Monday, September 04, 2006

life in colour

Over the weekend we watched two movies (one directed by Steven Soderbergh, the other produced by him): Sex Lies and Videotape (1989) and Pleasantville (1998). As a result of watching these, I can only conclude that life in the USA is irremediably drab and conformist. (This is confirmed by the fact that teenagers have to wear beige to school in order not to appear like someone who will go mad with a gun.)

Sex Lies and Videotape is about the strange empty lives of small-town Americans - the lawyer character (a former frat boy) gets quite aerated about the fact that the other main male character, Graham, wears a black shirt - apparently this is very weird in hicksville. There were definitely parallels between the themes of the two films.

Pleasantville was a very good film. The effects were stunning - the way the monotone world starts breaking out in colour, first as a sort of overlaid Technicolor, and then as real colours, as people start changing and having emotions. The story was very effective, particularly the scary book-burning and window-smashing scene, reminiscent of Kristallnacht; and the sign in the window saying "NO COLOREDS", reminiscent of segregation in the 1950s. And all of it an oblique comment on Bush's vision (and that of the Christian right) of what America should be like. The character development of the two main characters was interesting too.

We have also realised that our cat, Bean, is an escapee from Pleasantville. She is grey and white and always happy. She rarely thinks about anything - clearly the perfect citizen of Pleasantville.

Soderbergh's next film, Jennifer Government, looks to be exploring some of the same ideas, only this time, it's set in a future where the corporations run everything. (Hey, wait a minute, that's the present, isn't it?) I think I can see a theme developing here.

In fact there are quite a few people drawing these parallels between the current situation in America and past and future totalitarian scenarios. V for Vendetta, Babylon 5, Equilibrium, Gattaca, The Truman Show, etc.

Live your life in colour - don't let the greyness (or the beigeness) engulf you.

1 comment:

Joe said...

I enjoyed Pleasantville a lot, although occassionally it was a little too laboured or obvious, but it does look luscious (and William H Macey, don't we love him). It can certainly be taken as a good satire of conservative America, although it does predate the legalised coup which brought Bush to power.

Strangley enough, after you telling me you were picking the Ken MacLeod book I mentioned for your book club we picked Jennifer Government for our next meeting! Heh. I read it a couple of years back and enjoyed it; could have used a little more weight, but still very good. Incidentally, Ken's next book is supposed to draw a lot on recent world events and sounds damned good - hoping to do a Q&A with him about it later on.