Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 in Shit: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

I've told multiple people that this year's Hunger Games movie is better than last, but even though it is the most recent film I've seen on this list I feel like it has largely slipped away from me. When I saw last year's I had only recently read all three novels in rapid succession. Now it's been over a year, and the impulse to compare the films with the novels has significantly waned as my memory of the latter grows spottier. I skipped the critical reception this year as well, largely; I saw that Mark Fisher had written about it, but never read it.

There are two standout things in the difference between The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, for me at least. The first was my disappointment in the realization of the book's monsters in the first film; the second is basically devoid of the teratological, and so avoids that particular pitfall. The second is my offhand comment that the books at least seem to me to allegorize the American Revolution; given that I haven't actually followed the reception of the film I might be wrong about this, but I suspect that the critical engagement from folks like Fisher indicates that people are coming around to the thematization of the second capitalized word there, if not the first. Which is pretty understandable given that that particular situation is, I suspect, a product of my own idiosyncratic reading.

I remain curious to see the third book's translation into film; the first, with its heavy reliance on direct access to the interiority of Katniss, and the overt thematization of that access, seemed to me to be the least likely to translate well, while the second's shift into the justification of the spectacle on narrative grounds (the need for Katniss to be out of the loop) might (and did) work better. The third, though, where the revolution actually begins, is the mirror image of the first, with Katniss struggling internally with her use as a visual metaphor and biographical metonym, only this time for the opposite team, and paradoxically seems to me to offer the most interesting possible translation. Plus fighting through the bombed-out streets of the capitol is just bound to produce some good imagery. Right?

And I haven't particularly well thought through precisely how mirroring the American Revolution at this particular point in history works itself out, of course. To tell it as a story is necessarily to modulate it, to recast it according to contemporary political economies &c &c. To say simply that the trilogy (tetralogy, I guess, speaking of the films) is About Revolution, though, seems to me to miss the point that it is, even while its objects of representation are decidedly (if not exclusively) proletarian, recapitulating the form of one of the revolutions which made the proletariat into a class that is required to abolish itself seems to me to be important.

Other than that, uhm. Well, I had forgotten about the clock stadium, which was pretty cool. Also the bit where Katniss hangs the prior Gamesmaker in effigy, although the film seemed hella squeamish about that. Which seems fair. Also the fog, the washing off of which seemed like an interesting possible expansion on and counterpoint to both Peeta's way of surviving the first game and the televisual nature of the main conflict of the first film.

I don't even know. I'm pretty exhausted.

A couple days ago, apropos of nothing, I began to think that it would be interesting to try to think of the film against itself, centering around Katniss' act of firing the arrow into the hologram of the games as an unintentional act. An active disavowal of the movies rhetoric, politically motivated. I didn't really get any further than that though.

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