04 May, 2007

The Original Italian Job

I was watching the original version of The Italian Job the other day: the one with Michael Caine, who as usual makes even the silliest films great fun. See also Miss Congeniality. (Not that there's anything wrong with silly films per se. They're usually far better than the stuff put forward as courageous, brilliant filmmaking.)

This film has several merits. Among them is the best ending I have ever seen in a crime caper. The phrase "self-preservation society" is part of a song throughout the film, but the final seconds give it all new meaning.

Second, the film was rated G. I was surprised, since the film's heroes (or protagonists, at any rate) consist of unrepentant thieves, after all. There is a murder and some violence. I don't think it would be rated G today.

Third, during one of the many, great car chase scenes, I had the following sequence of thoughts:

  • Wow, they spent a lot of money on this film.
  • I had no idea Turin was so opulent.*
  • Wow. This must have been a really expensive film back then.
  • You know, they could have done a lot of good if, instead of making this film, they had used the money to help the poor.
That's when it hit me:

Wouldn't the world be a much, much better place if we shut down the film industry and gave all that money they squander on filmmaking to the poor?

Of course not. The poor ought instead to give their hard-earned cash to the film industry, so that it can provide them with mindless entertainment that insults what little intelligence they have, and shortens their attention spans to the point that they can't bother to invest the energy necessary to read science or math textbooks, which could actually increase (gasp) their intelligence and job prospects. After all, if they had intelligence, they wouldn't watch trash like this film!**

Just kidding! I don't want to advocate that at all. (Any of it.) But it is rather unseemly for the entertainment industry, surely one of the sorriest examples of unmerited income inequality in the world, to scold Christians for, of all things, "squandering" money by building opulent temples.

As an aside, I'm no fan of opulent temples myself. There's a place for elegant beauty, but ostentatious opulence turns me off, and usually goes hand in hand with emptiness. Even worse is the extravagant meaninglessness of post-1960s ecclesial architecture. (Don't talk to me about the subtle depths of modern architecture. Architecture that needs explanation in order to perceive its beauty is meaningless.***) Some of my favorite churches have elegant, but simple, decorations. That's also why I prefer chant to polyphony and polyphony to most of the grandiose, majestic hymns of the 18th and 19th centuries.

On the other hand, there are some of the chapels in Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in DC, like the Byzantine-Ruthenian chapel, the Croat chapel, the ceiling of the Polish chapel, and the Shrine to Saint Agnes. Wow.

Think of how many chapels they could have built instead of making that film!

—Okay, okay. Think of how many scholarships they could have funded instead of making that film!

Admit it. This is the weirdest film review you've ever read!

*I've been to Turin, but I didn't have any money, and I didn't want to miss my train, even though I had something like a 6-hour layover. So, I sat several hours in the train station, and didn't get to see anything.

**Then again, I watched this film. Hmm.

***Trust me on this one: we mathematicians know all about meaningful beauty. That's why we invest a lot of energy into explaining them.


Alessandra said...

The prettiest place I've ever attended a service at was outdoors, amid very tall trees, encircling several rows of benches, and with an altar made of wood logs. You looked up and you saw the sky, framed by the high-reaching branches. No church, building, temple can compare to that, in my view and experience.

Unfortunately, it is not very practical, since it is obviously weather dependent. At the end, we almost got rained on, but it certainly gave me an idea for where I would always like to have anything spiritual.

jack perry said...

I think the only outdoor services I've been to was an Easter service at dawn, and (if it counts) walking the stations of hte cross with outdoor stations. Outdoors, I like the stations best.

Anonymous said...

Great movie. Cute cars.