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First off: to everyone who enjoys SPN, and Leverage, and wants to see what a good, thorough fusion of them both (no mere crossover) might look like, then go watch The Brothers Bloom. Seriously. Take some of the strongest elements of SPN and Leverage, add a dash of Big Fish, make it cleverer and more abandoned at weaving classic literary motifs, set it free to be entirely its own entity, and you have The Brothers Bloom.

Now, having said that, a little while ago I had a chat with a random film student/photographer, whose path I've never crossed again, on the subject of the art of watching movies. He made the observation that in some ways, film school ruins the movie watching "experience", by teaching you to analyse what you're watching. If you can't turn it off in your brain (and often you can't), then you don't actually experience the story the way the storyteller intends; you experience the storytelling. And while that can ultimately give you a far deeper appreciation for the story itself (assuming the story has the depths to be appreciated), you still miss out on the initial experience of it, the ride it's supposed to be.

It's a fair trade off, usually, I think; and really, the best stories sweep you up into them whether you're trying to stay coldly polite or not. It's really only the cheap stories you lose the "experience" of, and I don't particularly mind that. (In my opinion, our culture has put a wholly undeserved premium on experience as a substitute for real meaning, which we have semi-intentionally stripped from our lives, but that is another rant entirely.) I'm not being interested in being taken for a ride by a crap date, which is basically what that feels like, to me anyway.

And then there is the rare story that is strong and fun and lively enough to revel in its story-ness, its themes, its reason for being, that it can wear everything on its sleeve and still be a fantastic ride (an excellent working definition of the "fun train"). The analyst in you (or in some of us, and film students, anyway) sees all the lines of construction; it doesn't just show its work but flaunts it, all the twists and turns and the ending, too, and you still experience the story. Which is an excellent reason to be put in Category: Wheeee! Which brings us back to The Brothers Bloom. (Which I will probably buy.)

I watched it the other night with some college students, early and mid twenties, and only one of them was what I would consider a film student (I don't seek them out, but they do seem to pop up surprisingly often). But he was the one who'd seen and recommended the movie, so he doesn't count. And I became aware, as I watched and experienced this story, it was at odds with the way the others were. I was laughing at different times (or before the punchline that was coming), sad at different times, delighted ... at all kinds of times where nobody else seemed to be reacting at all. Mind you, this was a very layered film, and I know I didn't get it all on one watch-through. It's one of those ones which reward on repeated viewings, not just on what you missed before but also on what you caught, because it was just that damn fun.

Which was when I realised that even though I was on a ride, I seemed to be on a different ride to everyone else. Knowing I was on the ride, I didn't expect that, and it's a little depressing, to tell the truth. Is it wrong to sometimes want to truly, honestly, be part of the herd (and I don't use that term in a disparaging way)? Lying cross-ways across the stampede gets awfully wearing when you don't have a choice to do anything else.

Well, okay, and now I'm just whinging, and we don't approve of that, except for when we do. On to the movie itself, which is much more interesting! Which means lots of spoilery stuff. Avert your eyes!

In truth, I barely know where to start. Well, actually, that's not true: the overall theme is a question-and-answer between a scripted life and an unscripted one, except that it's more of a question-and-counter-question. Do we script our own lives? Do we only live the lines of someone else's story for us? Can we even know the difference – when we choose, how do we know we're really choosing, and not just being manipulated by the story we're in? – If this sounds familiar, trust me, it's far from a rehash of SPN's free will and destiny back-and-forth. It's not, in the end, about free will or destiny at all; it's about the glory of a real, good story to live out. It's the idea that story is life, and life is story.

And it's about two brothers, who con. The older, brash, vibrant, protective Steven who forges his way through life, and the younger, sensitive, searching, resistant Bloom who is tugged along in his wake. One of the girls who was watching asked why it's called The Brothers Bloom, since that was the name of one of the brothers, not their last name, but that's the whole point: Steven deliberately made his life about Bloom's story. Both brothers' stories are about Bloom's life.

It's Bloom's story, with his desire to live an unscripted life, caught in the tenstion between two storytellers. Steven, the conman, who spins stories for others to live out (and bag the brothers money), and Penelope, their "last one" mark/love interest, who learned to tell her own story. (Plus there's Bang Bang, who is – dare I say it – in some ways even more crazy awesome than Parker, weaving her own merry way through the story, effortlessly living her own story and not caring one way or another.)

So, those deep, sometimes painful brotherly elements are in there, and the wild fun of the con is in there, and the conscious, almost pantomime storytelling element of Big Fish is in there, but they take it in very different directions. I need to go back and rewatch it to see exactly at what point each movement began, and why, but honestly that has little to do with the overall theme. Story goes much, much deeper than we think.

And on a completely unrelated note (or is it?!?... no, it is), I finally got around to making mood icons. Yay! If you were expecting Sam'n'Dean, or Team Leverage, or even maybe Bond, and can't quite place this scruffy fellow or why he should be important enough to vicariously express my moods, this entry may explain it. Or you could just leave it a delightful mystery.

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January 2016
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