Sunday, November 29, 2015

It Seems That Most People Who Saw Revolver Really, Really Hated It

I'm just saying that as a warning: I like the movie very much, but most people hated it. So don't take my positive review as a guarantee that you would like it. Don't go see it because of what I'm saying and then come back angrily to me because you hated it, because I warned you: most people hated it.

I've mentioned the film a few times already in this blog, in connection with chess: watching the movie has significantly improved my chess game.

Okay, as long as I'm warning you about the movie, I should mention that it contains lots of violence, nudity and vulgar language. Lots and lots and lots of all three, so if those are things which make you not like a movie, then there's no point in you watching this movie.

But that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to stop reading this blog post, because violence, nudity and vulgar language are not the interesting things to me about Revolver, and the interesting things can be looked into with seeing the movie, if it's not your kind of movie. The interesting things are: Kabbalah, and overcoming the ego.

Let's take the 2nd one first. This may be something that many or even most people are already familiar with, but it had eluded me until I watched Revolver: the concept of the ego as an enemy of the true self, the ego as an obstacle.

One of the things which the movie relates to the ego is the game of chess. Jake Green, the film's protagonist, played by Jason Statham, is released from prison at the beginning of the movie. He had spent part of his time in confinement in solitary confinement in a cell between a chess Grandmaster and a con-man. Jake never saw either of them, but he did intercept many of the notes they passed back and forth, and he learned a little about chess. After his release, he becomes mixed up with a couple of loan sharks, Zach (Vincent Pastore) and Avi (André Benjamin), and plays some games of chess with Avi.

Before I ever saw Revolver, I had already noticed some of the way in which ego interferes with playing chess. In some of my blog posts about chess I noted that over-confidence in my ability as a chess player leads directly to disastrously poor chess play. In Revolver, this interference is addressed much more directly. In the film, chess is one of the things which teach Jake about the ego. For example, the ego resists playing stronger players. It wants to win all of the time. Even though it's very plain to see that a chess player (or, as the chess players in the movie point out, a player in any sort of game) can only improve by playing stronger players -- which of course will involve a lot of losing, which offends the ego. In his games with Avi, after having studied chess in prison for years with not much else to do, Jake wins game after game, and after one of the many times Jake announces checkmate, Avi says with annoyance that he's not going to play Jake anymore.

But since watching the movie I'm playing stronger players much more, and surprise surprise, my game has improved quite a lot.

As I have written on this blog before, I've seen chess games where the very best players in the world -- Fischer, Kasparov and other world champions -- lost, analyzed by the world champion who lost. Whereas for the most part it's very unusual to come across games analyzes by the losing players. I keep analyzing games I've won, even though I realize how much my game could benefit from analyzing games I've lost. My ego is still directly interfering with my chess game to that extent, and I can see it, and I still can't bring myself to battle my ego that much. I believe I've analyzed a total of 1 game I've lost on this blog.

Oh well. Rome wasn't built in a day, and it's not as if I make my living from chess.

Revolver represents only the 2nd time of which I'm clearly aware in which a work of art directly, tangibly and immediately improved my life by explaining something about my own mind to me. The first time was decades ago when I read Gravity's Rainbow, which explained to me that paranoia consists of irrationally over-estimating the amount of attention other people pay to you. I just needed to remind myself that others had plenty of better things to do than participate in a plot against me, and poof, there went my paranoid tendencies.

Again, maybe that was everyday common knowledge to many or most people, but to me it needed pointing out.

Also, at the end of the movie several different people, not playing fictional characters, spoke about the ego. I think some of them were psychiatrists. One of them was Deepak Chopra, and he said something which I didn't find dopey. I like that. A few years ago, I was caught up in a feud between New Atheism and Chopra. In the meantime I have come to regard New Atheists as dopey. Who knows, maybe Chopra beloings on the long, long list of people and things about which the New Atheists are wrong.

The other interesting thing about Revolver is the Kabbalah symbolism: names, numbers, colors, mannerisms and other things refer to symbolism and archetypes of Kabbalah. I don't really know anything about Kabbalah yet, but the colors are purty, which I think is way cool, and the stories are interesting, whether they actually make sense or not. (And SOME of them probably DO!) I'm an atheist, but I've never let that spoil my appreciation of religious art.

For those of you considering watching Revolver -- remember, most people hate it, as I've warned you several times now -- there's a third thing I'd like to mention: Mark Strong, one of my very favorite actors. He gives the most brilliant performance in Ritchie's much-more-popular Rocknrolla, as the hard-as-nails Archie, and he gives the most brilliant performance in Revolver, as Sorter, a very quirky and extremely lethal hitman.

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