Musings on Beauty and Plot

Jun 17 2006

Friday night, I watched Avalon, a live-action film from Mamoru Oshii (director of the Ghost in the Shell movies.

It was about the worst brilliant film I’ve ever seen. By “brilliant” I mean that every shot was beautifully framed and worth putting up on a wall. By “worst” i mean that it’s full of overly-long shots and pointless time spent watching things that just have nothing to do with anything. Do we really need to spend half a minute with the protagonist on the train home? Three times? I’m not exaggerating.

The plot would have been a lot more interesting if Oshii had really delved into its implications. It concerns one of the top players of a supposedly illegal VR game called “Avalon,” one that is insanely difficult at the top levels. In fact, it’s so difficult that nobody has been known to beat it. All that have tried have eventually been sidetracked into some mythical “special level” where their minds are blown away and they become vegetables.

So, most of the film is spent with this player, Ash, as she kicks butt and looks serious and pouty and has grim little conversations with various players. There’s a sub-plot dealing with a team she used to play with, but….

…actually, that’s the problem I had with everything. Nothing in this movie moved me. Ash is a stern, cold woman, so I wasn’t particularly interested in her. The other characters are pretty straightforward, and in any event have so little screen time they can’t develop to any significant extent. And the plot is such a thriller standard that I had little to look forward to.

And all of this is told in gorgeous, interminably long sequences of characters, um, walking. Or looking. Or shooting guns. Oooh! I’ve never seen guns being fired in a movie before.

So. Not my favorite film. But it sure is beautiful.

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