Godspeed You Black Emperor (1976)

19 03 2008

A pretty good idea executed in a pretty uninteresting way. There’s a few moments, early on, that do obtain a fairly remarkable sense of chaotic spontaneity but for the most part, it seems as though the filmmakers tried way too hard to create conventional drama. There’s a sequence towards the end in which the characters just talk back and forth. Sure, it’s plotless and I’m always one to embrace an avoidance of arch structure, but the characters decide to talk in this really phony interrogating way. There’s some worthwhile sequences here and there, but ultimately too sporadic to be particularly great.

The film examines the lives of the Black Emperor motorcycle gang members. Almost all of them are in trouble with the law and they all deal with this in their own way but the main focus is this: don’t let the cops win. These guys are really tame by today’s standards. In the opening sequence, the camera whips around every which way implying some very violent event, but it’s just some guys running around. The opening isn’t really that bad, though. In fact, some of the character exposition is actually sort of cool, but it’s once Yanagimichi starts detailing the mundane that the film loses any grip. I mean, I’d like to think the movies I tend to watch are slow and mundane, but a documentary of people selling dolls isn’t really the exact same thing as long static shots of Lee Kang-Sheng. The latter is rivetting, the former is the final thirty minutes of this movie and it made me want to die.

Now, with that said there are some genuinely great Korine-esque moments, in fact there’s even a scene where a kid shaves his eyebrows that is eerily similar to a scene in Gummo. It’s hard to recall a lot of them since they’re not overwhelmingly amazing and they’re muddled in between dumb scenes of people talking, but still worth it just for stuff like that kid playing music while his mom is praying. Still, in the end, it feels almost as silly as a after school presentation on the bad effect gangs have society, but I guess times have changed. Interesting at first, but the novelty wears off. Pretty disappointing considering it’s “legendary” status.

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One response

20 03 2008
John John

Doesn’t Bob Geldof shave his eyebrows in Parker’s “The Wall” also?

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