Thursday, September 24, 2009

Passive Cruelty to Self

I love how no-one told David Bowie to wear a cup with his tights in Labyrinth. Or maybe it was intentional, since the movie's about a girl coming of age, a girl resisting growing up--It makes sense the most threatening thing is this attractive, strange guy. The fact that he's a goblin king, very "snips and snails and puppy dogs, too" is perfect.

So, I'm kind of torn about how I feel about Jennifer Connelly in the movie. On the one hand, I want her to be a stronger presence, and for her to exhibit more attraction to Jareth, or at least more complicated feelings about him. But on the other hand, the fact that she is very plain makes her a sort of "every-girl" for an audience of young girls to project their own feelings on. Aside from the fact that she's clinging to childhood a bit, she doesn't have many distinguishing characteristics.

There are things I'd prefer that the movie had included that I don't think would objectively improve it--I think I might simply have been hungering for a slightly different movie. I wished the girl in the part of Sarah had as good a singing voice as David Bowie and that the movie had been a full-fledged musical, though, on the other hand, the fact that Bowie's voice is used to convey her feelings at the beginning and the end of the movie is interesting, too.

I would certainly have liked more scenes like this one;

She's in frumpy, boring clothes for almost the whole movie, it's nice to see Sarah looking great, though, again, sort of blank here, almost a Twilight performance. But then, again, that's sort of perfect. Jareth and everything in the labyrinth is full of tonnes more personality than Sarah. I love Brian Froud's designs, especially these little foetus monsters on sticks;

There's a logic implied by their appearance--they got great choppers, but they're not so much for getting around on their own. Stories pop out of the landscape seemingly without even trying, and then there's the curious moments of Bowie in the Escher sequence where we go to him music video style. It seems we're meant to feel for him, but Sarah's not privy to this stuff--are we breaking from her perspective?

Then we get to the stuff in the final confrontation where Jareth says he'll be her servant if she just lets him rule her. Superficially, this is a good setup for the, "You have no power over me," key line, teaching girls not to let pretty boys prey on their emotions. But was that really what Jareth was all about? He points out that everything he did was because she asked him to, including kidnap the kid. He points out that he was frightening for her, as though she'd requested that he be, and one considers that if this is all her fantasy come to life, then this is what she wanted. Maybe he represents an internal mechanism of hers to teach her how to handle boys.

But damnit, I want them to fall in love. Don't you? And by "you" I mean anyone who's ever watched the movie.

I also thought maybe the movie could be seen as a version of Eyes Wide Shut, with Connelly in the Tom Cruise role. Though I guess lack of sexual desire can't really be seen as odd in a girl her age.

There are a couple things I think are just plain strikes against the film, regardless of my own selfish desires for it--I don't think the battle sequence works at the end. It's a lot of chaotic shuffling about, and it lacks the personality of most of the other scenes. Jim Henson, as a director, I'm afraid might be the weakest link in that the movie feels like a television show, even with the very wide aspect ratio. Though Henson's talent for making puppets seem alive was certainly phenomenal.

My tweets from last night;

Girls drawn by a solo singing goblin.
Most coffee places have useless hours.
Daytime caffeine is somehow so maudlin.
In sunlit aqueducts wine soon sours.

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