JFK [1991)

There is very little doubt in my mind that this is the most important film ever made.

For once in American history, someone stood up.

That man was Jim Garrison.

When I used to spend time in New Orleans I shuddered at the courage this man had.

He had the courage to take on everything.

But this epic would not have received its rightful place in history without the auteur Oliver Stone.

Making this film was an immense act of courage.

Search your heart.

Sit alone at 2:00 a.m. on the outskirts of Nola.

3:00 a.m.

Later.

The deepest, darkest part of the night.

Oliver Stone captures the beauty of humanity in the story of Jim Garrison.

Few dramatic performances have ever affected me so much as Kevin Costner’s here.

But you must look deeper.

Look to Jim Marrs.

Long ago I heard Alex Jones proclaim on air that JFK was his favorite film.

Long ago I saw JFK as a first-run film in the theater.

But I didn’t see this 3-hour-8-minute version.

I’m pretty sure of that.

Because I was just a child.

I heard the drums.

I heard the moving music of John Williams.

But, alas, it was 3’08” which was before me.

It takes a lifetime to appreciate what Mr. X is getting at.

It is packed tight as a can of sardines (even at 3’08”).

Eisenhower’s farewell address.

Really listen to it.

The nervous glances aside.

What is he announcing?

Does he not have immense testicles to yell such from the tower?

But let’s take a trip…

Acting.  Real fucking acting.

Joe Pesci.

God damn!

If Costner didn’t have the Garrison role, Pesci might have taken it.

Stole the show.

Kevin Bacon at Angola.

In Angola.

Leadbelly, not Neto.

IS THIS THE MPLA?

I THOUGHT IT WAS THE UK!

Donald Sutherland.

You can see the parallel now in Dr. Steve Pieczenik.

You gotta watch it.

Vietnam.

Donald Sutherland gets even closer than Pesci.

It’s that moment he says, “bubba”.

Yeah, that’s the right track.

That’s a lifetime of work.

That’s putting your ass on the line.

Have you ever put your ass on the line?

Really laying it all out there and staring into the void.

That’s the encouragement.

The words you need to hear from someone who’s paying attention.

Someone who’s saying, “Don’t be afraid of the bastards.  Hit ’em back.”

Contrasted with Pesci as a walking pot of coffee.

Yeah.

Feel that fear for a moment.

You don’t live in a bubble

You have family.

You have people you love.

You risk it all because you know it is the right thing to do.

To ask questions.

To object.

To use your mind where none dare tread.

Who’s the Jim Garrison of today?

Yes, it is Alex Jones.

He has earned that.

But it is also very much James Tracy.

Sissy Spacek cannot compete with Costner.

And she shouldn’t.

But she’s indispensable.

The back and forth in the hallway.

She ain’t walking down that hallway anymore.

Watch JFK and you’ll understand why Anderson Cooper is a coward.

Watch the hit piece directed at Garrison.

Sad, sad men (the SAD/SOG).

Yeah.

Come to know Lyman L. Lemnitzer.  Very few LLLs in history.

Don’t stop at Operation Mongoose.

Know the much more important Operation Northwoods (otherwise known as 9/11).

For all of the bigots out there, come to understand just how many things Israel COULD NOT have done (which were essential to 9/11).

And yet they are no doubt involved.

On the wrong side.

Just like their appalling treatment of the Palestinians.

Notice I didn’t say Jews.  And I didn’t say anti-Semitism.

Pesci’s character nails it.

But we still need Gary Oldman as Oswald.

What’s on the gravestone?

Oswald.

Maybe it’s not rogue elements after all.

It’s the whole damn thing.

But who warned us?

They were inside the machine.

Eisenhower.

Garrison.

Kennedy.

Martin Luther King.

Go to Dallas.

Feel the evil.

Unsolved.

Covered.

Covered over.

Like a pothole filled with steaming shit.

Thanks Michael Ovitz.

Did you really convince Costner to take the part?

More importantly, thank you Costner.

Yeah, that’s some method acting.

And it’s far too important not to feel.

With every fiber of one’s being.

Stone took the right take.

There could be only one like that.

In the courtroom.

We don’t even notice the cuts.

Academy Award for editing.

Including a chap named Scalia.

Tommy Lee Jones as the incarnation of evil.

Dainty.  Subtle.  Shades of James Mason from NXNW.

Tommy Lee Jones from my hometown.

San Antonio.

I seen him at a Mexican restaurant.

And we hold out hope that the planet remembers us.

Ed Asner.

Ed Asner who stood up when the shit hit the fan after 9/11.

Where were these other fuckers?  Still basking in the glory of JFK?

That’s too bad because their words then ring hollow.

How about Field of Dreams?  Go the distance.

Back, and to the left.

Back, and to the left.

Back, and to the left.

John Candy as perfection.

A serious role.

Fuck all you motherfuckers!

Martin Sheen is for real.

Charlie Sheen, while not in this movie, put so many social activists to shame.

Real testicular girth.

Jim Garrison as Earl Warren.

The glasses.

The Coke bottle disorientation.

But the erudition.

The evil erudition.

Sean Stone is what we’re fighting for.

The kids.

That’s real shit.

Mohrenschildt in Pappy Bush’s pocketbook.

A directory.

Not the whole Rolodex.

Just the kind of thing you’d take on an ice-skating trip in a thunderstorm to Houston.

It’s always raining.

And a little hunting.

Parse that.

It comes back to Cuba.

Zachary Sklar.

Ellen Ray.

Enough to write a book.

And publish it.

Jack Lemmon.

The fear.

Naïveté.  Étouffée.

A lot of work for a little piece of meat.

Oliver Stone’s not the genius.  Jim Garrison is.

Always will be.

But Garrison needed Stone.

Counter gangs.  Webster Tarpley.

Frank Kitson.  Low intensity.

Critical mass.

Where Jane Rusconi and Yale University come in.

Impressive.

I take it all back.

A dick-measuring contest about how many books one has read.

Garrison.  Stone.  Rusconi.

Impressive.

District attorney.

Ok, I take it back again again:  Oliver Stone is a genius.

But we need it again.

 

-PD

 

Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. [1967)

Something draws me to Eastern Europe.  I blame Romania.  Thank you Romania!  Yes, there was something about the ambiance which director Cristian Mungiu conjured up in 2007’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile) which has stayed with me for a long time.

Really, it’s a rather mundane part.  Near the top of the film.  The goddess Anamaria Marinca traipses down the hall to find some soap…and cigarettes.  The scene is a college dormitory in communist Romania (pre-December 1989).  Girls in one room chat about beauty products.  There seems to be a good bit of bartering going on.  Marinca is mainly uninterested.  Looking for a certain kind of soap (if I remember correctly).  On the way back to her room she stops off at the room of a foreign student (non-Romanian) who sells cigarettes and gum and stuff.  The whole film she is searching for Kent cigarettes (a few mentions of this brand).  Not surprisingly, there are no Kents to be had in the dorm.  She settles for something else.  Perhaps.  I don’t know.

She stops and admires some kittens which someone has taken in.

It is astonishingly real.  On par with Roberto Rossellini.

Indeed, it might be said that all New Waves (from the nouvelle vague to the Romanian New Wave) have their birth in the neorealist films of Rossellini.

But Mungiu added a new wrinkle.

Marinca.  [The goddess of whom I spoke.]

Marinca is unglamorous.  No one is glamorous in 4 luni, 3 săptămâni și 2 zile.  We get the impression that it is the waning days of Ceaușescu’s reign.

Times are tough.  The policies of the state haven’t worked out so well.  It bears some resemblance to a prison.  Material items take the place of money (reminiscent of cigarettes as currency in jails).

What I have yet to define in this article is “goddess”.  What do I mean by that?

Well, I’m glad you asked!  Marinca (particularly in this film) is a goddess to me because she represents the opposite of the typical American woman in the year 2015.  Her beauty is her soul.  Her beauty is her loyalty to her roommate and friend Găbița.  Her beauty is her dedication to acting.  She is completely immersed in her unglamorous role…and it is eye-watering.

I have mentioned a similar impression (which further solidified my admiration for Romanian films) I got from watching Dorotheea Petre in The Way I Spent the End of the World (Cum mi-am petrecut sfârşitul lumii).  This masterpiece by director Cătălin Mitulescu preceded Mungiu’s Palme d’Or-winning film by about a year (2006).  I was again struck by another goddess of film (Petre) who, with the help of her auteur, created a character also in direct opposition to the meretricious, vacuous ideal of American womanhood in the 21st century.

And so it is that we finally come to the film under consideration:  Душан Макавејев‘s Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator.  Dušan Makavejev is Serbian.  Out of deference to his country I have listed his name in Cyrillic script.  Likewise, the title of the film (at the top) is in Serbo-Croatian.  It is a grey area about which I am not completely informed.  Suffice it to say that Croatia seems to generally use Roman letters (as opposed to the Serbian usage of Cyrillic).  It is a bit like the distinction (and writing differences) between Urdu and Hindi [which I have heard described as essentially the same language, but with two different writing systems].

I prefaced this article on Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. with my own backstory concerning Eastern European cinema because it is relevant to my approach going forward.

Before coming to this, my first Yugoslav (1967) film, I opened up the can of worms which is Czech cinema by reviewing Closely Watched Trains (Ostře sledované vlaky).  Jiří Menzel’s sexually-charged film poem from the previous year (1966) was a major revelation for me.  And so it is that Dušan Makavejev’s bittersweet confection shares more than just a communist framing with Menzel’s aforementioned erotic portrait.

Yes, Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. is about our old film-school standbys:  sex and death.  I can never combine those two words (in the context of film) without remembering the ridiculously funny scene of Jim Morrison at UCLA screening his student film in Oliver Stone’s The Doors (1991). 

The fictional Morrison, then, would be trying to hop on a nonfictional bandwagon represented by the likes of Menzel and Makavejev.  Morrison’s time at UCLA (1964-1965) not only coincided with the staggered births of “new waves” around the world (particularly in Europe), but also occurred while Morrison’s father (US Navy Rear Admiral [RADM] George Stephen Morrison) was the commanding officer of a carrier division involved in the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Jim Morrison lived fast.  Entered UCLA in 1964.  Graduated with an undergraduate degree in film in 1965.  Was dead by 1971.  But those years in between…  It’s no wonder Jim had an Oedipal complex (evident in the song “The End” [1966/1967]) when considering his father was involved in false-flagging the U.S. into a suicidal war against communism.  What a disgrace…

No, the real hero in the family was not RADM Morrison, but rather Jim.  He turned on the dream-switches of so many kids.  To put it quite bluntly, he was part of the counterculture in America which caused kids to start giving a fuck about the world and politics and geopolitics and confirmed charades (frauds, shams, etc.) like the Gulf of Tonkin “incident”.  Such a sanitary and slippery word:  incident.

It fits perfectly, in that there was no incident.

But while Morrison the Younger had gone off into Brechtian pop-rock, Serbian director Makavejev was busy making Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator.  It is equally stunning, for its medium, as “The End”.

Sex needs beauty.  A really luscious film like this needed Ева Рас (Eva Ras).  She is a bit like Jitka Zelenohorská’s character in Closely Watched Trains…mischievous, bewitching…  But there is one great difference between Ras and Zelenohorska:  Ras is a blond.

Though our film is in black and white, it is clear that Ras’ silky hair is rather fair (a detail which would not have escaped Hitchcock).  It must be said, however, that Makavejev did not give in to the easy femme fatale portrayal when it came to filming Ras.  Izabela (Ras) is a complex individual.  The film tells us that she is Hungarian.  She is different…other.  She needs sex.  She is passionate.

All the same, her portrayal by Ras is poetic and tender.  Really, what we are seeing here is a tentative feminism expressed by Makavejev which would become a thundering symphony of women’s liberation in Mungiu’s 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. 

And it is good.  It is good for men to see these types of films.  We men idolize and reify women in the West, but we don’t often enough stop to really observe the trials of womankind.

In the best spirit of socialism, this film has something for everyone…men, women…ok, maybe not children.

Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator is really an intense film.  If you have seen (and made it through) Stan Brakhage’s The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes (a film I, incidentally, once made the mistake of showing at a party), then you’ll be alright.  For those faint of heart (I generally fall into that category), there are a couple of rough moments in this film (in the context of criminology).

In all, I am very proud and happy to have seen my first Serbian movie.  As a resident of San Antonio (and fan of the San Antonio Spurs), I feel it gives me a better glimpse into the life of one of my favorite basketball players Бобан Марјановић (Boban Marjanović).  I highly recommend this film…and Go Spurs Go 🙂

 

-PD

To Write Love on Her Arms [2012)

This film goes beyond film.  Which is not to say it doesn’t have its problems.  Like the protagonist, it does.  But let me tell you why this film is worth it.  No…you know what?  This is fucking bullshit!  That’s not the way to review a film.  This is.

It’s gotta come from the heart and mind.  Depend too much on the mind and you miss the beauty.  Secrets make you sick.  Must be a whole lot of sick people in Langley, Virginia and Fort Meade, Maryland.  Go on, look it up.  It’ll do you good.  But for you lazy bums, that’s the CIA and NSA.

I read about the CIA all the time.  Why?  I’m only answering limited questions today.  But suffice it to say that both of these spy agencies are pretty interesting.  Don’t you think?

Well, so that’s one of my secrets.  It’s not really a secret.  It’s pretty transparent.  But maybe not.  So, there.  Like Robert Creeley said.  There you have it.

It’s very hard to not drop into John Berryman testimonial mode when talking about this film (oh yeah, this is a film review…duh!).

First things first:  you gotta love a film that premieres at the Omaha Film Festival (!)  Just knowing that Omaha has a film festival makes me feel a little less depressed about my life and the shitty town I live in (San Antonio).

And so…our setting:  Orlando.  It’s like an outtake from Mister Lonely–Cinderella smoking a cigarette at the bus stop.  Headed to the theme park presumably…  It’s certainly begging for a Harmony Korine touch, though director Nathan Frankowski does a nice job handling this priceless aside in more of a Terry Zwigoff way.

Wow.  Somebody needs to give the Wikipedia page for TWLOHA (the movie) some love.  I mean, Jesus!  A three-sentence plot summary???  There’s lost silent films which have more detailed synopses on Wiki than this!

So I guess my first inclination was correct:  speak from the heart.

Well God damnit!  There are some priceless moments in this film.  The secret weapon is Rupert Friend.  I’ll be damned if he doesn’t strike a stake right to my heart…fondling that pocket watch…  It’s no jive-ass MC5 John Sinclair rave-up testifyin’ going on.  This is some real shit.

For all of the snobs (like me) in the audience:  you gotta give this film time.  Clear from your mind the unpleasant parallels to the CGI of What Dreams May Come and The Lovely Bones.  IT GETS BETTER.

That said.  How?  Well, once again Ms. Kat Dennings hits a home run. This is no easy role.  It’s a tough, tough, TAXING role to embody with anything even approaching Method Acting.  But I have a sneaking suspicion that Dennings felt this role naturally (to a certain extent).

How does this film go beyond film?  Because.  Ghost World was a masterpiece.  Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was perfection for its genre (young adult comedy romance).  Charlie Bartlett was a mini-masterpiece…a damn good film.  Hell!  Daydream Nation was pretty fucking good too.  But TWLOHA moves into the social realm…because it touches on depression and substance abuse (not to mention the cutting words of the haiku title) in a real, sobering way.  No pun intended.  At least not the sober one.

Yeah.  What does this mean for you, dear WordPress blogger…or for someone who stumbled across this article?  It means you are powerful beyond your wildest belief.

Every time you commit your precious thoughts to the page and share them with people (comma) you are saying the only stuff that people believe anymore.

It doesn’t mean you can talk about reptilians and be taken seriously (no offence to my reptilian theorist brothers…and sisters).  No, it means that the only people who have CAPITAL in SINCERITY are everyday people like me…and YOU.

We don’t believe the lies anymore.  We’ve swallowed so many damned secrets that we’re sick to death.  We can’t sleep.  But we are fucking powerful!  Hillary Clinton knows it.  Zbigniew Brzezinski knows it.  I’m not sure if David Rockefeller knows it.  Nor George H.W. Bush.

That’s ok.  They came from a different generation.  Hell…I’m not even a “digital native”…  Not a Millennial.  I guess I am part of that lamentable flannel fuzzed Generation X.  I hyphenate when I damn well please.

I make inside jokes that only I get.  I don’t have any friends.  Not anymore.  But I have family.  I have cats.  Some days I think my best friend is an extraterrestrial in Turkey.  Or a classmate from Iran.  But most days my best friend is an actor or an actress.

So to Kat Dennings (and Renee Yohe)…wherever you are.  Thank you.  It makes a big fucking difference.  That you exist.  My sentence fragments and idiosyncratic punctuation are yours.  Mi casa es su casa.

-PD