In this morning’s syndicated cartoons, “Pearls Before Swine” was particularly funny (to me anyway!). Copyright rules do not allow me to post the cartoon within this post, but if you are interested you can find it here. Here is the “411” on the content which center around a character named Honest Ernest who attends a meeting a movie fans who are going to review the latest film directed by Christopher Nolan. Nolan is not without skills or accolades., not only as a director but also produced and screenwriter. He has won 11 Academy Awards from 36 nominations. Some of his films are Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises (all from the Batman series), Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk, and the 2020 film Tennet. Among serious fans his work on Inception, Interstellar and especially Tennet are what garner praise and glowing reviews. The films are… well, no need for me to offer an opinion. Let’s allow the fans from Pearls Before Swine chime in:
- best director of all time
- his movies are among the greatest films of all time
- masterly conceived scripts
- brilliant cinematography
- perfectly paced
- exquisite interlacing of plot and subtext
And then Honest Ernest chimes that he has no clue what Nolan’s movies are about.
I assume Ernest is referring to Inception, Interstellar and Tennet which are not easy to follow. Inception had more of a “straight ahead” plot, but no so the other two films in which time and space are fluid and challenge the viewer’s attention. Tennet is perhaps the most challenging of all as we continue to come back to scenes that are, let me just say, rearranged.
Tennet was inspired by the Sator Square (also known as the Rotas Square). It is a two-dimensional word square containing a five-word Latin palindrome. The earliest example of the square dates from the ruins of Pompeii. If you look at the stone you will see the word “TENET” occupying the central axes of the stone. Nolan it as the film’s title, as well as two character names (Sator and Arepo), the location of the opening sequence (Opera), and the name of Sator’s construction company (Rotas). Nolan films always have a lot going on.
This all reminded me of the first movie I attended that had no popcorn and afterwards had a discussion. The film shown was Seven Samurai, the 1954 Japanese epic drama film co-written, edited, and directed by the great Akira Kurosawa. He directed thirty films in a career spanning over five decades. He is regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers in film history.
The people in the open discussion gushed about the bold, dynamic style – a welcomed replacement for the Italian neoclassical revival currently in vogue. Others comments on his use of the “axial cut”, in which the camera moves toward or away from the subject through a series of matched jump cuts rather than tracking shots or dissolves. It was noted the film’s soundtrack, Kurosawa favored the sound-image counterpoint, in which the music or sound effects appeared to comment ironically on the image rather than emphasizing it. And the gushing comments went on.
While I remained silent, internally I was having my own version of Honest Ernest. Fortunately, I remained silent. The only thought I had was…”The dude stole the plot of the Magnificent Seven starring Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson,…” Had I spoken up I would have been exposed as a cinema lightweight that I was. The Magnificent Seven was released in 1960 .