Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

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Bell, Book, and Weekend Update

This was a busy weekend, so I'll be brief. Besides, I've got a long movie review (which you won't read) to write.

On Friday I hung out with fuzzyinthehead. We went to Peppermill for dinner, and I had a delicious sandwich which I could only finish half of. I can't remember what was on it, either, except avocado. Mmmm. Avocado.

On Saturday I went to Whitewater for a family reunion sort of thing. It was hosted by my great aunt Mae, and I'm not sure whether most of the guests were from our side of the family or from her late husband's side. Whatever. I gave my cousin a piggyback ride around the park, and in return she gave me a temporary tattoo of a potato, which she labeled "patato." She's seven. Dan Quayle was what, forty five?

Later in the evening I went to Market Square Theater with theenigma42 and koriandrkitten to see Mønti Pythøn ik den Høli Gräilen, and there was much rejoicing.

Sunday was seanorange's birthday party, and that was attended by (almost) everybody who's anybody on my friends list. I did not play Karaoke Revolution (sore throat 'n everything -- I'm sick, remember?), but I did discover something which made me cackle maniacally. The maniacal cackling unnerved Sean, which somehow was the highlight of my day.

Then I went home and watched The Wicker Man (the one from 1973, not the remake).

The Wicker Man, and has always been recommended to me as "one of the classics," and so it was with great expectation and great skepticism (thanks to my general displeasure with Susperia -- another "classic") that I went into it. As it turns out, The Wicker Man is a fantastic film. It may not quite deserve its reputation, but if that reputation gets the movie seen in 2006, I won't mess with it.

The plot, briefly: Straight-laced, staunchly Christian Police Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) goes to a remote, Scottish island to investigate the disappearance of a little girl. The natives, he discovers, still practice the old Pagan rituals under the guidance of Lord Summerisle (Christopher Lee). As Howie questions the natives, he becomes more and more horrified at their traditions. Is there no Christian church? Why is the school teaching the symbology of the old fertility rites to children? How can a modern doctor possibly believe that a toad can cure a sore throat? Howie's zealotry and belligerent nature do little to endear himself to the natives, and eventually, his search leads him to... But I won't spoil it. You can Google the definition of "wicker man" if you can't figure it out youself.

It's a very unusual movie. It's difficult to classify (more on that later), and it is one of the better-informed, less sensational movies I've seen about the occult. It would be really interesting to hear how the Pagan and Wiccan communities view The Wicker Man, especially in comparison to, say, The Craft (which overwhelmingly casts witchcraft in a negative light) or Bell, Book and Candle (which uses witchcraft to pepper slushy '50s romance schlock), both of which have generated a great deal of interest in Wicca and been embraced by that community.

Cinefantastique magazine famously called The Wicker Man "the Citizen Kane of horror movies", which is, I think, an unfair statement to both films. Citizen Kane is the Citizen Kane of movies for two reasons: first, it was a parablist indictment of an extremely influential public figure (William Randolph Hearst, for those playing the home game), and therefore controversial. Second, it was the first film (or the first major film, anyway) that really took advantage of its medium. Even the subtlest aspects of Citizen Kane's production were carefully engineered. Fight Club owes everything to Citizen Kane. Kane and The Wicker Man were both impressive freshman ventures for their directors (Orson Welles and Robin Hardy, respectively), but The Wicker Man is so much less careful, so much less deliberate. It's not controversial, and it wasn't meticulously conceived on the same level as Kane.

More importantly, though, The Wicker Man really isn't a horror movie. It's a detective story, a fish-out-of-water story. Certainly it has horrific elements, but what mystery doesn't? The movie takes place in the balmy daytime air of spring, and there are no dark corners or lurking blasphemies. There are no moments to make the audience jump or wince, except at the end which I wouldn't dream of giving away. It's got lots of folk songs, but probably not enough for anybody to classify it as a musical. Yes, there's singing, and it's interesting to hear the familiar songs (Baa Baa Black Sheep, Sumer is Icumen In) in a more sinister -- sometimes more authentic -- context.

As I said, Robin Hardy was directing for the first time on The Wicker Man, and I think it shows. He's not entirely comfortable behind the camera, and he gets a little too carried away with creative camera angles and unnecessary zooms. He has only directed two other films in the interim, so it will be interesting to see how Cowboys for Christ, his re-imagining of The Wicker Man (currently in pre-production) turns out. Generally, though, the production is certainly as good as anything else coming out of Britain at the time. The acting, is fantastic, with Christopher Lee doing what he does best (namely, bein' creepy), and Edward Woodward providing an unpleasantly believable picture of evangelism.

Anyway, now that I've finally seen The Wicker Man, I'd like to see the remake. It didn't fare well at the box office, but after seeing this film I read a few summaries of the new one, and it sounds like a completely different affair altogether. The new story has been transported from Scotland to the Pacific Northwest, and the Celtic mythology of the original has been replaced with some kinda women vs. men society. The critics make it out to be a narrative mess, but it seems to follow the same basic story arc as the original. If anybody has seen it, I'd love to hear your opinion.
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