Thursday, August 27, 2009

EXPLOSIVE ENCOUNTER: Review of “Hollywood Ending”

Last night, since we had our dinner so early, I opted to have some movie review night in my room. After checking the piling DVDs, I grabbed a movie titled “Hollywood Ending,” a comedy film Directed and Written by Woody Allen.

I’m not a huge fan of Woody Allen but such title piqued my interest. With the word “Hollywood” calling a massive commercial film representation paired with “ending” as a prophetic signification, I didn’t hesitate to give the film a shot and review.

Surprisingly, the film enslaved me. I got sooooo hooked and time went unnoticeably. Overall, if I’ll rate this 2002 flick, looking at its political statement, I must say, 4 stars over 5.

PSYCHOSOMATIC VISION: Blindness as an instrument of Demystifying Commercial Film Making
By Earvin Charles B. Cabalquinto


Hollywood Ending presents the life of Val Waxman (played by Woody Allen), a one-time cinematic genius who's resorted to taking advertisement work to pay the bills for himself and his live-in girlfriend, Lori (
Debra Messing), who luckily receives a movie project which will paint the 1940’s New York City, the script titled The City Never Sleeps. This all happens when Ellie (Tea Leoni), Val’s ex wife and now an Executive Producer at Galaxy Picture, prods her boyfriend Hal (Treat Williams), a high powered studio head, that only Val who has a “unique vision” who can do justice to the 60 million dollar film. Too bad, when the camera rolls, Val’s struck with a psychosomatic case of blindness. And when doctors fail to find a cure, Val opts to proceed with his big time directorial break.

The Film chronicles the possibility of losing the physical “vision” in actual film making and ushering a psychosomatic perspective in developing raw, thriving and non-commercial imprisoned films. Although it may sound odd or off to have a blind director to direct a million dollar commercial film as it threatens the representation of having a “good and unique” vision which may produce spectacular output, that film’s premise actually braves the overarching umbrella or standard of a highly commercial and politicized film making industry. By putting behind blur, sugar-coated, traditional, and even one sided views of film making, the film attracts openness and versatility. And this could be seen in some interesting supporting element– getting a Japanese camera crew, a Japanese translator turned to connive with Val’s manager to guide the blind director, and a director who happens to imbibe a psychosomatic case of blindness.

Apart from the all-natural acting, Woody Allen’s entertaining neurotic dialogues, the bashing conversations between Ellie and Val, and the obviously funny stereotyped fame-hungry Lori, what makes the film worth watching is its sweet and sour rendition of bashing the commercial movie industry which does not only apply in Hollywood but across the globe. In any film, looking at its political economy frame, a film is made to rake in money, win an award or simply be liked by viewers and that depends highly on the script and most especially on the direction as Film is a visual medium. As such, it can be read on two dichotomies- sweetness and bitterness.

The film is sweet in a sense it tickles your imagination on the big “what if” possibility by taking away the physical vision of the director. Us, as viewers who know that the director has no sight, laugh out loud with all the hype and “pun” yet we’re anxious with the possible output. Who would not laugh when a Journalist reviews the dailies and said that the director has a unique style of directing skills, something which is CHAOTIC! On one hand, the film is bitter to cajole the mantel of the film industry. It’s sharp in the sense it attempts to demystify the existing myths and traditions along the nature of film making. First, by removing the “physical vision” of the director, the director welcomes perspectives from a Japanese guide, he refuses a seductive act from sexy actress who probably wants more exposure, and he sees his ex-wife better than his current commercial and money-thirsty girlfriend. Overall, the psychosomatic elements bind the film’s totality in challenging the hegemonic principles enslaving American film making. As such, it introduces the independence on film making far from commercialization which may define artistry and an eye-opening vision.

The use of psychosomatic case of blindness in the film is a powerful metaphorical concept. According to Freud, psychosomatic blindness is a conversion disorder. Freud believed that the anxiety of the psyche was sometimes "converted" into physical (aka, somatic) form. It mainly affects the sensory system (e.g., blindness) and nervous system (e.g., paralysis) and is usually transient. It often exhibits inconsistencies (e.g., the "blind" person is able to navigate around barriers) which aid in its diagnosis. Relating this to Hollywood as the melting pot of film making, we can claim that Hollywood is a physical entity which is composed of a system manned by individuals. However, as these people search for new concepts or either recycle old titles to generate sales or express artistry, anxiety emerges which may manifest on its output such as affecting the vision as dictated by the society, articulated by the script, and visualized by the director. Then again, as blindness waltzes in, a new vision is concocted which defies subjective and old cemented views.

At the end of the film, despite the brouhaha on the director’s loss of sight which is also accidentally revealed by the director himself to a journalist who sat beside him, the film directed by the “blind” director, simultaneous with the director’s sight being restored, is acknowledged by the French Film community as innovative, natural and very out-of-the-box. At this angle, from being an accidental piece to a chaotic rendition, we can see the blossoming of a new film making style which caters a niche which is the French. However, with Val’s with his ex-wife Elli flying to Paris to shoot a film, the film bends its premise of challenging the hegemonic principles of commercial Hollywood making. As such, it leaves the audience a problematic thought, for its worth, glory and iconic image, Hollywood will always be clinging to the commercial side. Such experimentation as made by Val can only be entertained on a different market.

The final film is not presented at the end. I was expecting they’ll show it. But again, if we’ll look at it, it’s a very symbolical approach. We as viewers have become a part of the film. We are the viewers of Hollywood. We inhale and exhale escapist commercial movies. In short, we are prisoners of such trend. And so, by not presenting the touted “chaotic” film from a director who suffers a psychosomatic case of blindness during the shoot, we are being asked to think what could possibly be the standards of a fresh and artistic film as hailed by the French. With that, we are invited to explore other cultures and even break long-held traditions to make way for genuine artistic expression contributing to the society’s growth. Additionally, Hollywood does not own the film making world, but the whole world.

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