India: Matri Bhumi [1959)

This is a hard film to title.

India.

मातृ भूमि.

Matri Bhumi.

The Devanagari (मातृ भूमि) translates to “homeland”.

And this brings us full-circle to a subject which has preoccupied us off and on for a month or so.

But we shan’t get too far into that excursus.

Nay, ’tis better to attempt a bit of writing regarding the film at hand.

First, we are thankful.

That Roberto Rossellini made a film about India.

Now, why would he go and do something like that?

Well, we must remember that he was only married to Ingrid Bergman from 1950-1957.

In 1957, he married Sonali DasGupta.  They were married until Rossellini’s death.

Without getting too lurid or tabloid, let’s just say that Jawaharlal Nehru invited Rossellini to India to help with the country’s film activities.  It was then that he met Sonali.

The rest is beyond the scope of this review.

But what is germane is the screenwriter Fereydoon Hoveyda.

Mr. Hoveyda, an Iranian diplomat and author, helped stage this documentary in much the same way that a Robert Flaherty film might be put together.

Think Tabu:  A Story of the South Seas (1931) on which F.W. Murnau collaborated with Flaherty.  Or even Louisiana Story (1948) which was a Flaherty propaganda film for Standard Oil of New Jersey.

Hoveyda, being the Iranian Ambassador to the U.N., was ostensibly in New York when the Revolution happened in 1979.  I’m guessing he stayed in America.  Probably a pretty smart choice.

And he was a smart guy.

Indeed, some of the books he wrote seem very timely indeed:

-What do Arabs want? (in French) [Hoveyda assumedly being Persian, not Arab]

-The Hidden Meaning of Mass Communications (2000) [sounds like a particularly interesting application of linguistics and/or semiotics to ends similar to the agenda-setting theory]

-The Broken Crescent: The Threat of Militant Islamic Fundamentalism (2002) [a rather suspicious title released at a potentially opportunist time]

and finally

-The Shah and the Ayatollah: Islamic Revolution and Iranian Mythology (2003) [the year the US was steamrolling Iraq…perhaps with salivating neocons looking to quickly expand into Iran]

I wouldn’t be so suspicious, but I noticed where Mr. Hoveyda passed away:  Clifton, Virginia.

Fairfax County.  Vienna.  Herndon.  Definitely some DoD in there.

Furthermore, it is home to the CIA (yay!), the NGA, the NRO, and the DNI’s office.

So my guess is that Mr. Hoveyda probably worked for the US intelligence community.

This would probably be a good time to tell you that I am pro-Islam.

I am pro-CIA.

I’m pro-Palestine.

I’m pro-immigration.

Pro-Mexico.  Pro-Russia.

But most of all I’m pro-America.

I hold no other citizenships.

Some of these revelations will be old hat.

Some new.

All probably confusing for one reason or another.

I’m pro-NSA.  I’m pro 25 AF.

I’m even pro-FBI.  [pro-DIA, pro-ONI, etc.]

Yes, I’m a 9/11 “truther”.

I want to know the truth.

Do I think Saudi Arabia did it?

It was impossible for any group to pull it off without state logistical support.

So it still points very much to an inside job.

The guilty state being the USA.

But maybe I’m wrong.

I do know one thing.

Mr. Trump has rightly noted that the WTC towers did not fall down by themselves.

Nor did they sustain enough damage to fall at near-freefall speeds.

So there was a team (a gargantuan effort) which wired those buildings to explode.

Who was that team?

What was their allegiance?

There were several big pieces to the attacks which needed substantial protection and handling once inside the U.S.

Ok, that’s about as open-minded as I can get regarding 9/11.

I just had to get that off my chest.

My assessments are fallible.

But I’ve seen an optimism in America in these past few days.

It’s not unlike the optimism which Rossellini captures in India:  Matri Bhumi.

Buzzards always circling.

And you’ve let me write about film.

And haven’t begrudged my politics.

So this is for my friends.  From many countries.

And every day I sit and try to think of the right thing to do.

Some things I know.

But there are many things I don’t know.

Many truths which are likely a combination of half-truths I never considered gluing together.

I wish all of you a happy day or night.

This is probably the worst review I ever wrote.

Because I’m better at insulting things.

I’m better at guessing.

But maybe I haven’t connected the dots?

It’s not my job.

But it’s been on my conscience since 9/11.

Who can we trust?

Why are there so many internally-incriminating anomalies?

And so many indications of a cover-up?

I welcome the Saudi lawsuits if only for the opportunity to learn who the REAL culprits were.

The Saudis were middlemen (if that).

They were central casting.

Until the remote flight plans took over.

God, what a daft war…

Based on nothing…and stirring up a continued mix of real and fake.

Impossible to discern anymore.

Maybe Trump has the guts to get some truth.

Obama squandered eight years without even a hint of curiosity.

Buzzards circling.

-PD

Sicario [2015)

When you are watching a film or a TV show in which the main character is FBI or CIA, you are watching propaganda.

But some propaganda reaches a height of artfulness which cannot be denied.

Such propaganda, then, in some respects becomes its opposite.

Sicario is one such brilliant enigma.

The main visual motif of this film is Emily Blunt sweating.

That may sound like a rather unglamorous device, but it too has crossed over into its opposite.

Emily Blunt gives a performance which approaches perfection.

But she is not alone.

Benicio del Toro is icy.  Frosty, as they say.  Timeless.

What is the template for Sicario?

You might be surprised, but it reveals itself quite early on to be none other than The Silence of the Lambs.

You must see Sicario to understand this parallel.

Nothing in the previews intimates this definite relationship.

But what else do we get?

Torture is good.

Torture works.

This is where Josh Brolin comes in.

His previous turn as the title character in W. is essential to the code of Sicario.

I must credit director Denis Villeneuve.

For propaganda, this gets in some pretty stellar body shots at the expense of the CIA.

But it is all for show.

The message is that terrorism works.

Terrorism?

Yes, terror.

It only depends which side of the battle you’re on.

Brolin’s character is a “DoD advisor”.  [More on that in the film.]

It’s strategy.

Get the straggler to come back to the hive.

We’ve heard that trope for a long while.

Regardless, Brolin is the quintessential consequentialist.

The end justifies the means.

Emily Blunt is the conscience.  And as that she is magnificent.

But propaganda needs a hero (or heroine) to knock down.

Perhaps you remember the disheartening ending of 1984?

The book.

Orwell.

Winston Smith.

It is quite correct that whenever America declares a “war on” something, the smartest thing is to consider failure a foregone conclusion.

Here we have that old chestnut the “War on Drugs”.

There have been several other lackluster “War on(s)”.

The main offender is the War “on” Terror.

But director Villeneuve gives away the secret a little bit (as the best propaganda does).

From Medellín to Mena, Arkansas.

Maybe Phoenix is no accident either.

Remember Ken Williams?

Sicario shows the FBI getting royally fucked.

In game theory, we might call them (full-on “meta-“) good cop.

The whipping boys…the ostensible sack of shit which acts as a catch-all flypaper of blame…are our bad cops:  CIA.

It is, however, significant that Brolin operates under the aegis of “DoD advisor” insofar as the US military then becomes the butt (ass end) of flipped propaganda.

To wit, much of this film is code…not for the drug war, but for the geopolitical ransacking of the past 15 years.

It is a comment.

Not particularly clever.

But perhaps accurate.

That methods have bled over (no pun) from the hinterlands to the “homeland”.

My final caveat is this:

Sicario is an absolute masterpiece.

 

-PD

Le Mepris [1963)

I dated Brigitte Bardot for awhile.  Well, not THE Brigitte Bardot, but it might as well have been her.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Ah, but all those hours on the highway didn’t end happily.  No, there weren’t many happy endings for those involved.  Anna Karina.  Jean-Luc Godard.

Contempt.  You must look beyond the characters.  Look beyond the actors.  And even so, you must take note…Fritz Lang as Himself.  It’s like the old U.S. TV tradition of saving that one zinger character for the end of the opening credits.  Say, for instance, you’re watching The Jeffersons or Laverne and Shirley…or even Three’s Company…”and Don Knotts as Mr. Furley” [zing!]

But Fritz Lang isn’t funny.  He doesn’t wear a powder-blue leisure suit.  No, the mood is very grave around here.  Even when we relocate to Capri.  It all begins with a quote from André Bazin.  Twenty-five years later Godard would turn to that quote to kick off his masterpiece Histoire(s) du cinema.  “Le cinema substitue…à notre regard…un monde…qui s’accorde.”  Cinema substitutes in our eyes a world which harmonizes.  Ersetzt das Kino in unseren Augen eine Welt qui harmoniertSostituisce il cinema nei nostri occhi un mondo qui armonizza.

This is the world of Le Mépris.  Babel.  Babble on.  Whore.  Vulgarity doesn’t suit you.  How ’bout now?  Does it suit me now?

He commands me…ou il me prie?  Le Mépris.

Once again we miss Anna Karina.  Two films in a row.  Les Carabiniers and now this:  replaced by Bardot’s ass.  Ass ass ass ass ass.  Blue ass.  Yellow ass.  Natural ass.  The tricolor.  God save the queen!

This was Godard’s shot at the big time.  Like Dune for David Lynch.  “Walk On the Wild Side” for Lou Reed.  Godard as Neil Young skipped Harvest and went directly to On the Beach.

That’s how it goes.  Perhaps it’s why Godard got on with Woody Allen.  Yes, Godard the neurotic drove his life and career directly into the ditch.  Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.

He even made the biggest star in France (B.B.) wear the same shabby Louise Brooks wig which his wife (Karina) had worn in Vivre sa vie.  Yes, something is amiss with this film.

I feel the Godard/Karina relationship problems bubbling to the surface.

“No, go do it!  This is your big chance!”

“But you won’t be mad at me?”

“Why should I be jealous of Bebe?”

“You know I would prefer to cast you.”

“Forget about it.  I’m not mad.  I’m happy.  I just look mad because I’m crying.”

Something like that.

All,                                                of,                          that,           aside,

this film couldn’t be more masterful.  It is a precarious film.  It threatens at every turn to fall headlong into a sea of shit, but it doesn’t.  The waters of Capri blue.  Bardot’s golden ennui chevelure.  A white Greek statue and a Shirley card in CinemaScope.  Go ahead and give Ulysses some sky-blue eye shadow and lipstick.  And Penelope.  Pen elope.  Moravia.  Javal.  dactylo.  camérastylo.

The poet’s vocation.  Vacation.  Terrorist.  Tourist.  Coutard.  Kutard.

Casa Malaparte is abandoned.  99 steps and a bitch ain’t one [hit me] (!)  Gulf of Salerno looking out to…nothing.  Ulysses sees something I don’t.  There is no homeland.  Only insecurity.  Die Heimat?  Fritz Lang would know.  Is that a command or a request?  Please tell Goebbels that Herr Lang has politely declined the offer to head up the film efforts of the Nazi propaganda program.  And by the way, he’s leaving the country.  Maybe call up Leni Riefenstahl.  I’ll bet she has a nice ass… lagniappe!  L.H.O.O.Q.

99 steps from the Gulf of Salerno.  that last step’s a doozy [hit me]!

-PD