Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Crying Game

Year 9, Day 165 - 6/14/17 - Movie #2,660

BEFORE: Just a little over one month to go until San Diego Comic-Con, when I'll shut down the blog for a week - right now my life is all about doing the paperwork for the convention, filling out forms, getting the temporary CA sales tax permit, starting to publicize our panel and screenings, and figuring out who gets which kind of badge. In fact, with all the different things we're doing there, I may end up with too many badges, which is a nice problem to have - it beats the alternative, anyway.  But there could be friends or family that contact my boss at the last minute to try and get in, so it's probably best to have them set aside for the moment.

Forest Whitaker carries over from "Out of the Furnace", as I said he would, to appear in the first half of this film, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year - I feel like maybe I'm the last person to watch this one, and that's what this blog is (supposed to be) about, after all, finding those "lost" classics that I never took the time to watch before, even if I'm familiar with the film by way of pop culture.

THE PLOT: A British soldier is kidnapped by IRA terrorists.  He befriends one of his captors, who is drawn into the soldier's world.

AFTER: Damn it, how do I write about this film without giving away any spoilers?  Then again, this film has been around for 25 years, so if you haven't seen it or heard about it by now, then you're even more behind the times than I am - please, if you haven't seen this one, stop reading NOW.  Go track it down and see if if you want, but I simply can't be responsible if you haven't gained the proper background information to process what I need to say tonight, either by viewing the film or by cultural osmosis.

OK, is everybody gone now who needs to leave the room?  We may need to discuss some adult topics here, so please put the kids to bed.  This film didn't do that well when it was first released, but then became something of a sleeper hit after an ad campaign asked people to not reveal the film's secret to their friends, and this of course made people intensely curious about what this secret could be, so then people went to see it in droves, perhaps not fully prepared to deal with all of the issues it raised.

Of course, now in 2017, 25 years later, the presence of a transgender character (there, I said it...) is less of a big deal.  The norms have had more chance to get used to the idea, and the societal issues that go along with it.  I can't say that trans people are universally accepted, because the cynical part of me knows that there are plenty of places in this world where they are not, but I also can acknowledge that legally and socially in the better places in the U.S., great strides have been made.  Heck, there was a transgender contestant on "Survivor" this past season, and while the circumstances regarding that person's outing were hardly ideal, for the most part it became something of a positive interaction in the end, for most of the people involved.

I'd argue that the character here is more accurately described as transvestite than transgender, but then I think that's putting too fine a point on it.  Splitting hairs, so to speak.  Most people just didn't know that much about the politics and acceptable language connected to this issue back then, many in fact still don't, and try to judge someone based on their anatomy rather than how they identify.  This is why they had those ridiculous bathroom gender laws down in North Carolina - but it turns out you can't legislate intolerance after all.  If a male wants to be treated as a female, or vice versa, we're not supposed to ask about whether they've had an operation or not, the polite thing to do is to treat them however they want to be treated, right?

Now, with relation to this issue as seen in this film, the question then becomes, is the film a one-trick pony?  Does it have anything to offer the viewer outside this issue, or is this basically the thing that's driving all of the other plot points and creative decisions?  I suppose this is a debatable point, because once the secret is revealed, it sort of affects everything else, how could it not?  The lead character tracks down the girlfriend of the soldier he held captive, based mostly on the stunning photo that the soldier kept on him.  He obviously feels indebted based on the soldier's last wishes, but evidently the plan goes out the window when he sees her.  (This is before he knows that she's the "girl with something extra"...)

You might look at the situation through a modern filter and wonder, "How could he not know?  Didn't he pay attention to the type of bar, the way she sings, the way she moves, etc."  Again, I counter with "But it was 1992."  It was a different world in many ways - obviously there were sex changes that took place back in the 1970's (and earlier, as seen in "The Danish Girl"), but I think they were less prevalent and also less accepted.  But anyway, let's take the situation as presented to us in this film, and try to move forward.  Let's assume that the character here, Dil, can pass as a woman (the jury's still out on that one, if you ask me...).

When Fergus is hiding out in London, after fleeing Ireland and hooking up with Dil, he gets tracked down by Jude, an associate and (female) member of the IRA.  Jude naturally assumes that Dil is a woman, and tells Fergus she's going to kill his woman if he doesn't help out with the next operation, the assassination of a British official.  Fergus's solution to hide Dil from Jude is to cut her hair and dress her like a man, an act which contains levels of irony that can only be found in Shakespeare's more complicated farces, or perhaps in "Victor/Victoria".

But I think the message that Dil gets from this, without knowing that her life is in danger, is that Fergus would prefer her to act and dress like a man - and she goes with it, to the extent that she can, but of course now we know this is disrepectful to trans people, forcing them to dress and act like their birth gender, rather than how they identify.  So this leads to a rather complicated situation, formed by confusion and dishonesty, then further complicated by honesty.  I won't say any more about how the situation gets resolved, because I may have spoiled too much already.  But it's worth checking out because it represented a turning point in storytelling.  After all, Shakespeare could only dress female characters (played by men at the time) in men's clothing, and vice versa, but Neil Jordan, the director of "The Crying Game" was able to take things a giant step forward.  In essence this is a female character, in a man's body, being forced to act and dress like a man for her own safety - and I'm fairly sure that at the time this came out, nobody had seen a story like that before.

NITPICK POINT: I still have no idea what "The Crying Game" is, what the title is referring to.  I know it's the name of the song, so maybe the lyrics of the song could give me an idea (Nope, no such luck...), but right now I fail to see how it ties in with the events in the film.  Furthermore, I don't think that the parable about the scorpion and the frog really ties in well, either, maybe I just don't get it.

Also starring Stephen Rea (last seen in "In Dreams"), Miranda Richardson (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Jaye Davidson (last seen in "Stargate"), Jim Broadbent (last seen in "Eddie the Eagle"), Ralph Brown (last seen in "Jackie"), Adrian Dunbar (last seen in "My Left Foot"), Tony Slattery, Birdy Sweeney, Joe Savino. 

RATING: 4 out of 10 carnival games

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