Monday, March 11, 2002

The Movie I Watched Last Night XI
Sunday: Slaughterhouse-Five
Based on the Kurt Vonnegut novel, this slow-paced film tells the story of a man who's become "unstuck in time." The resulting narrative is a pastiche portrayal of Billy Pilgrim's life, centering heavily on his time in Dresden, Germany, during World War II. While the political content -- the scene in which Billy encounters a Harvard historian who's writing a book about Dresden is particularly telling -- and the time-travel philosophizing -- time is just a collection of random moments strung together, with no moment more important than the others, but every moment more important than the whole -- is interesting, as an entire story, the movie falls flat. There are some parallels to Breakfast of Champions, in which the lead also encounters an alien/god-like being who controls his fate. But while that ultimate authorship question drives much of "Breakfast" (and provides a most surprising ending, at least in the novel), here it's almost an afterthought -- the Trafalmadore sequences are among the most belabored -- and we're left to revel in the more mundane moments -- Billy's reunion with his bride to be, the optometrists' convention flight, etc. There are some excellent cinematic moments here, but they, like Billy, have become unstuck.

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