Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Magical realism and the Blues Brothers film

Ok. *deep breath*. Here goes.

I was watching The Blue Brothers on VH1 Classic the other night, strictly for the ending. If you have not seen this 1980 classic, it has one of the best climaxes of all time. It just keeps escalating and escalating. It's police car pornography.

Is the Bluesmobile magical?
Anyway, I watch the whole film, anticipating the build-up, then I come to the car chase into the City. And, the Illinois Nazis join in. And the Blues Brothers are having engine trouble whilst dodging bullets. Jake & Elwood drive to an unfinished bridge, and slam on the brakes to avoid a certain plummet. Then, something miraculous happens. Something I have seen one hundred times and simply accepted. The Bluesmobile thwarts the Nazi pursuit by an end-over-end slingshot, and landing safely in the opposite direction of danger. It defies logic, and I say (out loud), "magical realism!"

My mind immediately stirs about the idea. A film, an American film, that threw in a magical element just for kicks. Yes, it could have been script writer's laziness (there are a lot of unexplainable parts in that film), but, I kept going over it in my head: magical realism. A term associated with Latin American writing in the 50s, no less. And, I run the entire film--scene by scene--in my head to discover that this could totally be a Hispanic story.

Imagine Jake & Elwood Blues being Latino. Jake is getting out of prison, for one. As the film unravels, a rich layered story unfolds (just like magical realism fiction). They go to their Catholic orphanage and are asked to save the church. A bit Spanish, no? They go to a revival, and Jake sees the light (salvado). Magic in the grit of blue-collar Chicago.

I've mulled over how to define magical realism, compared to fantasy, sci-fi and even just realism. The best way to put it, in terms of film is: Realism is 100% reality; Magical realism is 98% reality and 2% magic. "Fantasy" can be anywhere from 50% reality to 1% reality (the remainder magical). Most importantly, the magic has to be accepted.

Almost magical realism.
The more that I think about it, the more I see magical realism in film. Especially in the pre-CGI days of the 70s and 80s. For one, Jaws is almost magical realism. Everything is steeped in reality in that film except for one thing: an vengeful, oversized shark.The problem with almost is that they don't quite accept the shark's "magicality" until later in the film. If Chief Brody and Hooper would have just listened to Quint, this would be pure magic, and not horror.

If the horror is accepted, then it is magical realism? I think I'm on to something here! Maybe The Shining? I don't know... more research needed.

1 comment:

  1. I found this because I'm writing my own blog post on the Blues Brothers as mgic realism, and I googled to see if anybody else had said the same thing.

    There are other magical elements: The penguin is magical/miraculous; the 15-foot leaps of the dancers at the church, the ray of light that shines on Jake; the Nazis going off an overpass and suddenly being a thousand feet above the city; their invulnerability to explosions and bullets.

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