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Old 10-13-2012, 05:41 PM   #239
Ponyboy
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Default Re: The Official Batman (1989) Thread - Part 3

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Originally Posted by CConn View Post
I don't disagree. Plotting is the great flaw of the movie.
The character moments are illustrated in a very subtle and (strangely) realistic.

The one example I always like to give is how Bruce reacts after he comes back from Joker's city hall shooting. Both Keaton and Gough expressed a great deal of emotional subtext 100% through their performances rather than any singular line of dialogue.

On one hand, you have Alfred, ungodly afraid and concerned for Bruce's safety, trying (I assume) for the 80 millionth time to quietly dissuade him from fighting crime. But, at the same time, he knows exactly how stubborn Bruce is, and rather say anything overt, he has to let his feelings show through offhanded comments ("Im relieved your home, sir") and his pushing the subject of Vicki.

Again, that quiet but extremely effective subplot of the movie with Alfred constantly trying to spur Bruce and Vicki's relationship on because he hopes that will lead Bruce away from Batman and away from the dark isolation he's in, is a very powerful plot line in the film. And I think through the writing, and Gough's performance, it takes on a very natural and organic progression.

I'm not trying to get into the one Burton v. Nolan argument, but, for instance, whenever Nolan addressed Alfred's personal storyline in his movies, he hit you over the head with it. You knew EXACTLY when Alfred was sad or mad or glad thanks due long streams of dialogue to express his opinions and emotions.

But people really aren't like that. Especially if they're dealing with a problem (Bruce's depression and obsession) that has been going on for countless years. Rather, they take that more quiet and demure approach. Almost like an abused family member; constantly trapped by their loved one's illness and failing, and constantly trying to escape without ever giving it true voice.

As for Bruce's side of that scene, it's all about his reactions. Both to the Joker's recent events and Alfred's bringing up of Vicki. You can very clearly tell throughout the entire scene that Bruce's focus - his obsession - is entirely directed at the Joker. It's nearly as if he's not even in the room mentally or emotionally as Alfred talks to him.

Moreover, when he replies to Alfred, he immediately ignores any and all reference of Vicki. And through the expressions, through his eyes, you can just feel that he doesn't really have a single good reason in the world for pushing Vicki away - all he can do is focus on his obsession and anxiety with the Joker.

This - from my own personal experience with people who struggle with childhood trauma, anxiety, and obsession - is an extremely realistic response to Alfred's efforts to escape the pit of depression he's fallen into. Despite the obvious logic and wisdom in Alfred's words, Bruce's psyche can't escape that cycle of mental illness and trauma that he's fallen into. Everything else becomes diminished and ultimately inconsequential compared to his singular obsession.

It's that type of character progression in B89 that I love - it's wholly organic and extremely believable - and even relatable. Now, I'll freely admit, it's perhaps due to the weaknesses of the scripting that Keaton and Gough had to give though performances, and express so much of their character's progression through their own expressions and acting, but nevertheless, what actually carried over onto the screen was pretty incredible, and had a level of subtle complexity that I rarely see in film - and I watch A LOT of films.

And I think that's part of the reason I enjoy B89 as much as I do; having seen a lot of American, European, and Asian films, I've noticed that American filmmakers heavily rely on scripting and plotting when making their films - everything else seems to almost take a backseat to getting the story to make sense, and perfectly progress from point A to point B.

Whereas, European filmmakers are a bit more comfortable with shifting focus away from scripting, and more into subtextual expression and investigation of its characters. Their movies' scripts can often be nonsensical, surreal, and downright non-existing in favor of effectively delivering the emotional or intellectual resonance that they wish to achieve.

And that's kind of what I see from B89. Rather than the story being paramount, a ton of focus is given to other - equally important aspects of film. There's the lighting that nods to Todd Browning's Dracula, there's the architecture that lends itself from Gothic works, there's their cinematography and shot selection that is inspired by silent German expressionism...

You're right. Essentially, B89's greatest strength IS its visuals. But it's not as simple as Burton's gothic tone or Furst's sets - it's about fully immersive, visual filmmaking - in the style of a silent film; where you HAVE to express yourself through visual storytelling and character expression. And that's a style of filmmaking that has been all but abandoned these past 70 years or so. And for that, I'll always respect both B89 as a film, and everyone who contributed to it due to their obvious academic knowledge of filmmaking and their reverence for its history.



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