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How do you describe "Babel?"


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#1 Ira Ratner

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 06:21 AM

Watched the DVD this weekend, because I'll never go to a theater to see Brad Pitt:

Although I like a lot of their stuff, Pitt and Jolie are too weird for words and must be stopped at all costs.

Anyway, is there an actual word for this genre where they take several seemingly unrelated story lines and tie them together? I mean, they're obviously related, but the whole structure is in your face like this.

My review for Babel was that it was kind of a stretch, whereas Crash was superb.
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#2 Alfeo Dixon

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 08:41 AM

Loved Babel. Crash was by far even better. But Tarantino was the first director I noticed with Pulp Fiction, that had this sort of de-structuring of the story line that kind of put all of it in a hat and pull out the scene that comes first feel.

I think it really helps to pull you into the separate story lines and subplots a bit easier when your not attached emotionally to the chronological order of a story. Does that make sense?!? Need coffee...
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#3 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 12:41 PM

But Tarantino was the first director I noticed with Pulp Fiction, that had this sort of de-structuring of the story line that kind of put all of it in a hat and pull out the scene that comes first feel.


You have to go a little further back than "Pulp Fiction" (1994)... I mean, "Intolerance" (1916) after all is a series of stories with only the thinnest of thematic connections.

Ophul's "La Ronde" (1950) is a series of vignettes connected loosely by one character starting the next story (the original story was about venereal disease being passed across a wide swath of society by one character sleeping with the next, etc.) And his "Le Plaisir" (1952) is made up of three short stories linked loosely together by the theme of pleasure.

And "Betrayal" (1983) tells its story of a relationship in reverse order of events.

"Night on Earth" (1991) has multiple stories among taxi drivers across the planet.

These are just examples that pop into my head but I'm sure I can dig up some earlier examples.
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#4 Hunter Hampton

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 01:07 PM

How do I describe Babel? I like the imagery, and how s16mm, spherical 35mm and anamorphic 35mm were used to add depth to each storyline. But I must say, Babel had one too many child masturbation scenes and vagina flashings. I think it would have been better without putting the viewers through some of that. But I guess that's how you "push the limit" as a director?
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#5 Max Jacoby

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 02:35 PM

Completely overrated film.
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#6 Stuart Brereton

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 04:48 PM

Painfully over-contrived.

A shame, because it looks great, and also because 21 grams and Amores Peres are so good.
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#7 Ira Ratner

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 08:21 PM

Stuart, I guess that's the description I was looking for--over-contrived.

Most of what you're watching there is damn interesting, but there's never a connection made between any of it that really matters in the end.

Like, the Japanese scenes--WONDERFUL acting, cinematography, editing, sound, for what those scenes were supposed to accomplish--but that's all there just because the guy gave the gun to a guy in Morocco on a hunting trip. I just couldn't reconcile how this minor detail warranted anything. Plus the Mexican caretaker and THAT subplot. Again, she was UNBELIEVABLE in that part.

But it seemed like they had 4 stories to tell and just crammed them into one film whether it all made any sense or not. (Moroccan kid shooting woman, husband trying to save woman, Mexican babysitter, deaf Japanese girl with nice boobs.)

I wanted to ask the question because based on this film, it just seems that all a producer has to do is buy the rights to 4 great shorts, do some minor rewrites, and you got yourself a film.

It all seemed so lazy to me, but at the same time, it kept my interest. However, I DID feel cheated at the end, that it could have been so much better.
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#8 Ira Ratner

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 08:24 PM

And Hunter--on the DVD I watched, they only showed one vagina scene. And you can hardly call it a vagina--it was just hair on a crotch.

Plus there was only one masturbation sequence, and believe it or not, BOYS at that age DO masturbate. And my wife and I laughed our asses off.

Best part of the whole film!
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#9 Ira Ratner

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 08:29 PM

And Alfeo and David--thanks for these descriptions, in relative order:

"Destructuring"

"Thematic connections."

That gives me a way to describe the damn approach.
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 January 2009 - 09:12 PM

I remember a review of "The Deer Hunter" that said that the wedding scene went on so long that the reviewer felt guilty he didn't bring a gift... I felt a bit like that during that wedding scene in Mexico in "Babel".

The movie is wonderfully photographed and acted though.
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#11 Hunter Hampton

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 02:57 AM

And Hunter--on the DVD I watched, they only showed one vagina scene. And you can hardly call it a vagina--it was just hair on a crotch.

Plus there was only one masturbation sequence, and believe it or not, BOYS at that age DO masturbate. And my wife and I laughed our asses off.

Best part of the whole film!


Right, "one" too many. ; )

I guess some boys do masturbate at that age, I'm glad you and your wife like watching them do it; but as for me, I don't want see children masturbating.

Cheers!
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#12 Mike Lary

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Posted 06 January 2009 - 03:29 AM

Anyway, is there an actual word for this genre where they take several seemingly unrelated story lines and tie them together? I mean, they're obviously related, but the whole structure is in your face like this.


I would just call them non-linear narratives, but I wouldn't consider the structure of a film as a qualifier for genre in and of itself. There are so many other variables that could override that commonality.
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#13 Tom Lowe

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 08:29 PM

The Japan sequences from Babel were beyond superb, IMHO.
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#14 Ira Ratner

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Posted 08 January 2009 - 10:27 PM

The Japan sequences from Babel were beyond superb, IMHO.

I was riveted by them, and I'm not the type who is easily riveted.

The main girl was great, but that detective was beyond BELIEF. It takes a lot in a foreign language subtext to do it all so well that you don't even NOTICE it's in a foreign language. I don't know who that guy is, but man--this was acting at its BEST. Like a Clint Eastwood type of presence.

The only negative I have about the Japanese scenes is when she went into the disco and the audio cut in and out to reflect her deafness. It was a mundane, trite technique, and it was done so poorly that it took me a few seconds to realize that my DVD wasn't faulty.

And as much as I'm a fan of his work, I thought Pitt was the LEAST interesting part of this movie. Everyone ELSE was a hundred times better, right down to the masturbating kid.
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#15 Daniel Porto

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Posted 19 January 2009 - 10:42 PM

I remember a review of "The Deer Hunter" that said that the wedding scene went on so long that the reviewer felt guilty he didn't bring a gift... I felt a bit like that during that wedding scene in Mexico in "Babel".


But without the length of that wedding scene (the fact that we have been so calm for the majority of the movie), make the cut to the war-zone and the scenes with russian roulette so much more terrifying. I think the length is... Yes I did think that it was going on a bit too long, but my god was I glad that it played out as long as it did as necessary soon as it got into the war-zone... horrific
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#16 Marcus Joseph

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Posted 22 January 2009 - 07:16 PM

The movie was well made, in both terms of acting and technicalities, it surely impressed me. It properly intertwined the global stories, showing foreign languages and not just English speaking Hollywood actors with accents. It really did drag me into the story, with such a powerful and problematic means to an end. It wasn't by any real means a copy of Pulp Fiction nor Crash, but simply a different direction. Either way, I didn't care all too much for Crash (not that it's an awful movie or anything, I'd rate it a 7/10, but I wouldn't call it Best Picture worthy IMHO anyway) and I personally believe that Pulp Fiction didn't start the multiple storylines and non-linear structure, that way of filmmaking was starting long before that like previously stated. Which makes me wonder about Tarantino's originality, he is surely a good filmmaker (not one of the best) as many in my demographic would like to believe, but I'm quite certain that Reservoir Dogs was an actual rip off of a foreign film made before it (known as, Lung fu fong wan, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093435/). Tarantino has officially said though that both Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction were influenced by Kubrick's The Killing. I don't think he's ever formally addressed the foreign movie though.

And Hunter, assuming you're a grown man, I can't see why you'd be so disturbed by minor scenes that left points to the story.
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