Arts & Entertainment
Video Picks & Passes
BY STEVEN D GREYDANUS
May 7-13, 2006 Issue | Posted 5/8/06 at 10:00 AM
The New World: PICK
Mission: Impossible 2: PASS
The New World, Terrence Malick’s dreamlike origin myth of the American colonies, bears some intriguing artistic echoes to another recent, visually poetic meditation on a foundation story: The Passion of the Christ. Imagery and atmosphere — more than history, plot or character development — matter in these films, both of which use language in unusual ways, including non-subtitled stretches of dialogue in dead languages. Both films also feature an iconic female figure of history and legend with an almost mystical relationship to the hero: The Passion’s Virgin Mary and The New World’s Pocahontas (or Rebecca, her baptismal name).
Although The New World initially looks like a standard PC Hollywood tableau of grungy, offensive Europeans and proud, noble Indians, it ultimately subverts these stereotypes in various ways, including Pocahontas’ willingness to accept help and ultimately join the Europeans and the unexpectedly sympathetic late arrival of John Rolfe, who marries Pocahontas. Pocahontas is no tragic victim. She is neither demeaned by European dress or customs, nor desecrated by baptism (though the completeness of her conversion isn’t entirely clear). Malick sympathizes with her trials, but never reduces her to victimhood on the altar of European imperialist guilt.
By every unwritten
With Mission: Impossible III opening in theaters, it must be time for
Both films take unsuccessful stabs
at moral intrigue through calculated seductions. The original tries to develop
tension between Hunt and the ostensible widow of TV series hero Jim Phelps
(here Jon Voight, not
The sequel reverses this, with the hero sending the girl to seduce the villain, à la Hitchcock’s Notorious. But Notorious emphasized the moral conflict between the hero’s utilitarian espionage ethic and his traditional sensibilities, ironically causing him to lose respect for the girl even though she did it for him. M:I-2 lacks the moral fiber for such moral conflict; it borrows the bare events, but not the moral meaning.
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