Citizenfour [2014)

Four days till the US election.

OK, three.

But we must take a look at things as they seem.

And analyze what they might be.

I have always written about Edward Snowden glowingly.

But this film is an enigma.

If you know the history of film, you realize that certain filmmakers (particularly Robert Flaherty) presented staged events as if they were documentaries.

This is known as docufiction.

And if you have followed my take on the two US Presidential candidates (Johnson and Stein can suck it…though Stein has true credibility), you’ll know that my assessment of Trump and Clinton has been mainly through the lens of film.

What we (I) look for is credibility.

Having watched all three Presidential debates (in addition to extensive supplemental research), it has been a no-brainer to conclude that Hillary Clinton has ZERO credibility while Donald Trump has immense credibility.

The differentiation could not be more mark-ed.

[Docu-fiction]

But what about Edward Snowden?

Let me start off by saying that Mr. Snowden does not come off as a wholly believable whistleblower in this film.

Perhaps Laura Poitras’ inexperience as a filmmaker is to blame.

Perhaps it is indeed because Edward Snowden is no actor.

But Mr. Snowden is completely inscrutable and opaque in this documentary.

HOWEVER…

there is something about his ostensible North Carolina drawl which rings true.

And so there are two major possibilities…

  1. Edward Snowden is an extremely brave individual who succeeded in “defecting to the side of the public” (to paraphrase)
  2. Edward Snowden is a superspy

I had read of Snowden.  In studying what he had leaked, his credibility seemed beyond a shadow of a doubt.  Such a damaging agent could not possibly have been a Trojan horse operation (so I thought).

Indeed, the most believable part of this film is the last 10 minutes or so.

Sadly, my “copy” of the movie switched to a German overdub for this final segment.

Which is to say, I was more focused on images in the finale.

Every once in a while I was able to make out the beginning of a phrase from William Binney or Glenn Greenwald.

At all other times during this last portion, the German superimposed upon the English made the latter an almost palimpsest.

My German is that bad.

Entschuldigung.

But here are my reservations concerning hypothesis #1 (from above).

A).  Glenn Greenwald’s earliest interview after the leak was clearly shot with the skyline of Hong Kong in the background.  It is somewhat inconceivable that the NSA in conjunction with the CIA (and possibly the FBI or DIA) did not immediately follow Greenwald’s every move from that point forward (courtesy of operatives under the Hong Kong station chief of the CIA).

B).  Glenn Greenwald is a little too smooth to be believable (the same going for Snowden).  Greenwald’s sheer fluency in Portuguese (a bizarre choice for a second language) seems particularly suspect.  The credulous me wants to believe that Greenwald is simply brilliant.  The incredulous me sees Greenwald as just as much a CIA operative as Snowden.

Indeed, hypothesis #2 would be that Edward Snowden is in fact a CIA operative.  His complete calm at The Mira hotel in Hong Kong does not harmonize with a computer geek who just lifted the largest cache of the most top-secret files in world history.  Instead, his mannerisms almost all point to someone who has been hardened and trained at Camp Peary rather than someone who grew up so conveniently close to NSA headquarters.

Snowden is admittedly a former employee of the CIA.

But what could the purpose of such a Trojan horse exercise possibly be?

One strong possibility comes to mind.

As we learn in Dr. Strangelove, there’s no purpose in having a “doomsday machine” if the enemy doesn’t know about it.

In fact, we don’t even need cinema to illustrate this.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki were demonstrations as much as they were mass-murder war crimes.

Weapons are “tested” often as much for the power of display as for the exercise of weapon efficacy.

But the world has always been a weird place.

And it is indeed possible that Edward Snowden is an idealistic, independent party in this affair.

The esteemed Dr. Steve Pieczenik (of whom I have spoken much recently) has lately called Snowden “no hero”.

I’m not exactly sure what he means by that.

Possibly Pieczenik knows the Snowden affair to positively be an intel operation.

Possibly Dr. Pieczenik (whom I respect deeply) merely sees Snowden as of no great bravery when compared to the men and women (both military and intelligence employees) who risk their lives on battlefields across the world…by direct order through the US chain of command.

But Dr. Pieczenik has also pointed out that some orders must be disobeyed.

That is part of the responsibility of defending the Constitution “against all enemies foreign and domestic”.

So we have a very interesting case here.

And it directly parallels our current election choices.

What SEEMS to be?

What is patriotism?

At what point must standard operating procedures be put aside?

What constitutes peaceful protest?

Who among us has the duty and privilege to spearhead a countercoup?

I’ve often thought to myself that I would be a horrible NSA employee because I would have a framed picture of Snowden on my desk.

Suffice it to say, I’m sure that is strictly NOT ALLOWED.

But this film makes me doubt the Snowden story.

As a further instructive detail, why does Snowden (in this film) feel so confident in his ability to withstand torture (!) as a means of coercing from him his password(s)?

Again, that does not sound like a standard ability of an “infrastructure analyst”.

Snowden does not admit in this film to ever having been a field operative.

Indeed, it almost feels like Louisiana Story or Tabu:  A Story of the South Seas when Snowden drapes a red article of cloth over his head and torso to ostensibly prevent Greenwald and Poitras from visually seeing his keystrokes.

It is overly dramatic.

These are thoughts.

No doubt, someone knows much more than me about the truth in this strange tale.

And so the film is, in turns, shockingly brilliant and daftly mediocre.

In a strange way, it is just as suspect as James Bamford’s books on the NSA (which I have long suspected were really NSA propaganda pieces).

One of the keys to propaganda and social engineering is gaining the trust of your targets.

In a large-scale psychological operation, the entire world (more or less) is the target.

Back to cinema, we need look no further than Eva Marie Saint “shooting” Cary Grant in North by Northwest.

Yes, Body of Secrets (Bamford) was damaging to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and US military in general (the revelation of Operation Northwoods) while also exposing Israel as a craven “ally” (the USS Liberty “incident”).

But if we are not careful, we are taken in by these juicy bits of “truth” (in all likelihood, very much true) on our way to accepting the whole book as an accurate exposé.

And this is what makes the world of intelligence so tricky.

Like a chess game in which you are blindsided by a brilliant move.

It takes years (perhaps decades) or an innate brilliance (perhaps both) to discern the organic from the synthetic in the shifting sands of this relativistic world of espionage.

I can only guess and gut.

 

-PD

Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present [2012)

As the world collapses, we have a few choices.

We always have these choices.

We seek truth.

And we endure.

We rebel.

And we find our communities.

As I write, America is in deep turmoil.

Boiling like a witch’s cauldron (some might say).

Perhaps I have written about it before…my ancestor…who was hung in Salem, Massachusetts for being a witch.

My relative, Susannah Martin.

Hung in 1692.

And if you are combing social media (like I am), you are likely to hear about Marina Abramović.

Let me start by saying that this is a beautiful woman.  A beautiful human being.

A genius.

But today’s context…a WikiLeaks email…a dinner invitation to Tony Podesta from Marina.

And specifically, the term “Spirit Cooking”.

I must preface by saying that there are other concurrent rumors abounding regarding Hillary Clinton.  The connection above is, incidentally, that Tony is the brother of John Podesta:  Hillary’s campaign chairman.

But back to these rumors.

I have not checked my phone in a couple of hours.

Anything could have happened.

Because it seems that SOMETHING (or 650,000 things) on Anthony Weiner’s laptop turned the stomachs of NYPD’s Special Victims Unit.

But again, there has (so far) been a mass media blackout regarding what is assumed.

It appears that there may be a massive pedophilia sting going on which directly relates to Hillary Clinton.  Furthermore, the evidence is pointing to possible child trafficking (in conjunction with said pedophilia).

We’re hearing lots of things here in America.

That there are incriminating photos of Bill and Hillary Clinton (and perhaps Huma Abedin as well) on the confiscated laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner.

Huma Abedin forwarded 650,000 emails to that computer.

From what I have read, this story could break at any moment.

As I said, I have not checked the news in a couple of hours.

But citizen patriots are all over these leads.

And so you can see how “Spirit Cooking” has been construed to be part of this vast conspiracy.

There is indeed a conspiracy.

But what role does Marina Abramović play in it?

I have no idea.

It would be sheer conjecture for me to venture a guess.

But a couple seconds of research reveals the bizarre video shot in 1997.

A recipe.  “Fresh breast milk.”  “Fresh sperm.”

This is what Abramović paints on a wall with a bloody-looking substance.

The recipe is to “mix” the aforementioned ingredients.

Correction, it reads “sperm milk.”

You can see why a casual observer might find this “recipe” concerning.

The next painting on the 1997 video is of the phrase “With a sharp knife cut deeply into the middle finger of your left hand.  Eat the pain.”

This phrase needs some explanation.

As evident from watching this 2012 documentary about Abramović, knives and cutting have been a significant element of her art.

She is an artist.

But indeed, she has likewise been drawn to the pentagram (both cutting it into her belly with a razor blade during one performance and lying in the middle of a giant flaming pentagram which surrounds her in another performance art piece).

She is a performance artist.

Think Joseph Beuys.

A third panel from the 1997 video reads “Fresh morning urine sprinkle over nightmare dreams.”

You can see how one might mistake such recipes for witchcraft.

But we must ask, might they possibly be?

Tony Podesta was ostensibly asking his brother John whether he wanted to come participate in some kind of ritualistic dinner.

Just how much was it faux-Satanism (or paganism) and how much was it real deal bizzaro shit?

This is where the child sex ring (if the rumors are true) potentially frames this “dinner” as perhaps more than just a Black Sabbath unplugged concert over a bottle of red wine.

The next panel of 1997:  “Spin around until you lose consciousness.  Try to eat all the questions of the day.”

Hell…that sounds like Hillary’s campaign!  Teetering off the curb on 9/11 (just as her campaign is listing)…and “eating questions”–trying to squelch doubts (and voices).

And here’s where art becomes hypocritical.

Again, to watch the 1997 video (as a non-artist) would be to see what is seemingly some kind of occult ritual.  The “paint” mixture appears to be real blood (animal?) in addition to possibly entrails and feces.

It is extreme art.

The video (1997) is in Italian (shot in Italy) except when Abramović breaks into English.

But she seems to utter the word alchimia (alchemy).

Again, the artist (no surprise) has a fascination with the occult (at the very least).

Back to that first panel about the breast milk and sperm…

It continues with “Drink on earthquake nights.”

And over a doorway (?) there is more “blood” with the words “Spirit Cooking.”

So we must ask, is this what the Podesta brothers were up to?

Incidentally, the email referred to earlier was actually an invitation for John Podesta’s wife Mary to come to the “Spirit Cooking” dinner.

Or!  It was to John (the recipient) with a lazy add-on question ending reading “Mary?”.

So then it looks like perhaps John and Mary were invited to spend an evening with brother Tony and Ms. Abramović.

As some on Twitter have noticed (apparently), the 1997 video ends with (literally) a dark crystal…a “mineral pillow” which is supposed to transmit energy to the person whose head is placed against it.

The video (1997) appears to have been shot at Studio Stefania Miscetti in Rome.

Other artists who have done “installations” there include Yoko Ono and (similar to Abramović’s style in this piece) Hermann Nitsch.

Art is not a crime.

Unless it’s real blood from say, for instance, a murdered child.

There’s no evidence of that in Abramović’s 1997 installation, but it is EXTREMELY DISTURBING to contemplate the possibility that the Clintons were running a child trafficking ring for pedophiles.

Again, as I’ve said, those details are just rumors at this point.

But a significant amount of circumstantial evidence (Jeffrey Epstein and the Lolita Express) gives credence to the possibility that the Clintons (both of whom flew on sex offender Epstein’s jet many times [Lolita Express]) were indeed up to something unspeakably sinister.

There’s also the Hillary connection to Laura Silsby (who was convicted of child trafficking in Haiti).  The charges against Silsby and others were “abduction and criminal conspiracy” (carrying a possible 15-year sentence in Haiti).  This is also courtesy of WikiLeaks.

Laura Silsby may be an excellent woman who was caught up in a misunderstanding.

Marina Abramović is an amazing artist.  I hope to God she is not in some kind of criminal circle with the Clintons.

But the NYPD sure seems interested in Weiner’s laptop.  The stories I have been reading point to something HUGE involving the Clintons.

But I must say…the film Marina Abramović:  The Artist is Present is a masterpiece.

This lady is a true artist.

A Serbian.  A beautiful feminist.

The film recounts Abramović’s three-month test of endurance at MoMA in New York City.

Abramović may very well be an innocent bystander in an otherwise slimy criminal investigation.

I see no evil in the heart of Marina Abramović.

I see immense wickedness in the heart of Hillary Clinton.

I think it is quite possible that Abramović’s occult fascination is merely part of her exploration as an artist.  No one gets hurt in her art.  She only hurts herself.  Like Iggy Pop.

The scary thing would be to imagine the possibility that a criminal network like the Clintons had taken artful concepts of simulation and affected them as reality.

Those who sat across from Abramović at The Artist is Present included James Franco (shown), Lou Reed (not shown), and Björk (also not shown).

Apparently Lady Gaga showed up.  [I couldn’t care less.]

One final point…

The sense of temporality which Abramović affected with this piece bears a striking resemblance to the prolonged gaze of which Ingmar Bergman’s camera was so fond.

Great minds think alike 🙂

So there you go, world.

An assessment of the lovely Marina Abramović from an ardent Trump supporter.

Try to process that one!

 

-PD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Election [1999)

Life really sucks sometimes.

You try to do the right thing.

You try to do a good thing.

And you mess up somehow.

Films, then, are a great comfort when they can show us lives more fucked up than our own.

I must say early on:  this is a great film!

A great, great film!

Maybe I heard about it long ago.

In one ear and out the other.

And what brought me to visit this piece of cinema at this particular time?

That is a long, complex story which (mercifully) pales in comparison to the misadventures presented in Election.

Alexander Payne turned in a masterpiece here.

He had approximately the resources which a Nicholas Ray would have had.

And, presumably, the same pressures to somehow connect with teen audiences.

But make no mistake (as our woeful president is so wont to repeat):  Election is an extremely smart film.

Matthew Broderick is stellar as high school teacher Jim McAllister.

Reese Witherspoon is really damned good in this flick as well.

It’s a comedy, but there are tears.

There are a couple of actors who really bring this one home with their small roles.

Mark Harelik is essential to the story.

He plays a poor, pathetic bastard who’s hopelessly clueless.  I can relate.

Dave Novotny (Harelik) really sets things in motion.

Truth be told, all of the characters in this film make poor choices.

That’s what makes it real.

It’s hard to judge some of these people.  Any of these people.  All of them.

That’s what director Payne makes so masterfully clear.

What’s the difference between ethics and morals?

The first to answer might have the least idea.

Election is very much a film about America.

Payne uses a trite camera trick to express something truly sublime.

Dolly up.  Way up.  Crane shot.  God perspective.  Hearing the selfish prayers of a motley bunch.

Most lovable is Jessica Campbell.  She is the lesbian rebel whose short-lived student government campaign parallels that of Monty Brewster’s “None of the Above” run in Brewster’s Millions (1985).

Campbell’s character Tammy has a soul.  She is the gem of this picture.

But we see so much true soul from Matthew Broderick as well (and true acting talent).

In case you were wondering, only Chris Klein’s prayer rings true.  It’s hilarious.  But it has heart.

Klein’s initial campaign speech is a coup of non-acting.  Frankly brilliant!

And, as I intimated earlier, even Witherspoon has soul.

Her character might be ostensibly soulless, but it’s there.

Sitting on the school bus.  And crying before a Valium and milk.

Ms. Witherspoon is brilliant as the villain.

But she’s only the villain because the story is told from the perspective of Broderick’s character (more or less).

The narrative voiceover must have really been en vogue in 1999 (the same year as the whisper-happy American Beauty).

And though these films be seemingly ignorant of the master of the medium (whisper king Jean-Luc Godard), they are still cinema.

I would venture to guess that Election is the better of the two films (or at least the one most able to handle the scrutiny of accolades).

Which is to say, Election might not be a terribly well-known film, but it deserves to be widely seen and appreciated.

 

-PD