Old MCN Blogs
David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

Tower of BABEL: Words Fail, Voids Remain


Babel‘s Rinku Kikuchi : Words Fail, Voids Remain
The smart young film critics of Reverse Shot get mad — feisty mad — at “Eleven Offenses of 2006” — 11 movies that have been over-praised. These writers – who include Jeannette Catsoulis of the New York Times — insist that they are not “trying to be contrarian” – but when they cite their twentysomething ages and bark like this, I imagine a pack of Scrappy Doos nipping at the heels of Armond White‘s wise and lordly Scooby. (Marmaduke?)
Darn it, these kids are cute with their sharp teeth.
And some of these eleven titles ought to be smacked down — as DP wrote — “with the smugness of the average bright film student”. Smacked hard because they’re the same caring, drastically competent studio freight that comes out every fall, bearing a worthy message, all but demanding critical respect and major awards.
Or smacked hard because they’re needlessly pretentious, fractured and convoluted, like BABEL and THE FOUNTAIN. (After the jump)
I cannot agree with Michael Koresky‘s outraged reading of BABEL — he’s way off base when he attacks the absurdity of one character. Of course the film is winning awards and rounding out lists of nominations — BABEL has little something for every critic and award voter – and not too much nothing for everyone else. No one can say that BABEL isn’t a reflection of some aspect of life – or another, more cohesive film. With the film’s title, aren’t the filmmakers giving us a clue to the arrow they’ve shot in the air? (Genesis 11:7 “Bajemos a confundir su idioma, para que ya no se entiendan entre ellos mismos” — ie “Let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
What Koresky doesn’t realize is that the deaf-mute Japanese teenager portrayed so feelingly by Rinku Kikuchi— the girl who, in “a desperate bid for connection, flashes her privates in cafeterias, puts her dentist’s hand on her vagina, and, in her ultimate humiliation, strips naked in front of a much older police detective” is a completely authentic and believable character– merely because she is in a movie.
How dare anyone object to what one movie character does, if the film is enjoyed, praised and wins awards?

By the way, have you — arrogant, uncreative critic — mad e a film, or do you just sit back and criticize them?
Maybe it is your problem if you don’t get it. Maybe that’s what BABEL, by presenting these disparate characters, without judgement, comment or connection to anything but light and sound, is trying to say. (Unless it’s trying to say, “See me. Hear me. Give me a prize.”
So, lazy, provincial American who rips on BABEL, have you ever been anywhere ? Do you speak a language other than English? Have you travelled to Mexico or Morocco or Japan — have you searched Tokyo high-rise apartment dwellings like those in the film and found in them NOT ONE beaver-flashing, school uniform wearing hearing-impaired Japanese teenage girl?
No way could this character be what you, over-educated, jargon-using, feminist-influenced movie reviewer, call a “male construction. This character could exist. Somebody believes it. So she does. She is.
And for a girl like that , it’s probably completely normal to behave as though her “naked vagina” and pert, ripe unclothed physique can articulate human speech in much the same manner that blonde, hairless women from northern Finland (where the reindeers come from) express their equally valid cultural heritage through sinuous dance movements. Lapdancing, I believe it’s called.
If you won’t even try to open your heart and mind to the folkways of foreigners, mister, then you can’t do serious film criticism, you can’t comprehend BABEL, and you will certainly never understand Oscar.
For ninety soul-draining minutes, until a mighty tree grew out of Hugh Jackman‘s midsection — a mindblowing, $18 million- worthy concept, I’ll warrant you — THE FOUNTAIN seemed to be about a scientist (Jackman) whose vaguely unwell wife (Rachel Weisz) kept saying “Honey, come for a walk with me, it’s going to snow). Honey, come for a walk with me, it’s snowing! Honey, come for a walk with me — it’s snowing snowflakes” While he blows her off to work on an Eternal Life formula. Until I wanted to say: Rachel Weisz, go for a walk by yourself. Your genius husband’s not coming home. No matter how many times you wear soft, drapey sweater sets in the bathtub.

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One Response to “Tower of BABEL: Words Fail, Voids Remain”

  1. saifulrizan says:

    the deaf mute teenager does her role pretty well. The movie is great, I put all my attention to it, going through the whole movie.
    It’s awesome, and I can;t belive some people act beyond stupid just because the girl show some flesh. It’s not merely about the flesh. There’s a sotry behind it – and those critics failed to find one.
    Overall, this movie is great!

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon