Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chat: Gallipoli

Tracy:  So I kept waiting for the war to start in this "war movie."

Natalie:  Me, too. I just grabbed the book and it starts "Peter Weir re-created the tragic and notorious World War I debacle of Gallipoli--a blundered campaign that sent thousands of Anzac soldiers to slaughter in 1915--with  atmosphere and harrowing action." I know we don't normally start with what the book says but that seems emblematic of the idea of this film; that it's a war movie that shows the folly of war. That's really hard to do when most of the movie is a bildungsroman that happens outside of all war action or even military company. And, very little of it was fighting. I didn't so much get the idea of waste or folly because there wasn't any context for me to grab on to.

Tracy:  Exactly! It was more sort of about these two dudes and their friendship and then how it was sucky that they had to go to war. If this was supposed to be about how futile the campaign itself was, that didn't come through. The battle itself did look fairly horrible, but there wasn't enough context to really be like why god why.

Natalie:  Yes! I told you earlier that I looked down for a bit and looked back up to see pyramids and had an honest moment of asking "are there pyramids in Australia?" I know there aren't but the film seems to foster that sort of confusion. There is no background on anything. I still don't really know where Gallipoli even is--I'm as confused as all of the Australians reading the newspapers who couldn't pronounce the place. It's as if Weir wanted to make a grand gesture hidden in a simple friendship story but he chose too obscure a cultural context to make that happen. I'm sure Australians know more about this--but this was a US hit.

Tracy:  Yeah--I only know about it because my dad is obsessed with the History Channel. And there were these weird comedic moments as well, along with some fairly racist treatment of the Egyptians, I thought. The battle undoubtedly was tragic and wrong, but the movie didn't earn the tragedy. Probably because Rupert Murdoch was involved.

Natalie:  HA! Rupert Murdoch. Agreed on the strange comedy and racism. My only note for the film? "bad music & 80s game sound effects."
Also agreed on the lack of earning the tragedy, of course.

Tracy:  Oh My God. That soundtrack was ri-diculous. Do you think it's just because Mel Gibson was in it? Like the same reason people still watch Mystic Pizza?

Natalie:  Ha! I've never seen Mystic Pizza. Apparently this is the film that made Mel Gibson the "serious" actor because he wasn't just being Mad Max (which I find MUCH more entertaining). The book tries to make it bigger, of course: "Weir distinguishes himself by creating a strong sense of time, place, culture clash, and intimate human drama while imbuing even simple acts with beauty and mystery, finding magical images that evoke excitement, high spirits, fear, and grief” and “But the film’s last image is a freeze-frame of Lee—Weir’s homage to a famous photograph taken by Robert Capa during the Spanish Civil War” which I assume is this one. That reference also seems confused. Not the same war, dude. Which reminds me! Apparently Weir took quite the poetic license with all of this and drastically changed some points.

Tracy:  Yeah. I guess he made the British a bit worse than they were. And it also annoys me when people are like "this war is just like this war." The only part I found interesting (not to say I wasn't entertained--just that it wasn't as complicated as I thought it was going to be) was the class distinctions between the cavalry and the infantry. But that just sort of gets mentioned sometimes and then dropped.

Natalie:  Apparently, the British wouldn't have been as involved in that particular aspect. I'm only going off of what I found on the ever-reliable wikipedia. I wish it were just a simple, coming-of-age story that focused on these two boys with only running in common who become friends out of some sense of loyalty (to nation in one case, and the friend in the other) and left out the attempt to make it about how silly war is. I think it could have been a much better movie, that might have actually said something about the absurdity of war because we'd have been attached to the pair and heartbroken when they died. The attempt to make it more conceptual and bigger ruined it for me--mainly because it wasn't pulled off but I think the simpler story would be better than the more complicated were it successful

Tracy:  I think you're right. As is, it's this sort of weird blend. For a while it's a picaresque road movie and then, fuck, we're in the shit.

Natalie:  Right? But no context for the shit so we don't know how bad or not the shit is. The walking across the desert alone seemed more dangerous to me.

Tracy:  Right! But that was played for laughs. As was, and this really bothered me, when they went and tore up that Egyptian's shop for cheating them, and then the dude was all, "oh, wrong shop." What a dick.

Natalie:  I know! And it was 1981, time to not be racist about Egyptians--as you pointed out before. I didn't hate it but it seems mediocre rather than a "must watch."

Tracy:  Yeah. I think it must be the Gibson factor. I'm on the fence about booting it, just because it seems everything deems it one of the Big Two of Australian cinema. Sort of like why we had to watch The Cow.

Natalie:  Well, at least it was miles better than The Cow. I don't really care enough about it to boot it, especially when there are much worse on the list. What's the other of the Big Two?

Tracy:  Agreed on all counts. The other is Breaker Morant which is basically a filmed play about a court martial in the Boer War. I liked it a lot better than this.

Natalie:  Huh. Is that one on the list?

Tracy:  Not sure--might not since it was a teleplay?

Natalie:  I don't see it--since I figured out as I hit "enter" that I could just look.

Tracy:  It streams though, if you're ever bored and feel like watching a court martial about the Boer War. For some reason.

Natalie:  I'll remember that if I ever have that thought

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