Monday, December 17, 2007

Film club visits Pleasantville

Last night saw film club back up to its more usual four person strength with Dong returned from his wanderings. He was a little put out that the futon "sofa" which he and Shazzerooneypoos have become used to occupying for film viewing has now been taken back to where it belongs in the spare room. He and Auntie Sharon had to make do with our nice new leather armchairs instead, which at least ensured there wasn't too much pinching and poking at each other (sometimes it's like having a pair of fractious toddlers around).

Anyway, back to the film. I expect quite a few of you have seen it; it was quite a hit on its original release in 1999 (UK, the US got it a year earlier). The premise is that a pair of more or less normal high school kids get transported into a black and white television show called "Pleasantville". The show is a truly dull 1950s "comedy" in which everyone is perfect and happy and everyone is always utterly predictable. Through their actions, our heros begin to turn the black and white programme into colour.

This is when the cinematography starts to get tricksy and coloured images merge and interact with black and white ones. Very clever, but not enough to build a film around. The writers and director, though, have used great imagination to supply a slightly dark and decidedly subversive tale which had us engaged from very early in the action and kept our attention throughout. The film always seems to manage to deliver a slightly unexpected take on life from a mainstream Hollywood product.
The film is generally aimed at a young audience (it's rated 12) but it slips in messages of atheism (a TV repair man is an obvious god figure who becomes overruled and impotent against human reason), anti-racism and anti-sexism whilst never preaching or labouring a point. In other words, it's a multi-layered film; you'll be able to get from it anything from gentle entertainment to a academic exercise in "isms".
Pleasantville isn't edge of seat stuff, but I have to recommend it for its innovative style, its subtle subversion of the expected and some very good visual trickery.

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