SCREEN-L Archives

July 1994


Options: Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Shawn Levy <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Shawn Levy <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 18 Jul 1994 18:17:21 -0700
text/plain (76 lines)
NOTE:  I've posted this to both the badsubjects list and Screen-L list,
so if you want to reply, check your mail header or you'll show up on both
       \ /
A couple of things re: "True Lies" and directorial autobiography.
        1) Early on in the film, I could've sworn that I was seeing a
kind of mea culpa on the part of Cameron, whose marriages to producer Gale
Ann Hurd and director Kathryn Bigelow both dissolved loudly in the gossip
press (at last head count, he was buddying up with Linda Hamilton, o ye of
inquiring minds!).
        In effect, I was noticing this subtext:  By day, I'm a director of
exciting action films that exploit violence and sexy women and snappy (yet
pithless) dialogue); but by night, I'm a family man.  Things in
the film eventually took many other turns, of course, but I think there is
something of an attempt to exculpate the workaholic husband and father
afoot in the film.
        2) Several posters (on both lists) have alluded to the cursory
inclusion of the daughter in the story, but let's take another look
at her. We are explicitly told that she's 14 and that Harry and Helen
have been married for 15 years.  (Harry has been a spy for 17 years, even
if he's only been teamed up with Gib for 15.)  When the daughter (I'm
sorry, wasn't it Dana?) is almost busted for stealing from Gib's wallet,
Gib then suggests to Harry that she's sexually active, a fact that almost
drives the pathologically jealous Harry to strike his partner.
        Fast-forward to the Miami skyscraper, and here's Hafez Al Terrorist
arriving astride a nuke (a la Slim Whitman in "Dr. Strangelove") and then
chasing the sexually innocent daughter up an elongated pole.  Big Daddy
swoops in to quash the bad guy (to stop him from, er, exploding his device);
he literally emasculates him at one point, in a Three Stooges-style
knock-in-the-balls, and then he launches him on his own, er, pitard to his
death.  Chaste little Dana is returned to earth (after crawling back into
Daddy's metal condom, right?).
        This may or may not be an autobiographical concern of Cameron's
(I have no evidence at hand that he and Hurd have an adolescent daughter,
though they would've been 26 and 24, respectively, in 1990, when Dana
would've been born), but it blends nicely with treatments of the
daughter-in-peril in more explicitly autobiographical works by Martin
Scorsese ("Cape Fear," in which the auteur's own past returns in a
viscious reification to claim the protagonist's daughter -- Juliette
Lewis' best friend was in fact played by Domenica Scorsese) and Francis
Coppola ("Godfather 3," in which Sophia Coppola was unfairly cited for
bad acting (in a film featuring the inexpressive Andy Garcia and the
hammy Eli Wallach!) when in fact all she did was play a rich, powerful
man's duaghter, which is what she is -- don't forget that her last, pathetic
act in the picture is to look just to the side of the camera (right where
the director would be sitting on the set, no?) and say, 'Daddy' and then die).
        What I'm saying is that there's a distinct confessional strain to
the film that goes deeper than the "obvious" "misogynies" or "feminisms"
in it, and that these autobiographical elements -- coming to the surface
in a genre not exactly noted for its capacity for delving into the
creative soul -- may be in part to blame for some of the unusual mixtures
of tone and message the film can't rise above.
        OBTW, never mind OJ Simpson as an intertext:  How about Tom
Arnold talking about failed marriages to a bloated celebrity?!  Deliver
me from John Tesh!
    Shawn Levy       | "If we only had a lousy little grand
 [log in to unmask] |  We could be a millionaire!"