Thursday, December 17, 2009

Top Ten Films Of The Decade: Number 9: Ratatouille



If someone where ever God Forbid to make a Bergman style movie about me, involving the fractured pieces of my personality turned into living embodiments, it might look a whole hell of a lot like Ratatouille.

Trust me I know that’s a pretty ridiculous statement, but work with me for a minute here. I also know that this is a pretty personal reason for naming a film one of the best movies of the decade. But as time goes on I find I have less and less use for objective film criticism, and if ever there was a stage for the personal it’s the blog. And that’s the thing about Ratatouille I take it so ridiculously personal.

But lets take a moment and look at the larger picture Pixar is as far as I’m concerned the only true constant working in film today, and Brad Bird’s their best filmmaker. Sure Stanton’s the poet, and Doctor is the storyteller, Lassester is the craftsman that makes it all work, but Bird? Prickly, self certain, fearlessly auteuristic Bird? He’s the total package, if there was any fairness in the world of American Animation (Hint there’s not) Bird would have already helmed a Miyaziki level of films by now. His is one of the most fully formed voices in American cinema period. Even when he’s making something from the shambles of someone else’s product, he cannot help but make something that is glorioulsly himself. It’s a voice that bugs a lot of people. Fucking Good. Objectivism is about as far as you can get from my own personal philosophy without actually being Scientology. But having a personality, one strong enough to annoy people in a medium that’s as purposefully antiseptic as American Animation is a feat.

But Bird isn’t some mere demagogue he’s also a true artist with a poet’s eye. There where sequence’s in The Incredibles particularly near the beginning that where worthy of Tati. Iron Giant’s lovingly 2D animation was a complete labor of love. But Ratatouille out does both of them, with its warm tones and free camera scurrying through the streets of a romantic’s dream of Paris, making food made entirely out of ones and zeroes look mouthwatering.

It’s a film of comic wit, witness Ego’s exquisitely designed study, and the way after checking the vintage he declines the spit take, or the perfect timing on the near domestic murder that Remy witnesses on his trek across Paris, or the simple comic perfection of a raised thumb. Like Day For Night, my other favorite valentine to France and Art, it delivers its message not in ennui filled monologues about the struggles of creation, but with a simple comic grace.

But really it’s the… well heart sounds too cheesy, but emotion of Bird’s piece that makes it fly. Anchored by Patton Oswalt’s lovely bristly performance, perfectly matched by O’Toole’s droll dogmatist (The film on the whole has one of Pixar’s great supporting casts, the names aren’t really big, but Brad Garrett, Brian Dennehy, Jeneane Garofolo, Will Arnett, and Ian Holm all do note perfect unshowy work) , Ratatouille is my favorite movie about art, about that simple wonderful act of creation that I’ve ever seen.

Like I said, as crazy and borderline soliphistic as it sound I see pieces of myself in all the central Ratatouille characters, The finicky difficult creator, the unsure and uneasy kid, and the demanding exacting connoisseur. All so disparate but all united by the common theme that what they do, despite all evidence to the contrary somehow matters.

Why write an indepth essay for a blog, which I’m happy neigh estactic for when it gets forty hits a day. Why write weekly for a column that I’m halfway sure that literally no one reads. Why toil away on screenplays and manuscripts and film that will probably never come to fruition even if I am able to drag them kicking and screaming into “Complete” (Whatever that means) status. Why can’t I learn from Sissyphus and when the boulder rolls over me for the forty thousandth time just go “Fuck this.” Or on the other end of the brow spectrum get it through my head that The Acme Catalogue is never going to be all its cracked out to be. Why the utter masochism of hard work for little recognition or satisfaction?

Because I can’t even begin to imagine doing anything else.

As Ego says in his noble final speech the new does indeed need friends. Whether its my destiny to actually ever create something new, or just spend my life as an ardent appreciator of it (and its friend the old, often equally endangered by the ever present foe the banal) I do not know. But I accept either.

And that’s what Ratatouille captures, that bit of benevolent mania that is at the core of anyone narcissistic enough to consider themselves creators. Success or fail “It is wonderful to create.” As Akira Kurosawa put it. It might be nigh impossible to please people, and even harder to please yourself, but those moments when it does come together, and that plate of Ratatouille takes someone back to the base component of what they love, or leaves them stumbling out into the Jacaranda haze after the main credits roll, it’s a special kind of bliss. Just like this movie.

1 comment:

MacKenzie said...

I'm so glad to see this on here. It gets me every time. Just something about Peter O'Toole's voice that kills me.