Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,
and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Matthew 5:43-44 King James Version
Perhaps it is unfair of me to use Akira Kurosawa's exquisite High and Low (alternate title: Heaven and Hell) as my paragon for the Absolute Rules of Movie Affections. On its own accord, High and Low is a dynamo of a film, and well deserving of its own day in the reviewing son, but alas, these things are subject (victim?) to my personal whims. And my whim says it's time to discuss the Rules. Understood?
If there is time, for love's sake, we'll discuss the madness of depth as Kurosawa saw fit to exploit the world of dimensionality to contemplate moral and social convictions. But to the Rules:
Jesus called men, during his famous Sermon on the Mount, to do what is against human nature; to love thy enemy. And so this a great striving of the Christian life. But, Christ did not tell me that I must love those films that are wretched. There is no command to 'Love thy movies as thyself'. And so, many films I dislike with great gusto. NEVERTHELESS, there are Rules. Golden ones. Ones that cannot be broken.
These Rules are simply. If they occur in a film, despite whatever leanings I may have toward the material, I must walk away with affection and admiration for the film. I may not talk poorly of its character or moral (in)eptitude. It's quite clear, really. If these Rules/Instances occur, I am obliged to hold kindness and mercy alone towards the material. I'll list the 4 Rules, and then paddle back to illustrate each one.
1) All the characters die. Every single one.
2) Freeze Frame Ending
3) An animal of certain innate traits is shown on camera.
4) The film ends on screaming (only applies if the film is not a horror film by genre).
1. If a film is ever so bold as to obliterate its creation, entirely, absolutely, well then, the way I see it, it's pretty much a no-harm, no-foul type of situation. What was created by the filmmaker is now no more, so there's no need to carry anything with me. What's done is done. Plus, to end everything; that's a heckava ballsy way to deal with things. Thus the film gets points for gutsiness. And since these points are added to a clean slate, the film must, be necessity and logic, be put in the positive category.*
2. I think it was in C.S. Lewis' "A Grief Observed", that the stupendous author tries to reflect on the image of his perished wife. He describes how difficult it is to visualize her face. He's seen that face from every angle, under hundreds of conditions, temperaments, and climates. All that input is too much. It causes him to see only a foggy semblance of a face. On the other hand, Lewis had no problem remembering the faces of mere acquaintances, for he only had one memory to pull from. He remembered those people as he met them in that one moment, and so there faces remained clear. When you think of any specific film, what do you visualize? If it's a great film, you likely think of your favorite scene. If it's a so-so film, you might get that fuzzy feeling, as you can't quite remember any one moment well enough to store in the memory banks (don't get me wrong here, I'm not meaning to compare so-so films to Joy Gresham/Lewis -- by no means!). How fortunate then when films grant us with a final picture to emblazon on our memory banks.
The greatest example of the final freeze frame just may have been bestowed unto us in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. The picture we are granted gives us a subtle context to the whole experience, and actually re-sods the whole film with a new level of morose sentimentality. It's unspeakably exquisite. Absolutely, that moments elevates an otherwise funny film to epic greatness status. Truly, truly, I say to you, the limit of the power of the ending freeze frame is unknowable.*
3. Originally, this category was limited to camels. Just look at a camel on camera. Not only is such an experience innately hysterical, but eyeing the jowls of camel munching on whatever it is camels enjoy is hypnotizing. After you've locked eyes with that dystopian oddity, no matter what direction the film takes, you can rest in the comfort of reflecting back on that obscene creation of God. A poor example of this is, obviously Lawrence of Arabia, but that film is awesome regardless of camels, so let's brush that one aside. But take a look at The Nativity Story. Queue it up now, or find it online. Now. Try to watch those camels without smirking! If you can, then realize that the pain of the world has hardened your heart and you should repent for the amazing grace of Jesus Christ to shine down on you, because fella, you need to help. 'Dem camels are hilarious. Look at them go! Marvelous!
Furthermore, this category has been subjectively opened up to other animals as well. Any animal that looks like it's showing an emotion automatically doesn't count. Horses have a tendency to look melancholy so they're out. Others like elephants and dolphins always look happy, so they're exempt. Oh, and anything ordinary, house pets, for instance, don't add anything. I'm talking about creatures that just have no business being alive, let alone in front of a camera. Anteaters, manatee, sloths, and those monkeys that have those eyes that look like they're about to pop out; these are the specimens that should cause the viewer to reflect on the odd personality of God.*
|*Note: animated animals (including CGI) don't count, as they are a reflection of their animator, and not the creator of the universe. This is a life saver, because otherwise I'd be forced to approve G.I. Joe.|
4. This is the only Rule with an exception. Horror films, due to their nature, often like to add one last thrill to their pie, so they'll splash on a scream at the very end for kicks. No, no, that's not what Rule 4 is all about. Rule 4 is for the drama or comedy that decides to tell the audience that the world is hopelessly bleak. This is a good thing. Let me explain: when High and Low ends the way it does, the viewer is forced to make a snap judgment. The question instantly arises: 'Is this true?' Just as quickly comes the instinctual answer. The scream sets up a litmus test of worldviews. Is the world bad or good? You'll respond instantly to the film with a sigh of resignation, or you'll smack your lips together in prim disgust, as if you're ready to spew out the garbage the film feeds you. Either way, you have to give it up for anything that forces you to reveal your hand.*
|*Note: Despite what may seem unnatural, it really is a classy move to end on a scream. Honest.|
Oh shucks, look at the time. I guess we don't have time allotted to enjoy the dialogue of Kurosawa's genius of spatial planesany further. Darn.
To suffice, let's exit with the last bit of dialogue from High and Low (translated of course):
I'm not afraid of death,
I don't care if I go to hell.
My life has been hell
since the day I was born.
But if I had to go to heaven
then I'd really start to tremble.