11. Biopic

Human beings are drawn to understanding data through stories. We sympathize with the story of an individual or a family much more than a report of numbers. Films often use a single person’s journey through history on screen as a way of revealing greater historical forces or studying the human condition in a broader sense. This week’s films do both of these things. Alexander Nevsky incites the Soviet people to action by instilling a sense of nationalism in an obvious parallel to the impending war with Germany. The Billionaire examines contemporary entrepreneurship through the lens of Thailand’s youngest ever self-made billionaire, who started his empire by selling items in an MMORPG. Man on Wire philosophizes on our desire for longevity and how that entangles itself with risk-taking in a case study of a man who walked a tightrope strung between the Manhattan Twin Towers. The Queen wonders whether a life lived in the public can ever have private moments or decisions through the aftermath of the death of princess Diana. La Vie en Rose studies fame, class, and addiction through the life of Edith Piaf. Finally, Love & Mercy considers the pressures of family, industry, society, drugs, and mental struggles on the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson.

This week, as with last week, we will have to conduct our “seminar” entirely through the notes. This means your notes are of utmost importance. You must write a thorough note incorporating both films you watched and your own original insight or connections. Then you must respond to every other note thread – you may respond to the main note or to a response to that note, both are fine.

9 thoughts on “11. Biopic

  1. This week I watched man on wire and love and mercy. I think after watching both films I saw a slight theme of like manipulation and the way fame and attention can taint people. The two films had this theme but it was shown in different ways, in man on wire Philippe in the end changes for the worst with this new wave of attention and fame, but it isn’t shown as this bad thing its seemingly glossed over and shows it as just a part of life and the timeline. But then with love and mercy, it is shown with jean and with this you can’t really say it was all bad because he always says he is trying to help but the one big turning point is when he tries to force brian to work on the album. This is when you can see it’s not all good and he knows if brian makes the album he will benefit from it too. I think to look at both its interesting to see these little downfalls and how different and similar the y are. The two films also give you a look and different types of biopics.

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    1. This is a very interesting take, and I agree. Philippe does seem to change for the worst in the end and it is skimmed over. However this theme of manipulation is very relevant in Love and Mercy.

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    2. I completely agree with your take on Philippe’s change at the end of the film. He became completely consumed by fame and left all of his friends and teammates in the dust. The film barely mentions it! I was actually disappointed in him.

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  2. The two films I watched this week were Man on Wire and Love and Mercy. Love and Mercy is a very interesting and personal film to me. I grew up loving The Beach Boys, Pet Sounds being one of my favorite albums ever. I really loved how this film moved back and forth between Brian Wilson making Pet Sounds and his older self. The film seamlessly transitions between these two topics and showed the right amount of each. In Man on Wire, I loved seeing all the old footage of Phillippe while walking on the wire. It added a personal home film touch that I appreciated very much. I thought that some of the reenacting sequences felt a bit cheesy, but I understand why they had to that in order to add intensity to each sequence.

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    1. I agree the reenactments of some of the scenes were cheesy but I feel in a way they added this little bit of charm and comedy because they weren’t meant to be totally serious it seemed

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    2. I agree about the home film feel of Man on Wire. I enjoyed the reenactments of the team’s preparations. It made it easier to understand what they were talking about at times.

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  3. One film I watched this week was The Queen.

    (Spoilers for The Queen)

    The Queen was about how the Royal family, specifically the Queen, dealt with the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death. A large portion of the film is a very strange back and forth and back and forth of filming between the Royal family just wanting a normal funeral and the public, represented through showing Tony Blair and news clips of the public. It feels strangely dissonant or weird whenever the public are shown talking about the loss, because they don’t know Princess Diana. It’s the grandest parasocial relationship in history. As opposed to the weird public response, the film also focuses on the Queen. The filming is very personal and close with her, being intimate with her because we’re supposed to sympathize with her. She has to deal with a death in the family, and understandable doesn’t want to be badgered by others about it. We follow her around her day and whatnot, doing normal things as opposed to queen duties (whatever those are, besides the laborious task of existing for hundreds of millions of pounds). Technically Blair is correct with how the public feels, but the Queen is correct with how the Queen feels, and we’re supposed to be sympathetic when the films use of the back and forth to build tension finally culminates in the acquiescence of the Queen to hold a public funeral.

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  4. I watched Man on Wire and the way it ended seemed very odd to me. I was actually sort of disappointing yet intriguing. The fact that he kinda became a big famous star was upsetting as I was inspired by his determination throughout the entire documentary. I was excited to achieve my dreams as he accomplished his, but his personality shift after becoming famous was sad to see. He hurt everyone around him yet the documentary seemed to gloss over it like it was nothing. I would have liked to see it end with a prospect of bigger and better things but instead, it seemed he became just like every other Hollywood star. It almost romanticizes the idea of becoming famous and changing your personality accordingly. The entire time I was rooting for his insane vision and in the end, I was disappointed by him.
    In a broader sense, the film was fascinating with all the hoops Philippe’s team had to jump through. He was willing to risk death to achieve his dream.

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