Stop trying to be sexy. You don’t need it and your storytelling improves without it.

by Jan 17, 2024News

Stop trying to be sexy. You don’t need it and your storytelling improves without it.

I often take my young nephew Ben to the cinema at weekends, I let him choose the film about two-thirds of the time. We went to see The Meg 2 a few months ago, then last weekend we went to see Godzilla Minus One. It is a fully Japanese production, we watched it with English subtitles.

We loved Godzilla and it was my personal favourite of everything we’ve seen so far. I will not write a long review, because other reviewers have eloquently praised the pacing, cinematography, music and much more. I just want to say this:

None of the actors were trying to be sexy. This caused me to realise how much and how often ‘sexy’ gets in the way of storytelling, wastes time and makes a two-hour film become as superficial and dull as a two-hour ad for gym clothes or shampoo. I had hardly noticed it before because I’m so used to it.

Typical US action film. Men stand around showing off their huge, square jaws and their six-packs. Women, no matter how much danger their characters are in, are clad in a bra or a skin-tight playsuit and lip gloss. Precious minutes that could have been used for storytelling are wasted on lingering shots of Tom Cruise looking moody or Jason Statham looking tough, as though anyone should care about these self-regarding portraits. There’s always a romantic subplot and it always culminates in dramatic & passionate snogging. Characters occasionally pretend to be concerned with issues larger than their own glory, but their glossy appearance and the amount of time the camera spends gazing at them undermines the pretence.

Godzilla Minus One. Men are usually busy doing something, but when they are standing around, they are in uniform, experiencing feelings of loyalty to others or giving a rallying speech. Women wear blouses and cardigans, which helps the viewer to concentrate on what they are saying and doing, not how shiny or plump their skin is. People struggle with dilemmas that are larger than how best to look manly while grappling a shark, such as what happens when you’ve been given a job to do in a war, you failed at it and now you are experiencing deserved shame. There is a romantic subplot, which manages to proceed with no physical contact, and is all the more subtle and interesting as a result. It reminded me of The Remains of the Day, in which the quiet love of a housekeeper and a butler is all the more captivating because it takes second place to duty.

So if you like the thrills of action movies but Tom Cruise seems about as thrilling as an ad for men’s hair dye, go and see Godzilla Minus One because there’s an actual story with complex human problems and great acting. Even Godzilla himself manages to be interesting. Hurrah for not trying to be sexy.

Written & directed by Takashi Yamazaki. Starring Ryunosuke Kamiki and Minami Hamabe

#film #cinema #semiotics #godzilla #action #acting #story #storytelling #emotions #narrative


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