Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Brick - Rian Johnson

Seen for the sixth time in July 2013.

"Brick" was the best movie released in the first decade of this century and the only other movie that comes close is Larry Clark's "Bully." What does Brick do well? It perfectly emulates the style and atmosphere of classic noir. Shit, it takes the platonic ideal of noir, and emulates that, giving us the witty dialogue, the style, the suspense and atmosphere. It's extremely well cast with only one bad performance coming from the girl from "Lost."

The part that makes it controversial is that its set in modern high school, which misleads the pre-concepted into expecting realism, as if this would be a good movie if it were a realistic high school drama about drugs. I scoff. Like what Havoc? I can't think of any good high school dramas. Can anybody think of one since "American Graffiti"?

But I digress, what makes "Brick" great is that it's a great noir, not a great piece of realistic film-making. "Brick" helps us to understand that noir was never about realism. It was about style, wit, suspense, and atmosphere. It was about an idealized form of masculinity, imperfect but essentially good, doing the best he can using his wits in an undefeatable and essentially corrupt world, and maybe even surviving. This is what Brick is about.

And the high school setting is essential. It is essential to create a stylized world for these characters to inhabit. Even classic noir was staged in a stylized world and not a realistic one, though many of us wouldn't know that these days.  Nonetheless the traditional noir setting may be too dated and cliched at this point to produce something truly noteworthy and exceptional. New and fertile worlds must be sought for noir to excel at it's brand of urbane sophistication.

"Brick" uses the high school setting to create this very necessary stylized world where the conventions of noir can successfully be revealed without seeming cliche. And the underlying noir that takes place in this setting is a very very good one. The world of "Brick" is hermetically sealed one, similar to our own, but very much not our own. Like a billion other realistic teen sagas, it's not a very good teen drama. It is however, an exceptionally good piece of film noir, and it deserves its place right alongside Chinatown, and The Maltese Falcon, and The Big Sleep. It's that good. Even accounting for parasitism. It's that good. Grade A.

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