Saturday, December 30, 2006

V For VENDETTA - the two disc DVD

December 29, 2006

D.C. Comics tries to redact** our Popular Culture

It's much too late to review this film, but I was gifted the TwoDisc DVD set at Christmas, and my viewing impressions are still strong. I came away from V with the same distaste I get when I know someone is lying to my face, and thinks he is getting away with it. Though I am willing to give the movie a pass, Alan Moore - the writing side of the original British comic book team, disowned the film. He said in interview, "It's been turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country." I see now why he was so upset. Moore is an honest creator, always giving credit where due. In discussing V's origins, the writer repeatedly acknowledged the heavy literary influence of the master political satirists Orwell, Huxley and others. He also understands that an audience hungers for metaphor and relishes the chance to catch the supporting allusions, just as much as we enjoy the creative genius of a new story idea. The Guy Fawkes premise was brilliantly conceived, although the original "guy", an angry Catholic conspirator, was motivated by revenge for religious persecution and not trying to trigger a political revolution. Alan Moore created V as a nihilistic terrorist, but the movie version of his superhero has V trying to foster resistance against an "illegitimate" government, the shrill cry of all Democratic Party activists in the America, including those in Hollywood, U.S.A.

V For Vendetta, the 26 episode comic book story, was conceived at the time Margaret Thatcher was elected to govern a country sliding into economic ruin and social chaos. Those electorally defeated in England writhed in fury, and denounced all reformist measures as heavy handed. They bitterly mourned the Nanny State which, as time revealed, was merely on vacation. (But it was Soviet propagandists who dubbed Maggie the "Iron Lady"). Alan Moore extrapolated a future in which a purely Fascist government is elected to power and then proceeds to crush all opposition with measures comparable to those George Orwell employed in his novel NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR. The words Fascism or Big Brother are never uttered in this film, although both are constantly on display as plot devices and sterile imagery. It becomes painfully obvious that this film is "product" and the producers would not countenance reference to ANYTHING which they did not have copyrighted ownership, or at least a lucrative contract for product placement. Thus the movie rapidly begins to succumb to the ravaging effects that the "Branding" model of business imposes on film production.

The film does of course have qualities to enjoy and admire. The Hugo Weaving performance is very sound and because the mask forces the audience to listen , really listen, the actor was given intelligent dialogue to deliver. The rapid-fire alliterative sequence was great fun. I particularly liked the fact that we the audience are asked to challenge the media's packaging of daily events and political ideas. "Do you think people will buy this? Therein lies the rub, because the producers of this Two-Disc DVD are even more deceitful than the government controlled media V savages in the movie. Is it irony or just gall?

A case in point is England Prevails: V For Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics, a documentary which appears on the second disc. Joel Silver, with thirty years as a Producer and with almost a hundred films under his belt including the MATRIX trilogy, sets the tone. This was his statement about reading the original V source material. "It was the first time I was aware of the phrase Graphic Novel. I had never really heard that before." Ohhh Reeeallyyy?

This short film is a deceitful serving of tripe and it does NOT discuss any "new wave", creative or ideological. It does though demolish the carefully scripted P.R. campaign built around the production of the feature film. England Prevails does not reveal anything about the comics industry in England during the tenure of neo-Conservatism government so despised by Alan Moore. The film merely serves to showcase the role of D.C. Comics in bringing the Alan Moore/David Lloyd comic series to a larger American audience, and of publishing the missing "third act". It serves no other purpose. Only D.C. Comics magazine covers, spanning the Silver Age to the present, are exhibited. A few original B&W pages from England are shown, but not the British magazine they were published in. No other publishers, creators or comics characters are discussed. In true Orwellian style, Paul Levitz, the current D.C. Comics Publisher, dismisses the 1980s upstart publishers as "fragile" and describes how his company rescued British creative talent. In fact the message is abundantly clear - "D.C. Comics Prevails" and will long abide. Messrs Silver and Levitz forget that a literate movie audience is constantly searching for cultural references in the story. We do smell a crafty rat when the big screen is scrubbed by corporate cleansers, and we would never grant the media giants license to redact our popular culture.

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