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I saw 300. I totally missed the build-up until Jim mentioned it a couple of weeks ago and then I saw a History Channel treatment of the “facts”. It’s quite a piece of work. Easily the best approximation of comic book values into film that I’ve seen. That means an adolescent male ethos which is no more defensible than the cartoonish vision of history, but criticizing these things is beside the point. What struck me was the way it achieved a mythic scale (even though it’s Greek history, not myth.) The storytelling is highly condensed, with lots of voice-over and semi-static tableau, like comic book panels. I found it a great relief from the psychological “realism” that pervades even the worst of Hollywood films, in which actors strive for that subtle brow wrinkle which no more than suggests the deep mental turmoil within. It’s kind of like the difference between Poussin and Rembrandt, where Poussin uses an established roster of rhetorical facial expressions to convey a narrative, while Rembrandt’s faces have no expression, allowing us to read whatever we want into them, thereby appearing more “realistic.” The film’s success apparently came as a surprise to the establishment, but you’d think they’d have figured it out by now. Every Marvel comic movie has debuted at number 1, even though they’ve all suffered from the realistic treatment. The real tragedy is that crappy Brad Pitt Troy movie a couple of years back: if they’d put these guys in charge we might have had something worth watching.
Oh, and when Jim described the story I recognized it as Thermopylae, but couldn’t come up with the T. S. Eliot reference: it’s Gerontion.