Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Crash (Bang Wallop)

It often takes me a while to see films. I can't get to cinemas and, anyway, I object to paying for things I might not enjoy. When it came to Crash, created by Paul Haggis (who also did Due South - one of my personal favourites) and winner of three Oscars (including Best Picture), I had very few excuses. It had been available on dvd and shown at least twice on television. Still, I'd heard some raves and some rumbles and this is often enough to put me off. Indeed Deborah told me that she thought it was utterly disappointing.

But you know what men are like, so I watched it with every hope that Deb was wrong. How silly I was.

I believe that one of the things that most impressed people was that Crash speaks of racism in new ways. Well, that's great. But then, there's not been a film about cars which talks about the chemical properties of the magnetorheological fluid used in the dampers of some posh cars. There's a very good reason *why* a film has been made about cars which speaks in this voice. It's because the voice is one of those nasal ones that says 'actually' a lot. And yes, I've been known to slip into that voice at times.

Racism is a massive issue. It's possibly hard having grown up in Surrey to entirely relate to the America of this film. At my primary school there were perhaps one or two black pupils and only one Asian girl that I can remember. And yet this didn't seem to breed any 'racism' as such. In many ways they seemed to be quite popular having these differences.

But I'm not entirely removed from racism in this mainly white corner of Britain. I live near Slough which is famed for its racial tension. There are schools in which the pupils were said to cheer when 9/11 took place. There are also instances of gang violence between different races. And yes, there is also a strong distinction between the poor areas of immigration and the extremely rich areas of privilege. No doubt there is prejudice on both sides.

But I do not believe that there is universal racism. I don't believe that every single person in that area of the UK has racist views. And I don't believe that to be the case in the US either.

I think the idea of the film is fundamentally flawed. I get the impression that someone said 'ok, we're going to make one of those films where everything is interconnected. Now all we need is a theme...'. Racism was picked. And so every character and event has to relate to the theme of racism. But that's not how the world works.

The world has so many motives and ideas and thoughts and feelings that to limit them creates an artificial world. And to try to explore an issue as important as racism in a realistic environment in this way just does not work. I'm reminded of Seuss and the Sneetches. It's ok to simplify the world into Sneetches with stars and those without because it's not a real world. It makes the matter clear without denying the complexities of the real world.

Deborah has informed me that she blogged about Crash a long time ago, and in her blog she says;

It would have made for a better film had it included some suggestion as to how this human misery could be resolved; instead it actually suggested that whilst racism is not the exclusive domain of monsters, there’s not a lot that can be done about it.

This is very important. Seuss teaches by showing us a world where racism is institutional and unavoidable. It's only through their mutual swindling that they learn that racism is silly. The audience, though, aren't expected to tackle racism in the real world by inventing some race-on race-off machine. They are shown an error in a fictional world and so can relate the message to the real world.

Crash, as Deborah says, has no idea of resolution. "It's a bad thing", the film says...but that's it. That's only the first few lines of the Sneetches story!

I also object to the abusive cop. His molestation of a woman is explained away as being the result of having to look after a disabled father. Excuse me? It seems that there's no real explanation of racism, but it's ok to explain a sexual assault? Yes, it's difficult to live with someone who's ill, especially when you're not recieving the proper help and support. People can snap. But snap by sexually assaulting someone?

And so many of these scenes were exploitative. I felt like I'd perpetrated all these horrendous acts. I felt dirty. And although I get that that may have been the point of the film, it lacks any sort of catharsis. And I'm too much of a classicist to let that go.

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