Saturday, April 11, 2009

on watching 'willy wonka and the chocolate factory'

Okay, so I saw this film maybe 15 times as a child, as it was the "Overboard" or "Under Siege"of its day -- constantly in reruns, constantly on television. I probably have not watched it in 15 years. I just watched the first 40 minutes. I submit herewith a list of things I do not understand.

1) When exactly is this film happening? There's television, but Charlie's mother is still doing laundry in a giant cauldron with lye soap that she stirs with a giant wooden pole? No wonder they are starving to death. There's TV, there are live satellite feeds, and this woman is basing her livelihood on the odds that people somehow don't have washing machines? Or, alternatively, are lonesome for Victorian England and want to re-live the magic by sending out their laundry to her, rather than to a dry-cleaner or a commercial laundry?

2) Who is paying for all this candy in the opening "candy man" candy store scene? Are all of these children running tabs? Do their parents pay at the end of the month? If the shopkeeper is throwing taffy all over the place in giant, swooping arcs, why would he care if Charlie scooped up a piece and then ran out the door? What is this guy's shrinkage cost per month?

3) What exactly is the content of tomorrow? According to Bricusse and Newley, the songwriters, the candy man:
"can take tomorrow, dip it in a dream...separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream."
So I surmise that either tomorrow or dream is in fact at least partially dairy. The sentence implies that some component of tomorrow or a dream is sorrow, which at some point is separated, presumably because it does not taste particularly good. 100% sorrow-free cream sounds like a pretty good idea, but I'm not sure why a candy man is doing this. Is it some kind of sideline business?

4) Grandpa Joe seems like a real son of a bitch. He says "one of these days I'm going to get out of this bed and help out," yet we learn from his daughter that he has not done so in more than 20 years. GJ then states that he would do so if the floor were not so cold, a not-so-thinly-veiled dig at the daughter, who cannot adequately heat the shack in which they live.

5) The family lives in a shack, with a superannuated television, one 40-watt lightbulb, and a king-sized four-poster bed, apparently with bedlinens (which are not particularly inexpensive for king-size, but I digress). Four elderly people, two men and two women, sleep, eat, and god-knows-what-all in this bed. They never leave the bed. How exactly is there a child left in their custody? DCFS should have paid a call on these people by now.

6) They are eating, fairly regularly, something described by Charlie as "cabbage water." There is apparently no money for spices or bread to accompany this meal. Yet the grandfather mentions that he smokes tobacco. Charlie offers to pay for the tobacco. The grandfather demurs, but then his (evil? stupid?) daughter protests: "It's only a pipe a day, Dad." So she is enabling the grandfather's tobacco addiction, and is not averse to her child working at an under-the-table cash-payment-only job delivering newspapers to facilitate this?

7) Wouldn't Grandpa George, Grandma Georgina, Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine be drawing SSRI disability payments? Wouldn't Charlie's mother be drawing Social Security survivor benefits after her husband died? It seems there is some mismanagement of funds taking place here that may border on the criminal.

8) Tinkers roam the streets, offering their knife-sharpening services. And this is taking place when?

9) Grandpa Joe, far from being kindly and charming, decides that despite not working...nay, not GETTING OUT OF BED for twenty years...that he would like to go see the inside of the Chocolate Factory with his grandson. His legs, however, have not atrophied, so I am assuming that at night he is getting up and exercising, or sneakily going for walks or smoking or something. It turns out that despite an initial equilibrium problem, he is actually fine enough to go on a six-hour walking tour of a facility that must, to a starving child, seem like a cruel temptation and mockery of justice. Also, he has a very nice cane, which seems a little amiss in this landscape of poverty.

10) The part about the musical lock? The woman says it's Rachmaninoff? It's not. It's Beethoven. It's the opening of Fidelio.

10) WW&tCF was made in 1971. Amnesty International was founded in 1961. I am skeptical of their silence on the Oompa-Loompa question.

I had to quit watching then, because I was getting too annoyed. Also? Bricusse and Newley? Argh. Who thought this was a good idea?


Kathryn said...

On rewatching, I was mostly disturbed by the old folks evacuating bowels and bladders into the bed for 20 years. Was there a hole in the bed? Several? All I can say is that that bed must have had a powerful musk.

RE: #7: Charlie's dad isn't dead. Just living dead.

RE: #10: Oddly, I always assumed she was implying it was Rachmaninov playing Beethoven. That I would have had any feelings about this at all suggests that my father's attempts to brainwash me with classical music were at least partially successful.

I heart #3 on your list.

Kathryn said...

Oh, and I have to say that watching it again now makes me love Gene Wilder's Wonka even more. The man is sick. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, eat your heart out.

Lisa said...

Well I wasnt to keen on the lickable wall paper, I mean really arent they afraid of getting other kids germs.. eeww..

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