WarGames [1983)

Greetings, Professor Falken.

Today is my birthday.

41.

The age at which you “died”.

But you didn’t really die.

Is this real world or exercise?

Dawn Deskins wanted to know.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Joshua.

And the tree of life.

Klimt.

Seattle.

Starbucks.

Greetings, my friends.

It has been a long time.

Perhaps you thought I was dead.

Perhaps I thought I was dead.

And so this is a perfect movie with which to attempt a comeback.

“You can always come back/but you can’t come back all the way”

Bob Dylan said that.

To get her together.

I said that.

NORAD.

It was a rough day.

9/11/01

NEADS thought it was part of an exercise called Vigilant Guardian.

Michael Ruppert (may God rest his soul) documented the litany of war-games which were active on 9/11/01.

And Michael Ruppert wrote about this in a tome which should serve in some ways as a sort of bible for those wishing to know the truth about 9/11:  Crossing the Rubicon:  The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil.

Ruppert was wrong about some things.

“Peak oil”, for instance.

Perhaps my understanding is hopelessly daft, but it seems that hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) changed the geopolitical world immensely.

Just a few years ago, rather intelligent folks like Leonardo Maugeri (to name a typical example) were bemoaning the hydrocarbon “cliff” off of which we were about to leap.

Alas…

That has not been the case.

Maugeri’s book The Age of Oil:  The Mythology, History, and Future of the World’s Most Controversial Resource is wildly, spectacularly wrong.

Which also means that Dick Cheney and all those arch conspirators* were also wildly, spectacularly wrong about the importance of the Caspian Basin.

Let me put it to you this way:  if you really believe 19 blokes with box cutters brought the U.S. military machine to its knees, then I can’t help you.

As for me and my house (so to speak), we do not believe the box cutter theory.

And so we come to the DoD and fictional characters such as Stephen Falken.

And Albert Wohlstetter (not forgetting his ever-so-important-to-the-neocons wife Roberta).

And Steve Pieczenik.

So much has happened.

And so much is at a precipice.

“The Far East Strategy”.

Pshaw.

Tic-tac-toe.

It is my firm belief that 9/11 was some sort of engineered* conspiracy which involved boxcutters and Muslims in only the most tangential of ways.

But you will have to learn that parallel history.

If in fact you are interested.

And I shall show my enlightened, nonpartisan wisdom by recommending Trump-hater Webster Tarpley’s 9/11 Synthetic Terror:  Made in USA above all other books on the subject.

Indeed, I look forward to hopefully adding another Trump-hater (Wayne Madsen) book to my collection soon…one which discusses to what extent and in exactly what ways Saudi Arabia and Israel were involved in the 9/11 false-flag/stand-down.

Which brings us back to Pieczenik.

And the Wohlstetters.

But let us at least attempt to make passing reference to the film under consideration.

If you’ve never seen this movie from the beginning (a cold start), I highly recommend adding such footage to your filmic knowledge.

The silos.

Minot?

Somewhere.

The Great Plains.

Nuclear missiles.

Humans in the loop.

Physical keys.

Launch orders.

Wisdom.

As humans are removed, MAD (what, me worry?) becomes even more unequivocally assured.

You might remember WHOPPER’s (WOPR) cousin [Siemens System 4004] from Willy Wonka

wonka

It is somehow fitting that WarGames should make a Burger King allusion in 1983.

Indeed, this was the period of the very real (and ridiculous) “burger wars“.

But let’s get on with it…

Matthew Broderick plays basically the Bill Gates of this famous picture:

gates

I must say…this film deeply affected me as a kid.

Perhaps it was due to the wonderfully effervescent (what is she, a sparkling wine?!?) Ally Sheedy.

Sure…  There are a couple of moments of unbearable melodrama to make this movie slightly imperfect, but a kid doesn’t notice such things.

And so as a youth, I ate this film up.

Broderick and Sheedy as “partners in crime” (somewhat literally…).

It would be like some high school kid hacking into the USAF’s Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) to play a “game”.

Is this real world or exercise?

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

Which brings us back to the ubiquitous Baudrillard.

And, if you can bear it, Debord.

Simulation.

Spectacle.

Fake.

Radar inserts.

Etc.

GLOBAL THERMONUCLEAR WAR.

Big Gulp.

[g’uh?]

But let’s change tacks for a second.

TALENT SPOTTING.

Back in the Cold War days.

David Lightman would have been a prime target for recruitment by a foreign intelligence service (or so this film claims).

However, I would point out a plane which the passing analysis seems to miss:  industrious brilliance.

Disruptive innovation.

Recording the analog [?) signal of the infirmary door with a psychiatrist’s micro-tape recorder.

Removing the tap from a pay phone and using a pull tab to hotwire a call back home (in lieu of a quarter).

These are the assets of operators.

Whether CIA or early FBI, appreciation for unconventional skill sets has been a hallmark of organizations engaged in successful growth.

Put differently, David Lightman would have made a pretty great spook.

Indeed, his skill set might have been best utilized by the NSA (no such agency).

Back in the day.

Before the world changed.

On 9/11.

The average citizen had no idea about the National Security Agency back in the Bobby Ray Inman days (1977-1981).

par exemple…

Research.

Know your enemy.

Half the battle.

Mirror’s other half.

It’s not impossible.

To make a matrix.

Collation.

Big data.

Must be organized.

Delphic databases.

Few films capture this.

This anxiety of being ushered into an FBI van.

Picked up on the street.

Fresh out of the 7-11.

A unique take on “talent spotting”.

Almost an accidental spy.

Like the DIA buffoons seen here:

spies

These films are real.

And offer us hope.

About unconventional paths.

Former DIA head Gen. Flynn has an appreciation for this.

“…you magnificent bastard, I read your book!”

[or some of it]

Enter the jaded Richard Dawkins character.

Really a rather laborious (and dead-on) archetype.

The “science worshipper”.

Obsessed with mass extinction.

Really, Dr. Falken is very much a J. Robert Oppenheimer character.

Which is appropriate, seeing as how the subject under consideration is Global Thermonuclear War.

WarGames is a genuinely moving, inspired film.

But it stumbles in a few places.

Not least, at the end.

Both of them 🙂

Yes, like the slew of “disaster movies” (such as Deep Impact) which glutted picture houses at the end of the last century, WarGames hones in on a maudlin tessitura which is made ineffective by repeated use.

In plain English, this film has two endings.

And they are identical.

Thus, anticlimax.

And the aforementioned melodrama.

Yet for all its imperfections, WarGames is a masterpiece of sorts.

And so I salute director John Badham.

Truly an indispensable film.

 

-PD

Deepwater Horizon [2016)

This film has every reason to be horrible, but it’s not.

It’s actually quite a good piece of filmmaking.

It’s not cinema, but it’s the kind of stuff which resonates even with a crusty old jaded bloke like me.

BP.

That’s why I went.

As my few diehard readers know, I am a business student.

And Charles Ives was an insurance salesman.

Similar juxtaposition of temperament and métier.

It is my job to research.  To go to school.

I am infinitely lucky to have such an opportunity to retrain.

If you hear of a music theory factory, let me know.

But the men and women on the Deepwater Horizon rig were doing real work.

And so it is an honor to see these employees of Transocean conduct themselves with bravery and virtue on the big screen.

And BP.

What about BP?

We’ll be getting to that.

In 2010, I was still the drummer in a Cajun punk-rock band.

We played benefits in places like Venice, Louisiana.

I can personally attest to the fact that the media focus at the time (2010) was on the plight of shrimpers and marine life.

The focus was on the oil spill.

Sadly, the 11 Transocean employees who lost their lives in this textbook case for business ethics (lack thereof) were never given the memorial they deserved.

Until now.

Yes, this is a story of the deplorables.

Working on an oil rig.

Gulf of Mexico.

These are your Donald Trump voters.

And I am proudly among their number.

If you want to get the real story of class conflict in regards to the deplorables, try parsing this (mostly-good) socialist take on the situation.

http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-class-dynamics-in-the-rise-of-donald-trump-why-establishment-voices-stigmatize-the-white-working-class-as-racist-and-xenophobic/5549634

While I do not agree with all of the author’s conclusions, I think the “white working class” has been unjustly portrayed as deplorable by elitist, pseudo-leftists like Hillary Clinton.

Make no mistake (to use Obama’s favorite phrase):  Hillary Clinton is an extremely wealthy individual posing as a “people’s candidate”.

Her opposition (Donald Trump) does not adopt such Janus-faced dissimulation.  He largely admits to being a (gasp!) capitalist.

It would have been more exciting to see the extremes of the continuum represented by Trump and Bernie Sanders, but the infinitely-crooked Clinton stole the Democratic Party nomination from the genuinely-socialist Sanders.

However, Sanders immediately turned around and campaigned for Clinton.

Bernie, then, is the spineless, wet rag he always seemed to be.

But Trump hits back.  Hard!

And that is what the deplorables want.

There are many aggrieved parties in America.

Deepwater Horizon presents the case of craven, feckless British Petroleum executives who let the little people die.

Socialism is right to focus on workers.

Capitalism is right to focus on value-creation.

China (a real nightmare) just happens to have had a very large hand in funding this film.

Right?

Maybe not.

It seems, however, that there are a few names (and one Hong Kong company) missing from the Wikipedia rundown of Deepwater Horizon.

The company in question is TIK Film (or Films) of China.

As of 2015, Lionsgate had signed a $1.5 bil. cooperation deal with TIK’s parent company Hunan Television.

And so this brings up a point:  was Deepwater Horizon Chinese propaganda to further smear British Petroleum?  It’s a possibility worth considering.

In fact, there are a couple of associate producer credits (if I remember the description correctly) missing even from iMDB’s more extensive summation of the film’s business players.

The two Chinese executives (presumably) are clearly identified in the opening credits of Deepwater Horizon.  Unless you have a photographic memory, you’re not likely to find corroboration of this once you get home from the theater.

But maybe this angle is a diversion.

Certainly, the most important issue covered by this film is that 11 human beings with wives and children lost their lives ostensibly because a company put profit before people.

The film lays the blame primarily on two BP executives.

But all of the major oil and gas players are there including the pivotal case of Schlumberger.  One company suspiciously missing from the film is Halliburton.  Indeed, it doesn’t take very long to realize that this outfit was intimately involved in the Deepwater Horizon disaster.  Maybe Dick Cheney promised to donate his pacemaker to the CCP?

What about these players?

Transocean Ltd. of Switzerland (lovely).

Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea.

Indeed…the OptiCem cement modeling system of Halliburton is extremely germane to the issue of culpability for the deaths of these 11 workers.

And yet Halliburton managed to extricate itself completely from this cinematic muckraking.

What gives a company such power?

We likewise don’t hear about Anadarko Petroleum.

Or the Mitsui Group.

It certainly seems BP had a controlling interest in the Macondo Prospect well which blew out, but 35% of the ownership pie was not held by BP.

Our film portrays BP as playing an operational role in overriding the experience and wisdom of Transocean workers at the site.  It portrays BP executives as committing the cardinal sin of business ethics:  focusing on short-term profits over long-term safety.  Indeed, the film under review makes the case that BP executives prevented Schlumberger from performing due diligence in testing the concrete at the well in question.

The most disgusting part is that no one personally got in trouble.  That, indeed, is the most deplorable aspect of all.

 

-PD

 

Pickpocket [1959)

Writing about film makes you appreciate the film.

You think.

What will I say about this picture?

This succession of pictures.

Sounds.

And so silently you ponder the ways to express true genius.

And how lucky we are to witness true genius.

It’s true.

The Criterion Collection has brought us many films which otherwise might have been forgotten.

Film didn’t begin with The Godfather.

It doesn’t end with Citizen Kane.

And so we need to see the other stuff.

We need to hear voices from outside of America.

Hollywood is international, to be sure, yet everything which enters there leaves marked.

It is a sentiment which Godard expressed in his magnum opus Histoire(s) du cinema.

And this is the other stuff.

Robert Bresson.

You might only know Henri-Cartier Bresson.  Don’t stop there.

Robert Bresson was the master of taking non-actors and capturing their vitality on film.

Pickpocket does justice to Uruguay as much as did Isidore Ducasse (which is to say, completely).

Martin LaSalle, a young Urugayan-French actor in his film debut, plays the lead role here of the pickpocket Michel.

LaSalle’s eggshell acting is essential to this masterpiece.

Yet, it is director Bresson who brings the ballet of crime to life.

Yes, it is like Orson Wells doing his magic tricks in F for Fake (his magnum opus).

Indeed, everything has an art.  Even crime.

And as paper currency disappears from the industrialized world we see the migration of subway thieves to the ether in an attempt to pilfer Apple Pay “money”.

Yes, I’m afraid that soon everything will need quotes around it.

Perhaps I just don’t understand.

But, there is an art to everything.

Take accounting, for instance:  the most boring subject invented by human beings.

And yet, there is an “art” to it…I’m sure…somewhere…deep, deep down inside.

But Pickpocket is of a different era.

Perhaps computer hacking and financial calculator operations require a certain finger dexterity, but nothing like the prestidigitation which Bresson brings to life in this film.

It is a noiseless ballet of lifts, drops, catches, exchanges, etc.  Buttons flicked.  Buckles finessed in one motion.

It reminds me of the one true line in Goldfinger…perhaps the only genuinely cinematic moment in that film (though I love the other 99% pulp)…

Delivered by the title character, as played by Gert Fröbe, it goes a little something like this:

“Man has climbed Mount Everest, gone to the bottom of the ocean. He’s fired rockets at the Moon, split the atom, achieved miracles in every field of human endeavor… except crime!”

Ahhh…the rolled Rrrrs of that final word.  Like H.W.’s brief year at Langley.  Like Kissinger at Iron Mountain.  Ah!  But here we run into a problem.

Hoaxes.  Like Sandy Hook.  Like Hani Hanjour.

And will Donald Trump have the balls to read a book?  Perhaps Webster Griffin Tarpley’s 9/11 Synthetic Terror:  Made in USA?

I doubt it.

Is Trump a provocateur or merely provocative?

Because if he shot his mouth off a little more pointedly he’d have my vote.

And I would stand with my immigrant brothers and sisters every day to see Dick Cheney take the stand.  Under oath.

And Philip Zelikow.  Under oath.

And Donald Rumsfeld.  Under oath.

And Larry Silverstein.  And Rudy Giuliani.  And Richard Myers.

Somebody else did it?  Then you got nothing to worry about.

Unravel unravel unravel.

Because Trump is wrong about immigration.

And Bernie Sanders is right about Snowden.

And I don’t like Trump or Sanders.

But Trump is the only one even tangentially touching on the real issue:  truth.

////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

Off the rails. Film review.

C’est la vie.

Conspiracy.

Don’t mind me.

I will just go back to watching films.

Go back to sleep.

Nothing to see here.

-PD

.سنگسار ثريا م‎‎ [2008)

[THE STONING OF SORAYA M. (2008)]

Every time I write a political post I take my life in my own hands.

Because I let everyone have it.

Out into the ether.

An equal opportunity whistle-blower.

And so I must let you know that this is almost a great movie.

Yet, I’m not even sure if it’s a good movie.

Let me explain.

The Stoning of Soraya M. was released at a very suspicious time.

By a very suspicious (and talented) director.

All through the George W. Bush presidency there was a pervasive itch…a green tide of bile just waiting to drown the country of Iran.

First we reduced one of the poorest countries on Earth (Afghanistan) to rubble.  It was mostly rubble to begin with.

Our military had trouble finding high-value targets to hit.  There were none.

Then our trumped-up intelligence hit the big stage:  the U.N. General Assembly.

Colin Powell knowingly lied.  The U.S. intelligence community was used as a pawn.

The intel was being propped beneath a faulty case like a gratis jack beneath a compact car.

Remember?  The Downing Street memo?

And so we knocked off another country.  Iraq.  The neo-con wargasm really kicked in.  No doubt the poet Ed Sanders was unsurprised.  He coined the phrase wargasm and had been documenting the demented drive of American bloodlust for decades.

And then the steamroller sputtered.

Iran was always next.

Always.  Always.  Next month.  This fall.  Imminent.

Praise be to God that the neo-con luck ran out.  Like the serial killers they are, their ability to trick and deceive abated.

And what the hell does any of this have to do with the film I’m reviewing?

Quite simply, the film I’m reviewing is perfect propaganda to bomb the hell out of Iran.

It was premiered in the final months of the Bush junta.

Perhaps the director and producers had dragged their heels a bit.

Perhaps they realized they were being used?

Perhaps…

But the story goes deeper.

Director Cyrus Nowrasteh is best known for directing a two-part ABC miniseries called The Path to 9/11.  It is “controversial”…which is to say, it is critical of the U.S. government…but only in the most kid-gloves, “oh they should have killed more Muslims” kind of way.  To reframe my argument, Cyrus Nowrasteh was already a propagandist whether he knew it or not.

And that’s where this film comes in.

Let me start by saying that the acting in this film is fantastic.  The direction is stellar (yes, the guy I was just insulting has world-class talent).

What we must ask ourselves is this:  was this film merely meant to pull on the heartstrings like a flippant Laura Bush quote about the Taliban or was Nowrasteh sincere in this unfortunately-timed release?

I believe the director was sincere.

In fact, I believe the director is the parallel of the character Ebrahim in this film.

Ebrahim is the mayor of a small town in Iran.

Ebrahim wants to do the right thing, but he is tricked.

Even so, Ebrahim is a victim of dogma.  Ebrahim’s a dumb-ass.

And yet, we respect him somewhat.

The same goes for Nowrasteh.

If my reading of The Path to 9/11 is correct, then Nowrasteh has never considered the possibility that the United States attacked itself on 9/11.  Adding further color to that false-flag would be the involvement of Israel.

One thing is certain:  it seems that Nowrasteh showed a shocking lack of curiosity when making The Path to 9/11.

Fool me once, Cyrus…shame on…

And so then Nowrasteh gets to direct this piece of cinema.  It is cinema.  But how much can we invest our hearts in a story told by a facilitator of untruths?

It pains me to discount the amazing acting of Mozhan Marnò.

And I do not discount it.

She is one of the most talented actresses I have witnessed in a long time.

The same goes for Shohreh Aghdashloo.  Tremendous thespian skills!

And Nowrasteh (whom I’ve spent “paragraphs” berating)…what a talent!

But is that talent misdirected?  [no pun intended]

I’m not cowing to Iran.

I have nothing to gain.  I have everything to lose.

This film, on its own merits, is extremely remarkable.

But taken in the context of Hollywood propaganda, it becomes suspect.

The Mullah in the film is a scumbag.

The husband is a scumbag.

The town mayor is essentially a scumbag (dupe).

There are very few subtle shadings of character here.

We end up with an unfortunate equation.

Iran = bad.

Islam = bad.

Islamic men = bad.

Islamic women = good.

The equation is begging for some stealth bombers to fill the gap and vaporize those Muslim men.  “Liberate” those Muslim women.

Come on:  we’re pros at it!  Look at our resume!!  Afghanistan?  Check.  Iraq?  Check.  This is our line of work!

We’ll give it a snappy name like Enduring Freedom (how much of our “freedom” can they endure?) and it’ll be over in a few weeks.

We’ll be greeted as saviors.

Let me point out one final detail.

There are some sub-equations here.

Shah = good/bad.

Ayatollah = bad.

And so, mathematicians of ethics, how does the SAVAK compute?

What was Mosaddegh’s good/bad rating?

All we ask in cinema is for a real story.  If you don’t pimp yourself out to the bomb boys, then the Palme d’Or is yours.

Perhaps I am wrong.

I am willing to admit that I may be wrong.

If you can’t tell by the title of this film how it ends (don’t see Titanic), Soraya gets stoned.  As in murdered. As in disgusting.

But what is most disgusting?

Hypocrisy.  The film starts with a quote by Hafez.

The corrupt Mullah is no worse than the military-industrial director.

And for those of immense talent (like Nowrasteh), there is always redemption in the next film.

Tell the real story.  Read a book.

The path to 9/11 almost certainly started in Langley and Herzliya.

One or the other.

Perhaps both.

Or was it the old boys network of Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Poppy Bush?

Somebody better get it straight or this world ain’t going nowhere good.

Help us out Cyrus!  The truth will free both our countries.

-PD

Licence to Kill [1989)

It may sound like heresy to say it, but this is the third great James Bond movie up to this point in the series.  Furthermore, it is particularly rich that it came out during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.  The pleasant surprise is that Carey Lowell takes the cake as hottest Bond girl through the first 16 films.  These are controversial claims and allusions.  Buckle up.

1974.  The first great Bond film.  There is no denying the palpable rush of Dr. No–no topping the exotic sensuality of From Russia with Love.  It has less to do with Connery, perhaps the best Bond, than it does with cinema.  The first great James Bond film came under the watchful eye of auteur Guy Hamilton.  He lives.  The Man with the Golden Gun.  Yes, it was a Roger Moore film.  So sue me.

1985.  The second great James Bond film.  Travesty of travesties!  He’s going to name two from the 80s.  Yes, that’s right.  A View to a Kill.  John Glen made an auteurist bid with this flick.  Again with the Roger Moore.  John Glen lives.

1989.  The third perfect Bond film.  John Glen achieves immortality.  Hyperbole.  Hyperbole.  This is to take nothing away from our cherished Guy Hamilton.  He too made more that just Golden Gun.

But let us stretch out a bit…  What makes these three films so strong?  Answer:  the villains.  Christopher Lee.  Christopher Walken.  And Christopher…er, Robert Davi.

George H.W. Bush.  There was a book from 1992 called The Mafia, CIA and George Bush written by Pete Brewton.  That’s back when there was only one George Bush known on the world stage.  Middle initials were unnecessary.  I haven’t read the book in question, but it bears mentioning that I remembered the pithy title mistakenly…as The CIA, Drugs, and George Bush.  There’s more than an Oxford comma’s difference between the two…obviously.

1998 brought the world a book called Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion by Gary Webb.  I have not read this book either.

So what, you may be asking, is my fucking point?

Let me note a few poignant books I have read.  9/11 Synthetic Terror:  Made in USA by Webster Griffin Tarpley.  Crossing the Rubicon by Michael Ruppert.  The Big Wedding by Sander Hicks.  9/11 The Big Lie (L’Effroyable imposture) by Thierry Meyssan.  Pentagate also by Meyssan.  The Shadow Government:  9/11 and State Terror by Len Bracken.  The Arch Conspirator also by Bracken.  Body of Secrets by James Bamford.  America’s “War on Terrorism” by Michel Chossudovsky.  The 9/11 Commission Report:  Omissions and Distortions by David Ray Griffin.  The Bilderberg Group by Daniel Estulin.  Inside Job:  Unmasking the 9/11 Conspiracies by Jim Marrs.  The Terror Conspiracy also by Marrs.

If you’re still reading you are likely laughing or transfixed.  And again I can sense the question:  what is the fucking point?

Well, dear reader, it is that I can wholeheartedly agree with Mark Gorton’s reservations regarding George H.W. Bush.  I used to think Dick Cheney was the scariest guy in the world (thanks Mike Ruppert).  Donald Rumsfeld always seemed in the running.  But after reading Gorton’s fastidious research, I concur that the prize should probably go to Poppy Bush.

At wikispooks.com, one can find the following articles by Gorton:

Fifty Years of the Deep State

The Coup of ’63, Part I

and

The Political Dominance of the Cabal

Gorton is not your average conspiracy theorist.  His degrees are from Yale, Stanford, and Harvard (respectively).  His business successes include founding LimeWire and the Tower Research Capital hedge fund.

And that brings us to sex.

Carey Lowell.  With her androgynous hairstyle, she still (because of?) manages to be the hottest Bond girl through the first 16 films.  Sure, Timothy Dalton is great, but Carey Lowell is fan-fucking-tastic.  The message of the establishment is that if you don’t play by the rules, you don’t get the sex cookie.  Carey Lowell is not an establishment actress in this movie.  Her character is the anti-Bond girl in some respects.  For this series, anyway, that’s as good as it gets.  Until Anamaria Marinca is cast alongside (or as) 007, the bar is memorably set by Lowell.  Perhaps as I critically watch the more recent films I will find other Bond girls who truly stand out in a believable way, but Lowell takes the cake through the first 16 films.

Lowell lived in Houston for awhile.  Back to Bush.  Right down the road is the scariest man in the world?  Dear readers…the Internet remains free for only so long.  Soon we may have to get all Bradbury and become book people.  If Carey ever gets tired of Richard Gere, maybe she’ll meet us in the forest.  I’ll be Histoire(s) du cinema.  The book.

-PD

Rope [1948)

For many years this was my favorite Hitchcock movie.  Sure…I secretly thought Psycho was better, but I didn’t want to be ordinary.  It was long before I understood the metaphorical reading of Rear Window; long before my mind was mature enough to wrap itself around the slippery plot of Vertigo; long before I realized that North By Northwest was truly sui generis. 

What was it about this film?  I had first run across the title in a quote attributed (I believe) to Peter Bogdanovich.  Rope was a film to be studied.  Rope was a feat of trickery.  The Rope trick.  Long, unedited shots…  It was only later that I discovered how they reloaded the film.  Once you know, it seems obvious, but upon first viewing it does seem like the master and slave reels had unlimited 1000s of feet to spool out and take in.

But that’s not it.

What was it about this film?  It was Jimmy Stewart.  Good, old Jimmy Stewart of It’s A Wonderful Life.  Jimmy Stewart as Louis-Ferdinand Celine.  Jimmy Stewart the misanthrope.  The novelty of it!  But the “kicker” was bloodlust.  Jimmy Stewart redeemed with Emersonian integrity.  His words thrown back in his face.  Even at an old age.  Stewart’s character realizes he has been wrong all these years.  Would Nietzsche have had the same reaction to Hitler?  Would Wagner?

There is no way to accurately “read” this film without placing it in history:  three years after the end of WWII.

Inferior.  Superior.  Intellect.  Beyond good and around again to evil.

It is Hitchcock commenting on himself.  The character of Rupert is the dark, sardonic, macabre humor of Alfred the auteur and joker.  But what of that ending?

There is no more blood-curdling pronouncement of justice in the history of cinema that when Jimmy Stewart proclaims, “You’re both going to die.”

The character names don’t matter.  The tricks of filming even less.

This is the inquisitive Stewart of Rear Window already suspecting.  This isn’t the Hitchcockean trope of “the wrong man:”  this is the right man.

Stewart can’t believe it.  We can’t believe it.  And we saw the whole thing.

We don’t trust our instincts when the conclusions go (as Dick Cheney said) “beyond the pale.”  Look up that phrase.  Look up Arnold Rothstein.  The “pale of settlement.”

In King of the Jews the author Nick Tosches touches on this phrase.  My contention is that Tosches knew in 2005.

Rope is the story of two young men who strangle an “inferior” being (who just so happens to be a Harvard man).  Hmmm…from where then would that make our killers?  Yale, perhaps?  Is this an quasi-establishment jab at the Skull & Bones fraternity?

And Rupert…dear old Rupert…the house master from our murderers’ prep school days…  Could the reference be Phillips Academy?

I will leave these remarks as a thumbnail sketch to inspire discussion.  But it was certainly the novelty of Stewart as a villain…and his redemption as the voice of reason.  Yes.  The message is clear.  All who have killed in this eugenic manner will die.  You’re all going to die for what you’ve done.  It is what society is going to do to you.  The public doesn’t want to hear your advanced theories and your avant-garde morals.

Hollywood failed the Jews.  Cinema failed those in the death camps of WWII.  This is Godard’s grand theme in Histoire(s) du cinéma.  Film has the ability to preserve the “honor of the real,” to quote Jean-Luc.  No country was more technologically advanced (arguably) in terms of motion pictures during WWII than Germany.  Why were their scientists so sought after by Operation Paperclip (and the Soviet equivalent) following the war?  Why were they so successful?  Because they were brilliant.  It doesn’t make sense then that there is no available footage from the pre-liberated Nazi camps.  Cinema failed to prevent the holocaust and this cinematic gap in history likewise has rendered the medium irreparably hollow.  That was Spielberg’s failure with Schindler’s List:  one cannot portray what has never been seen.  The camps no doubt existed.  There is no disputing that.  But there is a hole in the heart of cinema’s history.

The 21st century has offered cinema another chance.  And contrary to Dick Cheney’s quote and its context, there is nothing beyond the pale.

 

-PD