Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

Go Speed Racer!

Although most of the reviews for Speed Racer were dreadful, I found it highly enjoyable. Having recently seen Iron Man, which has been lauded as much as Speed Racer has been lambasted, I found myself once again wondering whether major film critics are ever able to transcend their intuition about whether they are going to like a picture or not. I'm not saying that Speed Racer is a great film. I'm not saying that it's better than Iron Man, which I also found diverting. My point is simply that the gulf between the former and the latter is nowhere near as wide as the critical scorecard suggests. Sure, Speed Racer is long-winded and suffers from a skeletal story arc. But have you seen the show on which it's based? More importantly, have the critics?

The original series was hardly a masterpiece of plotting, after all. Its charm had to do with the way it looked and sounded -- racing represented as if it were lovemaking -- as well as the eeriness conjured by the fact that it made such heavy use of "stock footage," shots repeated over and over and over like words in a William S. Burroughs cut-up. The 2008 film does a decent job of simulating that aesthetic, particularly the tie-in with sex: every eye-match looks like a prelude to fucking. The colors are fun, appropriately Pop Art, given the television show's late-1960s context. And the racing scenes are great precisely because they are incoherent. If those classic Hot Wheels tracks with the loops were actually torus knots, you'd have something like the courses Speed and his fellow drivers navigate. Somewhere in the domain of the counter-factual, Jacques Lacan is looking up from The Wire -- how did Baltimore get so much worse from 1966 until 2006? -- to nod his bemused approval. If you have even the slightest glimmer of interest, you should go see it in the theater, where its madness can't be domesticized by the size of your television screen.
Tags: film, rant

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