I was always under the impression that Dead Poets Society more or less sucked.Nope! It's a marvelous film. I know Ebert hated it, but Kieslowski loved it so much that he had two of his characters rave about it in Three Colors: Red. It is the most inspirational movie I have ever seen, the film I watch whenever I want to motivate myself to accomplish something with my life. It's a deeply romantic movie about finding your passion in life and following it. That sort of theme speaks volumes to me. I think it's beautiful, true, and deeply touching. But many people, I think, prefer stories that are more cynical, or perhaps more ironic. If life crushes all the dreams out of me, maybe I'll start hating the movie too. There's an amazing dialog in the movie about this very subject. "It's a mistake to teach them to be artists, John. When they realize they aren't going to be Rembrandt or Picasso, they'll hate you for it."John Keating (played by Robin Williams) disagrees. He's teaching his English class to think like artists. Find the beauty in life. Find your passion. Seize the day and go after it. And of course the conservative, cautious response is...what if you fail? What if you make an ass out of yourself, or embarrass yourself, or go bankrupt, or you're rejected? What if your talent is miles beneath your ambition? The film covers all these subjects and more. Ultimately it's a film about philosophy, about how life should be lived. And the characters quote poetry to each other. I can't think of a plot that sounds less promising. A bunch of guys reading poetry? And yet the film completely resonates with me. The filmmakers show the passion that is behind all great works of art. It's not an analytical film--in fact the movie has great fun in ripping apart the cold, aloof analysis that people sometimes use to study art, as if it were an insect under a microscope. "Rip out that page! Be gone, J. Everet Pritchard, P.H.D. This is a battle, for your hearts and minds!" The film is a call to feel deeply, to suck the marrow out of life, to be passionate in all you say and do. "No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world."Like all of Weir's work, the film is visually stunning. For example, the shot of the Dead Poets Society running in the dark, wearing hoods, while we see beams of flashlights shining through the night. The exuberant and boisterous student body, climbing down the stairs as the camera spins around in a dizzy circle. Ethan Hawke sobbing in the snow. "It's so beautiful." The powerful last scene with the students standing on their desks. One of my favorite scenes is when a character reads a poem he has written to a girl that he fancies. He does it, even though all her friends are listening, and her boyfriend is going to beat him up, and she wants nothing to do with him. It's stupid, mad, fearless and beautiful. Another powerful scene: when the camera closes in on photographs of boys from a century ago. It's a powerful scene, because the boys in the photographs are so young. Their eyes are filled with hope, and humor, and optimism, and bravado. And Williams points out that all these boys are dead now. And he wonders out loud--did they fulfill their promise? Or did they wait until it was too late? And then Robin Williams whispers, in a voice that sounds like it's from the grave: "Carpe...carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary." It's a beautiful moment in a film filled with beautiful moments. Anyway, it doesn't suck. Taylor
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