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Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2007 10:11 am

Children of the future

The sun may come up tomorrow, but it won’t be pretty

Untitled Document Children of Men shows us a future in which all women have become infertile. It also shows us a future without maids and janitors. Will the world in the year 2027 really be this filthy and grungy? You would think that without kids around it would be easier to keep things clean. Children desperately wants to warn us about something, but what? Is procreation in danger of coming to an end because of something we are doing? What is the point to a message if there really isn’t a point? Even the beautifully staged action sequence with which the film climaxes fails to connect because of all the self-important hot air that brought us to that point. Perhaps the best way to ensure a cleaner future is to wipe out everything and start over. Several postapocalyptic adventures present a far more plausible future than Children does.
Mel Gibson shot to stardom with the Mad Max trilogy, but the eponymously titled debut in 1979 began the series with a whimper rather than a bang. Gibson stars as a cop who roams the highways of the future to avenge the murders of his wife and child. Unfortunately, there is a bit more roaming than action. The American distributor feared that audiences here wouldn’t be able to decipher the Australian accents, and so the dialogue was dubbed by American actors. (I bet Gibson wishes a recent video could be dubbed by another actor.) The sequel kept the original voices but dropped the title Mad Max 2 in favor of The Road Warrior (1981) in the United States to avoid linking it with a film few Americans had seen. In Road, which delivers on the promise of Mad Max with some of the most mind-boggling action scenes ever filmed, Max is a loner who now protects a small community from a marauding gang of nomadic freaks. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) was criticized for rehashing much of the previous episode with an extended highway chase. It still works in part three, and the intense Thunderdome fight is a standout.
Delicatessen (1991) offers a unique and twisted view of a postapocalyptic world in which the residents of a desolate apartment building resort to cannibalism to survive, but it’s very funny. The work of co-directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie) and Marc Caro is extraordinary, highlighted by a magnificently edited rhythmic montage of the various activities of the residents. Terry Gilliam endorsed Delicatessen, and fans will see why.  

New on DVD this Tuesday (Jan. 23): Saw III, Jesus Camp, and This Film Is Not Yet Rated.
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