Ari Aster’s Hereditary opens simply: the white letters of Ellen Graham’s obituary blazing on a inky background. The matriarch is survived by her daughter Annie, an artist who creates miniature dioramas of her everyday life. We see one of her miniatures now: a cut-out model of her home in the forest. As we zoom in, we focus on a bedroom belonging to her teenage son Peter. Slowly, the miniature room fills the screen until the facsimile becomes reality and Peter’s father walks in to wake him for his grandmother’s funeral. From this point forward the line between reality and fantasy, between the actual and the imagined, will remain blurred.
When remaking a classic, withstanding the inevitable comparisons requires either flawless execution or inspired novelty. Disney’s latest live-action adaptation has an even greater challenge, as it must compete with two masterpieces: the studio’s own animated feature from 1991, and Jean Cocteau’s magnificent romantic fantasy La Belle et la Bête (1946). And though this iteration of the story pays ample homage to both of these predecessors, minor blemishes and stylistic issues prevent the remake from reaching the same heights. Still, a film should not be judged worthless if it fails to equal titans. Beauty and the Beast does a great deal right; it simply doesn’t replicate the Earth-shattering experience of its ancestors.
As I mentioned in my State of the Blog post this month, I am planning a series of in-depth essays on the films of Stanley Kubrick. Near the end of each month, I will publish an essay on one of Kubrick’s films, and I intend these pieces to be worthy of the films that they are analyzing, not mere “reviews”. This will not be a trivial pursuit. And, I acknowledge that I may not be up to the Herculean task. Regardless, these are some of my favorite films, and I hope to enhance my enjoyment of them (and yours!) through analysis and discussion.
Today, words are exceedingly lightweight. You can say whatever you like because words are as substantive as foam to us. That’s no more than a reflection of how empty our reality has become. And yet even now, the truth is that words are power. It’s just that we’re meaninglessly drowning in a sea of powerless, vacuous words.
-Hayao Miyazaki, 1999 – Director’s notes for Spirited Away