December 01, 2004

Alexander

Last Friday, while my car was in the shop, my family went to see Alexander. It was---and I realise I've been using this word a lot lately---epic. Showing the life and death of Alexander the Great requires nothing less.

The big battle, the Greeks under Alexander vs the Persians under Darios, was certainly the action climax of the movie, big and somewhat confusing (like war ever isn't?). But as they moved to the different parts of the action, the "location" bar in the lower left actually said "Macedonian Left" and so on, helping you keep track of what's going on. Generally this caption popped up as the action moved around the world as well (and occasionally back and forth in time), which along with the narration by Ptolemy made the whole thing much easier to follow. I read a review that panned it for, among things, the fact that it would have been really hard to understand if it weren't for the narration. I'm not even sure that's true, but certainly, duh, they put the narration in there for a reason.

And then there was the character development. Every review I've seen or heard of has said that the movie makes a big deal about Alexander's bisexuality (and most of them pan it on that basis). What's most remarkable, though, is how little the movie makes of it. In the movie, Alexander is clearly gay, and participates in a lifetime bond with Hephaistion. Several references are made, by Ptolemy, Olympias, and others, that indicate the relationship was sexual. But the movie resisted the temptation to pander to the prurient crowd; and more importantly, resisted the idea that gay relationships are all about sex. I've seen a few online complain that they showed the straight sex but not the gay sex; and that's sort of true, but not really. There were two near-sex scenes. One is when Olympias is nearly raped by Philip, and the other is the knife fight between Alexander and Roxana. Both were vital to the plot and character development, and the actual sex is behind the scenes.

Which, I think, is just fine. The prurient among us are perfectly capable of connecting the dots---filling in the blanks, as it were---and the way most shows show all that sex onscreen these days is just crass. It was really interesting seeing this movie just a week after seeing Gone With the Wind for the first time; both epics following characters through the ravages of large-scale battle and war. And both left a considerable amount to the imagination. Less so in Alexander, of course; the sex and the violence were quite a bit more than you'd've seen in 1939. But both movies got considerable mileage out of not showing a lot of things.

"What many straight people don't understand is that for most of us, our lives are as horribly boring as theirs are. The really nice perk, though, is that we have more money for vacations." --Brian Quinby

Posted by blahedo at 11:26pm on 1 Dec 2004
Comments
Cutting to the important bit -- Is the car ok? Was it just the regular checkup? Posted by Michelle at 12:23pm on 2 Dec 2004
Thanks for quoting me. Posted by Brian Quinby at 6:20pm on 28 Jan 2005
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