Archive for Jessica Jones

The Sunday Intertitle: DAVID!

Posted in Comics, Dance, FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 19, 2018 by dcairns

“The only trouble with this show is they keep shouting “DAVID!” says Fiona.

“Well, how do you think *I* feel?” I ask. “I even get it in intertitle form.”

The show is Legion, which is a Marvel thing, and it’s very stylish indeed. Occasionally I feel too much of the style comes from 2001 and CLOCKWORK ORANGE (plus that ever-popular STRANGELOVE-ADDAMS FAMILY font), but there’s a wide ranger of influences for the snazzy visuals. It’ a superhero show, nominally, but very psychedlic and tonally skewed, so that when a good guy and bad guy meet, they’re more likely to have a dance-off than to punch each other through walls.

This show, brought to the screen by Noah Hawley of Fargo, could be paired with the very different Jessica Jones to suggest that superheroes could become the new westerns, a genre with some constraints, maybe, but allowing filmmakers to tell all kinds of stories in all kinds of modes. The movie versions don’t have that variety, I’m afraid: they’re basically all about good guys saving the world. Apart from maybe LOGAN?

Jessica Jones varies the formula by keeping things small-scale and making the heroine’s powers an afterthought. The powers of the opponents have more dramatic weight, but work as metaphors and dramatic intensifiers: a manipulative abuser who can do mind-control is still an abuser, a mother with anger issues and super-strength is still a mother with anger issues.

 

Legion is also smaller-scale than the movie versions, though more cosmic. It has astral plane stuff like DOCTOR STRANGE but makes this much more eerie and weird, the way the old comics could by actually changing the media used (those photo-collage splash pages blew my little mind as a kid: Legion comes close to that effect with its bizarro musical numbers). Dan Stevens (as the intertitular David everyone’s always shouting for) and Rachel Keller (as Syd Barrett [!]) ground the show in believable emotions as two damaged people whose psychic abilities blur into their mental issues.

Legion has a measure of phildickian “What is reality?” stuff and lots of psychic powers and goofiness: it seems influenced by Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles far more than the style of original author Chris Claremont (never liked his stuff), it has fantastic production design and cinematography, and amazing actors. Too many to mention. But I’m very keen on Hamish Linklater’s inappropriate smiles, which can be ironic, chilling or heartbreaking. Plus he plays a villain who turns out to be gay and a loving partner and father, and then a hero.

And then there’s Aubrey Plaza, with her tics and smutty grins and eyeballs the size of Phobos.

And Jonathan Demme alumni Bill Irwin (Ham Gravy in Altman’s POPEYE).

We’re near the end of season 2 in our viewing and there’s a serious lull of interest going on right now — but I think things are about to kick in big-time. I trust the creators. Will probably be able to confirm this in the comments section later.

‘Tec Ritter

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , on February 8, 2016 by dcairns

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Good things on TV — BBC4 had Petula Clark presenting a guide to chanson Francaise, and THE GREATEST SHOWS ON EARTH, a phantasmagorical assemblage of circus footage — FREAKS fans will spot a couple of familiar fizzogs.

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Also watched — all thirteen episodes of Jessica Jones, a Marvel superhero series that isn’t, almost. Krysten Ritter, whom we like has the punching-through-walls strength (best wall-punching ever — unlike THE AVENGERS, it all seems to be physical) and the leaping-almost-flying (“It’s more like controlled falling”) but no costume or secret identity, and the other characters she meets from the Marvel Universe are similarly down-to-earth. So, did the showrunner Melissa Rosenberg really want to do a show about a self-destructive female private eye, and were they forced to accommodate superpowers to get it made? Ritter appeared in the wonderful Veronica Mars, and aspects of this show are comparable — both heroines have sexual assault backstories, and both are introduced spying on cheating couples fora living, a job which confirms their misanthropic, untrusting worldviews.

Where the show owns its fantasy element is the character of Kilgrave, essentially an evil hypnotist — everyone is compelled to obey his commands, and he has absolutely no conscience, combined with a devilish imagination for cruelty. Every episode pretty much features him committing some insanely hateful act using his powers of persuasion (like if Don Draper got caught in Bruce Banner’s gamma radiation shed, maybe?) and every episode thus amps up the overall series arc, which can be crudely defined as “Kill David Tennant! Punch his smirking head off!”

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Lee Marvin shrewdly defined the role of the Hollywood villain as being to do something so awful the audience wants to see you killed. Not since Andy Robinson in DIRTY HARRY has a screen bad guy chalked up so many outrageous offenses, stacking the viewer’s homicidal imperative so high you can feel the bloodlust coating your throat like Gaviscon.

I liked Tennant as an actor when he first appeared, but got tired of his bag of tricks — he was probably my least favourite modern Doctor Who because of the sense of strain and artifice (“You can smell the sweat,” complained Fiona) but he’s really good here — maybe letting go of the need to be liked has liberated him. He’s still tricksy, but we expect that in our villains — they have to be entertainers to compensate for our not being able to root for them, or not wholeheartedly. And, thank God, he’s not tricksier than usual — playing rapists and sadists, many actors feel the need to erect a wall of artifice so we won’t think it’s THEM up there — Robert Mitchum in CAPE FEAR (version 0.1) is unusual in seeming not to care about separating himself as actor from the scumbag he’s playing. Tennant isn’t as laid-back as that, obviously, but by his standards he’s pretty chilled.

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The show looks nice — cool greys, saturated neons and woozy focus — has a great supporting cast with good relationships — maybe has to spin its central conflict out a few episodes too far, without enough compelling subplots to take up the strain — has episodes directed by John Dahl and Michael Rymer — also three women directors, S.J. Clarkson, Uta Briesewtiz and Rosemary Rodriguez, plus a lot of women writers, which matters.

I could have watched ten pre-codes, but that wouldn’t have the compulsive more-ish-ness… TV or pre-codes? I think a break from TV to soak up more movies would be good…