Posted by Brian at 1:51 PM
James Wolcott gives the upcoming film V for Vendetta his nod of approval. No, he gives it far more than that.
V for Vendetta may be--why hedge? is--the most subversive cinematic deed of the Bush-Blair era, a dagger poised in midair. Unlike the other movies dubbed “controversial” (Fahrenheit 9-11, The Passion, Munich, Syriana), it doesn’t play to a particular constituency or polarized culture bloc, it’s working on a deeper, Edgar Allen Poe-ish witch’s brew substrata of pop myth....I'll give this one a shot. I was, like many others, disappointed with the ham-handed way the Wachowskis overdid the symbolism in the final chapter of the matrix trilogy. By the end of that film, I really felt like shouting "Enough! I get it!" at the screen, so if they've managed to focus this story (a story I know nothing about but am now interested in), I'll be very pleasantly surprised.
This movie is fully engaged. Its masked, caped vigilante is both Batman and Joker, nocturnal enigma and nimble trickster, the Count of Monte Cristo, Zorro, and the Phantom of the Opera tucked into one suavely tormented frame, the antihero’s secret lair a gothic sanctuary equipped with its own Wurtlizer jokebox on which Julie London’s Cry Me a River sultrily plays. The river of tears is the Thames, on the bank of which sits London’s House of Parliament, the movie (based on Alan Moore’s graphic novel) drawing its inspiration from Guy Fawkes and the foiled Gunpowder Plot to destroy Parliament on November 5th, 1605, a day celebrated annually in Britain with fireworks and parties. In V for Vendetta, monochromatic tyranny so oppresses, represses, and depresses Britain in its totalitarian condition that the only proper way to honor the memory and insurrectionary spirit of Guy Fawkes is to finish what he started. V for vendetta, v for violence, v for vindication. The return of the repressed with a vengeance....
And make no mistake V for Vendetta is fun, dangerous fun, percussive with brutality and laced with ironic ambiguity and satirical slapstick (a Benny Hill homage, no less!). But gives the movie its rebel power is the moral seriousnessthat drives the action, emotion, and allegory. That’s what I didn’t expect from the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix), this angry, summoning Tom Paine moral dispatch that puts our pundits, politicians, and cable news hosts to shame. V for Vendetta instills force into the very essence of four-letter words like hate, love, and (especially) fear, and releases that force like a fist. Off come the masks, and the faces are revealed.