Sunday, November 29, 2009

HIGHLANDER (Russell Mulcahy, 1986, European Cut) Connor MacLeod is cursed with immortality, suffering the death of his true love, her lifetime as a momentary breeze from a gathering cosmic storm, as friends and foes alike decide the fate of mankind. Director Russell Mulcahy captures the Quickening like lightening in a bottle, combining music video sensibilities with a complex narrative structure that utilize crosscuts which jump in time using wonderful transitions. Mulcahy makes a rather straightforward story visually arresting, using sports to mimic the brutality of Conner’s past, as modern man has become a showpiece when compared to the harsh gladiatorial survival of our primal past. The film’s first crane shot spirals through Madison Square Garden during a wrestling match, where men in tights strut and taunt, and quickly focuses upon a seated figure whose mind is in the past, a bloody battle and grim existence haunting his daydream. This dichotomy is a common element throughout the film, as Conner’s mind loses track of time and drifts back and forth, a stream whose serpentine path sometimes flows in reverse: even for immortals…the past can never be changed. Queen’s bombastic score is often annoying except for Brian May’s weepy soliloquy, a power ballad that marries Connor’s new world with the dying remembrance of his bonny wife Heather once upon a time. Mulcahy’s spatial transitions dilate through Connor’s unblinking eye, surface from a fish tank into a past realm or rise from a parking garage into the bloody Highlands: cinema is, after all, a kind of magic. The story gives a proactive and feminist role to Connor’s love interest Brenda Wyatt, a forensic investigator with the NYPD. Fortuitously, Brenda is an expert is ancient sword making and this leads her to unravels the mystery of “Russell Nash” and confront him, her independence and fiery attitude making her more than the screaming heroine…though she does often scream in the final battle. The vile Kurgan is the embodiment of evil, a creature who will use the Prize for selfish purposes to enslave the weak, while Connor is the Redeemer or Christ figure, brutalized and tortured before rising from the dead: he is mankind’s only hope. The final swordfight begins upon the concrete cliffs of the city and ends in an empty warehouse, and one swift stroke brings an end to an age…and the beginning of another. (B)

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