Tuesday, 13 September 2011
Wednesday, 31 August 2011
I'll admit that I've come to Mad Men a little late; we are currently half way through Season Two. And I have to say it is one of the best TV dramas that I've seen. Truly; beyond the slick production, attention to period detail and beautiful costumes (not to mention the actors who wear them), there is something at the heart of the drama that is Shakespearean. This sounds hyperbolic, and it is.
The Mad Man is Don Draper (or not as we discover in Season One) and his alcohol-fuelled, sex-obsessed office of Sterling Cooper Advertising. The opening credits see an animated Draper-esque shadow falling from a NY sky scraper (9/11 imagery) and his sophisticated life of cocktails, shows, dinner parties and fancy cars are very evidently a thin facade. So the audience is immediately informed that He Will Fall. The question is: is he Othello or Macbeth? (Draper is not introverted enough for Hamlet); there was a suggestion that the narrative would take the former path when the slimy Campbell discovers Don’s secret. When this doesn’t pan out and with the increasing focus on the narrative on the breakdown of the Draper’s marriage, perhaps Macbeth would be a more suitable comparison.
I am rambling a bit here, I realise - possibly I should keep quiet until I’ve seen all of the series. However, I do like the emptiness of the lives of the characters; that they are all ‘profoundly sad’ (as one of Betty Draper’s would-be suitors so melodramatically terms it), reflecting the emptiness of the advertising business. I like the conspiratorial references made between the writers and the audience with how terrible things were in the 60s (the smoking, the sexism, the racism, the littering – somehow the most shocking) and how much better things are now. A more critical perspective would point out how heavy handed all this is. But I think that this is one of the show’s strengths. This is a drama about emptiness, lack of meaning. The audience gets very little in the way of intimate knowledge of the characters’ inner lives – it is all exterior. Even Betty’s foray into psychoanalysis is superficial (partly because of her reticence and partly as it is Draper’s way of monitoring and controlling her).
For a thoroughly modern C21st audience we are allowed the space to read the characters as we please. And this is Mad Men’s genius.
Sunday, 25 July 2010
There are two main reasons why this particular quotation has stuck in my mind: firstly it's such a powerful simile. I love the image of lots of tiny policemen and senators being knocked around carelessly in the deep pockets of an Italian wool overcoat, like Borrowers or Minpins that the Don might take out and trade for a coke.
Secondly, in the narrative of the film this is the turning point. It is because of the refusal of Don Corleone to engage with drug-dealing that The Turk makes a play for his position, resulting in Sonny's death and the shooting of DC himself. Coppola directs the scene with the same steady pace as the opening scene of film (inside the house during Connie's wedding), yet the camera angles belie the high-key lighting to give the scene its sense of unease, so that even a kid with no understanding of politics could pick up that the Meeting Did Not Go Well.
Although as an adult I see the melodrama of this text, I still love its attempt to do Greek tragedy, where Michael is destined to become his father and push away the moral centre that is Kay. And, responding to the film as a child, I think there is an appeal of a culture that has clearly defined rules (albeit abhorrently violent ones) and loyalties; there is something quite logcial about that in a Lord of the Flies-kind-of-way.
I'm intending for this blog to become an outlet for my ideas/reactions to film (and some TV), and will eventually include teaching resources for Film and Media GCSE and A Level. I hope that you find something interesting/useful here.