/ Movies /
(and Macho Jeune Fille!) (follows from the preceding post: Spics’ Pix)
Wilmer is escorting Sam Spade. The pockets of Wilmer’s idiot gangster overcoat bulge. Humphrey Bogart grabs Elisha Cook Junior, folds the neck of the overcoat down over his arms, rendering him straight-jacketed, incapable of drawing those two big heaters. “I’ve taken guns away from punks like you before,” Bogie snarls at Cook in another scene: one before his boss, the Fat Man. Sidney Greenstreet chuckles and chuckles, at poor Wilmer’s expense: then sells him down the river.
There’s a lot of Americana mixed up in that paragraph. Thank God I once got to smile at John Huston (auteur of that great Hammett movie) and see him wink back at me as he enjoyed the Milton Green serigraph I had of Marilyn Monroe in my Madison Avenue gallery window. Don’t forget, Huston used MM in her first, and in her last, picture!
We sit in the audience. We love Bogie. We like to pretend to believe that he can render professional killers helpless, that he’s skilled, fearless, resourceful. We like to pretend to believe that Clint can shoot down dozens of guys, all bristling with firearms, that John Wayne wasn’t a WWII fink but a hero, along with papa John Ford: bourbon and Hollywood, not Iwo Jima, sand, and lead. Maybe Bogie actually could rough up Elisha Cook Junior, maybe he did, when the whole party was flowing with scotch. Point is: we believe the heroics of the male actors. (I love nothing better than to believe the heroics of Toshiro Mifune as he rehearses his kendo cuts before Kurosawa’s camera.)
Zoe introduces us to the sharks
Here’s this movie, Colombiana. It’s a show case for Zoe Saldana. Look at those legs! She’s half-sister to a praying mantis! her cousins are grasshoppers. She’s got almost no hips, but man, what she’s got!
(She does a great shimmy in this movie, maximizing the effect of that skinny butt.) (Check out Spics’ Pix, the previous post, if you didn’t start there.) (Also see Double Vision.)
Before going on, I insert, macho, in the title, is I believe a Spanish word, it’s a socially dirty word from Hispanic culture. It applies to the male! as in excessively male, absurdly male. I‘m applying it to the female! My doing so is precisely in the tradition of tough girl films such as La Femme Nikita, Point of No Return … The Professional … The Silence of the Lambs … Dragon Tattoo …
Fille is French: as in jeune fille: girl, young girl.
In The Professional Natalie Partman plays a pre-teen apprentice hit man! In Silence little Jodie Foster gets the bad guy, while her special bad guy, far-from-macho Hannibal Lecter, escapes the evil pervert clutches of the main stream society.
No, this stuff doesn’t litanize the headlines, but does distill essential myths for us.
Man, what a kick! I “publish” this mid-sentence to size the pic, and have two Likes by the time I load to look! Thanks, guys, but check back, I’m only just starting.
In this image Leon holds the gun, Mathilda holds Leon. But he’s teaching her, she handles plenty of weaponry not normally associated with skinny legged thirteen year olds. In Colombiana … kerpowie! Nine year old Catalaya (the girl is named for an orchid) sits stoically, helpless (any one would think), as her parents are butchered, as the butchers mistime riddling her too, underestimating her, stupidly dismissing her. But when the thug asks what she most wants, she wields the knife she’s been concealing under the table, nails bozo’s hand with it, and hisses that she wants to kill his boss! Now in the Godfather — wonderful, wonderful — when Sollozzo stabs Tessio through the hand, pinning him to the bar while an associate garottes him, man, everybody jumps. Now here’s a cute little Colombian girl showing the “same” ferocity.
One of the great cuts in the history of movies came when the evil civilization, after killing his parents, tethers the young Conan to the mill stone: time dissolve: behold! It’s Arnold! (Irony, irony: they built him up like that!)
Well, our little bud of a macho fille then dissolves into … Zoe’s Catalaya!
See my point? The male as hero is largely fictional, but it’s a fiction we’re used to. The female as hero is also fiction — was ever anything on TV more absurd than Diana Rigg doing ballet poses before the camera while stunt men threw themselves around the room, pretending she was beating them up — but if we can swallow the male fiction why can’t we also swallow the female fiction? If so, Luc Bresson and bretheren challenge us, why not accept little girls as lethal, especially if they’re as cute as Natalie Portman.
(How could I have neglected to mention Kill Bill in the first drafts?) (2012 06 24 And now our eyes are saturated with pix of a pixie-sized redhead who’s lethal with a bow and arrow, in Brave: a Disney cartoon!
Check out Bernard Cornwell’s archer series, the role of the long bow in English history. Girls don’t qualify: any more than I qualify to play basketball against Wilt, Kareem, Magic, Lebron …
(Cheez, I just named a few monster players, and now see: where’s a great white hope among them? Woody Harrelson, Kevin Bacon … John Stockton, Jerry West: they can play basketball! but against Wilt, Kareem, Magic, Lebron?)
Once upon a time Christians sang hymns about … what the Jews had sung about: loving God. A whole literature developed in which the only legitimate use for love of a woman was so Beatrice could lead Dante to glimpse heaven: God’s heaven, not Beatrice’s heaven!
Male! Dig it?
But the next thing you know wise guy John Donne is writing poems about getting laid as though it were a vision of God!
White kleptocrats enslave “black” Africans to grow their cotton for them so they can sell it to (evil olde) England. (note below) The next thing you know the black Africans are singing songs about how much Jesus loves them, how much they love Jesus. This stuff is their church music: and it goes through the same we-don’t-got-no-sex-here pretense that Dante’s Christianity had gone through.
But the next thing you know Ray Charles (with his Raynettes) is playing gospel funk, and it’s clearly, to anyone, not about God; it’s about booty!
We pretend one thing, then another, then we make art of the contradiction. We pretend that woman are helpless. So, if women are helpless, how helpless must a little girl be?
Well, the most helpless little girl you can find is still x-times-ten-thousand times bigger, and maybe potentially multiple-times more lethal … than, than anything.
But the jokes can’t be properly appreciated unless you remember to realize that maybe Bogie couldn’t disarm Elisha Cook quite so reliably. Maybe we have no accurate maps of human puissance.
Yes, there are real male heroes, real male atheletes, truly brave (and sometimes lucky) men. But there have always been brave and lucky women too. And little boys, and girls.
(It’s the males though who have their genome’s mating strategies inextricably tangled up in bravery.)
Meantime, art, culture … consigns us to fantasy realities. And some movies do wonderful things with them.
Note, important note: the cotton from America’s south was for England’s textile mills: it’s industry! masquerading as agriculture! Just like not saying so is disinformation, costumed as education. Both the “south” and the “north” are industrialists, just of different specialties.