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Knatz.com tried to teach tools for survival, but Knatz.com came also to serve as a drum head on which I beat out revenge fantasies: castigating my society for its ongoing habit of piling profits on the destroyers while punishing and impoverishing those who dare to imagine unconventional solutions. I went into detail celebrating a revenge fantasy from art when I recounted such a story embedded in Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. I repeat it here, two versions:
The movie is The Seven Samurai (Shichinin No Samurai), Akira Kurosawa, director and auteur.
A peasant village is attacked annually at harvest time by mounted bandits. The bandits leave them just enough food to have another harvest to attack the following year. The suffering farmers manage to enlist the sympathy of a ronin samurai. He raises an army for them of seven more or less peers to himself. The seven will direct as well as participate in the defense of the village.
During the peasants’ training the audience comes to know a few of the individual peasants. One may be comic, another pathetic. One of them, Rikichi, bears an undiagnosed sorrow.
It’s decided that a night reconnaissance of the bandit stronghold might give the samurai an idea of what they are up against and also an opportunity to shave the odds. Rikichi thinks he might be able to help the expedition locate the fortress. He does. The team estimates a head count through chinks in the logs. They set fire to the timber lodge. They’ll attack the first few out the door, then flee.
The fire gains hold slowly. The camera visits the sleepers within as only a bit of smoke curls among them. One woman isn’t sleeping. She raises her head and smells the smoke. She looks about and sees incipient flames all around. She smiles and settles back into silent relaxation.
Eventually choking bandits are plunging half naked through the door. Three samurai dispatch three or four, then retreat rapidly to their horses. The bandits make no pursuit. They’re busy with the fire. The skirmishers are safe. The raid was a success. They are away and will soon be well away, Rikichi is doing well enough on foot. But suddenly Rikichi’s butt has plunged to the forest floor. His mouth is open in horror, amazement. The silent watcher from within emerges from the lodge, eerily smiling a perverse enjoyment of the chaos. She turns and reenters the flames.
“My wife,” says Rikichi.
The above is from my piece Made for TV (meaning we are made for TV!) The following is from my on line response to the movie Troy:
I relate to Rikichi’s identified but unnamed wife: regard her as my superior. I am captive among bandits: daily raped and exploited. I smell smoke. I try to warn my captors. Fortunately, I am not in control. Nature makes sure that my captors heed none of my signals! She had the good sense to die mum.) (Jesus spoke in parables so we wouldn’t get it: would fail to grasp salvation.)
The prevailing pattern was to kill the men, then take your time with the women and children. Some you’d kill, some you’d rape and kill. Some you’d enslave, some few you’d adopt or marry. The comely child, the comely woman had a chance in their new society.
Notice: For a long time our social evolution has encouraged loyalty to the group among males, encouraged females and children to switch allegiance in a heart beat. Then along comes the moron Enlightenment and tells us that we’re all equal. What a laugh.
Also note: Homer has long been celebrated as a supreme artist. Not being born to Ancient Greek as my language, I can’t really say: but I see other reasons it’s so. I’m also handicapped with regard to Kurosawa, maker of The Seven Samuari: but I see even more clearly there: he too is a supreme artist.
Homer showed rapine from the standpoint of the descendants of the rapists. Whoopee. Kurosawa included a vignette from the standpoint of the raped. That’s one better!
(With six billion people on a burdened planet we should seriously consider becoming Vikings or Greeks again. But please, let’s drop this silly pretense of morality.)
[2015 07 28 There’s another Japanese movie, 1960s, that made me guffaw: a band of bandits work together. At a pause in a battle one is telling the others of a job he had once: kidnap the pesants, force them to build a castle, then kill all the workers so the castle’s location would be secret. “How awful”, one bandit says: “How’d you escape?” “Oh, I was one of the killer!” the guy answers.]
The other day I had a vivid memory from the 1960s: a decade in which I listened repeatedly to to Brecht – Weil songs, parroting the German (without (yet) understanding a word of it). I wanted to remember the Brecht song about who gets stepped on and who does the stepping. I wanted the German, which now I do understand a little bit of. Google took me to a PDF of the libretto of The Three Penny Opera. And I went into ecstasy, and remained in ecstasy, for a good several minutes, and I relived my phonetic memory, reviewing it by my understanding of German which came only at the end of the 1960s.
Pirate Jenny — und Sie wissen nicht. mit wem Sie reden — brought me right back to Seven Samurai!
Here are the lyrics, German, then English. (We’ll see what the blog does with the German text diacritical marks.)
POLLY. Meine Herren, heute sehen Sie mich Glaser abwaschen,
POLLY: Now you gents all see I’ve glasses to wash.
I don’t know German well enough to really compare but Brecht’s German thrills me while the translation leaves me numb. Brecht, to me, makes the German sound as evil as the WWII propaganda I grew up with.
What a crime that my grandparents let their German atrophy, while I had to struggle and pay money to learn it, near age thirty: forever crippled in my ancestral tongue. On the other hand I’m not sure I admire those who ignore English while living in an English-speaking culture: the Histpanics, many a Jew … While I love those who can switch back and forth, accent or not: many a Jew!
Look at Mel Brooks: we all love that!
PS: Note that Christianity is itself a revenge fantasy: Caesar beats up on God’s son, the downtrodden, passing themselves as God’s specials, imagine God taking revenge on the big bad kleptocrats.
Too bad: all we ever actually see is the kleptocracy: where Caesar has the power; while God gets a lot of talk, and no muscle, unless it’s Caesar pretending to be God. Having the best of both possible worlds.
The Italians kicked Mussolini’s head through the streets, but went back to saluting bureaucrats again fast enough.