GLOIRE ET VENGEANCE
300 La Naissance d'un Empire
(300 Rise of an Empire
Billboard, Cezanne Theatre, Aix-en-Provence, March 5, 2014
On April 8, 1904 the United Kingdom and France signed the Entente Cordiale, a series of agreements about colonial expansion but more importantly an alliance against Germany, thus laying the groundwork for the First World War and pretty much everything that came after. You could call it the Rise and Fall of Empire. How you tell history tells your future.
I am very glad I saw Frank Miller's bloody fantasy comic-book-turned-into-a-movie in French without subtitles, because it made it just that much more of an international mash-up. At one point the Australian actor playing the Greek hero commander stopped the war with the Persians to go and have rough revenge sex with the French actress who was playing the commander of the Persian navy - and no Entente Cordiale there, I can assure you. This scene must have been intended to make the film feel more like a date-rape movie and less like gay porn, but I might have missed something.
On the other hand, I could not possibly miss Xerxes, played by the very talented Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro
who turned into a giant god (not a stretch by any means) after he went to the baths in nothing but a piece of sheer gauze and emerged from the sauna pool with a shaved head and heavy eye makeup and many body piercings which to my mind seemed unnecessary for the transformation and sent rather a mixed message about body adornment, effeminacy and evil, but there was no denying he was huge and powerful, so perhaps there was a point being made here about power bottoms that somehow got lost in translation.
Mostly what I wanted to know was how all the Greeks managed to keep their bare chests so beautifully waxed and their beards trimmed throughout the long ordeal of war when grooming and personal hygiene can be dangerously compromised, but some mysteries aren't meant to be revealed.
French or English, though, as an interpretation of the past in order to help explain the present and predict the future, the film makes a powerful statement. An alarming statement, it's true, but as a friend of mine said once, Hollywood movies are all about the fears and anxieties and insecurities of the middle-aged American males who finance them, which I think goes a long way in explaining the violence toward women and the gay-as-evil-foreign-enemy depicted in the film. This is not the story of an empire on the rise, but one headed toward disaster, and frankly, the sooner the better.