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Tough to be Superstars

DVD Savant on Decalogue

The world of Dekalog is Warsaw, where people seem to be getting along just as many do here, living in simple apartments, dealing with their lives in less than lavish surroundings. It is refreshing to see stories with characters not completely bound up by typical American problems – ambition, money, success. Hollywood has a hard time when trying to tell stories that place the personal traumas of people above their economic status. The poor are usually treated with condescension. Rich people’s problems seem minor compared to their lavish on-screen lifestyles, which many viewers resent. How do you get worked up for the problems of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, no matter what’s happening to them? They’ll just be on ET tomorrow, talking about how tough it is to be superstars.

The truth is that in most commercial films, the real subject is consumerism itself. Americans still go to see the big stars and they want to watch people save the world or strike a blow for freedom, not deal with problems like the mortgage. Effects and pace and sensation are the key elements now. I know intelligent people for whom the appeal of movies are the clothes and the hairstyles! No wonder Hollywood ‘upscales’ most of what it touches. ‘Style’ most often means a veneer of affluence. Nobody complains that everyone in Heat, even police detectives and bookstore clerk/wannabe graphic artists, lives in lavish hillside homes with plate glass panoramas of Los Angeles. No wonder everyone on Earth wants to come here. We’re still selling a fantasy that doesn’t wash, but that everyone wants to see. Even PBS has become so commercialized, it is more likely to import a sensational British teleseries, over something as low-key as The Dekalog.

Sidenote: I have gone back and forth about whether I should buy the Decalogue DVDs.