26
May 08

Would You Rather Be Called Toilet Cleaner?

Do You See + FT1 comment • 335 views

I am probably not alone in the UK to having The Wizard Of Oz as one of my first film memories. Not at the cinema of course, but rather on television at Christmas, one of those yuletide traditions which I never questioned*. It may be where I got a fondness for musicals for, but it is absolutely where I got my fondness for supersaturated Technicolor films from. The Adventures Of Robin Hood shares a soft spot for many of the same reasons.

All of this is in some way an excuse for liking “the already decided to be a flop” Speed Racer. It is a film whose colour palate comes from a Crayola box (apt with its own crayon based animation scenes at the start). It is an expensive folly from start to end, a five-year-olds Heaven’s Gate in many ways. Because whilst I really rather enjoyed the relentless kineticism of the film, and its naïve stabs at doing live-action anime, I cannot see what the market was for it. Of course attacking a film for a lack of a market, when the film itself is really rather chirpy and fun (albeit too long) is the kind of thing that a capitalistic critical industry can happily do now. But artistically Speed Racer is almost 100% successful. It manages to create a consistent alternate universe, convince its audience of its internal rules, and throw in some dazzling cinema in the process. Its story may be simplistic, but considering its source material it doesn’t feel simplistic or even particularly stupid. As a film bemoaning the effects of big business in sport it is considerably more successful that Leatherheads, and is aimed at people who may not already know it.

What was also interesting was that despite the film being based on a source material that I know nothing about (Speed Racer anime), it didn’t matter. Partially as the storyline is pretty simplistic to allow general knowledge of anime tropes to explain away the particularly extended family. But more importantly the film has another source material. That is of a five year old child playing with matchbox cars on his own. The cars have personalities, they do unrealistic jumps, drive up the walls etc. Why have cars which can only do what real cars to. Who wants to see the traffic jam movie?

But bear in mind what I said about the Wizard Of Oz, and that I also have a real affection for heroic failures too. I saw Speed Racer a week and a half after it was released in a major London cinema, in the evening, with two other people. I don’t think I have been in that cinema with so few people, and I have seen some godawful stinkers in there. And yet my main reaction at the end was of glee for a self contained, piece of sythesized cinema. Actors, effects, monkeys, anime and cinema in motion. It may all be in the service of a pretty dumb project, but sometimes you have to sit back and let the cinema drive. Sometimes down a yellow brick road, sometimes on a three dimensional dayglo racetrack.

*There is nothing at all Christmassy about The Wizard Of Oz, unless you count the munchkins as some sort of elves. But when you consider the subtext of the wizard behind the curtain being your parents pretending to be this mythical all powerful gift giver Santa Claus, suddenly the film seems rather apt.

Comments

  1. 1
    and everybody elses Mark G on 27 May 2008 #

    Here’s a shocker for everyone:

    Kids know Santa doesn’t ‘exist’..

    Our Alice,at four, one christmas morning.. “THANK YOU SANTA (quietly: or whoever..)”

    Think back: When did you last believe, at what age, Santa delivered presents down the chimney (for real)..? Kids like make believe, but they do actually know the difference.

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