Like any of us I was steeped in war movies long before I knew what anything meant. By twenty my favorite war movies were anti-war movies: All Quiet on the Western Front, Paths of Glory … I’ve seen some really good ones since those too: Pretty Village, Pretty Flame, for example. The aspect of such that I’m recalling this morning however is the sore-thumb presence of neutral ha-ha observers ha-ha: some moron stands between a Hatfield and a McCoy, telling them to kiss and make up, or telling them to keep their blows above the belt, or telling them no biting, no kicking …
Heisenberg is one of the great thinkers of recent times, unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately – who would want rational humans infesting the universe?) few of the few who understand some tiny percentage of the implications of his thought will ever get near any rein of human power, and any who might will have their hands tied. For example, the writers of Star Trek assuredly get less than one half of 1%: Captain Kirk roams the universe, interfering in other species’ business, while saying that he wouldn’t dream of it: non-interference is the moron humans’ Prime Directive!
And I’m reminded of what has alwasy been my favorite part of professional wrestling: the stage of the (staged) fight where the bad wrestler picks up the folding chair and smashes the stupid referee with it. The ref is of course in the same union with the wrestlers, gets some of the same training: and can go fuck himself if he gets his kidney ruptured.
Dig it now, I’m getting close to my point, some of the foundational points in place: mayhem, chaos, that’s what the cheap seats crave, applaud, spend money for, swill with their beer.
Who’s the Hero?
King Richard goes off on a Crusade. Evil King John reigns in his place. Who’s the hero? King Richard? Robin Hood? King John!? The Sheriff?!? No, no, no: it’s the audience!
Who’s the hero in all those Wayne westerns? The audience! Hit the ref with a chair, for the audience!
I was just flooded by a childhood memory: some woman waving her arms, some perpetual attendee at Ebbets Field for her beloved Dodgers, along with the Dodger fan band: and some parallel woman who was always shown in close up in the audience for the televised wrestling matches: a gourmand for brutality.
Meantime though, unfortunately for the audience, the real King Richard, the real King John, the real Sheriff of Nottingham, the guys paying some flunky to count the receipts from the box office, the guys who don’t give a damn about the cardboard ref in the ring who actually got hit by the fake chair, whose real kidneys could actually be smashed, go about their business without a clue (or a care) about what Heisenberg hinted.
One thing they do care about is that they’d rather the fat lady with the popcorn is cheering in Ebbets field, or in the stands around the wrestling rink, and not out running loose in Bosnia or Vietnam or Afghanistan …
As a kid I watched all those war movies, and was easily convinced that I was a monist: for God, for monotheism, for the United States; not for the US and for the Reich, for the US! only! for Christianity, one savior; not for Jesus and for Mithras and for Moloch …
So naturally I was a big fan of the League of Nations when I first heard of it, couldn’t understand what had happened to it, was totally bewildered learning the the US had not supported it. Ah, but now we had the UN, we’d learned our lesson, now we could be saved … And I turn on the TV and there’s that woman shoving popcorn in her mouth as the bad guy flattens the ref standing like an idjiot between him and the cartoon-prop good guy.
The King of the Wood, in Frazer, doesn’t pretend that he’s better than his predecessor: his only claim, the only relevant truth, is that he’s killed his predecessor: now he’s the king … for the moment!
And here’s this Serb, and there’s this Bosnian, and there, standing stupidly between them, is some fucking woman! in a UN uniform!
Whew, I’ll take a break, then see how I can fix or complete what I’ve tried to express.
Help me remember which Bosnian War movie it was that had the guy lying on top of a bomb, if he moves the bomb will explode, everyone is paralyzed, and he realizes he needs to poop! That movie was full of people standing around watching, not interfering! No, no: the baby pooping all over the nursery, all over his mother, his father, his nurse, should realize: of course he’s interfering! He’s alive.
2012 06 11 I failed to remember the title Balkan Cabaret when writing the above. Check out this review.
Here’s something I emailed to my son:
I am paused in rewatching Balkan Cabaret. Just saw the scene again between the bone breaker and the bone breaker. Only this time I was able to follow how it was set up. And this time I know what’s coming. Each scene is at least as good as the last, maybe better. And nothing better than the last scene. Reminds me to the killing of Cinna the Poet in Julius Caesar.
You can watch Gone with the Wind all you want, but until you’ve also seen Bambi, you don’t know what film can do. You can watch Gone with the Wind and Bambi every day, but if you didn’t already know Chaplin, Keaton, you don’t know what film can do. If you haven’t seen Roshomon, 7 Samurai, Yojimbo, you don’t know what film can do. La Strada, 7th Seal, etc.
This is once of those movies. I knew Bambi and Chaplin and Griffith and Jean Renoir … but Balkan Cabaret is something else again. Something really stupendous.
And beware what reviews say. The film contains a scene between a cab driver and an injured cop. The cabbie claims responsibility for the cop’s injuries, reminds the cop that he’d beaten him impotent after yanking him from a car with a girl. The review says the cabbie had been engaged in petty crime. Where did the reviewer get that information? Not from the film I saw.
Damn! Wars can stimulate some good movies. Two seconds into another Balkan movie, No Man’s Land, I pause to jot a quote:
The optimist thinks things can’t get any worse;
The pessimist knows they can
2005 02 13
Time slips away and I see another Balcan movie: Pretty Village, Pretty Flame. This one apparently won several best film awards in America. At first I found myself comparing it invidiously with Balkan Cabaret, but by the end I admired it almost as much.
The worse things are for a society the better the art it may produce.
I loved the use the film made of an American reporter.
I’m not going to go into details, but there were at least a score of priceless things. Watch the couple who hear that Tito is dead just as they climax their love making.