Archivi tag: movies

Robert Rodriguez, the fan

[the following is a translation of this older article]

The more I see movies by Robert Rodriguez, the more I believe that his work is not “original”, but the constant tribute of a fan to his favorite genres and directors. Rodriguez the fan, the passionate movie maker who searches for the emotions of his dreaming young self; I may be wrong, but  an example, from my point of view, is recognizable in Predators, third installment of the saga started in 1987 with that milestone of the action genre by John McTiernann, starring Schwarzenegger, and a good sequel in 1993, starring Glover. Rodriguez, who was going to be the director, is actually “just” the producer, but many elements of the movie are clearly an homage to the first movie: the jungle set, the prey building traps, even the end titles on Little Richard’s Long Tall Sally.

A more accurate example is the interesting experiment of Sin City. Rodrigue himself stated that he do not wanted to make a cinematic adaptation of the comic books by Miller, transporting instead the comic on the screen as it is. The complete title is in fact Frank Miller’s Sin City, not a “version” made by Rodriguez; the effort to translate almost every scene in the same visual aspect of the comic book, with strong black-and-white contrast and use of lights and shadows to express not only the atmosphere of noir movies of the Forties, but also the turbulent emotions of the characters, is a worth effort. Rodriguez knew it was the only way to make a movie out of a comic where the story is told by graphic even more than by text.

In the latter years, many movies are reprising the B-movie style, mostly due to the contribution of Rodriguez with his Planet Terror and Machete, combining the visual imperfections of exploitation movies from the Seventies and the Eighties with modern day special effects. Rodriguez’s cooperation with Tarantino on the “double feature” Grindhouse (filming Death Proof in the same manner) boosted the renewed interest for this genre; their collaboration, dating back to Desperado, is now a simbiosis: Machete itself came out of a series of fake trailers they made for Grindhouse.

From this point of view, maybe the most original movie filmed by Rodriguez is his first one, El Mariachi. This is not a negative point, indeed it confirms how early he setted the basis for his own cinema, a very personal interpretation of his passions. Because the first glimpse of Rodriguez’s career dates back to a 12-year-old boy who, watching John Carpenter’s Escape from New York, said to a friend “I will do that. I’m gonna make movies” (source: IMDB). By the way, did I mention the fact that Robert Rodriguez plays his own music in his movies, just like Carpenter?

That’s cinematic!

“The Temple” by flipation

Many movies have been based upon short stories: Total Recall (P. Verhoeven, 1990), a great sci-fi/action movie, was based on the short tale “We can remember it for you wholesale” by Philip K. Dick; and so was Minority Report (S. Spielberg, 2002), just to give some example. It is not the lenght of a story, but the deep work of imagination and suggestion that it can stimulate, to make a film adaptation possible. In the case of P.K. Dick, this is even mandatory – you cannot avoid the cinematic nature of his writing, of his cinematic descriptions, and the influence of his style can be seen in many films. Another tale, “Second Variety”, was adapted in the movie Screamers (C. Duguay, 1995), but to me it could be the real, original inspiration for The Terminator (J. Cameron, 1984).

In my opinion, H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Temple”, written in 1920, is one of this short cinematic stories. In a few pages, we read of the commander of a german submarine, who, during a war mission, kills his own crew and discovers a submerged temple, probably from Atlantis. The depiction of the circumstances – the relationships between crew members, the look of the environment, the discovery, the madness spreading on the submarine laying down on the botton of the sea, the misterious ancient submerged ruins, the strange light coming from inside the temple – is so clear, so well descripted with few words, that a whole film takes form and feels real in your imagination. This is such an exciting story that it would make a wonderful film!

…at least with a good, sensitive director: let’s face it – Lovecraft’s visions are hard to be reproduced. Some movies directly taken from his tales are not so bad, but the more the try to stick close to the original story, the more they fail. I loved, for example, Re-Animator (S. Gordon, 1985), but it takes many liberties from the original tale; on the other hand, a movie like Dagon (same director, 2001), more close to “The Shadow over Innsmouth”, feels somehow weak and poor to me. I believe that in the case of Lovecraft’s dreams and nightmares, the best approach is to take the sensations, atmosphere and feelings of his stories and put them in something, let’s say, “indipendent”; and the director who, from my point of view, took this approach in the best way ever, has been John Carpenter. In The Mouth of Madness (1995) is a masterpiece, a wonderful mixture of lovecraftian themes and elements; but also The Fog (1980) recreated the atmosphere of many of his dark tales, with something wicked seeking for revenge, inherited guilt, and incumbent doom from the sea. Even The Thing (1982), inspired to another short story, “Who Goes There?” by J.W. Campbell, has lovecraftian aesthetics. Yeah, Carpenter would be the best choice for the adaptation of “The Temple”, don’t you think?

Here’s a link to the text of “The Temple”