Monsieur Verdoux [1947)

Being unwanted is a powerful feeling.

A life devoted to a profession, and then (poof!)…

But aging is a powerful experience even when separated from an event of displacement.

Let me clarify:

Aging can make one vulnerable.

We are only all too aware that we aren’t as handsome or as beautiful as we once were.

We are made aware of this decline by way of “the spectacle” (to borrow an idea from Guy Debord).

Sure, we can read it in the glances of everyone we meet, but we must realize that those eyes have glanced upon the ideal.  Those eyes are connected to minds.  Those minds have been imprinted like microchips.

With what?  “The tyranny of good looks…” to quote the brilliant Marilyn Yalom.

The quote comes from her excellent volume How the French Invented Love (2012).  Yes, this nonfiction tome is only too relevant to the subject at hand:  Charlie Chaplin’s bizarre Monsieur Verdoux.

This one won’t have you laughing yourself into the aisle.  Not till the back nine (at the earliest).

Charles Chaplin was a rebel.  When it worked, the world loved him.  When it didn’t?  Ah-la-la…  No one can be completely spared the wrath of the public.

A quick glance at the ever-reliable Wikipedia [cough cough] tells us that Monsieur Verdoux fared better in Europe than in America.

Quickly perusing the section marked “Reception” we might come to the conclusion that audiences in the United States did not “get” this film.

So then did we merely have a cultural barrier (and its opposite) in operation as far as world reception?

I think not.  I think that Europe’s humor was forever changed by the World Wars.  Coming just two years after the second ended, this film was a litmus test.  What could be found funny in this cruel new world?

The entire world had lost its innocence.

And so the comedian was forced to make do with the sordid rubble.

It is not spoiling much to tell you that in this film Chaplin plays a serial killer.  The idea apparently originated with Orson Welles, but the treatment was no doubt a full Chaplin adaption.

Yes, it is shocking.  A bit.  Nowadays.  But then?!?  It must have been much more scandalous.

This was the first time Chaplin took to the screen in a feature film without relying to any extent upon the Little Tramp character.  It was a brave departure!

What I find most fascinating about this film is that the fictional Verdoux, like the real-life Hitler, was a vegetarian and animal lover.

Ah!  However…Verdoux was based on a real killer:  Henri Désiré Landru.

They share the same first name (and a rhyming last):

Henri Verdoux?

Henri Landru.

They also share a profession:  used furniture merchant.

It is not clear to me (without further research) whether the vegetarian/animal lover aspects were inventions of Chaplin or not.

I’m guessing they were.

In any case, they are effective reminders about the intricacy of human personalities.

Schindler’s List comes down to us as a hack film because it lacks life.  That is the message I get from reading Godard’s critique of Spielberg.  What is more, Godard seems to lament (mourn) the lack of video footage shot within German concentration camps during WWII.

Some have construed this as holocaust denial.

I don’t think that is the point.

However, Godard’s presentation of his argument brings with it a certain amount of skepticism.  Put simply, his question seems to be (in my own words), “How could the Germans be so technologically advanced (particularly in film and motion picture equipment) yet fail to shoot any footage within the camps?”

What comes down to us today is footage of said camps’ “liberations”…  Indeed, Hollywood directors were tasked with making propaganda of the hideous findings (George Stevens comes to mind) [not that they needed much help there].

And so why have I made this detour?  Simply to illustrate that the human brain is smarter than Hollywood assumes it is.

Spielberg is not a great director.  He’s merely a rich director.

Chaplin was a great director.  Monsieur Verdoux was largely a failure in the United States.

To come back to Guy Debord (and I paraphrase heavily in translation from the French), “Reality has been turned on its head…”

The spectacle reigns supreme.  Who cares if it’s true?  Even better than the real thing.  That is the message of Debord’s La Société du spectacle (published in 1967).  And that message is relevant to Monsieur Verdoux.

Perhaps it was the Letterists (of which Debord was a member)…perhaps it was the Situationists (of which Debord was the guiding light)…one of these groups boycotted Chaplin when he arrived in France.

Ah, I have found it.  Indeed.  1952.  It was the Letterists.  Their screed pamphlet called Chaplin a “con artist of sentiments”.  [translation by Len Bracken]

Indeed, that is just the role Chaplin took up five years previous in our film Monsieur Verdoux.  It is also part of the argument which Godard has made against Spielberg.

As much as I love Debord (one of my three favorite writers), I have to disagree with his early (pre-Situationist) position against Chaplin.  Godard would likely disagree with Debord and the Letterists on this matter as well (judging from the abundance of Chaplin films referenced in his magnum opus Histoire(s) du cinema).  But I must agree with Godard regarding Spielberg.  It does no honor to the memory of Holocaust victims nor survivors to give the sad event the “Hollywood touch”.

Godard has (along with most of humanity) been called anti-Semitic.  I don’t believe that to be the case regarding the most important director to have lived.  A single glance is not enough to absorb what Jean-Luc is saying in any of his films (not to mention writings or interviews).

Ah, but now I am far off-track.  I have left Verdoux in the dust.

But that is alright.

Perhaps the measure of a film’s greatness is how much it makes us think?

 

-PD

 

 

 

Nóż w wodzie [1962)

I wanted to not like this film.

For some reason.

Because it wasn’t my first love.

That would be Popiół i diament.

But Knife in the Water is as good a place as any to start.

Poland.

Quite frankly, this film blew my socks off.

Nóż w wodzie is a strange little masterpiece.

Truly.

On this day when Paris burns.

Appropriate.

That we get to a Parisian director named Roman Polański.

Yes, this film is like the day.

Today.

Yesterday.

All along we are afraid that someone is going to kill someone.

We suspect the vagrant.  The migrant.

But we find out that the real asshole is the yachtsman.

That shouldn’t have been hard to guess, but for some it takes a moment.

I first suspected the yachtsman thanks to Thierry Meyssan.

A couple of his books.

9/11:  The Big Lie.  And another called Pentagate.

These were among the first books to take aim at the fraudulent War on Terror by questioning the foundational event which birthed the current pall hovering over humanity.

“…an attack on humanity,” President Obama?  No.  YOU are an affront to humanity.  With your sullied Peace Prize.

Only fitting…considering Alfred Nobel invented dynamite.

Et allors…a Frenchman showed the way.

Meyssan.

The U.S. State Department branded his books as anti-American black propaganda.

In other words, they were claiming that the books stemmed from a foreign government’s attempt at geopolitical destabilization.

And you would know, State Department…because that is your specialty.

And so, as always, in the midst of my more adrift reviews the question arises as to the pertinence of my diatribe to said filmic document under consideration.

Nóż w wodzie is a political statement.  The bourgeois couple out for a day of leisurely sailing as pitted against the nature-boy tramp.

Salt in the wounds vs. salt of the earth.

I will leave it up to the reader to connect certain unspoken dots.

But, frankly, the spectacle I saw on 24-hour-news television tonight screamed false-flag terror to me.

What do I know?

I’m merely a boy with a rucksack and a couple of black radishes.

Far be it from me to discern real from fake.

As Guy Debord said (and I paraphrase), “Reality erupts within the spectacle.”

C’est-à-dire, it is very likely that many innocent people lost their lives tonight in Paris.

Therefore, the equation would be:  real death amidst fake terror.

It is the narrative which is fake.

Playing cui bono pretty quickly gets us from Islamic terrorists (who do not stand to benefit) to Western intelligence agencies (including possibly Israel) who very much stand to gain from tonight’s deadly shenanigans.

It is sad.

We don’t want it to be true.

You didn’t really cheat on me with the wanderer, did you?

And yet, the yachtsman’s wife is mostly innocent.

Sometimes it takes a miracle to realize that our lives suck.  Our life sucks.  We are living a sham.

That is the miracle which the yachtsman’s wife finds in a stolen kiss.

A moment of tenderness.  A reminder of what real life was like.

But Roman Polanski succeeds most of all (with the help of writer Jerzy Skolimowski) in showing us that we’re all guilty as hell.

Yeah.

That’s about right.

I’m no saint.

We’re no saints.

And so false-flag terror mostly annoys us at this point.

Every time an incident “erupts” we’re not sure whether anyone died whatsoever (to begin with).

As I said, things look very grave indeed tonight in Paris.

We mourn those 100 or so young people who died at Le Bataclan…sacrificed on the altar of war profits.

It is truly Satanic (if such things exist).

A very dark ritual which terrorizes the planet.

And so the only hope for the suspect intelligence agencies is to present us with the heads of their masters.

Call them the New World Order.  Call them SPECTRE.

Just call them and notify them that you will no longer be their whipping boys.

No doubt, the majority of intelligence agency employees are good, decent people.

That is why they should put their butts on the line to end this endless War on Terror charade.

Yesterday was all about sufficiently shocking the masses so as to regain control of the inhumane war against Syria from the leveling presence of Russia.

We know the equation.

Putin will never call out 9/11 as false-flag terror because he does the same thing to his people.

Just like Nóż w wodzie.  No one is really innocent here (myself included).  We’re all just trying to show off.  And on the world stage, it is truly a deadly game.

The NWO (let’s call them) seemingly has but one trick in their bag:  false-flag terrorism.  15 years of the same tune.  A one-trick pony.

And how do we know this?  Because of Operation Gladio.  Because of revelations gleaned over the years.

The CIA is tasked with this kind of stuff.  Doesn’t mean they get a whole lot of enjoyment out of it.

No, dear friends…I can’t give you the exact names–the exact chain of command, but someone can.

And maybe they are reading this and on the fence regarding their messy role in destabilizing the world.

But let’s be simple.

I can give you the name Jolanta Umecka.  What a beauty!  With her kitty-cat glasses.  Early-60s.  1950s.  The lagging fashion of the Eastern Bloc.

It’s not much.

I can give you a film review.  I can put myself out on the line as the village idiot.

It is both the least and the most I can do.

I may be mistaken about everything.

Like Thoreau, I will admit when I was in error.  In strong words.  Tomorrow.  Just as strong as those I used today.

Dear friends.  What a pity that these proxy games must go on.

We are above such machinations.

There is great art to be appreciated.

Great art teaches the way.

Great art like Nóż w wodzie.

-PD