Tuesday, March 21, 2006

V for Vendetta; A for Anarchy

Click Here To Buy V for Vendetta Graphic Novel by Alan Moore for $19.99

I particularly enjoyed watching V for Vendetta yesterday because i had been misinformed – some dumbfuck had described it as “anti-communist” for reasons i cannot fathom, and so i was kept slightly off-balance all the while watching.

Needless to say, this is not an anti-communist movie.


Sticking to my regular practice, i won’t include any spoilers in this review - enjoy watching it on your own.

It certainly got me wondering, though. What’s with the hunger movie-goers have for cinematic radicalism, propaganda of the deed and all? From the Matrix to Star Wars Episode III and let's not forget Fight Club (whether you considered the boys fascists or not), movies featuring the “good guys” being the ones described as terrorists, revolutionaries, etc. keep on getting churned out and attracting crowds…  i mean far more than Born in Flames or the like…

Enough to make me spend three seconds wondering if the situationists were on to something (i know i know, two seconds more than they’re worth). More promising yet, perhaps psychology is what i should study in order to get what’s up, because clearly something is being projected on the big screen and it’s something that is familiar to that tiny minority of us willing to own the fantasy of revolution.

The kicker with V for Vendetta is that it is based on a comic book written by real-life anarchist Alan Moore. The character V in the original book is an explicit and self-conscious anarchist, not a simple anti-fascist trying to “set things right in this country”. V’s revolutionary plan is true to anarchist form (not all anarchists, just some i know…) in its faith in “gee whiz” stunts to provoke an uprising. Not sure if Moore’s novel fared any better, but despite the fact that the evil government is clearly homophobic and racist, there seems to be no particular class or gender or anti-colonial character to the revolution. Overwhelmingly white, and from all walks of life. Like some real-life anarchists, V appeals to “the people” undifferentiated and free from any contradictions worth mentioning – not a realistic view, though easily excusable in a sci-fi film (less so in real life).

(Moore has completely washed his hands of the film because of the way the politics were watered down – fair enough, but from the perspective of the movie-viewer not the comic-creator, this is still worth seeing.)

Some NYC anarchists have been handing out literature and “engaging audiences” by acting out scenes from Moore’s comic which were cut from the movie! Having participated in this kind of action before – here in Montreal we passed out pamphlets about BPP/BLA prisoners outside theaters showing the Van Peebles film Panther – i think it has a lot of potential. Despite the whole “escape from reality” thing, people leaving a movie are often more open to discussing the movie or reading about it than one might expect. So handing out propaganda outside cinemas is actually a pretty good idea, worth doing and not just in NYC…

p.s. Oh yeah, almost forgot… the aesthetics of this movie… well it’s better than mediocre but not fantastic. Gotta admit i find knives don’t lend themselves well to martial arts fight-scenes. Also, the Guy Fawkes mask really didn’t do it for me. Acting? Well, it wasn’t painful but it wasn’t Brokeback Mountain or Freedomland either. I liked the fact that special effects did not dominate, the plot was good, and the characters were complex. Beyond the obvious political canvas, this was also a movie about morality and personal freedom – but it can’t be stressed enough, it was primarily escapist science-fiction.

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  1. Have you read the book? I actually didn't like the book that much---I found it's own politics pretty watered down. Many of my friends really like it, so I'm not sure why they do and I don't. Unless it's cause I didn't read the thing until last year, and they all read it when they were teenagers. It definitely seems to appeal to a kind of teenage anti-authoritarian sort of thing. But that's not proper politics. There's definitely no class or anti-colonial content to the book, in my memory. Gender---sort of, kind of, only in what's in the plot.

    So, thing is, I actually LIKED the movie! A lot more than I expected to! Maybe it's that _V_ didn't quite have enough content (political or otherwise) for a whole book ('even' a graphic novel), but a movie? Plenty! Even a fairly long movei (just looked it up on imdb, 132 minutes! I didn't even realize it!).

    So, I dunno, from my memory of the book, it's political content hasn't been watered down at all, what you saw was what was there pretty unadultered. Except from my perspective even MORE powerful as a movie.

    Your points about the public appetite for movies about 'good' terrorists is one I've thought about before.

    Anyone remember 'Red Dawn'? I think it's time for a 'Red Dawn' revival. For a film that on it's face is all anti-communist 'red scare', I still somehow count it as a formative movie for this pro-revolutionary anarchist-communist. [How many current revolutionaries count mass media "pro-terrorist" entertainmetn as formative to their youthful selves is another interesting question?]

  2. watched V for Vendetta recently, good effects, they packed a lot of a character into a man wearing a mask.... then again, maybe he was more than a man in a mask...