Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Princess Bride

            So the finale of Game of Thrones season 6 came and went; it was less bleak than the future of the English Pound, which is a sharp contrast to the catastrophe that the audience expects from this show. Like much of post-2000 fantasy cinema this television show is built on grit, angst, and raw humanity in order to find some type of realism in the drama. Gritty-realist fantasy is a bit of an oxymoron but it works, and it has thrived as diverse sub-genre ranging from Pan’s Labyrinth to 300 to Hard to Be a God. The popularity of this trend undeniable and deserved; that being said, after years of watching such of relentless and despairing film and television, it is a blessing that films like The Princess Bride still exist.
            The film is a postmodern comic fairytale about a grandfather reading his sick grandson a bedtime story about the adventures a farm girl named Buttercup and a stable boy named Westley. The film then shows them getting separated by a war, Buttercup somehow becomes a princess and gets kidnapped by bandits and Westley somehow gets involved with pirates. Meanwhile, the grandson keeps interrupting and complaining about grandpa’s story, the ungrateful twerp. To give him credit, the story is absurdly old-fashioned but it is anchored the meta-narrative. The postmodern bickering between grandpa and grandson allows for The Princess Bride to take its inspirations—the swashbucklers and fantasies from the Hollywood Golden Age—and rebuild itself into them into something self-aware and palatable to a modern audience.  In a way the humor of film is a precursor to Deadpool, but not nearly as crass.
            So much has been said about The Princess Bride—it is eminently quotable, hilarious, Andre the Giant and Robin Wright are cinematic gems, et cetera—but when watching the film it is easy to forget how clean it looks. This is not like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where everyone and everything is covered in filth.  This is a romantic fairy-tale land, where every scene is set in pristine countryside or a castle that looks better than anything King Arthur could have built. The art direction of this film represents everything right about fantasy in that it looks too pleasant to be real. Sure the few monsters that appear onscreen look like rejects from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop but that ridiculous detail just adds to the childish charm of the whole picture, like any good puppet show or bedtime story.
            Romantic fantasy might not be as trendy as it use to be but that does not make The Princess Bride any less relevant. There is a measured optimism and cleverness in The Princess Bride that is arguably missing in much of mainstream cinema, but simultaneously its influences echoes in surprising places, which makes this film an extremely refreshing to watch. The movie is cheesy but it is quality cheese, a Brie-movie. It is a beautiful and fun film that is guaranteed to perk up anyone who is feeling down, especially the ones waiting for new Game of Thrones episodes.

            (The Princess Bride is available on Blu-ray/DVD and Netflix)

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