I've gotten bored of movies. I feel less and less of the excitement that I used to most associate with cinema - the excitement of discovery, the feeling of freshness, of sitting down to something I've never seen before and being taken on a ride into uncharted territories. There are shows Erika and I watch that I enjoy, especially the first half - which is usually the freshest half of any film, before it settles into playing out the inevitable patterns it has set in motion. Even with films we both enjoy, there's almost always a feeling (for me, anyhow) of having seen bits of it before.
Take The Decline, say - a well-made, crisp Quebec film about survivalists at war with each other. It was entertaining enough - moreso watching it with Erika, who has seen fewer movies than I and is less jaded, less desensitized; but it did do a couple of things that surprised me, too. Still, it was nothing so fresh or interesting that I need to revisit it. It has "passed through me and is gone," as Nick Cave sings of a girl somewhere (perhaps one he has eaten?). Maybe it's an effect of the new paradigm, but of the films I've seen theatrically in the last five years, I think I've gone out and deliberately bought ten of them (not counting ones I buy because they're cheap, or buy because I want to see them once, like The Meg, and it's cheaper to wait to find it on a used DVD than pay for a theatrical release). Of those, I have probably since sold or given away or sold five of them (like, say, It Follows; do I ever need to see it, or Spotlight, or Don't Breathe, or Under the Skin, or that movie with JK Simmons as a music teacher,whatever it was called, again?) The keepers in recent years have been Midsommar, Nightcrawler, The Babadook, Green Room, No Escape, The Evil Within, Bone Tomahawk, Under the Silver Lake... there's actually a pretty short list of movies made in the last ten years that I've seen and wanted to own and revisit. I pray for something fresh, exciting, new, something that doesn't remind me of five other films, that doesn't just riff on genre conventions but exploits them to tell a totally new kind of story, but that is also important and rich enough that I'll want to see it again, maybe more than once. There seem to be more movies made these days than ever before, but precious few of them really succeed at making me care about them. I am - I think I said this already - bored of movies.
The Hunt does remind me of a few other films, but in ways that are audacious enough that I'm willing to call it a fresh experience until something fresher happens by; I am not sure how it will play once you see where it's going, because it does rely a lot on elements of surprise that won't be as surprising the second time around. But I'm definitely thinking I'll want the blu-ray come June. I am currently paused around the halfway mark - the fulcrum of the film, where the excitement of discovery is usually replaced by the satisfactions of seeing the inevitable play out. I am more of an "excitement of discovery" kind of guy than a "satisfactions of the inevitable" one, so I'm savouring the moment, and a bit reluctant to proceed. There may well be a few delightful surprises yet to come, since there are things that happen within the film that you simply will not see coming; just when you think it has settled in to its story - when it's stopped fucking with your expectations and chosen a path, after a very bloody first half hour, it will do something like give Macon Blair a two minute cameo, where he walks into the movie with a friendly wave - almost seeming like a meta-level reference, like he's saying hello to fans of Jeremy Saulnier films and/ or I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore. Then within two minutes, his role in the narrative is decisively brought to a close, in a way so ridiculous and perfect you will cheer. At such moments, it's almost like the filmmakers know me, know how jaded I've become, and know that jaded cineastes out there are all Macon Blair fans, tired of watching films that don't even bother to try to surprise you anymore. At such moments, you - meaning I - feel spoken to. Waved at, so to speak. Literally.
Here I am, waving back.
I don't want to say anything else about the film. It's politically relevant; it owes - I think this much is obvious - a bit to The Most Dangerous Game (and its varied spawn); it's very funny, and very violent. It has been cheated of a fair release, first by a mass shooting in the US that prompted distributors to delay it, and then by the COVID-19 shutdown, which happened the week of its release. It did briefly get a run at the Twilight Drive-In, but that was weeks ago. It gets a legit release on blu in a couple of weeks. To preserve the freshness of which I speak, I strongly suggest that you read no more about it; trust me; and enjoy it. Easily my favourite new film since Midsommar, unless I've forgotten something... but chances are, if I've forgotten something, it's for a reason.
Okay, now for that second half...