Sex and Violence

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Despite Homer’s blindness, his vision of ancient warfare contained an everlasting soulfulness: an expansive and prophetic imagination sustained by a humble heart beating for divine assistance. But even the sage of the Greco-Roman era could not predict the heathen sensibility with which graphic novelist Frank Miller delivers his second sinful cinematic child, “300.”

Set in 480 B.C., “300” follows the tragic Spartan war hero Leonidas and his valiant attempt to conquer the infinitely more

powerful Persian Empire with only three hundred soldiers. Without regard for oracle forewarnings or diplomacy, King Leonidas claims to fight for freedom, but as Greek casualties rise, he finds himself under the grip of recklessness and wages a futile rampage against the Persian Immortals. Starring a painfully ripped Gerard Butler as the king, the film prides itself on its engrossment of violence, sex and of course, glory.

The overwhelming majority of the movie’s two-hour runtime consists of phalanx breathtaking battle sequences and cliche war flick token character subplots, including the social outcast who turns on his native army, warrior brosephs competing for death counts, and the corrupt politician who breaks promises at crucial moments. The battles feature a two-story wall of freshly slain corpses which collapses on a single unknown soldier and elephants falling off cliffs, but the film’s outlandish intrigue shines brightest with the stunning costume design by Michael Wilkinson (“Babel,” “Sky High”) and the erotic extravagance of a gold-clad, skinny-Shaq Xerxes played by “Lost” heartthrob Rodrigo Santoro.

Although the movie may not be “the best film of the last decade,” as the trailer advertises, it may be the best film of the last decade with “Transsexual (Asian) 1” and “Transsexual (Asian) 2” listed in the credits. Big ups to those extras, as the revelation of Xerxes’ kinky traveling throne room left the audience at SUPERB’s Tuesday night sneak preview squeamish in their seats.

Defying physics, physiology, and

sympathy, “300” bends to fit a maniacal vision

spawning from Miller’s most bizarre fetishes and bloodlust.

As the camera writhes and whips to capture the fight choreography of Damon Caro (“Fight Club,” “The Bourne Supremacy”), the airbrushed orgy of broken flesh and bone ensanguines the lens. Director Zach Snyder’s treatment of Miller’s frame-by-frame comic book-style strengthens the epic vein that the script demands, but the beauty of its cinematography is matched only by its spiritual bereavement.

Not surprisingly, the sex in the film replaces rather than reinforces the romance between Leonidas and his queen Gorgo, played by British bombshell Lena Headey. And although Snyder treats the audience to a wide array of positions and angles, the result feels more pornographic than passionate. This kind of technological intrusion, both directorially and musically, runs wild against the primitive barren

backdrop.

The film is thus historic only in its transference of contemporary shock effect to an ancient world of which little is known. The brutality of multiple castrations, gun-wielding hookers and cannibal clergymen of Miller’s “Sin City” finds its ancestry in this film. And although the dialogue does not come close to matching the darkly poetic brilliance of Miller’s firstborn, its open landscape of fatalism breeds an abandon to which the creator’s perverted sensuality may take form and disgust.

“300” may not do justice to Homer’s genre of epic storytelling, but the scale of its graphic perfectionism and utter disregard for truth-seeking art shrills a unique strain of “heavy metal epic” which relentlessly shatters the laws of time and space.

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