November 2, 2014

Evil has feelings too


Maleficent (Robert Stromberg, 2014). Disney multiculturalism now extends to allowing even evil to have its misunderstood point of view represented, although this prequel/alternate version of Sleeping Beauty was probably inspired by the Oz prequel Wicked or Tim Burton’s Alice and has much in common with Spielberg’s clumsy Hook. Production design has leaned heavily on Jim Henson and Avatar (and it turns out struggling first-time director Robert Stromberg was an effects guy on Avatar, Alice and Oz the Great and Powerful). Angelina Jolie could be impersonating Joanna Lumley, with her face sculpted and sharpened. The effects-heavy live action is even more camp and artificial, and less sinister, than Disney animation from 1959. But for readers of Greil Marcus there is a whole other field of interest. In his recent book The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs, Marcus relates his belief that actors carry parts of one role into another. It’s a good idea. He’s talking about Sam Riley playing Ian Curtis in Control, as one of the 10 historic songs is “Transmission”; he then discusses Riley as Pinkie in a remake of Brighton Rock. The alienated Pinkie is a biological father to Ian Curtis in this theory. But Maleficent might suit Marcus’ purposes more. Riley plays Jolie’s accomplice, a crow who shape-shifts into a man (and sometimes a wolf or a dragon). A man who is a crow? Remember that Brandon Lee died making The Crow? And that Nine Inch Nails covered “Dead Souls” on the soundtrack? From now on, everything Sam Riley appears in will be an Ian Curtis prequel/sequel/alternate version. This: his Goth afterlife.