Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse [1933)

This might be the one great key of the 20th century.

The skeleton key, so to speak.

We have one of the great directors of all time (Fritz Lang) laying out the operational details of criminal conspiracies.

But perhaps even more, we have the fine line between genius and madness which Hitler was beginning to toe.

It is important to note that Hitler was synonymous with the Nazi party.

He was their God, so to speak.

And yet it seems to me that Hitler was not particularly bright.

A fiery orator?  No doubt.

But not really a criminal mastermind.

No.  There were others.

Things were just getting going in 1933.

We…

become enthralled by intellect.

As our minds are stimulated, we sometimes lose track of any ethical grounding.

Which is to say, intellectuals are the most dangerous.

I would like to fancy myself an intellectual, but I will let the Order decide that.

Yes, dear friends…there is no other way to put it.

Fritz Lang, the prophet, is clearly delineating a criminal Order which would come to rule the world in the 20th century.

His message is far-reaching.

The methods outlined in Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse are perhaps most applicable today.

The 21st century (which began on 9/11/01).

Terror for the sake of terror.

Hidden-hand machinations.

The man behind the curtain.

It is no small detail.

Every detail drives Otto Wernicke to the brink of madness.

He is the portly J. Edgar of this affair.

In Wernicke’s case, his opposition are mad geniuses.

Literally mad.

Goethes of crime.

Rudolf Klein-Rogge sums up the problem.

Knowledge is inextricable from high-level criminal insanity.

Dr. Mabuse has studied too much.

And so he spools out reams of handwritten blather.

He reexamines language.

Hinting at post-structuralism.

Language, year 0.

Whirls and whorls and squiggles.

And slowly the comatose “brains” of the operation finds himself a new body.

Each one well-paid.  And each compartmentalized in their knowledge.

We must come back to Max Weber for this one.

A couple of times the word.  simuliert.

The prospect.

That he could be faking it.

Madness.  To avoid the punishment he deserved.

But it seems rather that the psychiatrists have been infinitely engrossed in the case histories of their patients.  [Which is to say in their patients themselves.]

The psychiatrists have the secrets of the 20th century.

And the science rolls on.

On the one hand, we have Ewen Cameron of Project MKUltra.

On the other we have Dr. Steve Pieczenik.

And it is at this point which we need to discuss the counterintelligence apparatus of the Order:  2-B.

It’s not Abteilung.  Something different.  Less significant.  But tasked with the dirty work.  The cleanup.

Mord.  Murder.  Nipping the stragglers.  There’s no leaving the Order.

And so is it any wonder that Goebbels (or Garbage, as Charlie Chaplin rechristened him) had Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse banned in Germany?

Why?

Because it gave away all the secrets.

The secrets of control.  Each level glued together by terror.

And the controlled chaos.  The buildup of addictions.  The incredibly farsighted chess game of our conspirators.

The reign of crime.  A lusty pronunciation.

Vs. a homicide detective wont to sing strains of Die Walküre here and there.

Germany split in two.

Soon enough.

And something as simple as a love letter.

When one least expects it.

Few films deserve the label masterpiece quite like this one.

 

-PD

Planes, Trains and Automobiles [1987)

When I was a kid, this was a big family favorite.

It was one of those rare times when profanity got a pass.

That second time Steve Martin goes off…on Edie McClurg (the rental car lady).

But even funnier is the first time Martin pops off…in the Braidwood Motel in Wichita, Kansas…and John Candy just takes it.

Yes, there are some priceless moments in this film.

In some ways, this film defined an era.

Trading Places was an early-decade success (1983) for John Landis.

And then Walter Hill succeeded with a similar type of story, treated in his inimitable way, in 1985 (Brewster’s Millions).

But by 1987 the decade needed summation…and this particular genre which transcended classification needed a testament.

This is that film.

Funny enough, this was the same year the Coen brothers really started hitting ’em out of the park (Raising Arizona).  That film also is a veritable classic, but it is forward-looking.  It is almost like comedy in the hands of a David Lynch.

John Hughes was seemingly retrospective with Planes, Trains and Automobiles…like the J.S. Bach of the 1980s…summing up a decade of dirigist American comedy.

Hughes had a lot of career left to go in 1987, but this was a sort of highpoint…especially if considering only his directorial efforts.

Sure…Hughes was more counterculture earlier in the decade, but he wasn’t above putting his heart into a morality play like this one.

But to paint this film as a vanilla affair is not really accurate.

Consider Steve Martin’s yuppie character…a “marketing” professional on a business trip to New York from Chicago.

Martin’s character represents everything that was wrong with America in the 1980s.

Sadly, Neal Page (Martin) represents the problem which persists in America today.

Perhaps Isidore Isou’s famous class distinction fits here.

Neal Page, marketing professional, is an intern (as opposed to externe)…a cog in the wheel of production.

The Neal Pages of today would learn their marketing from an abomination such as Marian Burk Wood’s The Marketing Plan Handbook.

The Neal Pages of corporate America read a Wood phrase such as, “For the purposes of developing a marketing plan, advertising’s two basic decisions concern the message (what content will be communicated) and the media…,” without ever thinking Marshall McLuhan.

A savvy seller of used books might file The World is Flat in “Sociology” (in addition to the more strictly-applicable “Business”) in an effort to unload what must surely be one of the most overprinted books of recent memory.

But what bookseller ever thinks to place Understanding Media:  The Extensions of Man (1964) in the “Business” section…or in the Marketing/Advertising “disciplines”?

Marketers, no doubt, would have a glib answer.

But marketers rarely know more than their insular, myopic areas of pseudo-specialty.

The “right” answer…the culturally literate answer…the answer Marian Burk Wood was either too dumb to include…or too convinced that her dumbed-down readers would not get…is McLuhan’s:

“…the medium is the message.”

The first sentence of the fucking book!

Chapter 1 (also, conveniently titled, The Medium Is The Message):

“In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message.”

But the character Neal Page wouldn’t have known that…and that’s why he gets “schooled” in business by the portly, genuine Del Griffith (John Candy).

Of course, Candy’s character wouldn’t have known this either…but at least he wouldn’t have been a venal, meretricious, entitled prick like Neal Page.

And so Neal Page didn’t really go the extra mile in business school…  He just took all the bullshit shoveled down his throat as gospel truth.

Therefore, Page wouldn’t have known this gem either…a parallel to McCluhan from just three years later (1967).

Again, the first fucking sentence of the book:

“The whole life of those societies in which modern conditions of production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles.  All that once was directly lived has become mere representation.”

Ok, so I gave him two sentences.  Those are the words of Guy Debord from his masterpiece La société du spectacle (The Society of the Spectacle) [translated by Donald Nicholson-Smith].

Notice the similarities to McCluhan.

But, of course, Debord was referencing the big daddy of them all:

“The wealth of societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails appears as an ‘immense collection of commodities’…”

Karl Marx.  Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (1867).  Translated by Ben Fowkes.

And so today’s marketing professionals are either brain-dead (thanks to authors like Wood) or craven cynics thanks to equally worthless authors such as Philip Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller.

These last two have contributed a tome to the pseudo-discipline of “marketing” entitled A Framework for Marketing Management.

If anything has ever called for the revocation of tenure, it is the appalling lack of intellectual curiosity these two professors (from Northwestern and Dartmouth, respectively) show over the course of their overpriced bible for aspiring C-level automata.

Consider their statement, “…make low-profit customers more profitable or terminate them.”  Now do you see why America has problems?

And again, “Spend proportionately more effort on the most valuable customers.”

Thank God for the Del Griffiths of this world.

People are not statistics to be terminated.

God bless John Candy and John Hughes for poignantly reminding us of the only true value in life.

Relationships.

Not to be “leveraged”.

Just people.

Plain and simple.

As Del Griffith says, “What you see is what you get.”

Genuine.

THAT’S the marketing of the future!

And it can’t be contrived…

 

-PD

 

 

How I Live Now [2013)

I have a keen eye for bullshit.  But only in certain areas.

We all have our specialties.  We all have our areas of knowledge.

Just to be clear, this film is not bullshit.  This is quite a good film.

But there is an element of this film which is pure propaganda bollocks.

I’m very sensitive to propaganda.  Allergic, you might say.

On the one hand, I can sniff out a false-flag a mile off.

On the other, I make a habit of rewatching James Bond films.

No one is totally immune to propaganda.

It takes a deep understanding of the self to assess what is really going on.

Movies, music, literature, painting…all of these arts play on the emotions.

Artists are ALL emotionally intelligent insofar as their lexicon of emotional triggers is robust and bursting at the seams.

This does not mean that artists are well-adjusted.  Rather, the reality is often quite the contrary.

In this film, our heroine Saoirse Ronan is not at all well-adjusted.

Upon first seeing her arrive at the airport (our film’s first scene) we assume she might be some kind of pop star.

The reality is that she’s merely a spoiled brat from America who’s pilfered Devendra Banhart’s stylist.

Yes, Daisy (Ronan) has quite a look here.  She oozes “hip” from the outset.  She also oozes the angst of conflict.

An angry girl.  Never knew her mother.  Voices in her head.  On psychotropic medication.  Hypochondriac.

It is hard to confront this film without knowing that it is “post-apocalyptic” (such a buzzword in the less-talented cadres of Hollywood).

Being so informed, we notice as Daisy’s plane lands in scene #1 that Paris has been bombed.  It looks serious.

Daisy seemingly couldn’t care less.

And just where has she landed?  Somewhere in England or Great Britain.

And so off to the country to stay with cousins for the summer.  Not her usual routine.  First time to visit these relatives.

The story is powerful.  The story is lovely.  The acting is tremendous.

But slowly the bullshit creeps in and cannot be ignored.

And just what bullshit of propaganda has this film swallowed to then spit out at us?

Terrorism.  The oogly-boogly bogeyman of hidden hand terrorism.

It is all very unimaginative.  There is nothing here to indicate that the writers or directors have ever gotten their news from

anyplace other than the BBC or CNN.

Though they never say “Islamic terrorists,” the frightfully dumb premise is advanced with absolutely no critical thinking evident.

In other words, if this film was a religion, its Bible would be the 9/11 Commission Report (the layman’s title).

And so these terrorists with magical powers somehow invade an otherwise fine movie.

It is like the Red Scare.  The terrorists are everywhere.  They’re unstoppable.  Ha…

It is really sad when such hackneyed brainwashing passes for erudition.

And so, in some ways this film is no better than Fox News.  Sure, films are allowed to take poetic license and “play” on our fears.

But in our current world, the stakes are too high to sink millions of dollars into vehicles such as this which merely reinforce the lies of the fraudulent global war ON terror.

How many times must it be repeated that terror cannot be fought with more terror?

That is like aiming to eliminate the scourge of forest fires by burning the flames themselves.  Ludicrous.

But we do not simply refer to the error of approach.

The fundamental truth is that the war on terror is a charade.

There is big money to be made by blaming Islam for all the world’s evils.

And as Islamic countries are plundered we see the cowed world populace let their brothers and sisters in the Middle East be sacrificed for an inhuman system which needs total control to expand.

It really is, then, a joke to talk about free markets.

And so, to put it succinctly, we have many intelligence agencies to “thank” for our current imbroglio.

The American CIA must certainly take a bow.  The NSA likewise should be recognized for their part in the global reign of terror.

But let us not leave out Mossad.  Cui bono?

But really, it takes a village of intelligence agencies to raise the demonic child known as ISIS.  And so we must thank James Bond’s MI6.  We should likewise not leave out the Saudis and Pakistan’s ISI.

The artist formerly known as al-Qaeda (now rebranded as ISIS) has been very useful to the Western powers.

Russia and China had the opportunity to call bullshit long ago, but they squandered that moment.  And now the world really is closer to WWIII.

It is not easy to pay attention to a film which gives credence to fake terrorism.  Fake terror.  Synthetic terrorism.  False-flag terrorism.

But all is not lost.

Someone (perhaps director Kevin Macdonald) has at least read his Orwell.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, things go very badly for all involved when lies become truth.  When self-inflicted attacks precipitate martial law…

And so the British troops in this film are not portrayed in a propagandistic light.  Quite the contrary, they display the insolence of misplaced power.  Power upon which there are no checks…

The government troops in this film are paranoiacs with automatic weapons.  Sound familiar?  Yes.  We are told that such types are a menace to society (and they are).  Unfortunately, your tax dollars are paying their salaries.

But this is not about military bashing.  To extrapolate from the statements of NSA whistleblower Wiliam Binney, it’s only in the upper 15% where you see the real hardcore corruption.  What do we mean “corrupt”???

Those who would sell their own country out.  The moles in the FBI and CIA who allowed and facilitated (respectively) 9/11.  The high-ranking military and government officials who were likewise moles.  The highest level.

And so we have great sympathy for our military men and women knowing that their corrupt leaders (at the very top) have no real allegiance to country or fellow soldier.  There are exceptions, but consider the words of Binney.  The top 15%…that is where the real culprits are.  They are among the good leaders.

But this begs a question:  does one have to be a scumbag to advance to such echelons of power?  I’m afraid the answer may very well be a resounding “yes”…  And so, at the upper level of governments, intelligence agencies, militaries, etc. we are faced with finding the lesser of evils.  We would much prefer adulterers, drug addicts, etc. to psychopathic criminals.

I will be the first to admit that my diatribe is not really fair to this film.

This is quite an excellent film.  But artists cannot play with gelatinous archetypes like “terrorism” and expect a free pass.

There is glorious acting in this film (for Christ’s sake).

It pains me to write so much about the premise.

For fuck’s sake, don’t copy the fear-mongering of Fox News.  Those “journalists” will have their Nuremberg.  They will have no press passes.  They’ll be on the stand.

Don’t sully yourself in that stream.  Look at your box office.  $60,213.  Sixty-thousand measly dollars!  If you had put Ronan and George MacKay in a room together with no script they would have surpassed the trite constraints laid upon them (presumably) by Meg Rosoff’s novel. Dear Rosoff:  whatever paper you read, cancel the subscription.

-PD

British Sounds/See You at Mao [1969)

Bloody fucking bollocks!

I’ve wanted to say that for a long time.  I’ve said it before.  But it looks better in writing.

It has a sort of permanence to it.  Yet we never know.

Why the non sequitur expletive?  Because this film is a brilliant expletive deleted.

Long ago…in a galaxy…in OUR galaxy, as a matter of fact,

there were some clever blokes (?) who called themselves the Dziga-Vertov Group.

Chief among them, of course, was Jean-Luc Godard.

But it is telling that he wanted his celebrity subsumed by something greater than himself.

Ach, Gott!  Fuck this.  I have caught myself slipping into a routine voice.

A routine voice will tell you nothing about this film.

And so we come to the crux of this experiment:  struggle.

Film is a struggle between images and sounds.

In a Godard film, even images struggle amongst themselves in a feeding frenzy.

It is a manifestation of a mind trying to process the unfathomable complexity of the world.

In the film under review, it is especially the sounds which cannibalize one another.

But this is not new in Godard films.  Always, ALWAYS…there is a plethora of content.

Like a honey ant ready to explode.

[                                                      ] Space left intentionally blank.

Analogous to paragraph.

If you are thinking poetry,

you are not far off.

We miss the mark daily.  It is not a Christian confession.

There is not a way to look over the summary to this film on Wikipedia.

In that sense, I am offering a service.

Yet, I am giving you a very subjective, personal impression of this film.

I write film criticism which strives to harmonize with each individual film under consideration.

In other words, each film must be reviewed differently.

There really isn’t, despite a tendency to the contrary towards generalization, such thing as

a film like all the rest.

Yet I have my patois.  My schtick.

Take it or leave it.

Only know that the message is under continually scrutiny.

Self-criticism of film criticism in a controlled system seeking to explain it all.

If you are looking for the answer to the question,

“Who’s in control?,”

the answer is,

“No one’s in control.”

I’m sure my friends at the CIA will agree with me on this.

To clarify, I have no friends at the CIA (that I know of).

Speaking sequentially and descriptively with deference to “plot” is useless here.

We have lost the plot.  [Thank God!]

And so a guitar can change he world.

And some extremely-advanced students can change some Beatles lyrics (months after The White Album was released).

You must struggle in the mud.  Mud and blood.  Le sable et le sang.  Rimbaud.

I failed miserably.

And she was hoisted into the air on a Panavision boom.

Nude ascending a staircase.

This just in…THREE LEVELLERS SHOT BY CROMWELL IN BURFORD…

ORIOLES DEFEAT WHITE SOX IN BOURGEOIS VACUUM

Ah,…now I am weeping for the revolution…or for the auteur.

But the auteur has given us a lasting oeuvre.

Was Truffaut’s only English-language film Fahrenheit 451?

It matters.  Here.  …et ailleurs.

I am weeping for the old auteur…before he’s even gone.

And next I will view but not review.

Solely my own experience.  To remember where I started.  (which is basically where I am at this very second)

I have not moved an inch.

It is essential to see British Sounds.  To hear British Sounds.

As an English speaker.  In April 2015.  You won’t even need the Italian subtitles.

They are telling us we are losers.  THEY they.

I have no message.  “Too many messages.”  –Harry Partch

I am just floating on the waves of free association.

Go on:  call me an amateur.

A lover , not a fighter…who didn’t claw his way up to gargle in the rat-race choir.

He lives.  Let me check.

He lives.

Regardless.

And we have no way of communicating with our fellow man.  The life sucked out of the 21st century.

This is by design.

“Separation is the alpha and the omega of the spectacle.”  –Guy Debord

I present the conspiratorial view of history applied to cinema.

Paranoid nonfiction.  I have never read Dick.

Quicker than you can say Jack Robinson.  The difficulties.

Such a quintessentially British euphemism.

The Troubles.  Northern Ireland.

We know nothing.  It’s not as easy as shot/reverse/shot.

It’s like the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ).

KGB calling it a CIA false flag.

Need we remind the perceptive reader of world history that Dr. Ewen Cameron was being paid by the CIA to carry out hideous psychiatric experiments at the Allan Memorial Institute on the grounds of McGill University in Montreal as part of Project MKUltra over a period of time which overlapped with the activities of the FLQ? That is established fact and not a conjecture with which the KGB had any connection.

And so the question becomes, as Godard and co-director Jean-Henri Roger ask, [to paraphrase] “Is Marx the best weapon with which to confront the situation before us?”

Baltimore is haunted by the past (capitalism).  China is haunted by the present (vestigial communism).  In America there is no present moment (minus the times when reality erupts within the spectacle).  In China there is no past.  Not really.  It is forbidden.  Communism requires the primacy of the present moment.  History is history.  Gone.  Capitalism requires the continuation of the past.  Inheritance.  Both suffer from the status quo.  Capitalism is no longer capitalism…and communism is no longer communism.  The great irony is that monopoly capitalism and totalitarian socialism are no longer easily distinguishable (if they ever were).  Why more people don’t seek out the power elite of this two-sided conspiracy coin is beyond me.

Fear.  Fear prevents us.  Only the dispossessed have what is called courage.  Rage.  Courage.

-PD