A King in New York [1957)

I once went to rather extraordinary lengths to see this film.

Doing such a thing often makes one appreciate the rarity of the moment.

But now I revisit this testament for the purpose of placing the film in my own history of the cinematic medium.

As you might know, I don’t often review new films.

For what is important to me is not the hackneyed novelty of Hollywood today, but rather the breadth of motion pictures down through time as an art form.

What is attractive about the movies is that they are barely 100 years old.

It is not much of a stretch to say that the seventh art (as Ricciotto Canudo eventually called it) was short of being a mature mode of creation in 1916.

For though Charlie Chaplin was already making important contributions, his first feature as a director and actor wouldn’t come till 1921’s The Kid.

In many ways A King in New York was Chaplin’s last film.  Namely, it was the last in which he both starred and directed.  [He would direct one final effort:  1967’s A Countess from Hong Kong starring Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren.]

And so it was that with A King in New York Chaplin returned in some ways to the themes of The Kid.

Michael Chaplin (his son) is brilliant as “the kid” Rupert here in the film under consideration.

And Charles (Charlie) is equally timeless as the foil to Rupert’s Marxism.

Yes.

This was a brave film to make.

It was a humane film to make.

And it is insightful even today.

We may no longer have the communist witch hunts of the McCarthy era, but we still have the same brain-dead stupidity (as exemplified by Fox News).

It is quite easy to draw that particular parallel when viewing the newscast which comes on King Shahdov’s hotel television periodically throughout this movie.

And while the hysteria of anti-communist “vigilance” has largely faded into history, another equally virulent strain of bigoted ignorance has taken its place.

Terrorism as religion.

That phrase may sound weird, but let me explain.

When you pick up The Wall Street Journal, you are viewing a religious newspaper.

And the religion?

Terrorism.

When you watch Fox News you are entering an alternate universe in thrall to terrorism.

Terrorism is the manna from heaven for the neoconservative global elites.

They are a one-trick pony (terrorism being their only trick).

But let me illuminate my point.

NONE of the other major American news outlets (print or televised) are any better.

CNN ABC CBS NBC…all worthless.  And let’s not forget the woeful New York Times.

Which brings me to a very important point.

This past week, a PhD professor at Florida Atlantic University in the United States was dismissed from his tenured position for questioning the very suspicious “mass shooting” supposed to have occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

I have not read every bit of critique which Dr. James Tracy (the unfortunate professor) has written concerning this “massacre”, but what I have read harmonizes with my own take on the event (namely, that it was a staged, false-flag type psychological operation).

And so Dr. Tracy has become a parallel to all of those poor souls who had to suffer the ignominy of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in May 1960.

Why do I focus on this particular hearing?  Because it was released as an LP album in 1962 by the invaluable Folkways Records (today Smithsonian Folkways).

Find this record.

Listen particularly to Witness #5.

Spotify lists each track as being by the artist “Unspecified”.

This is the same type of recognition which would have accrued to topless mothers in the Sahara singing their babies to sleep (while the tape recorder preserved their performance for all time).

Americans had become nameless.

And so next time someone asks you about your favorite musical artists you can refer to the Folkways catalog and answer, “Well, I’m a big fan of ‘A young girl singing’, but I also like ‘A young woman’.  But then, not much beats ‘Aboriginal Songman’.  In fact, I met him once and I was quite nervous.  I said, ‘Mr. Songman.  Can I call you Aboriginal?  Al???  I would really appreciate an autograph!'”

But I digress…

Dear friends, we can rescue the names from history.  Witness #5 is actually still alive.  He is and always will be William Mandel.

Mr. Mandel took the stand and railed against the bigots in San Francisco on that Folkways LP of the “Un-American” hearings.

In the estimable Mr. Mandel we have a parallel to Mr. Macabee (Rupert’s father) from A King in New York.

The trials which inspired Chaplin were to continue (1957 film, 1960 LP).

The trials continue today.  Dr. James Tracy is now a “conspiracy theorist”.  If the New York Times says it’s so, then it must be so.

No.

Until we drop like flies, we will continue to speak out like Rupert.

We will continue to combine art and politics like Charlie Chaplin.

No profession gives one a free pass to opt out of engagement.  Disengagement is a decision.

Chaplin fought back.  The world’s greatest funnyman felt compelled to speak up.

Perhaps Rupert is really 6079 Smith W.

Perhaps Room 101 is betraying oneself.  Being eaten alive.  By cowardice.  Until death.

Occasionally pop art transcends.  Witness Radiohead’s “2 + 2 = 5” from the perfect album Hail to the Thief.  At the height of the Bush junta this British avant-pop band had the stones to dish out a God-save-the-Queen to the slimy bastards dragging the world down.

The late David Bowie made a valiant effort on his best album Diamond Dogs.

We speak, of course, about 1984 and the protagonist Winston Smith.

Orwell’s novel was a mere eight years old in 1957.

Perhaps little Rupert is an evocation of Winston Smith.  And we know that Rupert’s fortitude lived on in the aforementioned William Mandel.

But now we come to a new era.  A new era which is so old.

The lamentable treatment of Dr. James Tracy.

The enshrinement of Terrorism as the new state religion of the United States.

Even for a non-communist such as myself, it is apparent that capitalism must always expand.

When it comes to terrorism (both “foreign” and “domestic”), the Ministry of Truth has spoken.

Our only hope is the voice of opposition.  It is therefore quite apt indeed that Dr. Tracy’s excellent blog (which incidentally led to his thoughtcrime conviction by FAU) should be named Memory Hole… (http://memoryholeblog.com/).

And it is hopeful that said blog has more hits than the Wikipedia page for “Memory hole”.

 

-PD

Čovek nije ptica [1965)

It makes sense that Man Is Not a Bird was Dušan Makavejev’s first film.  It has that first-film “breadth” to it.

Where Ljubavni slučaj ili tragedija službenice P.T.T. (Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator) struck with absolute precision, Čovek nije ptica meanders about a bit in search of the appropriate film language. 

[N.B.  Wikipedia spells “bird” in Serbo-Croat for this film as “tica”.  I’m not sure why that is as “tica” seems to mean nothing (whereas “ptica” means “bird”).]

Though our film is set in a strange, backwards town, the narrative is considerably sprawled.

Eva Ras (the star of Love Affair…) is here as a more minor character.  However, she is the one who most lives out the message of the title.

This film has a strange obsession with hypnosis.  There is a hypnotist, but the film starts off with a scientific denunciation of superstition.  Through hypnosis (we are told), a distressed person can be made to abandon the grip of superstition.

Back to our hypnotist in the middle of the film…he is more of an entertainer than anything.  I am not entirely sure, but I believe the initial “legitimate” hypnotist (psychologist) and the later “entertainer” hypnotist are played by the same actor.

If that is the case, then Makavejev’s later metaphor (the circus) makes more sense.  But what is really complex about this film is the layering of metaphors upon one another.  It makes finding meaning very difficult.

One “reading” would be that life is a circus.  Another reading would be that “cinema” is a circus which purports to present a more truthful version of life than what we know.

But what does that mean?

Every day we experience life is some respect.  What could be “more truthful” than our daily experience?  Is Makavejev implying that we lie to ourselves?  Quite possibly.

As film viewers (spectators), we may become immersed in a particular movie and identify with characters and stories.  In a way, WE are the fourth wall.  The fourth wall is our temporary reality.  We enter into the false reality of film.

But, film gives us a chance to observe “ourselves”.  When we heavily identify with a particular character, we are having a sort of “out of body experience”.

And this brings us back to hypnosis.

Man Is Not a Bird is a very beautiful film (in a grimy, socialist, factory soot kind of way), but it is (perhaps not surprisingly) a dark film as well.

Shot, like Love Affair…, in black and white there is something more sinister about this film than the more gentle and humorous Love Affair…  But who are we kidding?  Love Affair… is inextricably wound up with death.  What could be darker than that?

Answer:  life without life.

It is what Eva Ras experiences as she is emotionally abused and disrespected by her husband.  Her husband, as it turns out, is working a job which is so hazardous to his health that the position is being eliminated ASAP.  And that’s in communist Yugoslavia!  All through this film we see a sort of poverty which separates East from West.  The poor Eastern Europeans.  What the West would come to realize (like New York Times film critic Vincent Canby) was that the East had something of immense wealth.  If pressed, I would call it soul.

Man is not a bird (even if, under hypnosis, he believes this to be the case).  Man is also no angel.  Janez Vrhovec plays a sort of martyr in this film.  Another more light-hearted character prods him as to whether he can feel the tingling of his burgeoning angel wings (the prodding is actually quite sardonic).

Man is not a machine.  But Jan Rudinski (Janez Vrhovec), the deft Slovenian machinist/engineer, has become a slave to his job.  From Pakistan to Dar es Salaam:  Rudinski makes his comrades proud with his exceptional efficiency.

But let us return to Eva Ras.

To turn Godard on his head, A Woman Is Not A Woman.

Why do I say that?

Because the French word for wife (femme) is the same as the French word for woman (femme).

And so a whole new world of wordplay opens up for us concerning TWO Godard films (namely):

Une Femme est une femme

and

Une Femme mariée.

In the first, we could potentially have the proto-syllogisms:

A woman is a wife.

Or, conversely:

A wife is a woman.

Furthermore, we could have:

A woman is a woman (the accepted translation in the English-speaking world).

Or, on the contrary:

A wife is a wife.

It gets to be such that we assume there is some sort of “boys will be boys” idiomatic phrase in operation.  Not being a native French speaker, I cannot confirm or deny that.  But I do know that Godard loves word play.  And therefore, the simple answer may not be the intended answer.

To illustrate further we have,

Une Femme mariée.

The accepted English translation is A Married Woman, but could it not be the more perverse and thought-provoking A Married Wife?

One thing is certain:

Man Is Not a Bird will have you under its spell whether you understand it or not.  At least, that’s the experience I had.

I would add one final bit of exegesis (extra Jesus).

It may very well be that Makavejev was making a disparaging statement about the communist Yugoslavian state with his first film.  It would be like the secret messages which Shostakovich managed to work into his music (particularly the string quartets) while living in Soviet Russia.

In the hands of communist governments, art (and particularly film…after Lenin’s admiration of the medium for its uniqueness) had to represent the people.  On one side (with communist eyes) this is admirable.  From the other (with capitalist eyes) this is seen as propaganda.

Any astute capitalist would have realized that (particularly in times of war) there was not much difference from communist and capitalist propaganda.  Both economic systems availed themselves of the practice of propagandizing.

But my guess, regarding the film in question, is that Makavejev recognized his own role as a propagandist (he had no choice in the matter…either please the censors or leave the profession) and likewise saw film as a double-edged sword of hypnosis.

And so his first film is really a realization…of that power in film…that power that can drive the masses to love…or to kill.

 

-PD

 

 

 

Roma città aperta [1945)

When I was younger I could take the easy way.

But as I have grown older I have found that increasingly impossible.

In moments of weakness I think of money.  A job.  Adventure.

But none of that really matters.

What matters is our fellow human beings.

Dear friends, this film (Rome, Open City) is an extremely moving experience.

What I try to bring to you as an amateur film critic are the words of a man immersed in the film…baptized…in the experience of each film.

Most pieces of cinema are not worth this effort, but occasionally a film is worth every minute…every second…every tear shed.

Roma città aperta is a masterpiece from director Roberto Rossellini.  This is a very famous film because of the milieu in which it was made.

WWII was not even over.  You can imagine how hard it must have been to get film stock (film for the camera) while Europe was in flames and Italy was a defeated country occupied by the Allies.

But this film tells of Italy occupied by the Nazis (and, indeed, Rome was occupied by the Nazis prior to American occupation).

But all of these descriptions I’m giving you…they mean nothing.

What you must understand about this film is that it did something which no film before it had done.

This film was infused with the sorrow of the World Wars, but was presented as one would present a documentary.

Hence the name neorealism.

Anna Magnani is so beautiful, but not glamorous.  She is beautiful because she is believable.  It takes a philosophical film director to deliver such a performance.  It also takes a hell of an actress!

Roma città aperta is like an opera by Mascagni or Leoncavallo.  Verismo!

Act I ends with Magnani running after her fiancé.  The SS have literally come to take him away.  And her weaving, desperate run became an iconic film moment which wouldn’t be adequately interpolated back into the cinematic discussion till Jean-Paul Belmondo took the entire Rue Campagne-Première to die in À Bout de souffle. 

Godard was young.  À Bout de souffle was his first film.

Godard took the easy way.  Postmodernism.

A bit from here and a bit from there.  Voila!

But later Godard grew a conscience.  And his conscience helped him find himself kicked to the curb of the film industry.

In our film, Aldo Fabrizi is the voice of conscience.

He plays the priest don Pietro.

He’s not your average priest.

This is a guy who stands against the Nazis.

Don Pietro helps the resistance.

Don Pietro gives and gives and gives and asks nothing.

He is a true man of God…a true humanitarian.

He helps anyone in need…atheists, communists, it doesn’t matter.

But one thing is important.

Don Pietro has made a value judgment concerning the Nazis.

He has discerned who the enemy is.

That is a large step.

Today, we are told every day who our enemy is supposed to be.

The worst offender is Fox News, but the other networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC) are all equally devoid of journalistic merit.

As for the print media, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post are completely worthless.

If you lived in Nazi Germany, you would have been bombarded with propaganda about how the Jews were the enemy and how the Jews were responsible for every conceivable ill in society.

That was, of course, untrue.

In America today, we are told (particularly by the infantile Fox News) that Islam and Muslims are the enemy and that every conceivable problem in the world today relates back to this group.

This is, obviously, untrue.

The other three/five networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC) are more eager to push gun control (something which Hitler would no doubt have applauded).

And so, I propose to you, dear readers that what we are seeing in the world today is an array of psychological operations which mirror something about which Italy knows only too well:  Operation Gladio.

But I propose to you that what we are seeing nowadays are multiple Gladios run by gently-warring factions of the New World Order.

The biggest Gladio in operation (a series of false-flag attacks accompanied by fake wars) is the one being run by the neoconservative faction of the New World Order (including several prominent Zionists who, despite holding high U.S. government offices [and Top Secret clearances], held dual citizenship during their terms of service to the U.S. with Israel and the U.S.).  This Gladio brought you the Paris attacks.  This Gladio is responsible for the War “on” Terror (including the synthetic Arab army/marketing confection known as ISIS).  And finally, this Gladio almost certainly brought you the San Bernardino shooting as well.

The main goal of the neoconservative Gladio is endless war.  It is a macro operation.  It operates on the level of geopolitics.  War profiteering, oil, drugs…  The neoconservative Gladio brought you the mother of all false-flags:  9/11.

On the other hand is the liberal Gladio.  The liberal Gladio brought you Sandy Hook (their masterpiece).  Their other suspected jobs are Aurora (the Batman shooter) and Umpqua.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to also include the OKC bombing and the Waco massacre of the Branch Davidians.  But focusing on the first three cases alone (Sandy Hook, Aurora, Umpqua), it is very clear that the liberal Gladio has as its main goal gun control.

The liberal Gladio is operating on a micro (or domestic) level.  The San Bernardino shooting was meant to make Obama look soft on crime.  The neocon gang which engineered the shooting exhibited perfect timing as Obama had recently announced an initiative to reclaim MRAPs from local law enforcement across the country (in response to police abuse of power).  The neocons took a page out of the liberal false-flags-for-gun-control playbook on this one, but the main goal was endless war.  [This, of course, didn’t prevent Obama from trying to leverage the event to prop up HIS faction’s agenda.]

The unfortunate equation is that neither side can expose the deeds of the opposing side because they are both dealing in untruths.  Obama has, up until now, squandered his opportunity to bring the neocons of the Bush administration to task for 9/11 and the fraudulent War “on” Terror.  Indeed, Obama has only proven that he himself is a fraud down to his very core.

The layers-upon-layers of lies in the United States cannot hold.  Snowden pierced the veil.  Only those with a conscience can save us now.

 

-PD