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TIFF 09: "George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead" (George A. Romero, USA)

This is old school.
This is old school.  Laugh as you may, but George A. Romero makes beautifully solid old genre movies, and the genre touchstones I’m talking about aren’t gory makeup effects, or his new film’s remarkable catalog of various ways to shoot things in the head, or other horror clichés—but the social pleasure of genre.  It’s an old story, that genre is an excuse to get a group of people together to work out their differences or the world’s or both, and that’s what Romero has done and done expertly time and time again.  His new film, Survival of the Dead, is not nearly as witty as Diary of the Dead, but it is just as replete with heavy-set medium shots of groups, gangs, gatherings, clans, clicks, posses, and other conglomerations of opinioned human beings arguing with each other over how to live in this world—and usually arguing violently.  Damn’d if that isn’t a rare, wonderful thing.  The stars of Howard Hawks or Raoul Walsh may have fallen from mainstream American cinema, but the traces of their wake can still be seen and enjoyed in the cinemas of today, like bumping into a good acquaintance from long ago who slowly dawns upon you that you recognize…
Nice, now I’m looking forward to this almost as much as I am anticipating White Material.
The kills in Diary were most unmemorably bad, and the acting? What can be said? Since the demise of Duane Jones, sacrificed to make a point, there hasn’t been a whole lot to be said for the human half of these stories.
“not nearly as witty as Diary of the Dead” Hurm. That’s a little troublesome. Diary has a couple of great, funny moments, but it sure could use a lot more wit when making its Big Point, instead of bluntly hammering it in to the degree where said point ceases to mean anything substantive. The Dead movies that really click for me are the ones where Romero seems to have arrived at a sociopolitical message intuitively (e.g., the first three), rather than self-consciously tried to make a Statement Re: The Zeitgeist from the outset. @KJ: I think the four leads in Dawn of the Dead are pretty great. Even their hammier line readings have a certain amateur integrity.
DIARY OF THE DEAD was magnificent. As old and new as STAGECOACH. That it’s self-concious is evident, and in that it’s as weary, questioning, and multiplying (the accursed share) of its own statement as Godard’s NUMERO DEUX. I impatiently wait for SURVIVAL (even the title is a propos) to reach Los Angeles. By the way, long live Romero’s Canadian troupe and production company, allowing him to continue to make brisk films.

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