Monday, April 14, 2008

Comments on "The Boy with Green Hair" From My Friend Troy

(Edited from two separate emails.)
I wanted to say thank you for sharing "The Boy With Green Hair" with us. As a surreal parable about the ills of war, it has an odd choice of metaphor - shocking green hair standing in for spring-like renewal. That and "Nature Boy" as the theme song and an amazingly naturalistic performance by a young, young, young Dean Stockwell makes this quite an interesting treat. And intriguingly anti-war for 1948, which is perhaps more compelling, in context.

Reading your commentary on your blog reminded me of the boys interaction with the war orphans and how interesting is was. While they were initially presented as some sort of immovable tableau, only to react to him once he acknowledged their presence, his own take on them was much more pragmatic than theirs to him, which was lofty and surreal, since of course, he was their messiah

They responded to his comments with unreal clarity and a sense of the epic, whereas his retorts were snappy and generally annoyed, an interesting contrast I greatly admired. Here they are - these metaphorical visions of tragic suffering and he's cranky because he woke up with green hair, priceless. But once he gets the message, well then...

I also thought the scene where he gets his head shaved was oddly compelling. As Andrea mentioned, there is little to no music in that scene, at a time when most films were over scored, thereby increasing the sense of anguish. It's amazing how upset the townspeople seem over the situation, like they didn't know what else to do, but had to go through with it anyway. It's like a far subtler version of what Lars Von Trier seems to shoot for in many cases, "Dogville" for example.

Troy -
The difference may be that, unlike Von Trier, the makers of The Boy With Green Hair (Joseph Losey, Betsey Beaton, Ben Barzman) seem to have sympathy for their characters, even those who turn against the boy. They also seem to believe in their film's message - the earnestness and lack of irony is one of the things I respond to. Von Trier doesn't seem to believe in anything within Dogville, which limits the film. He wants an exciting climax of the heroine ordering the massacre of the townspeople who wronged her, but wants to justify her doing so as a philosophical and moral point rather than simple revenge, and then taunts the viewer for wanting to see the massacre. To accomplish these contradictory goals, Von Trier's characters have to indulge in a debate of twisted logic that demonstrates there is no meaning to Dogville beyond audience manipulation.


How 38 years and hanging out with Dennis Hopper can change you:

He is so fucking suave...


Erin said...

That cute kid is Dean Stockwell??? Holy crap!

the hanged man said...

I was surprised to find that Stockwell was actually an accomplished and very successful child actor. I only knew his adult work: sometimes creepy, always wry, always eccentric. Correction: he's the "normal" brother in Paris, Tx, but considering he's playing opposite Harry Dean Stanton, that's unavoidable.

But appearantly Dean is one of the few who has worked consistently as an actor as both a child and an adult.