Posts Tagged ‘Colonialism

16
Dec
13

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology (2012)

PervertsIdeologyI’m not smart enough to understand more than 50% of what Slavoj Žižek is talking about. Ever. I once tried reading a book of his, and while I found it absolutely thrilling I absorbed probably 25% of the thing. Some of that is because I am not nearly as well-versed in philosophy and psychoanalysis as one might want to be to when engaging Žižek. I think the other part is the man really likes jumping around a lot. He’s excited, and excitable. That’s precisely what’s so fascinating about him, and what makes watching him on the screen preferable (for me) to his written word.

When I saw that a “sequel” to The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema was on the horizon, I just about lost it in my pants. Then, I saw it was virtually impossible to get a copy of and wasn’t playing anywhere near me. So I sat and waited. And that’s when my husband’s association with the film department pays off! For just a few days, The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology played at our local theater and we’d be damned if we were going to miss it.

Well, it absolutely lived up to my expectations, and pulls a lot of the same tricks Cinema did. The ever-enchanting Žižek implants himself in scenes from the films that he discusses. Such films include They Live, The Sound of Music, Dark Knight, A Clockwork Orange, Taxi Driver, and my personal favorite moment: Titanic. But, to what end? Well, to explain to the poor, drooling masses what ideology actually, is, of course. Why do we see the world the way we do? What are they doing to us?

I have no interest whatsoever in attempting to paraphrase what the man does here. You really should see it for yourself, and anything I try to reiterate here would just pale in comparison and lack the gusto and freneticism that makes this movie so much fun to watch. Seriously, get to know Žižek. Watch this movie. I know I’ll be watching it a few more times before I fully absorb its message. What I know for sure is that this is awesome and fun.

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27
Jul
13

Where the Green Ants Dream (1984)

Protesting.

Protesting.

In Where the Green Ants Dream, Werner Herzog takes on the plight of the Australian aborigines. I can think of no recipe more sure to yield sorrow and misanthropy. And, just as I expected, Herzog delivers a filled-to-the-brim bedpan of injustice.

The story is simple: a mining company is looking for the next big commodity. The on-site geologist, Lance Hackett, is expected to take care of a lot of tasks that aren’t really in his job description, most notably dealing with the human element of the project. Aside from the batty old woman who camps out by his trailer waiting for her lost dog to come home, Hackett must deal with a group of indigenous people protesting the exploration of their land. They believe this greenantstechparticular parcel of land is where the green ants dream, and if we disturb their sleep it will mean the end of mankind as we know it.

Hackett seems exasperated at first, but he begins to study more about Aboriginal culture, and actually tries talking with some of the protesters about their beliefs. Hackett’s attitude turns around, though not wholly; after all, his livelihood is dependent upon the company’s success finding whatever it is their looking for on this land. Eventually, the Aborigines take their case to court. A court, of course, of white men who answer to The Crown. While the whole court knows the right thing

In court. No one understands his language, because he is the last of his tribe.

In court. No one understands his language, because he is the last of his tribe.

to do is to stop the company from exploring on Aboriginal land, the law disagrees, and so the Aborigines lose the case.

There are, of course, subtleties involved that make this story a lot more compelling than any synopsis can. There are plenty of classically-Herzog philosophical monologues that inevitably get you thinking about the nature of colonialism, the “ownership” of land, and the seemingly futile struggle indigenous peoples the world over are left to fight. It will make you both sad and angry, but it is definitely a film people should see. It’s easy to forget that the modern world is still relatively new, and the repercussions of our way of life are unknown.

27
Jul
13

Walker (1987)

A few lives lost in the name of manifest destiny is nothing, right?

A few lives lost in the name of manifest destiny is nothing, right?

The more Alex Cox I watch, the more I believe Straight to Hell was the anomaly; the one unbelievably crappy movie in a filmography of interesting, worthy stuff, rather than the other way around. I’ve long been a huge fan of Repo Man and Sid & Nancy, and just recently watched Death and the Compass, which, to this day, I’m still not sure how I feel about, but it’s certainly far from terrible.

My Alex Cox study continues with Walker, a biopic about a little-known American… um… “adventurer” who declared himself president of Nicaragua in 1856. A firm believer in Manifest Destiny, William

Walker meets Vanderbilt.

Walker meets Vanderbilt.

Walker (Ed Harris) believed it his God-given right, perhaps even duty, to spread the power of the United States as far as possible. So, after Cornelius Vanderbilt (Peter Boyle) approaches him to take some buddies down South to “stabilize” the country and make it more trade-friendly, Walker goes forth, taking this duty very seriously indeed.

Once there, Walker rides a serious power-trip, names himself president, and declares the answer to the upcoming economic crisis is slavery, and does a whole lot of other despicable Colonialist-type

things that you can read about on Wikipedia. The point is, he’s just another in a long line of nasty, power-hungry racists who think America should stick their nose in everyone else’s business. It’s no coincidence this film was shot in Nicaragua in 1987, amidst the civil war there and the scandal over America’s intervention.

Yes.

Yes.

The movie itself is riddled with anachronisms – men riding in carriages are reading Times and Newsweek; everyone’s smoking Marlboros, there are even scenes with cars and helicopters! When this film was released, I guess people were really turned off by that, but I think it’s absolutely brilliant. Walker isn’t really a film about Nicaragua in the 1850’s; instead it’s a film about America’s long, dirty history of influence and intervention in places where it really doesn’t belong. Cox manages to make this painfully clear, and Harris’s deadpan, wide-eyed optimism and faith in America the Beautiful heaps it on pretty thick, too.

Walker beholds as everything crumbles...

Walker beholds as everything crumbles…

You wouldn’t think a movie about such a heavy topic could pull off funny, but it really does. I wouldn’t say laugh-out-loud funny, though there were a few barks and chuckles at the Newsweek. Through Cox’s lens, the swaggering American, swooping in and “saving” the natives seems so absurdly ridiculous, one can’t help but think it’s a joke. But, then you realize not only that it’s not a joke, but a terrible truth that’s still rampant and rotten to this very day. And that’s what’s so gosh darn brilliant about this movie.

 

14
Jul
13

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Lawrence vs. the desert

Lawrence vs. the desert

Sweeping epics aren’t usually my favorite, seeing as how they’re a far cry from schlocky horror fare. Even so, who would turn down a chance to see a 70mm print of Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen? Certainly not me; it is, after all, considered one of the best films ever made, right? So, I saddled up and sat in a theater for four hours to earn my Lawrence merit badge.

T. E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole) is strange compared to some of the other men in the British army. Stationed in Cairo during the first World War, he is considered the number one pick to trek through the desert in search of Prince Faisal, an Arab leading a revolt against the Turks – but he’s not chosen for his military prowess, and certainly not his tact; instead Lawrence is known for his extensive knowledge of the Arab people.

Anthony Quinn!

Anthony Quinn!

During his first journey through the desert, Lawrence is confronted with some details of the Arab tribes that perhaps he wasn’t so familiar with at first – namely, their differences which often result in violent conflict with one another. His first escort drinks freely from a rival tribe’s well, and as a result is killed by Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif). Much of Lawrence’s goal after this incident is concerned with helping the Arab tribes overcome their differences and uniting against the Ottoman Empire. At least, that’s the aspect of the film that I found most interesting.

Of course there’s a heck of a lot more than that going on – the Brits and the French are figuring out ways to carve out the empire amongst themselves and use Lawrence as a distraction to the Arab people to make it seem as if they’re interested in their fates. Well, perhaps that’s a bit strong – I’m no historian, but that’s the sense I got watching the film.

By golly, Mom was right - Omar Sharif *does* look like my Grandfather!

By golly, Mom was right – Omar Sharif *does* look like my Grandfather!

Lawrence spends an enormous amount of time in the desert (amounts to about 3 hours, I’d say) and his ego gets a pretty intense roller-coaster ride: he’s able to convince men to travel through one of the most dangerous deserts to claim a city in their name, and sort of ends up with a God-complex. Then he’s found out by some Turks and tortured (maybe worse?) to the point where he nearly gives up and asks for a cushy job in some government building with fans. So, despite the enormous scope the movie starts off with (World War I, Pan-Arabism, vast deserts, etc.) the movie ends up (as expected by the title, I suppose) being more about a man than a place or an event.

Am I glad I watched this? Absolutely. Did it knock my socks off? Not exactly, but it didn’t feel like a four-hour movie, which, of course, is a very good thing. If you can make deserts and politics interesting enough to entertain someone like me (you know, someone with the attention span of a gnat) then you’ve certainly done a pretty good job.

28
Jan
13

Baraka (1992)

BarakaAborigineI’ve seen Koyaanisqatsi before, so I had some idea as to what to expect with Baraka: a sort of moving photo-collage about technology, industry and traditional peoples, with no narration and no plot, right? Sort of, yes, but Baraka does it better and without Philip Glass.

I don’t normally use phrases like “stunningly gorgeous,” but this film absolutely fits that description. Each scene is perfectly photographed, every pair of eyes is piercing. With no dialog and no plot, this film still tells an incredibly intense and important story. What we see are shots of different places around the world: mountains, volcanoes, oceans, rivers; structures made by man juxtaposed with structures made by Earth. We see all sorts of different religious practices; the prayers of the whirling dervish next to those BarakaDervishesof Israeli Jews next to Buddhists.

The film never reveals where each shot is taken, so we never know exactly where we are on the Earth, and I think that is exactly the point: this is the story of the Earth and all of its people. Without any narration it manages to show that, though there are many different cultures on earth (and how extremely different from one another they can be) we all have the same human goals; the same human nature. We all have the same urge to create as well as the unfortunate ability to destroy. It touches on BarakaFeatherGuylarge populations in urban locales and small, traditional populations alike. We see people living in the jungle dancing, and we see people working in a cigarette factory. We see the horrors of war and the beauty of death.

You are doing yourself a true disservice by not watching this. It’s really affecting and beautiful. It does its job perfectly, and that’s a true rarity in any cinematic venture.

18
Aug
12

Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972)

Believe it or not, before watching Aguirre: The Wrath of God, the only Werner Herzog movies I’d seen were documentaries. I knew I was missing out. 

Loosely based on historical events, this movie follows a group of Spanish conquistadores as they travel down the Amazon river in search of El Dorado. Aguirre, played by Klaus “crazy-eyes” Kinski does not agree with the man in charge when he suggests the group turn back. He leads a mutiny, convincing the rest of the group that “untold riches” await them when they reach El Dorado.

From here, everything falls apart. Food runs out, rafts are swept away in the rising river, and Aguirre gets crazier and crazier. This isn’t the most soul-crushing movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s up there. Not a bad orientation into the world of Herzog. I’m excited for more.




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