Saturday, January 10, 2009

Vals Im Bashir (Waltz with Bashir)


Let me start by saying I had a lot of problems with this film the first being the needless comparison to PERSEPOLIS. True, they are both animated, they both are autobiographical and they both deal with way but to say they are the same is akin to saying ROMEO AND JULIET is the same as SID & NANCY, as in it's a love story, the two leads are young and stupid and they both end up quite dead. The point is WALTZ WITH BASHIR is a totally different beast and nothing at all like PERSEPOLIS.
The other problem I had with this, and it's a big one, was the animation style. While the backdrops and scenery were fantastic the human animation drove me nuts. It was presented in a literal style very similar to Jaime Hernandez but stagnant and very, very choppy, so much so it detracted from the very serious dialogue taking place throughout. Because of this I found myself wondering why they would choose to animate such a serious piece of work when they could have no doubt found the money to make this straight forward and real. Turns out my major complaint is in fact what makes WALTZ WITH BASHIR amazing and here we get to the spoiler aspect.
The film deals with an Israeli soldier with a memory block which prevents him to remember periods of the Lebanon war he was involved with. Because of recurring nightmares he goes back to talk to people who were there with him to find out what happened. This material is real, the animated style is directly based on the actual filmed interviews writer/director Ari Folman conducted and their tales are very powerful to say the least. As the picture unfolds out lead regains his memory leading to a visual end of harrowing effect.

The watcher is then smashed in the head with real life footage of the aftermath of the Sabra and Chatila Massacre, wailing mothers, bloated destroyed bodies everywhere, utter carnage.

This is when it became very clear to me what Folman was doing. It was all set up as the film progeressed, as out lead started to regain his memory little bits of nonanimated pieces begin to appear leading us to this moment of total recall. It's not pretty.

Sad thing is, this simple but effective artistic technique went clear over the heads of most of the audience, at least what was left of it. The theatre I saw it in was half empty by the end. With the events currently unfolding in the Gazza strip I gather many Israel supporters found the material offensive. Like Folman, I'll leave the politics alone here, WALTZ WITH BASHIR does not explore blame, it is the journey of one soldier and his attempt to understand his life, but I will comment on the inability of this supposedly "educated and articulate" audience to understand what the director was doing with the story. On the way out everybody was complaining of the reality footage of the end with not a soul seeming to realize our "hero" now has his memory back hence the world is "real" again.

To sum all of this up, WALTZ WITH BASHIR, nominated for best foreign language film at the Golden Globes tomorrow night (which I might add it should win) is a must see especially with the current events unfolding. You will more than likely have to see it on DVD or a rep house as there seems to be a behind scenes movement to keep this off the big screen right now it having been pulled after only one week after much hype and anticipation.


Blogger Candy Minx said...

Great post! Good to see you at it. I thought the producers thank you speech was terrific last night.

7:12 PM  

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