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The New World

The New World is just like the old world, only with less dialog.
The new historic romantic epic is so quiet, in fact, that you may feel you’ve wandered into an Ingmar Bergman film or one of those stark Calvin Kline commercials of the 1980s. Two hours into this emotional soup, watching Pocahontas (Q'Orianka Kilcher) meander through an English estate as though she had all the time in the world, I felt like screaming, “Come on, slacker. I paid for this movie – do something!”
When characters do express themselves, more often than not it’s through voice-overs that sound much deeper than they really are, sort of like the stream-of-consciousness you hear during poetry open mic night. “Oh mother, wind, goddess… love is a hand like wind rushing between trees..”
The New World is absolutely full of ellipses and enigmatic gestures; riddled with pregnant pauses and naturalistic gimmicks that lull the thinking part of your brain to sleep. The movie works best on the level of a deep coma, where it’s possible to overlook its naiveté and hackneyed worldview.   
The film begins in rebirth. Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) is brought ashore in chains after having been accused of mutiny, but his life is spared, and the ragtag band begins to dig into their surroundings. Although the Jamestown settlement feels doomed, there’s also a real sense of potential in this unspoiled land. 
The settlers are approached by the native population after they’ve built their camp. Although Smith feels compelled to describe them in a way usually reserved for idiot children and characters in Disney films in his melodramatic voice-over, the initial meetings between the two peoples feels genuine.
The natives are suspicious and curious about the Europeans. The language barrier is absolute, but the two people flirt with one another, playing childish games and spying on one another. The uneasy peace is eventually broken when a series of petty crimes escalate and lead to the death of a native.
The timing couldn’t be worse. The settlement’s supplies have begun to go bad and with winter approaching the Susan Constant (the expedition’s lead ship) returns to the old world for fresh provisions. Smith is elected to search the land to the north for the tribal king, restore peace between the peoples and begin a trade agreement. 
Proving he’s the right man for the job, Smith lets his captive guide get loose, then gets lost in a swamp, is ambushed and is brought into the city as a hostage. The Grand Poobah, Chieftain Powhatan (August Schellenberg), decides to spare Smith after his beautiful daughter Pocahontas goes to bat for him.      
Smith and Pocahontas’ love affair begins with nice touches. Smith teaches her English by mapping out his body for her and there’s a child-like, innocent quality to their relationship. They communicate so completely through gestures that it almost makes you wonder why we talk at all when we can say so much with our eyes.   
From here it’s all down hill.
Filmmaker Terrence Malick attempts to sustain this meaningful silence throughout the film, but the movie descends into allegory without realistic dialog. It becomes tiring to interpret the significance of characters scrubbing their hands, batting at insects, or drooling over their words. It’s like living through someone else’s bad acid trip.
Worse, Malick’s natural tendency is to present the world in binaries – Indians = nature = child-like vs. Englishmen = civilization = decadence – which tends to present the native culture as somehow precious and innocent, even when history forces us to admit that they were as flawed as any other people.
Turning Pocahontas into a fairy queen of dreams does a disservice to the extraordinary, real-life person she was and presenting the Jamestown settlement as a collection of lice-ridden losers seems unfairly revisionist. It’s easy to see that much of Smith and Pocahontas’ romance was narcissistic projection, and Malick suggests this possibility as well, but the filmmaker is just as guilty of using others to project his own dreams onto.
If he wanted to write a story of paradise lost he should have started from scratch.

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Hostel

Eli Roth's Hostel is pretty much American Pie written by Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Performing an autopsy on this bitter bloodbath is like sifting through a Chicken McNugget looking for something that resembles any part of a chicken. But like every act of violence, Hostel demands interpretation, begs to be made sense of beyond its grisly details.
Hostel is about a pair of blandly good-looking college kids gone wild in Europe who find themselves transformed into pleasure toys. The film makes the case that sexuality and sadism are linked – that the torture chamber and the pleasure dome are just two parts of the same building – but it is also itself a celebration of sadism and violence. 
Paxton and Josh (Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson) are backpacking across Europe in search of a good time. Although much of the first quarter of the film is devoted to scenes showing topless girls, the sex scenes are forensic with all the sensual allure of Nanook of the North in 7th-grade science class. The boys are hash-worn and weary of meaningless sex, yet they are driven to absurd lengths by their desires, unaware or uninterested in the way they exploit the people and countries they pass through.
They tire of Amsterdam after only a night of mild debauchery, but are fortunate enough to meet a Slovakian in their hostel who tells them about a boys’ town where Eastern European women are as desperate as they are gorgeous. College kids without any idea of the meat-hook realities waiting for them, they have obviously been brought up overprotected and naïve, thinking that the world is small because everyone has a cell phone, believing it is safe because they are privileged enough to treat life as a game.
The boys begin to have second thoughts once in the remote town. Although the youth hostel is regal and their roommates are two sexy nymphs who frolic around naked, there is something strange about the town. Maybe it’s the fact that there are no indigenous young males or the odd way people seem to throw themselves at our young heroes, but something is not right in Denmark.
Although initially distracted by the good time they're having, the boys begin to get suspicious when a drifter friend of theirs comes up missing. He doesn’t return their cell calls and one of the few 20-something males shows up wearing his coat. All the boys wanted was to have a good time and they are unprepared to face what others do for their enjoyment. By the time they learn the town’s secrets it’s too late.
In a sense Hostel is a critique of our “Girls Gone Wild” culture. Paxton and Josh bring their privilege to a place where it no longer has meaning. They have objectified women for their own pleasure, treated them like toys, and it is this same kind of thinking that leads them into an “exhibit,” where wealthy men get their rocks off by removing body parts and tormenting foreigners.
The same perverse desires are at work in the discotheque as in the gulag. Sex without love is basically meaningless – bodies merely part of the absurd existential reality we manipulate every day. Parts are parts, and for kids that can dissect a woman in a thousand ways ranging from the shape of her breast to the dimple in her ass, Paxton and Josh seem incapable of understanding that they, too, can be objectified and worked on as stupid pleasure toys.
Sensualist’s desire almost always ends in sadism, the will to know, to push things to their furthest point. The seducer and the surgeon are both sadists in their basic curiosity about the body and the ways it can be worked on, and it’s not a coincidence that all the torturers at the “exhibit” are dressed like doctors.
The film wants to probe the relationship between hedonism, science and sadism, but the filmmaker’s got a fetish for torture and the grotesque that’s difficult to miss.

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