Tuesday, February 16, 2010

John Carpenter's They Live

Okay, back to normal after The Great Jimi Ellroy Experience. Haven't really felt like working (even though I've done some editing*) and I've been watching movies. On an old VHS tape I watched John Carpenter's They Live. I've never really felt easy with Carpenter - he's at the same time skillful and pedestrian. His direction is sometimes good, but his scripts are blah. They Live is more interesting, though, than many of his films.

I was wondering why a writer in a video guide (from 1993, I use this frequently while I'm on sofa watching telly, but can't tell who's behind the book) says that the two thirds of the film are "harebrained fun", while the same two thirds are also very serious and almost subversive! How many films have you seen from the late eighties in which the US police attacks a slum village populated with homeless and unemployed people? And how many in which there's a large conspiracy to get people to obey and just consume happily? I just gotta give Carpenter credit for being so bold in his satire. He also has some nice male-bonding touches that are reminiscent of classic Western films.

But then everything changes. The film becomes a mediocre action-fest, with lots of shotguns and not much tension. The satire is almost lost. But then again, the idea of the yuppies of the late eighties as aliens... there's something in there.

The actors are not very good, especially wrestler Roddy Piper in the lead hasn't got much of a charisma. (And he has a very stupid hair.) And his character does so many mind-boggling things it's a wonder he stays alive.

* I did the final edits for my translation of Duane Swierczynski's
The Blonde. It will be out in June as Vaaleaverikkö. I also edited a Finnish crime novel manuscript that will be published next Fall. More on that later.


jukkahoo said...

"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass...and I'm all out of bubblegum."

Dave Zeltserman said...

Juri, I got to disagree. I love this film. The first 2/3s are great, the last 1/3 also great. And yes, next to Figth Club, one of the most subversive films made about consumerism!

Juri said...

Jukka: yeah, that's a great quote, but why on earth does he say that? Why on earth does he go on a rampage and pretends he's robbing a bank??

Dave: I hope I could agree with you, since the beginning of the film is very intriguing.

One point more: I was going to say that this is a bit like a Duane Swierczynski novel.

Todd Mason said...

The satirical aspects owe no little to the source story, by the undersung Ray/R. Faraday Nelson, "Eight O'Clock in the Morning." Now That's good work, by any reasonable standard.

I gather Nelson is a trustfunder, who has never been Required to churn anything out to make his way, but who nonetheless is more than a bit of a fannish legend for his prose and cartooning (and most famously for tagging fans and by extention their forest friends with the propellor beanie), and whose professional literary contributions have been pretty damned impressive, even if the collaborative novel with Philip K. Dick wasn't either man's best work.

Juri said...

Yes, I was wondering about who Ray Nelson was, but didn't Google for him. Thanks for this, Todd! Where was his short story published?

Todd Mason said...

In Avram Davidson's THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION, November 1963, and much reprinted (as in Judith Merril's YEAR'S BEST SF and the next THE BEST FROM FANTASY AND SCIENCE FICTION volume) over the next year or so, and occasionally since.