For the mules who haul the gravy train however, this is considered too "unsexy" and therefore uninteresting.

The hot model white Russian white slavery victim, then, is the angel on top of the "other" Xmas tree, the sordid shadow of the other, where sex is shown for its ugly criminal bestial truth. Besson's decorated both of these trees and is here to tell you, don't touch a present under either one, they're all booby-trapped. So Besson tears them down as fast he puts them up. He slyly lets you see the barcodes on the products; he may traffic in rehash like his Hollywood peers but the post-modern spirit of Godard darts through his mise-en-scenes, adding little touches of the truth. The best part of HITMAN is when the Russian white slave girl (Olga Kurylenko) has finally learned to trust, or whatever, that our Hitman is not going to molest her or hurt her, etc., so she climbs on top to seduce him in what would normally be a steamy montage of gloves coming off, tattoos, lips, breasts, thighs, and implied trust-bonding. Instead, our hero zaps her with a jet-gun injection knockout drug and gets up and goes about his business (but not before making sure she's comfortable, with blanket).

I imagine that at some point in the original script there was a lengthy DA VINCI CODE-ish explanation for this ungrateful behavior, but it was airbrushed out. I'm glad. Now what his refusal to make love to her deconstructs to is nothing less than a full rejection of modern consumerism. The last time something this big happened in an action movie was in THE WARRIORS when Swan (Michael Beck) said those immortal words to his scavenger hunt gang deb, "you're just like everything else that's been happening tonight... and it's all bad!"

Swan wasn't condemning her of course, but "everything" that's been happening, which is all bad. He is recognizing his and her part in the web of delusion that is "all our turf" and thus he is able to take a stand, as a man instead of a punk to the genetic con job perpetuated on us by the DNA reproductive "system." As long as we think sex will solve all our problems, we're rubes, our biological drive hijacked by consumerism and gussied up so we forget it's not the be-all, end-all. The French, being so much more laid than we in the States, perhaps are in a better position to understand and eschew accordingly.

For another excellent and sadly underseen movie wherein a recovering junky says no to temptation and in doing so heals both himself and a cool young European girl whose been kicked around through the white slave drug mills, please Netflix Neil Jordan's amazing THE GOOD THIEF, starring Nick Nolte. Old Nick don't need a barcode... he's a priceless treasure.

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