I wrote in message <email@example.com>…
>"Chaplin" suffers from decisions not endemic to long time spans but to an
>unintegrated approach to structure. This is the same problem with the same
>Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi." That earlier film actually begins with a
>title that says that it was hard to compress six (?) decades of a man's life
>into a few hours and that for this reason we would be seeing a succession of
>snapshot-like fragments of the life which we were to let create an overall
>impression. (I'm sure my paraphrasing is far from exact, but I've had no
>desire to see that bore a second time, restricting my seeing of it to one
>viewing in a theater within a year of its release. How such a jumble of
>dispersed, diverse elements could win an Academy Award for Best Picture is
It must have been willful blindness that made me forget how "Gandhi" could win an Academy Award for Best Picture. The answer should have been obvious: political correctness. That's often been said to be why the film was nominated for Best Costume Design. Yeah, sure, they did creative things dressing up the lead character in a bedsheet. (Okay, I'm not forgetting that the British uniforms did look well-cut, but that's scarcely representative of the movie.)
As for the structure of "Gandhi," what Pauline Kael said about that Richard Attenborough movie in her review for "The New Yorker" (reprinted in her anthology "Taking It All In") could equally apply to Attenborough's "Chaplin":
"Leaving the theatre… I felt the way the British must have when they left India: exhausted and relieved. … the film… has no dramatic center… . 'Gandhi' is reverential and holy, like the pictures that used to be made about Jesus… . The first half builds up considerable interest in Gandhi; the second half is scattered--as if it had been added to or subtracted from at random… .
"Several of the Indian actors are look-alikes for the figures they're playing… . but except for Gandhi there are no characters of any consequence, and the material is unshaped--you can't tell what goes on in _anybody's_ head.
"The movie has no trace of a point of view; the film feels as if it were directed by a committee… ."
I also recall a critic's observation (I can't remember who said this) that an idea of the movie's lack of focus is that we are introduced to Gandhi's wife, but after that she disappears from the movie. She appears as if to fill in the blank that he was married, but beyond that, the few minutes she's on the screen give us an idea of the kind of relationship he would have with her, but her importance is rendered negligible because she has no influence on any event to occur later in the story.
Again--sound like "Chaplin"? Again--can't others see that a biopic could cover several decades of a life and nonetheless avoid the pitfalls named above, that is, for a better biopic to have focus, structure, character development and continuing characters?
I soon thereafter expressed what I wished I had considered when the initial post was made:
From: David P. Hayes
Date: Thursday, February 26, 1998 1:23 PM
I wrote in message <firstname.lastname@example.org>…
>I wrote in message
>>"Chaplin" suffers from decisions not endemic to long time spans but to an
>>unintegrated approach to structure. This is the same problem with the same
>>Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi." … . How such a jumble of
>>dispersed, diverse elements could win an Academy Award for Best Picture is
>>beyond me… .
>It must have been willful blindness that made me forget how "Gandhi" could
>win an Academy Award for Best Picture. The answer should have been obvious:
For the record: the "willful blindness" I wrote of was a benevolent unwillingness to believe that accomplished people could be taken in by an intellectual fad. Ah, rose-colored glasses…!
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