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A brilliant commentary on life, 5 February 2001

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One night after working something like 6 or 7 hours at a movie store, I went to see a one of the last films on my list for the week that I hadn't gotten to. My manager and I seem to go out to movies a lot after work. It's odd how people who around film all day cling to it for relaxation at the end of the shift. We knew the manager of the theater, so we got in free.

I knew Pleasantville was about some kids who fall into a world of television and adventures ensue. Plus I knew that it had Don Knotts and I've always loved his acting. Expecting a funny little film about TV, I got a brilliant commentary on the social and political environment of the 50's. There were countless religious, political, and racial references throughout the film.

Life in Pleasantville is perfect. For breakfast you get everything your heart desires, the basketball team wins every game, and everyone is just swell. The only problem is that life is set; there is no free will, self-expression, or new thought.

The Characters begin turning colour when they break their set mold, break out of their lives into something new. When Mary sue first has sex with Skip, he doesn't turn to colour because he doesn't know what's happened. The event does lead him to begin seeing the world differently, hence the red rose. People only change when they do something freely and of their own will. The mother and her bathroom incident, when Mary Sure finally discovers life beyond sex and seduction in books and thought, and when Bud finally stands up for himself.

The fact that new thought and experience leads to the thought of the breakdown of the Pleasantville world speaks to the desire in the 50's not to change. Things were good, values were abundant, and life was good. Dinner was ready at 6, the wife was always home cleaning or cooking or something. Then came those greasers and people doing more than holding hands. One of the main points of this film was that change is one of those things that can become undesirable, but is needed to evolve and grow as a society.

Another big statement this film makes is one the issue of racism, and very well I might add. There are no black people in Pleasantville. This isn't an attack of any sort on race. I'm sure you can count on one hand the average number of black people in a 50's television show. The point is that the colored people are representative of all nationalities oppressed in the fifties, even through today. Because of things they could not necessarily control, they are all hated and spat upon for being different. Especially in the end when all the `colored' people are at the top of the courthouse segregated from the non-colored people. And don't forget the `no colored people' signs in the shop windows.

This film is about more than the way things were and how change is good. It's about the way we see ourselves inside and out. If life is static and non-changing, then all you get is black and white. It's only when people allow themselves to grow and mature as people and human beings that they see the world through coloured eyes. Pleasantville only becomes whole when everyone sees appears in colour. Only then do the roads open up and the life beyond the town exists. It's odd how people in the city know what colour is, yet are shocked when it appears everywhere.

Quills (2000)
I needed a shower, 3 February 2001

A few years ago I stopped reading film reviews before going to see films. Being a student of film, I prefer to know as little a possible going into a movie so that I may form my own opinion. I knew that Quills was about eroticism and I know little about the life of the Marquis de Sade. The first hour intrigued me. Drawn in be the character of the Abbe and held there by the misguided chambermaid. Both Joaquin Phoenix and Kate Winslet reflected a piece of human nature that is intrinsically good and none perverse. Both have impure thoughts and feelings, yet cannot. will not express them through action. Geoffery Rush represents all that is vile and wrong with society of today and the period in which the film is set. His writings, the way in which he and the public live out the darkest depths of the soul suggest that man is intrinsically evil and must have a way to express their dark desires in a form that is non-harmful; his script. Through all of this, Phoenix attempts to help the Marquis, truly believing he can be helped, that he is a good person on the inside. The result of this man's love for man is the ultimate suffering. Michael Caine plays the unloving Dr. Royer-Collard and destroys all the dear Abbe has done. He allows the one man, in the world this film creates, who could have provided any shred of decency and love to fall into the same pit of hell that de Sade himself is victim. A viewer can gain two things from this film. A sense that all people in the world are intrinsically evil and need some way to release all feelings of hate and anger in a way so not to harm each other, only so that they can stand to be near themselves. And that religion is only something that begs to be rejected. Even in his last action of grace for Phoenix must stand by and watch Rush swallow the cross that can save his soul. This film was not expressly graphic, nor was it grotesque. I admit I have seen porn with more graphic nature and material that would turn your stomach, yet this is the only film I have ever seen that left me with a feeling of disgust. I felt as though I needed a shower after watching this film. The ideas and images it suggested disturbed me beyond anything I could have imagined. Now that I have seen the film, and that I understand it is tame in comparison to the Marquis true life, I still feel that if the intent of this film was to open the mind to the depths of the perversion and vileness of this man's life, I'd say his job is done. Cinematically and artistically, this film is a masterwork, but as the subject matter goes, I have never been more disturbed by a work of film in my life.