Friday, February 23, 2007

Modern physiologies - The boxer

When Sylvester Stallone bravely decided to grace us with a final chapter to his career-defining Rocky saga, he knew three big things from the get-go: the enterprise was going to have to survive a tsunami of cynicism from critics and Rocky fans alike; he would be unable to pretend to be in the fighting shape he was in the 1976 original; and calling the film Rocky VI would have spelt instant death.

For the film to work it had to have a life of its own, and to his great credit Stallone has accomplished that with consummate, subtle skill. Without awkward narrative lurches or clumsy spurts of character exposition he masterfully reconciles the audience expectations that accompany a successful movie franchise with something genuinely fresh.

In raising Rocky from the ashes of sequel-itis and into the harsh glow of the present, Stallone has done himself, and us, a great favour by injecting the last leg of the Rocky story with a big dose of social realism.

Rocky is much the same as he has always been - a big, lovable, self-deprecating lunkhead who likes a good joke. The difference now, of course, is that his legend has soaked deep into the culture of his town.
He is a man in a state of acceptance. He has no tickets on himself, runs a small, successful restaurant and happily lives off his former glory. People still love him, want his autograph and a picture with his fist on their chin. He seems content.

It's a mythos old as the hills, that the film "Rocky Balboa" puts on the stage anew - you remember that all the great super heroes like Superman and Batman appear strangely aged in their comebacks and if you can trust the preliminary reports it will be the same with the upcoming Spiderman.

Stallone turned 60 last year but the society seems to have aged much more than people who live in it.
You live backward, his brother-in-law Paulie accuses Rocky when they visit the old skating rink, where Rocky and Adrian found their luck - it's torn down at the moment.
In the revolt of the old man anger and protest become manifest against the tilt of the Bush society, the economic desaster, the social misery, the coolness of the government against people, the hollowness of patriotic phrases and political discussion.
When he speaks pro America then for the land of the exploited and underdogs, against the establishment. A debris movie, the mixture of decayed , torched, funny-colored renovated houses signal the unenlivened society, their permanent instability.

Rocky has retrieved deeply to an inner retirement in this society. With his hat he seems to be an existentialist vagabond of the Fifties, between Becket and Fellini, a Vladimir and Zampano. The fighter as practising autist.

But something still works in this body that has to come out. It can not be put in words, when Rocky tries to explain it mumbling.
With a deep patience he attends to his duty as national legend, photos with the fans and telling the old fight stories again and again with tired gestures.
Training and fight real phantasy? "Nothings hits harder than life", murmurs Rocky. "The question is not how hard you can hit but about how hard you can get hit".


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