Beach Blanket Divine Vengeance: Piranha 3D

Posted by Charles Reece, August 29, 2010 11:51pm | Post a Comment

The bromidic High Tension and a remake of The Hills Have Eyes didn't exactly warrant high expectations for a remake of Joe Dante's Piranha, which was itself a low-budget remake of Jaws using The Birds as a template. There's not much to Dante's film except that scenarist John Sayles deserves credit for writing a goofy riff on Hitchcock's classic 2 years before John Carpenter did it with The Fog. So why see a film with such a lackluster pedigree? Well, a friend promised me as much boobs and blood simulated in 3D tactility as an R rating could handle. And, for once, director Alexandre Aja doesn't disappoint. There's a beautifully choreographed underwater nude balletic lesbian make-out scene that surely points to the future in porn on high-def 3D TVs. And the full-scale attack of the piranha on the vacationing college kids is delivered like Saving Private Ryan's Normandy invasion 
set in an MTV spring-break special, only with more carnage.

The central aspect to The Birds that neither Dante nor Carpenter got right was the Divine Vengeance angle where the mortal victims in their finitude couldn't come to grips with Judgement Day. At the end of Hitchcock's film, you're still asking why, whereas you're given a reason in the two derivations: In The Fog, the attack is payback for an act of theft on which the coastal town was founded; in Piranha, it's a matter of basic biological drive allowed to take its course due to a bureaucratic coverup so that a prime vacationing spot not be deprived of commerce (as was the case in Jaws). Piranha 3D doesn't achieve Hitchcock's metaphysical ambiguity, either, but it does provide for a more satisfying version of retribution.

For anyone who's felt a bit of sympathy with Robert Bork's Slouching Towards Gomorrah after enduring one of those aforesaid MTV specials or seeing the malignant Joe Francis on a late night infomercial, Aja delivers a wish-fulfilling comeuppance to America's future, primary breadwinning class (as well as an effigy of Francis played by Jerry O'Connell). Although both appeal to salacity, if there's a moral difference between Dante's original and the remake, it's similar to Orwell's more optimistic 1984 versus the cynicism of Huxley's Brave New World: In the former, the people are oppressed from without by dictates of an oppressive state, whereas in the latter, the people are imprisoned by their own desires. There's no coverup or doublespeak in Aja's film. When the sheriff's department tries to warn the partiers of the danger, they stubbornly turn the music up louder and jump into the water for their punishment. As with the bird's eye view of the burning gas station in The Birds, the viewer can't help but identify with the piranha.

What does James Cameron think?

I tend almost never to throw other films under the bus, but that [Piranha 3D] is exactly an example of what we should not be doing in 3D. Because it just cheapens the medium and reminds you of the bad 3-D horror films from the 70s and 80s, like Friday the 13th 3D. When movies got to the bottom of the barrel of their creativity and at the last gasp of their financial lifespan, they did a 3D version to get the last few drops of blood out of the turnip. And that’s not what’s happening now with 3D. It is a renaissance—right now the biggest and the best films are being made in 3D. Scorsese is making a film in 3D. Disney’s biggest film of the year -- Tron: Legacy -- is coming out in 3D. So it’s a whole new ballgame. 

Yeah, a much uglier sequel from the 80s and yet another kids film in 3D are signs of a "renaissance." I'm betting none of this will be as good as that ballet scene. Avatar certainly wasn't.

The Return of the Real Aesthetic: Friday The 13th 3D (1982)

Posted by Charles Reece, January 31, 2009 04:54pm | Post a Comment
The quarrel over realism in art stems from a misunderstanding, from a confusion between the aesthetic and the psychological; between true realism, the need that is to give significant expression to the world both concretely and in its essence and the pseudorealism of a deception aimed at fooling the eye (or for that matter the mind); a pseudorealism content in other words with illusory appearances. -- André Bazin, The Ontology of the Photographic Image

[Please note: Ontological Enhancement Device (OCE) is required for the proper reception of the life-enhancing images that follow. Click on images for full lifeworld experience.]

If kids played baseball on the street, this is what it would look like:

Or if housewives watched TV, this is what it would look like:

I'm told that smoking reefer is something akin to the following:

Before September 28, 1987 -- when the holodeck went online -- kids used to do this:

I always felt the problem with Max Ophüls was that his objects lay dormant on the screen:

Did Robert Bresson ever achieve this level of realism?

Jean Renoir
is famous for using depth of field, but he's "quadrophonic" vinyl compared to the 5.1 surround of the following:

These are animals:

Realism or surrealism?

Now you see it, now you don't:

Supernatural Serial Killers: They're Just Like Us.

They take an axe to head, but keep on coming with a machete:

Books hurt them:

They hang from rope:

They get stuck in traffic:

They fall down:

They enter through windows to get the girls they love:

They look like their parents: