“The Revenant” And Inarritu’s Debt To Werner Herzog

Hollywood, like the Pacific Ocean, is a large, nebulous body whose waves are continually changing and crashing against the warm Southern Californian beaches.

The waves of what is popular in Hollywood change as swiftly as the waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Recently, the tone being set for critics in Hollywood has become akin to one of those seismic tsunami waves – very low of wavelength and doing much damage.

The near unanimous overabundance of praise for Alejandro Inarritu’s latest film, “The Revenant,” is a clear example.

Inarritu is a powerful, talented filmmaker. No doubt about that. We’ve noted his work since “Amores Perros” in 2000. (We’d suggest you see it but if you don’t speak Spanish then you’ll have to put up with those pesky subtitles that Americans can’t seem to deal with…)

But “The Revenant” and Innaritu’s muscular, powerful images interspersed with some quietly poetic scenes do not a masterpiece make.

Taking the audience on an endless “you-are-there” experience with a fish-eye lens? Okay, Alejandro, we get it. Virtual Reality is the New Thing. But for those of us not looking for a Disneyland ride, how about telling a story instead of dragging us through the mud?

The logic gaps in the story leave one feeling like a befuddled toddler. Choosing to have Tom Hardy’s character look after the injured Leo? Hardy, who has been thoroughly established as the one man in the story who hates Leo to the death? And he’s given responsibility to care for Leo?

Well, it is the set-up for the entire film, so without this crucial logic-crash…Inarritu’s Big Budget Oscar-Bait wouldn’t exist. Who cares if it flies in the face of an audience’s 1+1=2 expectations for logical storytelling?

There are so many other numerous flaws and continuity issues in “The Revenant” that any respectable critic would have waved his notes about in the theatre and called for a time-out.

But there was already that low, rumbling, seismic tsunami flowing through Hollywood that was declaring Inarritu and his creative entourage the flavor du jour. So be it.

You want to see a great frontier period film? See “Little Big Man” from 1970. Arthur Penn’s masterpiece starring Dustin Hoffman and “inspired by true events!” Well, based on the book by Thomas Berger. It has everything “The Revenant” doesn’t: Humor, perspective, The Long View, lessons, realistic portrayals of Native Americans and their decimation by American troops.

Oh, and, there’s a scene with a lot of mud in it.

As for the full-blown PR blitz on how tough it was for Leo and crew? On a $135mil budgeted film? What, no foam on the cappuccinos?

There are those of us familiar with film and history who sneeze at Inarritu’s tales of woe on this well-coddled, amply budgeted film project.

We tell him to have a chat with Master Filmmaker Werner Herzog. Ask him about his experiences filming “Aguirre, The Wrath Of God” in 1971 in the Amazon on no budget, dealing with a murderous, gun-wielding star, and then turning out a real masterpiece that makes “The Revenant” look like a derivative singing cowboy flick.

And, we would tell everyone to go out and grab a view of Herzog’s “Aguirre” which is such a devastatingly beautiful and violent film that it influenced such Hollywood filmmakers like Coppola who admitted “Apocalypse Now” was a take-off on it…but then you’d have to understand German, or deal with those pesky subtitles again…


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