Revisited: Aeon Flux

“It looks like nature found a way.” This line of dialogue, spoken late in the film is one of two perhaps unintentional Spielberg references in Aeon Flux, puts the film nicely in the sphere of the biological-minded science fiction. The novel cyberpunk aspect, biotech gone wild, is rather nicely ported over from the Peter Chung’s anarchic animated TV series. Scissor-like flesh-seeking blades of grass and fruit-on-the-vine capable of firing poison loaded darts at both a high rate and velocity offer interesting visual thrills and botanical challenge for Aeon as she tries to infultrate the sprawling lair of her arch-nemesis Trevor Goodchild. Accompanied by fellow state-terrorist (a welcome Sophie Okonedo) who was forward thinking to have her feet surgically replaced with hands for an acrobatic edge, they dance and dive their way through the most unique corporate greenscape ever committed to celluloid.

In the 10 episode TV series, there was never an attempt at narrative continuity either within a show or across the series. Each episode more or less had Aeon attempting to thwart one scheme or another of Bregnan scientist-dictator Trevor Goodchild, but at the same time dealing with her lust for him. The film does have the feel of an extended episode with the concession to mainstream multiplexes being a story is structured in a far more straightforward manner, somewhat amplified in stakes.

Elaborate, vaguely Asian architecture and costume design give you a very interesting world to look at. It was a smart move to set the film away from the Orwellian model of dark and dreary dystopia, even if the visual palette occasionally treads into Star Trek: The Next Generation territory. Aeon and her fellow feminine rebels-against-the-man, lead by fiery-haired and ghostly Frances MacDormand, do not need to meet in clandestine back alleys or bunkers, but rather take a pill and meet their leader in some sort of pharmacological state of being. Phones are implanted directly into the ear, video-email can be sent by spores in a glass of water. Production design reigns supreme.

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Rewatched and Reconsidered: Sabrina (1954)



Sabrina is one of a few films that continue to benefit from Audrey Hepburn’s ongoing popularity. There are a few “classes” of classic film – ones that everyone knows like The Wizard of Oz, ones that are loved by die-hard classic aficionados, and ones like Sabrina that find an appreciative modern audience of people who are open to classic films but aren’t necessarily big film buffs in general. These people gravitate toward Audrey Hepburn as a style icon, and certain films of hers (especially this one, Roman Holiday, Funny Face, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade and My Fair Lady) stay perennially popular because they highlight her effortless style, effervescent screen presence, and ineffable wide-eyed innocence.

Perhaps my own struggles with loving Sabrina stem in part as a personal backlash against its popularity, the assumption of certain classic film watchers that it’s a great and classic film.

Karina Longworth has a great podcast called You Must Remember This, an exploration of stories from classic Hollywood, and she has an episode devoted to Audrey Hepburn and specifically the making of Sabrina – what it meant for Hepburn’s career, how it solidified her style (it was her first time wearing Givenchy, whose Parisian couture became inextricably linked to Hepburn for the rest of her career), and how it really established her career and her persona. I suspect that has a lot to do with its endurance in the popular imagination. Those aren’t the things that bother me in the film, either.

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Rewatched and Reconsidered: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

On paper, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang ought to be a film I absolutely love. Film noir homage? Check. Twisty turny crime plot? Check. Self-aware meta narration? Check. Robert Downey Jr? Check. Yet when I first saw the film several years ago I remember being underwhelmed and every time I’ve thought of the film since it’s been with a sort of vague discontent. But a lot of people who generally like the same stuff as I do constantly praise it and think it’s brilliant. I couldn’t really remember enough about the film to identify what it was that left me cold, so I figured it was time for a rewatch – maybe I’d get it this time, or at least be able to pinpoint what about it didn’t work for me.

The initial premise is pretty great, with RDJ as a small-time crook who stumbles into an audition as he’s running away from the cops after a badly botched job (in which his partner got shot and killed). Unwittingly playing along, he winds impressing the casting directors and is carted off to Hollywood, where he’s assigned to shadow a real detective (Val Kilmer) as preparation for this role he might get. Even though the detective, nicknamed Gay Perry (“because he’s gay”), insists that real life detective work is boring and not like the movies, bodies soon start piling up, seemingly unrelated events turn out to be intertwined, and RDJ ends up right in the middle of all of it. Meanwhile, he offers almost continual narration of the most self-aware type; he comments on how things like this play out in the movies (“don’t you hate in movies when it seems like that one guy died, and then it turns out he didn’t and jt’s so fake”) or how bad a narrator he is (going back to tell a part of the story he neglected to tell earlier).

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