Top positive review
For people with a serious interest in film, Magnolia ought to be seen. Don't miss.
on 14 March 2012
It's a marvellous and most ambitious idea for a film, and then an even more ambitious endeavour altogether to go ahead and make the film at very nearly 3 hours long. My word.
The first thing I felt is that it is a very well made film indeed, a monumental task, carried off quite brilliantly. Quite only, though I get the feeling that WAS the ultimate intention - to be, or nearly to be, only QUITE brilliant. To have a clear, even though, to me, reasonless, unfathomable limit. If you take the concept of the film, to me it's stunningly ambitious - that is to suggest by inter-connected strands that, wait for it, every detail of every life and happening is pre-determined, planned, organised, arranged to happen that way. And so the film begins with ridiculous, part funny, part terribly, terribly tragic unfolding, distant, quite ridiculous events which relate, which, it's suggested have been planned to relate, have been planned with every minute co-inciding correspondence.
I've just been writing about the symbolism in the suggestion of total universal pre-determination in the film "Knowing", and having to deal with that, so I'm really thrown at the moment.
Magnolia actually begins by suggesting the concept is all, and that it will be a very detatched, and perhaps very fast-paced, frequent moving exposition of events which appear natural, synergenic, organic, random etcetera, but which are suggested to come from, minute movement by minute movement, a pre written storyboard in life.
The fragmentary strands which relate more as time goes on recalls Altman's Short Cuts. (Which is less deep, more an excuse for a detatched look at people living, though I remember thinking with Short Cuts, many years ago - is Altman having us wonder a little about pre-determination?) I thought the film would keep to this detatched, quite distant Altman-esque tact to develop the concept I've mentioned. As in Short Cuts, there is an attempt to bring the audience into the people and situations from the initial fragments. But this is much more in Magnolia, it becomes most of the film actually. The idea is to make a lot from bringing the distant, detatched, fragmentary subjects in close, to allow personal identification, emotion, affection for the characters in the audience.
(The *** next 2 paragraphs *** MAY BE *** SPOILERS *** to the developing character of the film.)
It works, though at the same time is very obvious, and a little clinical also, by the end. Further, more than just obvious, it's below the belt in plainly going down the path of looking for something of heavy meaningfulness in life. It over simple, banal even. It is painting by numbers that certainly has an effect, as desired, but perhaps tends towards the shallow, bare and superficial. I think, perhaps, that this is somewhat clinical, in a partly obvious way, was also intended, but I don't really know why. (Though, strangely, this has me think of 'Shutter Island', mostly for reasons I'm not going into. Though one of those reasons I'll bother to suggest is linked to the mainstream culture of film which we're used to, applying the notion of pre-determinism to that.)
The last thing to say is that the film (1) very much does, and (2) also doesn't live up to the excellent, long opening sequence which brags about how the film is going to suggest pre-determinism in fragmentary events and lives over the course of around 3 hours. There is something both detatchedly scientific while innately human about the opening sequence, with its striking apparent co-incidences and the suggestion of pre-determination. That becomes more mellowed out as the film progresses, which does serve the purpose perhaps of suggesting that this is how it is blended into the fabric in real life. The film is firstly saying it's not so stark and obvious most of the time - this pre-determination lark that we, ahem, may be all affected totally by. Then again, as the film becomes less fragmentary and shmaltzes into giving us a 'meaningful vision' of life even in pre-determinism, a quite sacharin one, this perhaps is the main point of the film. What else could be pre-determined? Is this very realist, brutally honest and unblinkered? Or is it deeply pessimistic?
I think 7/8 out of 10, at least.
Of course, any film really worth its salt that claims to be about pre-determinism would think it has to incorporate that into the actual life of the film. And here we have strange things falling from the sky (don't miss this, these are some of the most memorable and landmark moments in modern film), especially for the viewer to wonder how it happened. So, just how did it happen? I hope it's all "kosher"!!!
Very well shot, very well edited, very well acted, brilliantly put together, very well conceived. This is a landmark in film making that's only downfall is that I think it has, in sensing its own huge ambitiousness, put limits where they shouldn't have been. I don't know, maybe that's true, maybe not. I think the evidence of that is that the greatness of this film lies, eventually, after everything, in the excellent film making itself, rather than how the story itself impinges deeply upon your life (while, yet again, I think it will impinge deeply on my life, yet also that will not be true and it will annoy me, that equally as foreseen as the former by the makers, I think.)
I use the term landmark, the word great (in ways). I say it's an amazing achievement even for such an ambitious film, and I advise film buffs and anyone normally interested in film in a serious way not to miss this film. Those things I feel are all true of this film, however, it's not a film which coheres excellently in all relevant ways that you would desire of a film, and there are elements of shallowness. Pehaps that's to be expected, and could have been intended, with such a detatched concept about showing life in suggesting pre-determinism. But there's a lot about that subject itself which is tremendously brought out - and so it is more of an abstract concept realisation in film than a well cohering, well rounded film.