Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Elementary, My Dear

Every summer, sprinkled in between the many concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheater, they run a series of movies, projected for a massive crowd on an appropriately massive screen. I'd never been before, mostly waiting for the right film to come along. (The Princess Bride ran once, but the "Quote Along" screening I'd attended not long before at Alamo Drafthouse had scratched that itch.) Last night, the right film came along: The Fifth Element.

I've loved The Fifth Element from the moment I first saw it. Maybe I should say "the moments" I first saw it, because I recall seeing in twice in the same day with different friends back during its original run in 1997. A shared love of the movie was one of the first things my husband and I learned we had in common.

Though it has been many years since I last watched The Fifth Element, I quickly found my love of it hadn't diminished. It had maybe even grown this time around, because even the few flaws I maybe hadn't noticed before just seemed like part of its considerable charms.

I'm not usually one to love a movie for its visuals, but The Fifth Element is something special. It's full of iconic images, memorable characters, and clever designs. In many ways, and much like Star Wars, it's really a fantasy masquerading as science fiction, completely unrestrained by actual laws of nature and marching to its own drum.

It's also filled with wonderful flourishes, some hilarious, some nonsensical, that somehow make the world seem more credible. Why would a mugger break out in a dance? Well, of course he would. Why would anyone make that up? Same goes if you question the name "Iceborg," the purpose of a gun with a self-destruct button, how a radio DJ could be so famous (or how radio could even be a thing) 300 years in the future, and so on. It all just works.

It even works that the movie's protagonist and antagonist never meet or even talk to each other. (There's exactly one shot in the film where they're both on screen, and it's a pointed joke that they just miss each other.) Who the hell writes a story that way? And yet it doesn't detract in any way. The conflict is simple to grasp, and the characters don't need each other to be larger than life.

Of course, those characters are a huge draw, thanks to the great cast that plays them. Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Ian Holm, Gary Oldman... each is better than the last. And I knew I was watching this movie with a throng of true fans when, in the opening credits, Chris Tucker got maybe the loudest applause at all. That performance as Ruby Rhod is from outer space, but it's just the right accent, in just the right amount (in my opinion) to cement the movie as one of my favorites ever.

It's not often you can share a favorite movie with 9000 other fans. I don't know that I'd sit through an unknown band and unknown comedian again for just any movie, but I'm super grateful to have done it here. The Fifth Element is an absolute grade A movie for me. Whatever your grade A might be, I hope you have the chance to see it at Red Rocks someday.

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