Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dancing!, Dancing!!, Dancing!!!, I'm A Dancing Machine...

Waltz With Bashir(2008)
Directed by Ari Folman

Is there a more visually inventive documentary? One about the middle east and the cost of war, at that.
One told directly from the mouths of those who experienced its events?
Which show a full range of experiences from the portions not remembered, blocked out, or obscured by fantasy and disassociation?
It's too easy to marginalize this film as being just a political story, or advocacy piece, it's an attempt as Ari Folman the director and star did, of looking at horrible events as if they were a movie, a comic book, a music video, anything else that would prevent them from being every bit the horrors they are.
Were Brad Pitt to dramatize the scene for us, cry at the gates of the camps, and give a tolerance speech, THAT I think would have been a betrayal and exploitation, for any actor to try might be, look at all the films about ww2 and the holocaust out right now; Good, The Reader, Valkyrie, Adam Resurrected, The Counterfeiter, Defiance, The Boy In The Stripped Pajamas, any one of the dramatizations bring us closer to any "truth" about those events, by acting out completely false ones?
Waltz With Bashir is not about the "truth" but about how we avoid it, out of instinct, necessity, fear, and guilt. It explains the reason so many entertainments must be conjured to cover the cultural memory as they are, just as it makers us aware of it's own indulgences.
At the end I didn't feel preached to, I wasn't angry, and I didn't have any easy targets to blame.

Were Oliver Stone to make this, I could understand it as a simple exercise in rhetoric, see De Palma's Redacted, but considering Ari Folman is both director and subject, it's something much more simple and universal, one young mans trauma.
Something that he could not control or avoid, which he witnessed, participated in, and wanted to understand, it's really more a surreal art therapy, than a propaganda piece, and that genuinely comes through.
Oh and yeah it's animated, not rotoscoped as Waking Life, was Folman created the special hybrid style which uses rotoscoping as well as flash, and 3d animation, in his studio in Israel.

The animated images, the great musical score(using 80's rock from PIL to OMD, to classical arrangements), and the seamless editing, and carefully chosen dialogue, reflect the war at it's most parallax and incommunicable.
A little known massacre becomes the obsession of a son of Holocaust survivors, who became a soldier and camp guard in his own right, until the day his "camera broke", and the world came in unfiltered.

Its good for the same reason all good movies are, it has images and ideas, other films don't, it's similar to a few, but identical to none, and says more than just hearing a plot description can tell you.
The ride of the 26 nightmare dogs, is one of the best openings scenes Ive seen in quite awhile.

Hard to track down in theaters but well worth the effort, one of the years best.
Folman's next film will be similarly animated sci-fi film, from the author of Solaris, I'm looking forward to it.

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