Thursday, June 08, 2006

Paris and Hooligans

Greetings! At last the Siren manages to corral the computer and post some random thoughts from Paris. The city has had wonderful weather. We are going every day to the local park, which has a carousel the kids are obsessed with. At this point the price of all their rides adds up to several visits to EuroDisney, but when the sun is shining and you just watched your son smell roses and your daughter chase a pigeon right under a bench occupied by two canoodling, then very startled Parisians, you can't really get stingy with the Manege.

Twin-wrangling being what it is, the Siren hasn't done much moviegoing, but she did take in one film last week, Hooligans (or Green Street Hooligans, as it was called when released in the States last October). The Siren expected this to be a dark meditation on the nature of male violence, in the vein of Raging Bull perhaps, though she didn't expect that film's genius from relative novice director Lexi Alexander. It is something much odder, though--a sort of London-set Western. It embodies what the Siren considers the universal theme of Westerns, namely, "who's the man here?"

In this case, unfortunately, the evolving man is supposed to be delicate, ghost-eyed Elijah Wood, a good enough actor but about as physically potent as the Siren's aforementioned rose-sniffing three-year-old. So when, late in the movie, Wood gets clocked with a set of brass knuckles, and gets back on his feet, it is a bit of a strain on the old willing suspension of disbelief.

The movie concerns Wood, a Harvard-educated journalist who, via a series of wholly unbelievable events, becomes involved with a "firm," or gang of English soccer hooligans, and becomes a part of this testosterone-fueled band of brothers. Fused by the camaraderie of violence as well as incipient alcoholism, they run around London finding other firms to fight. Handsome Charlie Dunnam, a new face to the Siren, plays the leader of the Green Street firm, and has a strong presence and charisma in a role that requires some dizzying pace changes. In fact, all of the actors acquit themselves pretty well, even Wood, who makes you believe that he starts to enjoy all this fighting. (What you don't believe is that the firm doesn't end each engagement by wiping him off the pavement with a sponge.)

And the movie seems to give a fairly accurate picture of the world of the firms, or so the Siren assumes. She isn't very familiar with this scene, hasn't seen Alan Clarke's The Firm and holds a grudge against soccer anyway, since the French victory in the European Cup put a damper on her honeymoon. (Although she did get to see a police formation charge a group of particulary rowdy fans, so it added a bit of sociological interest.)

The main trouble with the movie is that it wants to romanticize the deep bonds between these men, while simultaneously condemning the waste and pain that are natural byproducts of spending your free time beating up people for a remarkably silly reason. Alexander wants the Green Street guys to be the hard-fighting, essentially decent Sons of Katie Elder, but the scene that rings most true to what these guys are really like plays more like something from Romper Stomper. It's a truly frightening moment, when the leader of another firm smashes a man's face repeatedly into a table, because the guy's girlfriend was laughing too loud.

All in all, not the greatest choice in cinematic outings, but it was playing close and at a time that worked well with jet lag and toddler bedtimes. The French subtitles added a lot, however, and I don't mean just the discovery that French doesn't have quite as many variations on a single four-letter word as English does. Now I know the French word for the English "grass" (or snitch), "mouchard." And "find out what's happening?" Mettre quelq'un au parfum. Another entry for my perfume at the movies series, alors!

2 comments:

Rebecca said...

The park sounds lovely. I must give Paris another chance someday. Kiss twins for me.
Auntie

Bela said...

LOL! Mettre quelqu'un au parfum is slang: don't use it in polite company, ok?

Wish I were in Paris right now. :-(

You sound as if you're having a good time. Glad the birdies like it there.