Tom Watson Blog
December 30, 2006
I'm not a film completist; with three children and a limited window of screening opportunities outside of video-on-demand, my year's best, non-kiddie category, is scant by definition. So my "best of" list in the cinematic arts is limited to exactly two pictures, the only two to really cut through the mist of over-production and bad popcorn, and to stick to my intellectual ribs like butter on a toasted corn muffin.
Both are deeply English, more so in language than in culture. Both have all their crucial action scenes in and around London. And both deal with government and with the power of perception in the masses, a crucial factor in self-governance and the source of legitimacy of power.
Vq V for Vendetta caused one right-wing reviewer to rant that the film was "a vile, pro-terrorist piece of neo-Marxist, left-wing propaganda filled with radical sexual politics and nasty attacks on religion and Christianity." Others took it as a parable of neoconservatism run wild: its core story of America in ruins, and Britain run by a brutish totalitarian regime is filled with torture, secret imprisonment, the end of fair trials, and a government spying on its citizenry.
But the nightmarish dystopian comic book tale by the brilliant Alan Moore by published more than two decades ago, during the Reagan-Thatcher era and should not be viewed as modern topical commentary, though it was certainly a product of Moore's thoughts on Cold War politics. Written by Matrix sketch artists the Wachowski brothers, the screenplay (which Moore disavowed) has the layers and depth of a masterwork – surprising because their previous work, while fun, isn't as nearly rich. Or memorable. In a movie with tremendous dialogue – and you notice it more perhaps when the leading man wears in immobile Guy Fawkes mask – the most memorable line is this: