Three Films, three times, One Nerd

Alright gang, for this assignment I’m supposed to talk about three films that I had watched in class. So let us begin. The first movie that I would like to talk about is “Easy Street” by Charlie Chaplin  Image This movie was released in 1917 in the United States. This movie is about the tramp falling in love with a young woman he meets at church. She and a pastor are helping the poor during the time. And as we all know the tramp is not well known for his wealth. He convinces himself that if he were to get a job he could raise money to donate to the girl and the church. This way he could help the needy and win her heart. Meanwhile, in a place called Easy Street, it is rapid with crime. Policemen are wheeled in by the scores injured from their encounter with the bully ruling the road. Desperate for new recruits it is not surprising when the naive tramp gets hired on the spot at the police station. Throughout the rest of the movie the tramp comedically fights off the criminals and saves the day on Easy Street. Not only that but he also saves the girl from being assaulted by a drugged up thug. Yes, they actually referenced drugs in this film. In the end the whole street is cleaned up physically and morally. A new church is built and the tramp escorts his sweetheart into the building.

Through comedy Charlie Chaplin points out many political and social injustices that were going on at the time. He grew up poor with a mentally unwell mother in England. In his later years he was a comedian and actor in Vaudville impressing American directors. They invited him to America to feature in movies and the rest is history. In this movie he points out the poverty in the Americas at the time and high Irish/Italian immigrant population. There is also the commentary that poverty equals to criminal activity which leads to poverty becoming a vicious cycle. There is no direct cause but it leads everyone to suffer. Only when actually standing up and facing the issues can they be solved. Charlie Chaplin inspires us to take action because if a simple tramp could do it what is to stop any other person?

He is personally a source of inspiration to me. His outspoken (no irony intended) films got me to thinking about social injustices of today and how I could use comedy to get my point across. This was the direct influence for my short film Safety First. I wanted to talk about how people want to deal with sexual assault. Half of these jokes come from personal experience with women’s defense courses. That is another thing I greatly admire in Charlie Chaplin is that he takes personal things from his life and adds them into his films. He is not afraid to be intimate. To put your heart on the line to make people laugh and think is a sign of real courage.  Image The next movie I would like to discuss is “The Lady Eve” a movie released in 1941 ImageThis film is about Charles a young scientist who specializes in snakes falling in love with a con-woman, Jean. After a long expedition in the South American jungles he meets Jean on a cruise ship. She at first tries to con him out of all of his money by seducing him but in the end falls in love with him. But on the morning that she was to reveal the truth to him Charles discovers before who she really is. He leaves her with a broken heart and heads back home to see his family. Jean then comes up with a plan to win him back. Through the next half of the film she pretends to be an English noble woman Lady Eve. At first Charles is suspicious but through reverse reverse psychology on himself he believes her to be a different person (honesty I think he is so smart that he confused himself into stupidity). They fall in love, get married, and seem to be perfectly happy. And then the honeymoon starts. Eve confesses the long list of men that she has loved in the past while Charles starts to feel betrayed again. He leaves her and starts the process of divorce. While in the process of divorce he heads onto another cruise ship to sail back to South America. Jean and Charles run into each other and Charles forgives her for everything. They run to a room to be alone and the movie ends with Charles confessing that he is married while Jean says “But don’t you see my dear? I am too”.

This movie was made in 1941 America enters into WWII. World travel is all the rage in American films and so are witty women. It is sexually appealing to be clever back in those days. To be quick witted and lovely was to be a man’s dream. Jean in this film is not only a well traveled woman she is also sharp and dangerous. This movie is a romantic comedy with clever twists and turns. It also has obvious underlying religious symbolism all over. From the title to the snakes right down to the apples; it is clear that this movie is taking Genesis straight from the bible and into modern film. The question of intelligence also comes into play. While Charles is a well educated man he makes dumb mistake right after another. While from lower class society Jean creates all these complex plans to have her way. The battle of the sexes is a strange one that is embarked in this film.

I personally like the character of Jean in this movie. This is quick and devious. She can also be seductive and tender when with the person she loves. She is such a multi-dimensional character and I love her for that. Also I really like the actress they cast to play her.  Image I just lover her nose. The comedy in this is fun and the symbolism will keep a mythos lover like myself thinking for hours. For its time and today The Lady Eve is funny and sexy.

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The last movie I want to talk about is “Pan’s Labyrinth”

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It is a fantastic movie about a young girl named Ofelia during the Spanish Civil War. She moves an old home with her pregnant mother and new stepfather. It steps between the rebels fighting the Falangist Captain (the stepfather) and the fantastic world of the Faun. It begins when Ofelia first enters the labyrinth that sits outside her new home. She follows the fairy that leads her to the faun who claims her to be the lost princess of the Underworld, Moanna. To prove herself and claim her rightful place back into her kingdom she must perform three tasks before the next full moon. We already know that this will be a dark fairytale because three is a sacred number all over the world. During this time a house servant named Mercedes also performs similar tasks to help her brother and fellow rebels. With each task Ofelia shifts further and further into darkness. She is second guesses the faun during the second task and the infuriated creature gives up on her. Thing in her life then take a terrible turn when her mother dies in childbirth. Ofelia, scared of the captain, tries to run away with Mercedes but fails and is threatened to be killed if she tried to escape again. When the faun returns Ofelia agrees to perform the final task no questions asked. The faun tells her that she must retrieve her newborn brother from her stepfather and meet him in the center of the labyrinth. The captain in this is the final and most dangerous monster. After using her wits to keep out of sight and drugging his whiskey Ofelia takes the child and meets the faun. When she realizes that the faun intends to use the knife she had retrieved earlier on the baby she tells him that she cannot go through with the task. The captain finds her though, takes the baby, and shoots her where is left to bleed to death. But the captain is met by the rebels outside of the labyrinth. Mercedes takes the baby telling the captain that he will never know who his father was. The captain is shot and Mercedes finds Ofelia’s corpse. The blood trickles into the labyrinth, revealing the third and final task. We see her in the Underworld where she is met by her royal family and entire kingdom including the faun.

The creator of this film, Guillermo Del Toro, was inspired by a variety of novels, myths, and history. This film grew and changed in the pages of his notebooks through sketches and notes. From fairytales to religion this story takes the archetypes of this genre back to its roots. For anyone even familiar with a fairy tale you can see the patterns shown in every step of this film.

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Yes, Alice in Wonderland was another influence in this story. Culturally this movie is close to Del Toro, growing up in Mexico and raised in a Catholic house. He even spent ten years doing special effects makeup for film (which is why it is so prominent in his films). Like Charlie Chaplin, Del Toro puts alot of himself into his films. What he likes, what scares him, his dreams, his upbringing…the list goes on. Another thing that is wonderful about this film is that it takes us back to the dark fairytales from hundreds of years ago. Because of big names like Disney they had been transformed into glittery happily ever afters. When really these tales had so much more than that. They were warnings, they were tales of change, they were life lessons, they were religious truths, they were even commentaries about what was going on. The tales of King Arthur and his men were written at the beginning of The Holy Wars. They were tales converging between the old pagan Celtic religions and the new Christian religion. Pan’s Labyrinth itself takes place in the middle of a historical war. It was a civil war that divided its country, people, and maybe even our worlds.

This also talks about archetypes in fairytales and how they can be seen in our world. Mercedes is the main protagonist for this side of the movie.

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She and Ofelia perform similar tasks to save their brothers from the same man, the Captain. From the Key, to the Knife, to finally facing the real monster, these lead parallel stories. This reminds us that these old dark fairytales were meant to prepare us for real life. (If you want to read a fantastic novel about fairytales and archetypes I highly recommend “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pikola Estes).

I am just going to say it. This is one of my most favorite movies of all time. It has everything I love, mythos, fairytales, monsters, real life parallels, growing characters, cultural exploration, the list goes on. It makes me want to take the roots of stories and revive them back into our society. It makes you think, it inspires you, it makes you feel. Whenever I watch this film tears come to my eyes. To make a person feel is one of the many goals that a storyteller has. Guillermo Del Toro’s tale triumphs. The best part about this movie is that the story is timeless. Yes I know that it takes place in the 1944 but we still relate to it today. We look at the struggle that these characters go through and see ourselves. We also understand because we today are in the mist of war. There has always been an age with war that is something we see every century and we see the same thing in every war. There is also a sense of transformation. Whether it is puberty, revelation, or Ofelia shedding her mortal shell to return to her Underworld kingdom. We all go through a journey to become. Becoming is life. The classic tale of the hero never gets old because it is our tale. Storytelling is being human. This is another reason I pursue telling stories, because I get to explore what it is to be human.

So I will end this entry with these final thoughts. Through all of these films that I have watched over the semester I have kept in mind that this is another way of telling stories. We have always had stories of love, comedy, terror, history, and mythical through word of mouth, books, comics, up to film today. I would rather that we look deeper beyond only a mere few decades and look into the centuries beyond. These tales have evolved through time to suit the needs of the people. We are in an eternal cycle of influence and influenced with stories and ourselves. To tell a story is to put yourself on the line because you are entering into the cycle. You are inspired by and create history through story. After all you can’t spell history without story. These three films are only a scratch as to what lies deep beneath the endless universe of art and storytelling.

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