Ucho [1970)

A banned film.

From communist Czechoslovakia.

Party as nightmare (like O slavnosti a hostech).

But different.

Walls on all sides.

Claustrophobic.

As if Jeremy Bentham was tomorrow appointed head of the NSA.

From the single, centralized watchtower.

Stares out the embalmed ego of Bentham.

Auto-icon.

It’s just a skeleton stuffed with hay.  Dressed in Bentham’s clothes.

Like the panopticon.

A straw man prison.

Dear friends, I know of no film which conveys the horror of the 21st century.

Quite like this gem of resistance against totalitarianism.

This was the underbelly of communism.

The “evil empire” of which Reagan spoke.

His words seem funny today.  His unscientific, hypocritical words.

Because the Red Scare in the United States was typified by the same methods on display.

Here.

Surveillance.

Which I fear will not subside anytime soon.

Nor has this wave even crested.

“Mass surveillance doesn’t work,” Mr. Snowden wrote. “This bill will take money and liberty without improving safety.”

Finally The New York Times prints something worthwhile.

And even Hillary Clinton’s “History made.” ad can’t deflate the importance of Snowden’s words.

And so if you want to see the 12-tone paranoia of the communist “big brother” state (now that we are living in a “capitalist” big brother state), I would heartily recommend The Ear by director Karel Kachyňa.

It was banned for 19 years in Czechoslovakia.

Because it got real close to the truth.

It painted the communist party leaders as a bunch of jerks.

It portrayed the constant suspicion upon bureaucrats as a living nightmare.

The Ear.  Maybe some HUMINT at the party.

But largely this film deals with SIGINT (if author Jeffrey T. Richelson can be trusted).

The Ear deals primarily with what Richelson calls “clandestine SIGINT” in his book The U.S. Intelligence Community.

What we encounter in Ucho are “the oldest of these devices” (viz. “traditional audio surveillance devices”).

Wikipedia does a passable job outlining this area of inquiry in the article “Covert listening device”.

But dear friends…describing it so matter-of-factly does no justice to the strain which omnipresent surveillance puts on largely innocent people.

And therefore The Ear is a film which shows the psychological toll that governments exact when they make ethics secondary.

What we get from director Karel Kachyňa is the portrait of a society (his society) which assumes all citizens to be guilty until proven innocent.

This is ostensibly the opposite of the American system, but today’s Amerika is merely the other side of the coin:  same pervasion of surveillance (even if it is “capitalist”).

My hypothesis is that “free market” America has come to all-to-closely resemble the regimes it fought to defeat.  Those “victories”, then, were hollow.  We have appropriated the worst, most tortuous means of our past enemies.

But Kachyňa has another message for us in this masterpiece.

In such upside-down societies, promotion might be the worst form of punishment.

Beware, my coopted friends.

 

-PD

 

Kanał [1956)

I feel like this film.

Every day.

But it might as well be today.

Trudging through excrement.

There is no kindly way to put it.

War.

I do not know.

Resistance.

I do.

Give me that wedding ring.

No thing of value will perish with you.

It is hard to keep your thoughts clear in a sewer.

Surely lighting a match is unadvisable.

But we only know the Merry Christmas war.

Shitter’s full.

The miserables.

Henry Miller may have imagined it too late.

As Robert Schumann said, you must only think of a melody and write it down.

Or remember a melody that no one else has remembered.

I don’t know.

It’s hard to think down here.

With these fumes.

Starved for oxygen.

But we have a real story.

Teresa Iżewska is all but forgotten in the English-speaking world.

What a shame.

Because she conjures a dying palliative.

Don’t open your eyes, Saul.

Let me describe it to you.

There is a Bechstein piano with the left front leg missing.

Kissing the ground.

And the composer goes to work.

The focal point of our story.

Władysław Sheybal or Vladek Sheybal.

He brings the movie to life along with director Andrzej Wajda.

Yes, I fell in love with Polish films because of Popiół i diament.

And now we come to Kanał.

The sewer.  Sewers.  Dante.  Hell.

“Piano music should only be written for the Bechstein.”  –Claude Debussy

But did he say it in English?

Surely not Polish.

And so we celebrate our heroes now in our resistance.

Andreas von Bülow, for instance.

And we turn our ear to the acoustics of this torture chamber.

Thanks to Hans von Bülow.

You probably know Sheybal (if at all) as Kronsteen of From Russia with Love.

Yes, the early Bond films had credibility.  Class.

Goldfinger employed Gert Fröbe (whom I should have mentioned for his small-yet-comedic role in Mr. Arkadin).

And now we still have great actors in the Bond films…Daniel Craig (yes, I believe he’s truly special), Jesper Christensen (an acting god!), Ralph Fiennes (another holy)…even Ben Whishaw when he doesn’t have shite lines.

And who doesn’t love Léa Seydoux?

But to this formidable ensemble was added the raw sewage/faux talent of Christoph Waltz.

Likewise, John Logan, Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Jez Butterworth…these four fell far short of the mark in Spectre that Jerzy Stefan Stawiński set with Kanał.

I mention Spectre because I have been reconsidering my harsh review of it.

But, dear friends, much of my revulsion concerning Spectre remains (even after a second viewing).

On the other hand, a film literally steeped in shit (Kanał) has stood the test of time for 60 years.

ATTN:  James Bond franchise (Eon Productions), Hollywood, et al.

Stop stopping at Hitchcock.

Sam Mendes.

Your rips of The Birds and North by Northwest did not go unnoticed.

But why not delve deeper into film history?

Wanna help bring down the surveillance panopticon?

Gonna have to try a lot harder than that.

The façade won’t crumble with half-assed efforts.

Start here, perhaps.

 

-PD

 

 

La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc [1928)

For this one I should really write a good piece.

Because this is a miracle of cinema.

Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc.

You might cue it up on Hulu (good luck with Netflix) as part of the Criterion Collection.

You might put your headphones on.

But the Criterion Collection presents this as a truly silent film.

We know that that wasn’t the case most of the time with “silent” films.

They had live piano accompaniment.  Perhaps an orchestra.

In some countries (Japan?) they had sound effects performed live.

But watching La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc today is truly a lonely experience. 

You might keep the headphones on out of habit (as if a sound might finally emerge…but it never does).

It takes a valiant effort to watch this film in its totality and not cry when the famous scene comes.

“The famous scene” I refer to is the one made famous by Godard’s best “movie”:  Vivre sa vie.

Anna Karina sits in a movie theater and watches this very film.  And we join her just in time to see the tears roll down her cheeks.

Joan of Arc.

She stood for something.

And somehow, a “religious” court found her guilty.  She is labeled for all time, by this panel of judges, an “apostate” and an “idolater”.

What a tragedy!

It very plainly shows us the error of religion.

Joan’s religion is pure.  Her dedication is personal.

And who ever gave “the Church” the power to kill?

There is no part of the New Testament which even suggests such a power should emanate from Jesus through the Apostles (his “descendants”) and on down the ages to “the Church”.

And so Christianity failed.  There are a lot of apologies to be handed out.  The Inquisition, etc.

[It should be pointed out that the Catholic Church rectified this mistake made by a regional element which was allied with the English against the French.]

But the important thing is that Joan stood.

She stood for something.  Even if she was a fiery mystic like Hildegard von Bingen.

And who do we have to look to today?

I would say Snowden.  Is Snowden the real article?

He is certainly filling the needed role.

The great evil now is the surveillance state.

It is plain and simple.

And Will Smith should win the Oscar for Best Actor in Concussion even if for one line:  “Tell the truth!”

But there are far more important things on which we need the truth.

9/11, the War “on” Terror, ISIS…

Who is standing for those nearly 3000 who died horrible deaths in New York City?

When you wave a false flag, your soldiers don’t mete out justice.

When you wave a false flag, you get the wrong people.

No wonder Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had to be waterboarded 183 times.

And Guantanamo is full of goat farmers.

Therefore (q.e.d.), the 19 hijackers story (being impossible without the assistance of highly-placed “moles” in both the FBI and CIA) is the deadliest “Once upon a time…” ever written.

As much sympathy as I have for all those who died on 9/11 (and it is substantial), we must recognize the web of death which emanated from that lie…that “Once upon a time…”.  Try reading the 9/11 Commission Report without vomiting.  Why, because it is graphic?  No.  Because it reads like “My Pet Goat” (which George W. Bush was busy reading in Florida while he should have been rushing for cover = fake terror [w/ real death]).

Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria…

It is disgusting.  There is not a “dictator” or “warlord” in the world who has wrought the needless destruction which the United States of America (by way of lies) has visited upon the Muslim world in the past 15 years.

But let’s be fair.  Our soldiers have been tricked.  Their lives have been ruined in the course of fighting this imperial war.  I am an American.  I pity our military.  They did not join up to fight shadow wars.  They did not join up to be the tools of imperialists.  They wanted to protect the United States.  Their generals have only succeeded in making the world a more dangerous place.

And that brings us to ISIS.  ISIS typifies everything fake about the War “on” Terror.  From the bastards who brought you the self-inflicted wound known as 9/11 comes a new comedy starring those wild and crazy terrorists who sprang up from nowhere.

Just like al-Qaeda.  Sprang up from nowhere.  Of course, there was the Operation Cyclone-era groundwork laid (that would be, CIA funding), but in general the “roll-out” of al-Qaeda was fairly quick.  But ISIS took the cake.  The confectioners of fake terror (that would be, the U.S., U.K., NATO countries, Israel, Five Eyes, take your pick, etc.) really outdid themselves with their speed to market in introducing ISIS.  In doing so, the New World Order (let’s call them) cannibalized their own product (al-Qaeda) just as Apple does each time it rolls out a new iPhone.

And so it has been transparent all along.  The catchy name has incriminated ISIS (no fundamentalist terrorist group from the Middle East would ever name themselves after an Egyptian pagan god) from the beginning.

ISIS is like a water cooler joke at Langley.  The spooks can’t believe how dumb we are.

And so it has been the U.S. airdrops which have sustained ISIS.  Yes, Turkey has provided a good bit of sustenance (under the aegis of NATO).

And the aerial campaign against ISIS’ formidable Toyota (!) trucks?  Nonexistent.

WE have been ISIS’ air force.  We haven’t been bombing ISIS.  At all.  Ever.

Russia has made this clear.

Make no mistake, Russia entered the Syrian theater because of the insanity of NATO along her borders.

Since Russia has entered:

-Russian passenger jumbo jet blown up over the Sinai Peninsula

-sabotage operation of explosions which have knocked out a considerable amount of power in Crimea (in the winter)

– Turkish (NATO) shootdown of Russian fighter/bomber

These are not pleasant things.

It is hard to tell exactly what role the Paris attacks played.

I think they were an American operation which backfired when France leaned towards Russia.  It is, however, possible that it was a French-engineered false-flag to allow France a pretext for joining Russia.  Perhaps the DGSE saw no other solution than sacrificing a hundred or so Parisians to stop the American war of insanity in Syria.

What is most obvious is the general arc of this farce:  9/11 (absolutely false narrative regarding the guilty party), the War “on” Terror (more lies lies lies…never ending war…profits for Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, United Technologies, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum ad nauseam), and ISIS (as fake as the Kuwaiti babies being ripped out of incubators which was foisted upon the U.S. Congress thanks to Hill & Knowlton PR firm).

And so we stand.  Each in our own little ways.

The panopticon is already constructed.

The camps are empty.

The data vacuumed up thus far will be mined from now till eternity.

Thus, Snowden needs to be eclipsed.

Who will be the next great human to take the world stage?

 

-PD

Game of Death [1978)

Panopticon.

Self-censorship.

Can’t leave well-enough alone.

Yes.  In America we have our heroes of the Revolution.  George Washington.  Paul Revere.

But here…we have a sad goodbye to a great hero for Hong Kong.

Thus begins the Bruce Lee apochrypha.

It starts very bad.  Some of the editing seems straight out of the Tim and Eric Awesome Show.

But it gets better.  Way better!  No, this is not a great film.  It’s not even really a good film.  But for fans of Bruce Lee it is worth watching for several reasons.

I must admit:  Bruce Lee brought about a change in my innermost being.  I know that sounds naïve.  I owe some credit to Shaquille O’Neal.  I just happened to catch an interview between Shaq and Yao Ming in which O’Neal admitted that his passion for basketball stemmed from being inspired by Bruce Lee.

Having recently seen Lee’s canonic oeuvre when I came across this interview, it made total sense to me what Shaq was saying.

And that brings us to one of the highlights of Game of Death:  Bruce Lee vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.  Yes, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer indeed plays a fairly significant role in this film.  What is more, this gives me the opportunity to reach out and wish Kareem a speedy recovery as he has just recently undergone coronary bypass surgery.

It actually is amazing that director Robert Clouse put together a semi-watchable film from what little he had to go on.

Hugh O’Brian is pretty good in this.  It’s just a shame that his acting talents go to waste in dialogues with body doubles.

If I haven’t made it abundantly clear, let me clarify:  Bruce Lee was no longer alive when this film was being put together.  Though Lee filmed portions of it, his absence presented a particularly insurmountable problem.

It pains me to say this, but it really is the ensemble cast which keeps this film afloat when it should lag and sag from Lee’s missing contribution.  Dean Jagger is a disgusting psychopath who reminds me of what I imagine Donald Rumsfeld to be like behind closed doors.

The biggest saving grace is Colleen Camp.  She looks so beautiful in this film!

As for there being a conspiracy involved in the demise of Bruce Lee, I don’t doubt that for a second.  Unfortunately, it is not a subject on which I have any pertinent knowledge.

We fans can continue to gain inspiration from the anti-fascist characters Lee embodied.  His short life brought such joy and exhilaration into the world.

-PD