Saturday, October 26, 2013

Second Thoughts on GREAT WAR (2013) NYAFF 2013

And now my more carefully considered explanation of what I think about Great War which I reviewed back in July

I feel kind of bad, for dismissing Great War when I reviewed it way back when but even in the cold light of day I’m of the opinion that if you’re not a fan of Grasshopper or Softhard you’re not likely to fall in love with the film. In order to really clarify what’s wrong with the film I’d like to point out a couple of things.

First the film opens with a black screen and statements about all sorts of things. Who is making the statements and what are they connected to? We don’t know. Many of the statements are political so unless we know the political situation in Hong Kong the statements fall flat. This carries over to several of the sequences which relate to the politics of Hong Kong. There is a discussion with one of the fans that provide a hook for the film, and she talks about the politics of the Pro-Beijing number. Since I, as a Westerner am not familiar with the situation the resonance falls flat. Actually much of the politics falls down since I really didn’t know what the discussion means.

The film’s next problem is that the film is jumbled. It jumps from thing to thing to thing with no sense of building a whole. They are rehearsing, in a studio, we see bits of a number, bits of the rehearsal, an interview, more of a music number, sequences with the fans, back to the interviews with the bands more rehearsal back to the fans , the groups going on stage, rehearsal, costume change fans, interviews…and on and on… you’re never in one place long enough so that if you’re an outsider looking in anything will really make sense.

The foremost problem the film has is that it only has two or three more or less complete musical numbers. We get the one that plays post credits, we get the “pro” Beijing song and I think one other. Otherwise we only get snippets, most fleeting of the songs. What’s so damaging about this is that when we actually see the numbers we get a sense of what a great show it was. When we actually see the show and hear the music the film soars. Seeing the actual numbers I was rather giddy. This was way cool. There simply isn’t enough of it.

To a lesser degree the film falters in that it makes no effort to differentiate the two groups. Almost all of the music we see seems to involve everyone on stage at the same time or each of the performers standing solo. This is fine, except that the groups blur together. Other than Softhard having a political/ joking style at times they all seem semi interchangeable.

The film does work when we see the musical numbers, when we hear the fans talk and when we get to see the various members of the band really be themselves, but on the other hand there isn’t enough of that and what there is is rather poorly organized. I kind of almost wish I had the time to go in and reassemble the film into the masterpiece it should have been.

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