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Monday, July 26, 2010


An interesting theme in movies

I've just watched Me and Orson Welles, and I'd recommend others to do the same. It's a movie I missed at first go-round because, as with Son of Rambow, it was rather oddly promoted. Son of Rambow was billed as the funniest British film since Hot Fuzz, despite having nothing in common with it except being a British movie, so I almost missed it on the logic than I hadn't liked Hot Fuzz. Me and Orson Welles was billed as 'the feel-good film of the year', despite being a kind of imaginative biopic rather than anything particularly feelgood. Somebody really needs to have a word with whoever puts those posters together.

However, Me and Orson Welles actually reminded me most of another movie. It seems like an odd comparison at first blush, but structurally and, for want of a better word, morally, it's telling almost exactly the same story as The Last King of Scotland.

That's another movie I'd highly recommend - even higher than Me and Orson Welles, with a general recommendation for anything scripted by Peter Morgan thrown in, though it's certainly a less chirpy experience. But the story is basically the same.

Each is the story of a first job: the hero is a charming if unwise young man who strikes out from his respectable existence in search of something more exciting, crosses the path of a formidable figure - Idi Amin in the case of The Last King of Scotland, Orson Welles in ... well, you don't need me to tell you that, do you? - and, with a degree of chutzpah and luck, finds himself suddenly swept into a more glamorous, but far more volatile world. They're stories of boys too easily charmed, rash enough to depend on the good will of an older, more powerful man who eventually turns on them. Orson Welles's turning doesn't involve meat hooks, of course, and doesn't entirely undermine the sunny quality of the film, but these are stories with the same fundamental moral, which might be expressed in the following improvised proverb:

Just because the tiger licks you today, it doesn't mean he won't bite you tomorrow.

Both are stories of failing to see the danger in taking a job working for someone who fired your predecessor on a whim, of being vain or naive enough to think that someone who bullies other people will somehow make an exception for you, of discovering that how people treat you is about how them and how they treat people, not about you and how you deserve to be treated, and that you're probably less of an exception than you think. They're stories of learning the hard way that a dangerous person is dangerous to you as well as to everyone else.

They are, in short, fables.

And it's interesting to see two fables made within a couple of years of each other (2007 and 2009 respectively) delivering the same moral. The morals that our stories tell often reveal a lot about the surrounding culture, and I'm wondering if these stories of punished hubris are telling us, in our collapsed economy and rough job market and young people struggling for position that older people are sitting upon, something about ourselves.

And I'm also wondering if this is a moral that's been cropping up elsewhere. Has anyone else seen a movie that has the same story lately?


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