Neo-Fascist Consideration of Walon Green & Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH: The Ride of the ‘Last Barbarians’(and Some Notes on Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Ingmar Bergman). PART 2.

http://ostrovletania.blogspot.com/2015/05/walon-green-sam-peckinpahs-wild-bunch_97.html

Continued from PART 1 of the Blogpost.

Topics discussed: The Third Man, Harry Lime, virtues and subvirtues, Andrei Rublev, Stalker, Solaris, Andrei Tarkovsky, Nostalghia, Excalibur, Requiem for a Dream, Darren Aronofsky, Kenji Mizoguchi, Medieval Era, Akira Kurosawa, Record of a Living Being, I Live in Fear, Ran, Lady Kaeda, Zabriskie Point, Ugetsu Monogatari, Robert Bresson, Chinatown, Dark Patriarch, Ohayo, Yasujiro Ozu, Dodeskaden, Being John Malkovich, Fellini Satyricon, Michael Cimino, Heaven’s Gate, I Vitelloni, La Dolce Vita, Theo Angelopoulos, Vampyr, Carl Dreyer, the power of TV, Sabrina Rubin Erderly, omnipotent objectivity, omnipotent subjectivity, impure purism, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, John Carpenter, Ingmar Bergman, Private Confession, Sunday’s Children, Best Intentions, Emir Kusturica, Time of the Gypsies.

Anyway, as Steve Judd and Gil Westrum are naturally head-and-shoulders above the rest, there’s a regal quality about Deke Thornton and Pike Bishop missing in most others. Dutch is certainly superior to the Gorches and Old Man Sykes(who is sort of like the old patriarch in STRAW DOGS), but he too seems more a follower than a leader. He is capable and even something of a frontier ‘philosopher’, but he’s more the rudder than the steer. Pike and Deke are superior men in a barbarian world(thereby imbued with qualities that can rise above barbarism). In a barbarian world, even men of superior qualities — even good men — must live by barbarism. In contrast, people who freely/individually choose to become criminals within the heart of civilization are likely to be men with low moral qualities — unless society is under severe socio-economic duress, like Japan and Germany following World War II, accounting as to why even good men were, at least for awhile, compelled to deal in the black market and even resort to criminal means to survive. Why does the father turn to thievery himself at the end of Vittorio DeSica’s BICYCLE THIEVES — he turns to thievery but doesn’t quite become a thief because he needs a bike to keep his job; in contrast, the guy who stole his bike has turned to a life of crime; it’s the difference between a man who’s tempted into thievery out of desperation(like the woodcutter who stole the missing dagger) and a man who shamelessly embraces it(like the commoner who happily took the baby’s clothing) at the end of RASHOMON. If even good men can turn to crime or questionable practices during times of economic collapse and hardship, there are some who revel in nihilism and opportunity for plunder. Consider Harry Lime in THE THIRD MAN who is a charming sociopath. Lime is completely without conscience about anything except his own money, thrills, and advantages. He will sell anything and betray anything to get what he wants. Even his friend and lover are mere ants in the grand design of things. As he’s intelligent and has a winning personality, he can make anyone fall in love with him or care about him, but their feelings don’t go reciprocated, at least not in any meaningful way as he’s capable of killing or betraying even the closest friend or most devoted lover just to get a lucky break for himself. (One wonders if the woman herself is a sociopath because she doesn’t seem to care about anything except for Lime even though his black market schemes have hurt and even killed many innocent people, even babies. Or could it be that her sense of morality is more traditionalist than individualist: more about blind loyalty than conscience? Or could it be her sense of truth/honor is more about individuality than the conventional: personal over social? Or does romance have its own kind of nihilism that extinguishes all conventional sense of right and wrong? Ironically, the Joseph Cotten character’s love for humanity makes him turn against his old friend Lime, but the woman’s love for Lime makes her turn away from humanity.)

Alida Valli in THE THIRD MAN – The Nihilism of Love

There may be something of Lime in Pike who is a kind of a crafty character. But, Lime is very much the product of civilization, whereas Pike likely grew up in a world that was, at best, half-civilized and pretty much barbaric. So, to use a cliche, Pike could have become an outlaw because he “didn’t know any better.” it’s not much of a moral excuse, but he certainly isn’t a man of fancy learning. Nevertheless, due to his superior intelligence and other qualities, he appears to have made better use of knowledge gained in life. He seems like a self-educated barbarian who always squeezed a lesson or two from his various encounters and experiences. In contrast, Harry Lime, being urbane and educated, really ‘should know better’, and of course, he does know better but he just doesn’t care. And it’s not simply a matter of temptation, which was the case with Gil in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY. Gil ‘forgot it’, but he was most grateful to Judd for having helped him ‘recover it’. (Ironically, it’s the Hammond brothers who really facilitate Westrum’s full moral recovery. If the Hammonds had not killed Elsa’s father and not ambushed Judd, there would been no opportunity for Westrum to ride in for the rescue and play the role of redeemed sinner. If not for the Hammonds’ relentless pursuit of Elsa culminating in the takeover of her house, Judd and Westrum might have remained divided by pride. Judd would have been unwilling to forgive Westrum and would have continued to insist on finding Westrum and handing him over the law. And Westrum might have been racked with vengeful feelings toward Judd who’d humiliated him. Westrum fled from Judd — did Judd allow the escape of his friend like Pat Garrett may have left the gun in the outhouse for Billy to break out of prison? — but then tailed him, Elsa, and the younger man but without a clear idea of what he should next. Was he still after the gold? Was he looking to get even with Judd? Even kill his old friend? He is uncertain of what he must do until the Hammonds fire at Judd and wound him in the stomach. The situation, more than anything, crystallizes what Westrum had to do. Likewise, the Richard Harris character wasn’t sure what he must/should do until the moment when he decides to take on the French cavalry and sacrifice himself. And the Bunch didn’t know what they had to do until the very end when fate finally stares them right in the face. These are men of free will but their final actions are dictated and redeemed by situations beyond their control. Free will is like a game of poker. One chooses the moves but not the cards.) In contrast, Lime knows all the reasons why his deeds are terrible and wrong, but he doesn’t care because he’s a supreme egotist who looks upon humanity as a mere flea circus. He’s a dark version of Howard Roark. He understands all the philosophical and ethical reasons as to why man should care about(even if not necessarily care for) his brother, but he’s bored stiff with morality. Like Hannibal Lecter, he sees himself as a superior kind of man who shouldn’t be bound by the rules of conventional right or wrong. His wickedness isn’t driven by frustration and resentment, which is the case with Gil. Lime just enjoys doing whatever he can to increase his share of the pie. He is an all-out gangster. He enjoys the game and can’t be bothered with who gets hurt as he remains alive and gets to keep playing. Though far more sophisticated than the killers and thugs of GOODFELLAS, he shares their sociopathic view of mankind. He is the center of the world, anything that increases his riches and pleasures is good, and the hell with all else. Though Lime may have the excuse of war and destruction to rationalize his criminal activities, his underworld activities go way beyond mere survival. He is a war-profiteer than a war-survivor. He doesn’t bemoan the war but revels in its aftermath for opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

THE THIRD MAN – Orson Welles as Harry Lime

Though there’s no mistaking that the Bunch are outlaw killers and do terrible things, they are very much the product of a semi-barbarian world than natural criminal types. They are white men who came of age in a state of semi-wilderness not entirely different from the world of American Indians or Germanic Barbarians. Much of the violence committed by American Indians and Germanic Barbarians was brutal and horrific, but their tribes/cultures weren’t criminal because endless violence was the way of warriors and hunters. Most American Indians led a savage existence and lived off nature. Germanic Barbarians were more developed as they’d managed to create more settled communities and came into contact with high civilizations, especially that of the Roman Empire, the influence of which rubbed off on the barbarians but not sufficiently to transform them into people who could sustain civilizations on their own; Germanic barbarian settlements were ‘dependency civilizations’ reliant on the power of Rome, like what the US has propped up in Afghanistan and which will surely fall as soon as the US pulls out of that country. Without the guiding light and ruthless lashes of the Romans, the Germanics were bound to revert back to their own barbarism, and they did and eventually came to sack Rome once it rotted from within from excess, decadence, corruption, and divisiveness borne of unmanageable diversity of interests and groups. Cities are strong when they attract talent and useful labor, but they become overburdened and unmanageable when they attract innumerable people looking for protection or provisions without adding to the wealth of the city. Consider all the bloated and ailing megapolises in the Third World with 10 million people or more. They have some fancy modern areas but much of the outlying areas are filled with filth and degradation. It’s especially horrible in black African nations because poor blacks are not merely poor and desperate but poor, desperate, and crazy. And it can happen in the US too, which is why cities like Detroit and Newark turned into such cesspools. They attracted too many Negroes who eventually came to messed up things. Negroes are trouble, period. But even non-Negroes, if devoid of values and inspired leadership, can fall prey to wantonness, excess, degradation, and other social-moral-spiritual ills. In the Wasp-dominated American past, rich folks and other members of the elites were mindful of the importance of morality and virtues in social governance. So, even though rich folks tended to indulge in vices, they were careful to keep it more discrete. It wasn’t only a matter of reputation but of representation. If the ‘best’ of society acted like louts and shamelessly indulged in excesses, what kind of example did they represent for the rest of society? How the rich folks and elites represented their own values had an impact on how the rest of society felt, thought, and acted. Even in a so-called ‘egalitarian’ society like the US, the lower elements looked up to upper elements than vice versa. There was a time when the black middle class felt an obligation to represent proper moral values for the rest of the Negro folks who were less well off.
So, the rich folks and elites felt they should be moral exemplars to the rest of America. In truth, of course, many rich folks were not, but they did see the importance of setting the right kind of examples for the public. Like the saying goes,”fish rots from the head.” Also, members of the elites supported social reform movements that not only sought material improvement of the poor but the instillment of moral(and/or spiritual)virtues among underclass folks. So, goodness wasn’t just about goods & services provided for the people but about values centered around shame, responsibility, and obligation(to self and society). As stuff like welfare was less extensive or unavailable back then, it was all the more important for people to behave responsibly since bad behavior could easily lead to destitution for oneself and the family. The social reform movements of American prior to the 1960s stressed not only the role of government and obligation of rich folks but also the need for everyone, including poor folks, to take a good stock of themselves and lead exemplary lives. This was true of communism as well. Even though it called for radical revolution against the ruling capitalist class and lionized the worker, it also stressed that workers had to be good comrades who led decent lives. The workers had to be responsible to themselves and to their fellow workers; they shouldn’t just sit on their asses and bitch and whine about how ‘society’ owes them everything. In order for them to take from society, they had to make and contribute to society. And they had to forsake decadence and wanton indulgences associated with capitalism, consumerism, and narcissism.
In a way, one could argue that the West, in the aftermath of WWII, combined the best of capitalism and socialism. It allowed capitalism to create vast amounts of wealth, and this wealth was taxed and used for vast social programs. And this model worked more or less in America and Western Europe. In contrast, communism failed all over the world.
As for a pure libertarian-capitalist economy, it has never existed anywhere in the world.
In the long run, the Postwar Western Compromise corrupted socialist values through bureaucratism and consumerism. As providing services for the needy became mostly a government affair of shuffling papers and doling out payments, both the givers and takers became faceless and soulless to one another. For the government it was just about passing out goodies without moral instruction/inspiration, and for the needy it was just a matter of expecting a free ride as an entitlement. So, if traditional social reform sought not only to ameliorate poverty but save or uplift the souls of the poor, the new socialism just allowed people to take stuff without any conscience or reflection. Even up to the New Deal, the government was careful not to encourage morally dubious behavior like having children out of wedlock or making single-mothers economically independent of the fathers of their children. Though the New Deal didn’t promote moral values, it was nevertheless mindful not to encourage moral degradation. But then, with the Great Society, American socialism became utterly corrupted by policies that thoughtlessly and systematically encouraged the kind of behavior that led to shamelessness, degradation, wantonness, and self-righteousness among the underclass, especially among blacks who are prone to act apelike if given half the chance. (And such attitudes even spread to the upper classes that became dependent on ‘corporate welfare’ and massive bailouts for their own bad behavior, as we witnessed in the Great Recession with the meltdown of the finance sector. Indeed, the mind-sets of both the rich and the poor mirror one another in America. The Wall Street uber-class thinks, “Why shouldn’t we get bailed out too when so many Americans are living of the government?” Besides, they are ‘too big to fail.’ Wall Street rationalizes that since it paid a tremendous amount in taxes to support government programs when the times were good, it should be bailed out in turn by the government when the times are bad. Wall Street would rather not discuss how it made its fortunes during ‘good times’ through all kinds of nefarious means that actually brought about the recession. (Wall Street rigs the market during good times to rake in most of the profits, but such excesses eventually bring about a severe downturn. But insiders know when to pull out before the market crashes, and furthermore, they can expect favorite treatment and even bailouts from the governments to carry them through to the next bubble in which they will, once again, be ahead of everyone in raking in the profits and avoiding the losses. Put the money before the bubble and pull out the money before the bubble crashes. Is it any wonder that Jews got so rich?) As for the ‘left’ and the poor, their only moral argument is “since rich folks got so much, we should have some too even if we are louts, losers, parasites, punks, and hussies, etc.” It’s based on envy and resentment than on any set of moral principles. This kind of socialism was bound to bring down the black community before any other since blacks are naturally more shameless, less inhibited, more excessive, less inclined to be reflective about life. So, almost immediately, the Great Society, along with the righteous rage unleashed by the Civil Rights Movement, racial arrogance represented by the likes of Muhammad Ali, and hedonistic music of the youth culture, dealt a disastrous blow on the black community. The decline of white communities happened more gradually, but it’s obvious from Great Britain and troubled white communities in the US that a program that rewards stupid behavior and offers no moral suasion will hasten social decay and degradation.

White Underclass – Meth Epidemic

But, the problem isn’t merely one of socialism. As society becomes more shameless, hedonistic, crude, and lewd, capitalist industries seek to maximize profits by marketing the basest products and images & sounds that pander to the lowest denominator. The result is that shameless lowliness become ever more shameless and lowly. Just look at our society where the #1 moral value is the abomination of ‘gay marriage’ and where so many kids think they are so cool and great because they mindlessly get ugly tattoos all over their bodies. Do these people ever grow up? Are they fit to be parents? What now passes for ‘virtue’ is mostly meaningless crap about ‘tolerance’, ‘diversity’, ‘racism’, ‘homophobia’, and ‘antisemitism’. But what good is tolerance if a society not only tolerates but celebrates trashy behavior, moral decadence(like ‘gay pride’ parades), apelike Negro behavior, and infantilism? Tolerance is, at best, a weak virtue. It’s good to the extent that we should try to understand different kinds of people or respect their freedoms even if we disagree with them, but if tolerance means you should mute your criticism of bad behavior of another people or group, then it will do more harm than good. Blacks were better off when they were judged by whites, just like whites made moral progress under moral pressure by other groups. Today’s politically correct use of Tolerance is actually an anti-virtue because it not only urges tolerance of certain dubious groups but demands mandatory celebration of what they stand for. So, we are not only supposed to tolerate homosexual behavior but show up in ‘gay pride’ parades and wave ‘rainbow’ flags like the masses were once made to wave red flags behind the Iron Curtain. In current America, nearly all politicians are under pressure to march in ‘gay pride’ parades or else.

What good is ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ if diverse populations of people act like idiots, clowns, and retards? Is a ‘diversity’ of people acting bad preferable to homogeneity of people acting good? Diversity in and of itself is a social-demographic condition, it is not a moral good. If there’s a bunch of white idiots, their lot is not improved by mixing with black idiots, brown idiots, and yellow idiots. And if opposing ‘racism’ means one shouldn’t be unduly hateful or hostile toward people of a different tribe or race, who can argue with that? But in the US, the issue of ‘racism’ means that whites have NO MORAL AUTHORITY to say anything negative or damning about blacks NO MATTER how blacks go out of their way to degrade their own communities and then smear their own problems like shit on all the other communities. Especially because blacks are naturally the most aggressive and dangerous race in America — a scientific fact that cannot be denied — , the PC use of ‘racism’, in muffling necessary criticism of blacks, has done incalculable moral harm to America.

As for ‘homophobia’, if it means that some people are born with weird ‘sexual’ tendencies and should be left alone to practice them, it’s workable for everyone. But the cult of ‘homophobia’ would have us believe that anyone who opposes the radical ‘gay agenda’ is psychologically ill and/or evil and has no right to gain employment, hold a job, practice right of free speech, or speak honestly and factually about the true nature of homosexuality. It is especially dangerous because homos are, by nature, morally problematic due to personalities that tend to be overly narcissistic, bitchy, hissy, sneering, and snotty. This is why civilizations usually began to crumble when the elites began to take their cues from the homos. As homos tend to be creative, they have contributed much to society in arts and culture, but homosexuality has never been in good graces with social morality since the very nature of homosexuality is at odds with the truth of nature. Homosexuality is a natural lie. People born homosexual have been led to believe that male anuses are sex organs or that a vagina can have ‘sex’ with a vagina. Just as people who are born dyslexic suffer from ‘natural visual lie’ that makes them see words in the wrong order, homosexuals were born with a ‘natural mental lie about sex’ that makes them prefer gross and/or weird kind of ‘sex’ that makes no biological sense and, in the case of male homos, is absolutely putrid for it involves men getting their penises with fecal matter up anuses that were designed by nature for the purpose of defecation. Homosexuality is like ‘dySEXia’. Nature can lie to us. It’s like some people are naturally born with schizophrenia that makes them see and hear stuff that doesn’t exist or isn’t happening. Homosexuals are born with minds and biochemical systems that lie to them about the proper function of their minds. So, even though the likes of Tim Cook have taken up gallons of sperm inside their fecal holes, they think they’ve performed proper, healthy, and wonderful kinds of ‘sex’. Tim Cook even thinks God blessed him with homosexuality; he must think God intended the male anus to be a poo-sy. He thinks this way because homosexuality programmed his mind with ‘natural lies’ about sex. (Perhaps the faculty of memory has made all higher organisms somewhat quasi-schizophrenic because memory allows them to beware of things that no longer exist. Real-reality is only the present as the past is gone forever, yet memory makes the past live on in our minds as phantoms. It is all the more troubling because no piece of memory is accurate; it is a distortion of one’s faulty recollection of what happened. It is because our minds are able to distinguish memory — and fantasy — from our awareness of the present[the only true reality that is ever-changing] that we are able to remain sane and functional. But when the borderline breaks down between memory and the awareness-of-the-present[as in A DEATH OF A SALESMAN] or between fantasy and the awareness-of-the-present[as in MULHOLLAND DR.], people slip into something like a schizophrenic state. In the case of the hero of MEMENTO, he is trapped in a state of cold ‘insanity’ because he is the victim of both ‘memory’ and ‘loss of memory’. He might have fared better if he lost all his memory. Then, he would be lost in the world but also comfortably numb. He would have to start from scratch and gain a new sense of reality. Or if he had full memory, he would know that he’d gotten his revenge on the man who raped and killed his wife, and he would go on with life with a sense of satisfaction. But his memory is a case of half-and-half. He remembers with clarity the murder of his wife, indeed as if it happened yesterday. That element of the ever receding past is forever occupying his present mind. He is trapped in past memory, but he can’t escape it because no matter what he does to redeem it, he will forget that the redemption-via-revenge had taken place. [I suppose he could tattoo something on his body to remind himself that he got revenge on the murderer of his wife, and then he could be reminded over and over, via the tattoo, that his wife had already been avenged every time he feels angry about the incident and wants revenge. But even as he’d be reminded of the revenge, he would feel empty because he remembers nothing of satisfaction of the moment.] Had his mental condition afflicted him when he was feeling no strong passion about anything, he might have ended up like the bald-headed guy who just sits around the living room with nothing to do. As the bald-headed guy lost his ability to retain new memory when everything was going well in his life, he is forever locked in the emotional state of normalcy. In contrast, the hero of MEMENTO lost his ability to retain new memory when he was filled with absolute terror and rage about what had happened to himself and wife during a home invasion. Because he cannot retain new memory to resolve the memory of the crime, he is forever trapped in the mode of the Terminator with iron determination to find and kill the man or men who killed his wife. Incidentally, how could the man know that he cannot absorb new memory? He must have been told of this condition AFTER the head trauma that caused his problem, but since the condition doesn’t allow for retainment of new memory, how could he remember what the doctors told him?) Another PC virtue is fighting ‘antisemitism’, and if this means being wary of Neo-Nazi lunatics and the like, what sane person would disagree? It is a good to be alert to the dangers of radical racial hatreds and supremacist racial ideologies. But as practiced in our Jewish-dominated society, the so-called war against ‘antisemitism’ blinds us to the immense power of Jews. Furthermore, it pressures us to worship Jews as the superior race with special wisdom, to support Jewish power/influence no matter what it does(even when it robs trillions through Wall Street and Las Vegas, even when it ignites horrible wars all over the Middle East, provokes aggressions in places like Ukraine, crushes and oppresses Palestinians, spreads the filth of ‘gay marriage’, uses the hammer of Political Correctness to erode away our freedoms and liberties, spreads vile anti-white propaganda[as Sabrina Rubin Erdely did with her rape hoax article in ROLLING STONE], and destroys or leeches economically off nations like Russia, Iran, and others.) Virtue isn’t about mindless worship of certain ideas or peoples. ‘Anti-racism’ can be a virtue insofar as one race doesn’t unduly hate upon another race, but it is a vice when the burden of ‘tolerance’ is placed entirely on one race while other races are given a free pass to hate and fulminate all they want. In the US, blacks and Jews are pretty much allowed to hate other races and groups with complete license. So, blacks can rip on whites all they want, and Jews can use their immense media power to attack & vilify white gentiles, Wasps, Christians, Mormons, Muslims, Arabs, Russians, Chinese, Persians, etc. The PC ‘virtues’ that prevail in America says that some groups are automatically ‘virtuous’ by the way of their collective narrative and identity of ‘suffering’. Since Jews are tagged with the Holocaust, they are automatically virtuous forever. “Holocaust or HoLove means never having to say you’re sorry.” And blacks feel that they can mooch off slavery forever. They went from freedom-riders to free-riders. Jews, Negroes, and homos don’t feel obligated to cultivate any virtue based on truth, honesty, and integrity since their identity justifies their automatic sense of virtue. So, even as Jordan Belfort was doing all those lousy things, he morally justified his foulness on his grandfather denial into some Wasp golf club. So, even as Jayson Blair lied and cheated during his stint at the New York Times, he justified it on the grounds of getting even with ‘racist’ whitey and “burning down the master’s house”. So, even as Chris Hughes threw his money around like the corrupt bastard that he is to win friends and favors in high places, he acts like a saintly homo, a blessing to the world. And even though Sabrina Rubin Erderly willfully told a big lie to boost her career and vilify white gentile males, she doesn’t feel an iota of remorse or guilt and hasn’t apologized to the fraternity. Not only has she not come forward and issued an apology but there has been no public pressure for her to do so. But then, Jews control public opinion. She can keep her head low and wait for it to blow over, and then continue with her journalism career simply because she is a Jew protected by her own tribe that dominate media and academia. According to PC, virtue is less a matter of individual integrity than collective identity. So, if a white gentile straight male is a fine husband, great father, a hard worker, and wonderful neighbor BUT calls out on black violence, homosexual deviancy, and Jewish corruption, none of his virtues as an individual matter in the eyes of PC. He is to be reviled as an ‘evil white male’ who is guilty of sins of ‘racism’, ‘homophobia’, and ‘antisemitism’. But a black guy who refuses to take care of his children, a homosexual who indulges in all kinds of decadent debauchery, and a Jewish guy who misuses US foreign policy to crush Palestinians has nothing to feel ashamed about because they are protected by their automatic collective ‘virtue’ of having the identity that happens to be favored by Jewish-controlled PC.

Anyway, because ‘virtue’ has become a matter of identity than individuality, it has all but lost its meaning. There’s a dearth of appreciation of genuine virtue in our culture. Among non-whites, Jews, and homos, ‘virtue’ is just a game of screaming “we are eternal victims”. For example, the likes of Abe Foxman never have to prove why they are so wonderful other than they are Jewish. For whites, ‘virtue’ means having to accommodate Jews, blacks, and homos in all their demands. If the only thing a ‘virtuous’ black person needs to do is scream and holler, the only thing a ‘virtuous’ white person can do is listen and shut up. The current political morality is especially damaging to poor whites. With less emphasis on individual moral virtue, many poorer elements of the white population are falling into disarray through drug use, having children out of wedlock, interracism with Negroes, divorce, and other social maladies. What passes for ‘virtue’ among poor white Americans is making Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER the highest grossing War Movie ever. Never mind that the soldier on which the movie is based on has been proven to be a pathological liar and even a psychopathic killer. He is hailed for his ‘virtuousness’ because he joined the US military and mindlessly followed orders to invade another country and shoot people. That is what passes for ‘conservative virtue’: mindless obedience of AIPAC to go to the Middle East and kill ‘muzzies’ while Jews continue to destroy white America.
As for intelligent and educated whites, there remains a kind of ‘subvirtue’ that sees them through the morass and minefield of cultural decadence. Though they may not uphold or defend traditional or ‘conservative’ virtues, they nevertheless have an instinctive sense of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to life’s choices. They know diligence, dedication, loyalty, commitment, and responsibility are good qualities to have. They may not preach such virtues as they’re tagged with ‘conservatism’, but they still practice them as ‘subvirtues’ or silent/hushed virtues. It’s like some black students who are smart and into studying will pretend like they don’t give a shit about school to win coolness points and street credit — as it’s uncool to ‘act white’ in black schools — , but they know what works and what doesn’t. So, on their own, they do study and they do go to good schools and make it in life. Just like serious/intelligent black kids talk the talk(that says school sucks) but walk a different walk(where school really does matter), many smart and educated white Liberal urbanites talk as if traditional/individual virtues are so passe, but their own life choices are not far from the old virtues. However, one vital virtue is missing in their lives — as with smart blacks who study but pretend not to — , and that is honesty. Honesty is a key virtue, but PC doesn’t allow it. So, people walk this way but talk that way. For people to be honest, they need courage, but PC doesn’t allow that either. Why? Because one needs to courage to notice things and say like it really is, but if such were to happen all across America, the house of cards of Jewish-Homo power will crumble almost instantly. In a honest and courageous world, virtue would abound in the minds, mouths, and action of most people. But in a world of cowardice and dishonesty, virtue can only exist as ‘subvirtues’ that go undercover. But ‘subvirtues’ cannot be true virtues because true virtues must be upheld and defended with honesty and courage. It’s like smart blacks in black schools cannot say that they like to learn because they’ll be accused and even attacked by other black students for ‘acting white’ or ‘acting uncool’. So, they practice the virtue of knowledge as a ‘subvirtue’ when no one is looking. It’s good that some smart black kids do learn and do rise above others, but it cannot be called a real virtue because they lack the honesty and courage to speak out on their true nature of their success.
PC ideology also has a way of degrading virtue by insisting that social/economic success is all a matter of luck and privilege. So, it’d be bad form for white kids to take pride in their hard work since it was ‘white privilege’ that open the doors to their success. So, their virtues are dismissed as illusory. This would be true enough if we’re talking about the likes of George W. Bush who was indeed born into great riches and privilege. But what about all the whites and non-whites who were born into modest means but achieved more than those born into riches? Were their successes all about ‘privilege’ too, especially since many people who’ve done well are non-whites, especially among Asians? And how is it that Jews, though claiming antisemitic discrimination in America, have done so much better than all other white groups?

Perhaps, the rise of finance has undermined America’s trust in virtue as the means of success in business. Too many people in Wall Street have gained tremendous wealth so fast, and the power of finance has distorted the economies of all other sectors such as high-tech and real estate. Neither the high-tech bubble of the 1990s and the housing bubble of the 2000s could have been possible without Wall Street machinations. Now, the financial movers and shakers are very smart and talented people, but they are not men of virtue, and they’ve used their smarts to cheat themselves to great wealth. Merit means talent but not necessarily virtue. Talent can serve vice, and meritocratism and meretriciousness can be one and the same. So, what can be said about wealth made of ability and intelligence but of no virtue, indeed even against virtue? And, what are we to think when such virtue void is sold as the New Virtue? After all, the housing bubble was morally justified on creating a so-called ‘ownership society’ where everyone would get a home in the name of ‘equality’. It all sounded so nice and virtuous but was really fueled by vice and greed of Wall Street that, under the rhetoric of ‘equality’, concocted some of the most crooked financial instruments and schemes in history.
It is no wonder that so many people don’t want to hear about virtue anymore. While hard work is a virtue in its own right, people can be hard-at-work against virtue to rake in the big bucks. It’s like diligence is a virtue, but the elites in the entertainment can diligently work to promote the kinds of anti-values that turn young people into slouches, leeches, and parasites. Consider the movie MARGIN CALL where everyone in the financial industry works very hard but to what end? At cheating everyone else to save themselves at the expense of others. So, one kind of virtue can attack other kinds of virtues. So, no single virtue is sufficient on its own. Loyalty is a virtue, but loyalty among gangster thugs or corrupt cops means conspiracy to cheat society. This is the central conflict of THE PRINCE OF THE CITY where a cop has to choose between the virtue of loyalty to his partners and the virtue of loyalty to the principle of the law. So, true virtue is a coordination of single virtues that, each on its own, isn’t sufficient to make for a good person. Loyalty, diligence, discipline, honesty, patience, commitment, trust, responsibility, accountability, courage, and other virtues must all work in tandem and in mindful interaction with one another. Even superior virtue like courage or honesty, on its own, isn’t appropriate for all times as life is often a matter of diplomacy, compromise, strategy, and pragmatism. Trust is a virtue but not to be wasted on those who don’t deserve it. Indeed, look what happened to Europe when it trusted Hitler in 1939. And look what has happened to the West since the end of WWII as the result of trusting hideous and vile Jews. Trusting the trustworthy and working at being trustworthy oneself is a virtue, but trusting the likes of Bernie Madoff and Barack Obama is not a virtue but rank stupidity borne of willful naivete and/or political fantasies planted in the mind by PC.
Anyway, if the more intelligent and better educated have the subtle appreciation of ‘subvirtues’ that are practiced quietly, the less intelligent and less sophisticated have no such understanding. They can only understand and appreciate the kind of virtue that is sounded loud and clear. As our society no longer promotes the old virtues in any loud and clear way, the dumber and less well-educated elements of society have no real sense of virtue and fall prey to filth that is now American popular culture that celebrates mindless violence, sexual licentiousness, wanton appetites, excessive narcissism, rampant drug use, and total cultural amnesia(except about how MLK is the new ‘founding father’). Since Liberals control history and as history has become conflated with ‘white guilt’, American Conservatives have become ahistorical or even anti-historical because historical memory in Jew-dominated America is mostly about white evils in the past. (Even though history books still credit whites for most of the great achievements in science, math, technology, philosophy, arts, and etc. — Charles Murray especially out of his way in his HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT, which really should be called WHITE MALES ACHIEVED MOST OF EVERYTHING — , whites are no longer allowed to historically own morality and righteousness. Owning morality is more powerful than owning credit for amoral achievements in sciences and technology. After all, even National Socialist Germany produced its share of great scientists and innovators — especially in rocket science — , but no one thinks to defend Nazi Germany. Anne Frank who died before she accomplished anything has 6 million times more moral credit than Werner von Braun or Werner Heisenberg. Western Civilization is steeped in Biblical moralism — even in the secular era — , and nothing matters more in Western historiography than moral righteousness. But Jews took moral righteousness away from whites. So, it doesn’t matter if history books mention that Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers were white. Since whites are tagged with ‘racism’, even the lowliest Negro who done nothing is deemed morally more righteous and powerful; indeed, even Negro thugs are lionized as ‘freedom fighters’. Besides, as white history is tagged with ‘white privilege’, even white achievements are undervalued as the product of exploitation of other peoples. In other words, had there been no ‘racism’, Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers might have been black. Had there been no ‘racism’, black Africa would have built the first tanks and airplanes. Today, Western Europe is many times more successful than black Africa, but black Africans own all the moral credits, and therefore, rich Europe is morally pressured to take in more and more African migrants.)
It’s no wonder that many American Conservatives prefer to watch super-hero movies, sci-fi movies, and etc than remember past history and heritage of their people. White history has been degraded by the Jewish academia and by stuff like 12 YEARS A SLAVE and DJANGO UNCHAINED.

Great White Man degraded by Hideous Jews who demand that white American support the Zionist mass-slaughter of totally innocent Palestinians.

There used to be a time when Southern Whites had a rich sense of history, but even white Southerners are now falling on their knees and kissing the Negro ass. Whatever nationalist, racial, or spiritual passions remain within the white nationalist heart are channeled toward praising Jews and Israel. Many white Southerners are now ashamed of the Confederate Flag and other symbols of the Old South. Their sense of honor is praising MLK and cheering on black college football stars who dominate the playing field and hump white women. An conservatism without a rich sense of history is no conservatism at all.
Ironically, Liberal Jews have a much richer and deeper sense of their own history than white gentile Conservatives do. Jews, even Liberal ones, feel justified by their own history and heritage, whereas white gentiles feel condemned and reviled by remembrance of their history and heritage, not least because Jews and white Liberal collaborators who control the history departments have re-jiggered white/western history to make white gentiles feel sorry and ashamed of just about everything their ancestors did. Conservatism is no longer about appreciation of the past as the white past has been so discredited by Jews. Then, it is no wonder that more and more white Conservatives are moving toward libertarianism that is like a Year Zero attack on the true meaning of conservatism. Libertarianism tells everyone to just reject the past and look forward to the future as ‘free individuals’ without roots, indeed whose main interests are gambling, drugs, legalization of prostitution, and sucking up to Jews. But how long can such a shallow community or (anti)culture survive?

Without a loud-and-clear preachment of true virtues for the dumb and less educated(who are too dim to understand how ‘subvirtues’ work), many poorer white folks are beginning to lose everything. They are no longer guided and led by the successful and/or educated whites. There isn’t even a viable labor movement to organize them into a united bloc of economic power. Poor whites really have nothing going for them in the Western World. Just look at the yob-ization of the white British underclass or the spread of meth and other drugs in small town white communities. They’ve lost the old virtues that had provided them with some kind of moral-social-spiritual compass in life. They don’t have the smarts to become affluent and successful like smarter whites do. Smarter whites no longer feel any kind of responsibility as guiding lights to the poorer whites. And poor whites, though at the bottom of society and growing poorer, lack even the political advantage of playing the ‘victim card’ that is readily available not only to poor blacks and Hispanics but to super-rich Jews and rich homosexuals. Rich straight white gentiles may have no ‘moral authority’, but they have money and privilege. Poor blacks may have no money but they have ‘moral privilege’. By the virtue of having been born black, they can invoke ‘Selma’ and play ‘noble victim’. They can riot and loot and get away with it.

The horror of being poor and white in America

But poor whites don’t have the money/privilege of rich whites and don’t have the ‘noble victim-hood’ & easy sympathy of blacks. Blacks can burn down an entire city and still be showered with all kinds of love and understanding, as happened during the Ferguson riots when the national media tried to ‘understand’ black rage even though the all the hysteria was triggered by a decent white officer defending himself from a big black thug. Because race instead of class is the main focus of political morality in the US, all white folks(even poor ones) are required to care about all blacks(even rich ones), but rich folks are not required to care about or feel guilty about poor white folks. Actually, this isn’t strictly true because there used to be a genuine and robust leftist and/or populist movement in America especially in the first half of hte 20th century. Indeed, the New Deal was essentially a class-issue program. It was about rich whites taking a hit in taxes for the benefit for the less fortunate white folks who were feeling the full brunt of the Depression. But with the rapid economic rise of US after WWII that lifted all boats — with the majority of white folks entering the middle class and with working class whites bringing home decent wages — , the theme of class faded from US politics. Big Labor found accommodation with Big Business and Big Government, and white folks felt “we never had it so good.” That’s the kind of America that the hero(Clint Eastwood) remembers in GRAN TORINO. As even white folks lost interest in the class struggle, the new politics came to center on age and race. Boomers felt they knew better about everything than their parents, teachers, and leaders. And blacks felt that they were being left out of the overall economic expansion of America following World War II. (Actually, black conditions improved greatly after WWII, but it’s true enough blacks lagged behind whites and were not treated equally in many sectors of the economy and areas.) Because American politics moved away from issues of class — due to shifts in both the American Right and American Left — , poor and working class whites were no longer objects of sympathy or icons of moral righteousness for the ‘progressive’ movement. ‘Progressives’ especially felt betrayed by the white working class because too many of them, as part of the ‘silent majority’, voted for Nixon in ‘68 and ‘72 and for Reagan in ‘80 and ‘84. They came to be seen as a bunch of Archie Bunkers, and it is indeed true enough that the less well-off white folks who voted for the GOP, the Party of the Rich, for social, cultural, or patriotic reasons had no idea that the capitalist elites were cynically using them to create a new globalist system in which the rich would become richer without any sense of obligation to the citizens of their own nations. Globalism and amnesty favor rich whites over poor whites who also get robbed and attacked by blacks. As poorer whites are squeezed by globalism, amnesty, and Negro crime, they tend to be anti-immigration and anti-integration, but then, rich whites invoke such fears to demean poorer whites as ‘xenophobic’ and ‘racist’ even though they themselves use gentrification and Section 8 to drive out poor blacks from fancy parts of cities and even though their high-skilled professions are not threatened from competition of low-skilled immigrants from Latin America. Because poorer whites have far fewer advantages, safety nets, and opportunities for social betterment, some of them rely on hardcore spiritual moralism to maintain some semblance of social/moral order — especially as their children are bombarded with the corrupting influences of popular culture controlled by hideous Jews — , and this makes them resistant to the New Normal of ‘homorality’, but then, this gets them lambasted by the Jew-run media and government as ‘homophobic’. And then, the rich whites in super-affluent cities join the chorus and pile on the poorer whites for whom Old Time Religion is the last defense against total socio-moral collapse as their industries are gone, their numbers are declining, their children are degraded by Negro-homo-Judeo pop culture, and they(as ‘white racists’) are blamed for all the social ills in the world. It’s especially frustrating because the kind of whites who bitch most about ‘white privilege’ tend to be the kind of Liberals who dominate Wall Street, Ivy League universities, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, Las Vegas, and etc. We now live in a world where the richest Jews and most affluent white Liberals(and even collaborator Conservatives) condemn and insult poorer whites who are just barely hanging on. We have Jewish billionaires forcing a small pizzeria business to cater to ‘gay weddings’, and we have hipster ‘radicals’ from affluent backgrounds serving as attack dogs of the Jewish oligarchs. But because poorer whites are still somewhat better off than the poorest blacks and browns, Liberal Jewish media & academia perpetuate the Narrative that ‘privileged’ and ‘racist’ whites won’t give a fair break to minorities. Consider the issue of ‘affirmative action’. Poorer whites are more likely to oppose it than rich whites, but then rich whites already got theirs whereas poorer whites are struggling to make ends meet and don’t need yet another burden on their shoulders. Even though most white Americans throughout history were farmers, factory workers, and people in other such unprivileged professions, they all got tagged with the privilege of the Rockefellers and Carnegies. So, if you’re the great-grandson of a lowly worker who worked in an industry owned by Andrew Carnegie and if the entire line of your people never arose above working class status, YOU are demeaned as the beneficiary of ‘white privilege’. As for the descendants of the Carnegies with their trust funds in the gazillions, they can spread the cash around and be praised for their support of ‘progressive’ causes.

Anyway, even though Pike, Deke, Dutch, and Angel grew up in a quasi-barbarian world and ‘naturally’ took to a life of outlawry, there’s nevertheless something to suggest that they might have gone in another direction. It’s like both the characters in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY could have gone either way. Judd says that had it not been for an older mentor who set him straight, he might have joined up with some gang. And throughout the movie, we see how Gil is himself conflicted with what he’s about to do. His need to persuade Judd to be a partner-in-crime suggest a subconscious ambivalence and self-doubt. It’s a kind of a moral Catch-22. He wants Judd to join him in the theft so that he could feel morally validated. After all, if he could convince a righteous man like Judd, then the theft would be justified. But if Judd were to go along, then he would no longer be good and righteous. Westrum will have corrupted Judd, and Judd’s partnership-in-crime would have no moral value. Westrum’s Dilemma is he wants Judd’s moral approval of the theft, but such an approval would rob Judd of his righteousness. If Westrum were totally evil, he would have just shot Judd in the back and taken off with the gold/money. In a way, his attempt to persuade Judd is also a means by which he is trying to suppress his own moral doubts about what he’s about to do. He doesn’t just want to run off with the gold/money but want moral justification for what he’s about to do. If he could convince Judd, it would mean that they didn’t so much commit a crime as take what is rightfully their on the premise that they weren’t properly rewarded/compensated for their sacrifices. If Judd, a more righteous man, were to agree with him, then Gil could have both the gold and a sense of moral justification. So, there is conflict within Gil that makes him more like a semi-barbarian than a criminal.

RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY – Gil Westrum and Steve Judd

Likewise, something constantly eats away at Pike and Dutch even though they are ruthless robbers and killers. Their predatory way of life demands that they be cold-hearted with those they run up against, but it is important to Pike and Dutch that they, at the very least, be right among themselves and stick by one other. And his failings in this respect eat away at Pike’s soul, or what’s left of it. So, when Pike and Dutch finally decide to risk everything to get Angel back, it comes across as plausible. As bad as they are, the Bunch are, like the National Socialists in DOWNFALL, not without a sense of honor and camaraderie. It would be less plausible with characters like Tommy and others in GOODFELLAS who have no higher vision of anything but their own self-interest. Jimmy Conway(Robert De Niro) is the sort of guy who will stab anyone in the back to get what’s his. After his biggest heist, he goes psycho-Stalin on everyone and picks them all off one by one.
And Tommy(Joe Pesci) is a complete psychopath. There’s nothing in him that could be called a soul. And Henry(Ray Liotta) may be less violent and murderous than the other two, but his shallowness of character keeps him playing amoral toady to others with bigger balls. And in the end, no one has any sense of honor, not even among thieves. To save their own skin, they will kill or betray anyone, even someone they’d been close to all their lives. Henry is convinced that Jimmy has targeted him for the kill and squeals to the Feds. Perhaps, the only one who has any sense of ‘honor of thieves’ is Paulie who, at the very least, stuck by people close to him(unless they got totally out-of-hand like Tommy). If anything, he got soft in sparing Henry after the drug bust. Though he refuses help to Henry — except for a small bundle of cash — , he decides not to have him whacked. Henry lied to Paulie, and he should really be grateful that Paulie spared his worthless ass, but he whines like he’s the wronged party because Paulie won’t protect him. And then, to save his own butt, he spills the beans on everyone, even Paulie who’d been a mentor to him all his life. There isn’t even honor among thieves among the killers of GOODFELLAS.

GOODFELLAS – Paulie tells Henry not to deal in drugs.

But it’s different in THE WILD BUNCH. Of course, we should keep in mind that GOODFELLAS is based on actual characters and events whereas THE WILD BUNCH is fiction. It’s possible that no such outlaw gang ever existed in the Wild West. Maybe all the robbers and killers of the West were just as crazy and demented as the killers in GOODFELLAS. Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah had the luxury of filling in the blanks on the characters they fleshed out. And yet, THE WILD BUNCH isn’t entirely implausible on the level of character psychology. We believe such men could have existed in such a world where the formative experiences of young men were near-barbarian in the absence of social order and rule of law. Many men who were not naturally of criminal mentality could have turned to outlawry.
In the case of Henry in GOODFELLAS, we learn that he just didn’t care for school and Pledge of Allegiance and all that stuff. He wanted the fast and easy life, and gangsterism was his ticket. Though not without charm and sometimes even mildly likable — we can understand why a nice Jewish girl like Karen could fall for him — , he oozes with reptilian sliminess as he goes through life with utter contempt for humanity and morality. Even with his associates and superiors, there is no real attachment or respect; there isn’t even self-respect. It’s all about saying and doing the ‘right things’ to get his piece of the action. Sadly, what goes for GOODFELLAS could be said to apply to American politics and business that is now almost entirely dominated by Jews and homosexuals. Even non-Jewish and non-homo businessmen cower before Judeo-Homo pressure in everything they do. Especially as Jews and Homos cannot be called out for their bad behavior, bullying tactics, corruption, greed, hypocrisy, and vileness, they throw their weight around with a combination of gangsterism and moralism. We now have Wall Street sharks, Las Vegas robber-barons, Silicon Valley tax evaders, Walmart oligarchs, and Hollywood tycoons pushing the ‘gay marriage’ racket on everyone. The most crooked, sociopathic, greedy, vain, and ruthless elite members of society fund and force a ‘moral campaign’ that privileges the vanities of sexual deviants, perverts, and freaks as the paragons of the New Normal and New Morality.

If THE WILD BUNCH were set in barbarian Europe, it would be men like Pike and Deke who might create something like the beginnings of an aristocratic order. They have an innate quality that is about something other than reveling in mayhem and pillaging. Though born and raised barbarian, their understanding of power goes beyond raw brutality. It’s like when Vito Corleone and Clemenza first meet, Clemenza is the big man with the gun who acts tough whereas Vito just tags along like a dog. But it’s not long before Vito gains dominance over both Clemenza and Sal with his superior intelligence, tougher nerves(intelligent courage with foresight than stupid reckless bravado), sounder character(that is above the petty thievery of Clemenza), and penchant for strategy. Without Vito, Clemenza would have chased after small potatoes all his life. But with Vito at the helm, Clemenza knows they can go for the whole sack. But it has to be Vito’s way because he has the right combination of intelligence, forethought, shrewdness, resolve, subtlety, kindness, and patience. Without Vito’s coaching and management, men like Clemenza would just be brawlers through life, not skilled boxers. Indeed, in the last part of THE GODFATHER, Clemenza can’t understand why Michael is asking him to cave into Barzini. He thinks in simple binaries of either going over to Barzini or sticking with Michael. He has no comprehension that Michael has something up his sleeve. Pantengeli is much the same way in THE GODFATHER PART 2. He says, “Mike, I don’t understand. I don’t have your brains… for big deals.” A barbarian world of only barbarian personalities like the Gorches will likely remain barbarian. There will be chieftains and leaders, but they will be unlikely to transform their world into a higher social order. They will just be barbarian kings ruling over barbarians. It’s generally understood that being civilized, as opposed to being barbarian, is a matter of education, training, and culture; but, it is also a matter of personality insofar as some people are naturally born with more aristocratic personalities. In THE GODFATHER, Sonny surely got more schooling than Vito Corleone who arrived all alone in America, but Vito has the regal personality whereas Sonny is a childish hothead. Though Michael got fancy education, his superior qualities are innate. He’s naturally smarter than Sonny and better able to control his emotions and use his mind instead. He’s better at seeing the big picture. And when necessary, he has nerves of steel, as when he saves his father from the hospital and avenges him later in a restaurant. Even when he calls for a vendetta against Sollozo the ‘Turk’ and the Irish-American cop, he carefully lays it out so that it sounds like ‘business’, thereby winning over Tom Hagen(who has a yen for anything ‘business’-like over anything that sounds ‘personal’). And Michael bides his time as he plots to get rid of Carlo. In contrast, Sonny flies off the handle whenever he gets angry. While not dumb, he is often stupid because of his brutal personality(and wild sexual appetites). He’s like Bill Clinton who, for all his intelligence, messed things up over the stupidest things he could easily have avoided. Education isn’t enough to create civilized personalities. If anything, the expansion of higher education hasn’t so much civilized the barbarianites as barbarized the higher institutions. Colleges became party schools. The curricula became dumber and baser, stupider and more dogmatic. Political Correctness is held up as a moral compass, but it is less about cultivating & developing the mind and soul than about controlling young people assumed to be dumb childish animals. Indeed, it’s gotten to the point where one Jewish academic has argued that ‘freedom of speech’ shouldn’t be allowed in colleges because students should be seen as children than adults. The more the colleges have become ‘inclusive’, ‘diversified’, barbarized, and infantilized, the less the students can be trusted to think, feel, and act like responsible adults who can make good use of free speech and inquiry. They must be treated like children, barbarians, or animals. They must be controlled like dogs in obedience school. But then, what led to this new development in college life and student quality? Why are students so shameless and uninhibited about sex and related matters? Why do they show so little interest in genuine intellectual discourse? Indeed, all the recent brouhaha about ‘micro-aggressions’ and ‘trigger warnings’ — the only warnings that would make sense are ‘nigger warnings’ — are not signs of greater civility and sensitivity but evidence of more childishness, stupidity, and obnoxiousness. Among barbarians, one had to be careful because anything could be taken the wrong way and explode into violence. Consider the barbarian-like Hammond brothers in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY. When the young guy — partner of Gil — brings Elsa to them, they get mighty suspicious and almost provoke a fight. At first, their suspicion is as to why he escorted Elsa to their camp. But when Elsa reassures the Hammonds that nothing happened and that he was a gentleman, the Hammonds mock him for not having been man enough to have taken advantage of Elsa. With the Hammonds, it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t. They just revel in trouble and manly rivalry. Ironically, barbarian-ism can be more ‘sensitive’ in a touchy or slighted way than civilization-ism is. While one aspect of barbarism is thick-skinned toughness, another aspect is hair-trigger touchiness as barbarians live in a world without clear rules and regulations. Barbarians are also about warrior pride and must guard their pecking order at all times. Thus, any misread signal can lead to violence. Because barbarian pride is about toughness and macho pride, any perceived or mis-perceived slight can provoke mayhem. Paradoxically, the tough barbarian exterior makes for fragile interior. It’s no wonder that the quasi-barbarian President Andrew Jackson fought so many duels. His sense of honor was offended by the slightest things. The Scotch-Irish in America have been known for their barbarian-like ways and hair trigger temper, made all the worse because they had to deal with Negroes in the South. So, ultra-sensitivity to perceived slights isn’t necessarily on the side of higher civilization or greater civility. There’s also the case of young people who’ve been infantilized and barbarized to the point where they can feel offended and slighted by just about anything and everything. Even if these college students are not physically violent, they are overly sensitive and even hysterical like some nasty Negroes are touchy about anything that is perceived as a slight.


The dynamics between Pike Bishop and the Gorches is sort of like the encounter between Arthur and Uryens. Though Uryens is a knight and Arthur but a young squire, Arthur clears has natural aristocratic qualities whereas Uryens, like Arthur’s father Uther, is a natural barbarian. Uryens usually goes about scowling and hollering. If he were a member of the Bunch, he could be Lyle or Tector. He’s not only rough around the edges but a brute within. Using force and making threats — and ever so often blowing his top — come naturally to him. So, when Arthur presses his sword against Uryens and offers life in exchange for loyalty, Uryens growls like the barbarian that he is. To be sure, Uryens pulls rank on Arthur by declaiming that he is a knight whereas Arthur is a mere squire, but it’s obvious that despite the difference in rank, Arthur is the naturally superior, wiser, and more gifted one. Uryens is a tough battle lord but unfit to be king.
Anyway, Arthur understands the issue at hand — status and rules/regulations are central to civilization and order — and concedes that it simply wouldn’t do for a proud knight to pledge loyalty to a social inferior. So, he hands Excalibur to Uryens to knight him. Of course, Uryens’ immediate reaction is to chop Arthur in two and keep the sword for himself, and one of the other knights tells him to do just that. But Arthur’s example inspires an emotion that Uryens had never felt before. Arthur’s bravery, righteousness, respect, and trust — in tandem with the magic power of Excalibur — impel something within Uryens to surface and acknowledge Arthur as the rightful ruler. For the first time, Uryens feels that his body and his soul are one. Uryens knights Arthur and then falls to his knees in the water and pledges allegiance to the new knight who is also king. Obviously, Uryens wasn’t merely impressed with Arthur’s niceness and decency. In the barbarian world, knights have nice boys and girls for lunch. And Uryens wouldn’t have submitted to Arthur purely out of fear. A man of manly pride, he would have preferred honorable death — especially in front of others — than meek surrender just to save his ass. Arthur has proven his mettle with the sword and has the advantage over Uryens. And yet, Uryens is initially defiant. His attitude is, “kill me, a**hole, see if I care!” What really moves Uryens is Arthur’s alchemic harmonization of the polarities of man. Arthur’s attributes are like an alloy, mixing the hard elements with soft elements, fusing mind and muscle.

EXCALIBUR – Arthur confused about his destiny.

In a dangerous and frightful world, the standard rule is that the tough must be tough and show no mercy to anyone. Every knight must intimidate other knights and show that he is the toughest of them all — rather like Uther in the opening scene of the movie. Indeed, it was Merlin who had to keep reminding Uther that one cannot rule simply with brute force and fear. Just because Uther is king doesn’t mean he should just push everyone around. It doesn’t mean he should treat everyone like a slave. If the Duke of Cornwall pledges to serve him, he too must give something in return. He must make alliances and earn allegiances. Without Merlin at his side, Uther would only think in terms of his big ego and try to totally demolish everyone who stands in his way until he tires and is then demolished in turn. That is no way to create a viable social order. Admonished by Merlin, Uther arrives at an understanding with the Duke of Cornwall, but he then throws it all away with his lust for Igraine, though, to be sure, the Duke of Cornwall sort of brought it upon himself by bragging about his wife in a loutish manner. If he had kept his wife hidden away, Uther would not have been overwhelmed with lust and gone crazy. But then, given his rough nature, something was bound to bring his kingdom down sooner or later. He’s too much a man of impulse to use his brains or rule wisely. His actions tear his kingdom apart, and Merlin has no choice but to pick up the pieces and reassemble them the best way he can, but he also knows that every decision, however well-meant or necessary, has its casualties and unforseen consequences — and the gravest turn out to be the vengeful hatred of Morgana.

EXCALIBUR – Merlin aids Uther in the peace with Cornwall.

And most of the knights whom Arthur encounters when he draws Excalibur out of the stone are like his father. One exception is Leondegrance(Patrick Stewart), a man of bigger heart than most. His graciousness may partly owe to the fact that he had his turn at the sword and realized that he wasn’t the one. Maybe he figures if he himself isn’t the one, better someone like Arthur than one of the other knights whom he knows to be brutish and cruel.
Anyway, Arthur has a combination of qualities that is surprisingly multi-faceted. He may not be the most intelligent man in the land, but he’s smarter than most. He may not be the strongest man in the land, but he’s very handy with the sword and very brave. He may not be the gentlest man in the land, but there’s something unmistakably decent and gracious about him. He may not be the most daring person in the land, but he’s full of boldness and creative spark. (He is well-rounded in his abilities, and this enables him to work with different kinds of people and serve as their conduit to one another. Suppose type A people like to hang with type A people, type B people like to hang with type B people, type C people like to hang with type C people, type D people like to hang with type D people, and type E people like to hang with type E people. They would not be good at reaching out to one another. But suppose there is a person with facets of A, B, C, D, and E. All these types are natural opposites, but suppose in one certain individual, they’ve become alchemized into a rare blend. Thus, he is able to connect with all kinds of people; and through him and his example as a conduit, different types of people are able to cooperate and understand one another, something that might not have been possible without him. Arthur has this quality about him in a good way. Bill Clinton had such quality about him but in a bad way because he was a cynical opportunist who never cared about anything but himself. He said he felt everyone’s ‘pain’, but it was just shtick. In contrast, Arthur really does try to understand people and get along with them. He heeds the advice of Merlin better than his father did. He’s a good ‘son’ to his stepfather, he’s won the respect of Uryens, and the other knights come to look up to him as the great unifier. He builds a Round Table so that knights who used to fight one another come together in a circle and form a brotherhood. There is something Arthur-like about the character of Pink in DAZED AND CONFUSED. He’s cool with the intellectuals, with the stoners, with the athletes, with older folks[but not so much with the coaches], with the younger kid, and etc. He gets along fine with all kinds of social groups, and he’s full of empathy, but he has his sense of principles too and a certain graciousness that is lacking in his peers. He spares the butt of the freshman but also assures him that if he’s a ‘man’ about it, the very guys who battered his ass will treat him as one of their own. He sees the good but also the negatives of everything and vice versa. United States used to have more such leaders when Wasps used to rule. So, there was room in American politics among the Protestants, Catholics, liberals, conservatives, various regions with their own flavors, and etc. But with the rise of Jews and homos, American political and cultural life is defined by a much narrower rule of what is permissible. So, everyone must be totally slavish to Jews and homos. If the GOP once had room for both pro-Zionists and Arabists, everyone must be a pro-Zionist and all Arabists must be purged and expelled. If, following the fall of the USSR, there was room for various voices on the future American policy on Russia, the rise of Jewish power has meant we must choose globo-Jewish-Homo imperialism against Russia that, shockingly enough, is vilified more today than during the Cold War. During the Cold War, Jews like the Rosenbergs and Sobell even sent atomic secrets to Josef Stalin at a time when all of Eastern Europe had fallen under communist tyranny. There used to be a time when both parties had room for pro- and anti- ‘gay agenda’ voices, but today, every politician has to bend over to the ‘gay agenda’ either in outright obeisance[as among all Democrats] or muted lack of opposition[as among most Republicans]. Since the permissible or ‘acceptable’ perimeters of debate and discourse have been so winnowed down, it’s difficult for any prominent figure in America to play an Arthurian kind of role. He cannot reach out and try to understand different communities and different interests. He must primarily suck up to Jews & Homos and do their bidding and cravenly dump on anyone or any group that is perceived to be in bad graces with hideous Jews and vicious homos. Consider Ted Cruz who oozes with slime. He had the temerity to appear before Christian Arabs whose lives have been devastated as the result of globo-Zionist foreign policy and preach to them that Israel is the best friend of Christian Arabs and that unless they are with Israel, he is not with them. What lowlife scum. Especially given what Zionist Jews have done to Christian Palestinians who are no less oppressed than Muslim Palestinians, why would any Christian Arab believe that Israel is the best friend of the Christian Arab community? It makes no sense, and if Ted Cruz had sense or balls, he would have at least tried to understand why the Christian Arabs are hurting so badly. But his sneering message to the Christian Arab community was that they should get on their knees and pray for Israel and support the likes of Sheldon Adelson’s whose bright foreign policy idea is that Iran should be nuked even though it hasn’t a single nuclear bomb and hasn’t invaded another country as far back as we can remember. And then, there’s the scumbag John McCain. It’d be one thing if McCain lent his ear to the Jewish-American community because, after all, Jews are very powerful in the US. But it’s another thing to be their rabid running dog barking at anyone and anything that is presumed to be the enemy of his master. If McCain were a true statesman, he would try to figure out what really happened in Ukraine. He would try to understand that Ukrainians have legitimate gripes about Russia but also that Russia has valid national interests in Ukraine. He would try to balance out all these considerations and try to work with all sides. But there is nothing Arthurian about him. Instead, he just rolls over before his Jewish masters, plays fetch for them, and barks & tries to bite at whatever and whomever is perceived to the enemy of his master. As Jewish and Homo, or Jomo, power has risen to such heights in the US, America has become far less multi-faceted and multi-dimensional in its social, cultural, moral, and intellectual discourse even as it has become more diverse racially, ethnically, and nationally. The rise of Jewish power and Homo power initially introduced Jewish and Homo concerns as part of the national discourse, but in time, the Jomo Power got so great and overwhelming — their control of few key elite institutions ensures control of everything as the head controls the body — that they began to shut down and prohibit the legitimacy of any group interest and agenda disfavored by Jews and homos. Indeed, it’s gotten a point where a politician is attacked and destroyed for trying to balance the demands of homos with the interests and values of those who don’t agree with the ‘gay agenda’. It’s not enough for homos that they are free to be homo and even get ‘married’ as homos. They demand that all businesses cater to ‘gay marriage’ or be destroyed. And if any politician tries to find a middle ground between homo demands and normal-moral demands, he is to be attacked and vilified as a ‘hater’, and, of course, the Jewish oligarchs, elites, and agents who run the national media provide the firepower for the homo agenda to completely obliterate the opposition. So, according to Jews and Homos, it’s their way or the highway, and that’s that. If they say the debate or discourse is over, we better just obey… or else. If they say ‘this’ is great and that is ‘awful’, we must all be totally for ‘this’ and totally against ‘that’. So, we must all wave the Israeli flag, the symbol of Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, but we better get rid of all Confederate Flags even though they don’t stand for slavery anymore. So, all politicians better wave the ‘gay rainbow flag’, but they better not say anything nice or admiring about Russia or Putin. It’s all either/or and us-or-them according to the power of Jews and homos. And yet, Jews and homos say we should be proud of the US and EU for being ‘liberal democracies’ when, in fact, they are essentially Jomo oligarchies.) Arthur is something more than a conventional leader. He has a certain spark about him; his little stunt about having Uryens knight him even surprises Merlin. It was a risky move, something that went against the rule book, but Arthur had a sense of the moment and took the chance that would seal his fate, and he proved to be right. A good leader can merely stick to the tried-and-true conventions and formula; he may do a good job but lacks the boldness of vision to transform his domain into something more or higher than what it is already. In contrast, a great leader must have something extra. He must be willing to take a risk once in a while at the crossroads. And Arthur has this spark, this ability to surprise. And this quality isn’t merely a matter of intelligence. He didn’t have time to mull over what to do in the tense moment with Uryens. He had to rely on intuition and inspiration. Though Merlin earlier remarked that Arthur is smart and a good student who catches on quickly, he also knows Arthur has innate qualities that cannot be taught. And in the end, Arthur must go it alone and find the answers from within himself. There is Merlin inside each of us, a voice inside our head that urges us to be more intelligent, more thoughtful, more reflective, more sensible, more cautious, more inspired, more creative, more daring, and etc. It also urges us to seek the balance in things instead of obsessing with a single outlook, single talent, or facet of life. This is especially true for those who seek to teach, lead, and/or inspire others. Some people hear this voice more clearly. For some it’s murky, and for most it’s barely audible. In a way, Merlin speaks to all men, but not all can hear his voice with equal clarity. Uther was close to Merlin, but most of Merlin’s advice fell on deaf ears as Uther was too busy listening to the growls of his stomach and the ‘boing’ of his pud. Uther’s lusts and rages drowned out Merlin’s words. It’s like Patton was a great general(at least in the movie), but his big ego had little patience for whatever wisdom may lay in his soul. Though everyone learns a lot from teachers and books, in the end he or she must learn to listen to his/her inner voice. This voice has dual quality. It is that of the person and yet also disassociated from the person. It is the voice of the person speaking to himself/herself, but it is also the voice of mystery speaking from some unknown recesses of the mind. When Hamlet thinks to himself, who is really doing the thinking? If it is simply him, why is he so filled with doubt and uncertainty? The voice can split into different voices and begin to argue with itself. It can strongly urge one to do something while slyly insinuating that it would be the worst thing one could do. Merlin is a noble character in EXCALIBUR, but he is not above Machiavellian tricks. His ultimate relation to mankind is ambiguous, but he means to inspire men or at least the few men who can hear his voice more clearly to do the right thing in creating a social order of peace, justice, and harmony. But there is also a fatalistic side to Merlin, as if he’d seen all of it before: the hope, the rise, the promise, the fulfilment, the decline, the demise, and collapse; and then the new beginning. The cycles of man’s rise and fall to be repeated over and over and over. Merlin was invested in the righteous kingship of Arthur and the birth of Camelot, but something within him probably knew it would all come to a bad end, and there was nothing he or anyone else could do about it. So, why even bother if mankind will make the same mistakes again and again and a kingdom’s rise will almost inevitably lead to decadence and the fall? Perhaps because hope against futility is the only reason we have for living. Indeed, why do we bother to live when we know we will die one day? Why do we bother to do anything when nothing lasts forever? There is no answer to this except that the life-force within us compels us to keep struggling, fighting, and continuing. Also, if everything good must come to an end, then the corollary must also be true: everything bad must come to an end. Nazism did fall, and so did communism. Then, maybe Liberal Decadence will fall one day as well. And maybe the dirty Jew-Homo scumbags will get their comeuppance one day by biting off way more than they can chew or swallow.

EXCALIBUR – Morgana’s killing machine.
The Fall of Everything

Like Arthur, Pike and Deke have more a ‘voice’ inside their heads than the Gorches and the bounty hunters do. Even when individuals go through the day without meeting people or saying much, there’s always a voice inside their heads that keep talking. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of thinking, but at other times, there’s an involuntary voice that keeps recurring without or even against conscious effort. Often, the conscious and the conscience(or temptation against conscience) are at odds. We consciously try to come to terms with our conscience, but we also consciously try to bury our conscience. More often that, we use our conscious minds to feel good about ourselves, to stoke our own egos, to feel justified, to entertain ourselves, and to flatter ourselves. But the fact is everyone has his or her troubles, betrayals, failures, and matters of shame. They burden one’s thoughts and emotions with guilt and doubt; they can lead to depression and self-loathing, so the conscious mind either tries to repress them or spin them to make itself feel either good and justified. And this happens all throughout RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, MAJOR DUNDEE, and THE WILD BUNCH. This consciousness vs conscience dichotomy is obviously the mundane stuff of life, but few film-makers dramatized it with as much force as Peckinpah did at his best. Peckinpah was the rare film-maker who was as much attuned to the psychology as to the physicality of violence. Thus, psychology is reverberated than overwhelmed by physicality. When Pike shouts, “bitch!” and blasts the Mexican woman who shot him in the back, it isn’t just slaughter but an act of purging. THE WILD BUNCH is a hall of mirrors when it comes to the soul. The Bunch can ride freely from place to place, but their soul-reflections trail them wherever they go. There is no escape. Pike will see Thornton staring back at him no matter which village, town, or wilderness he flees to. It’s not just about the hands-and-feet but about the heartbeat.
Consider the scene where Pike sits in the room with the Mexican whore after having failed to buy back Angel from Mapache. (Mapache won’t sell his ‘whore’ to Pike for any price. Pike earlier said, “10,000 in gold cuts a lot of family ties”, but Mapache won’t cut his ties to Angel for gold. Mapache’s ‘protection’ of Angel from Pike’s ‘materialistic’ offer is a sick twist on fatherly devotion. Mapache prizes Angel as a ‘son-figure’ whose value is beyond money, but then, Mapache holds onto him just to torture and torment. Pike can’t buy back Angel with his gold, but he can buy a whore for the night. But when the whore casts him a strange look when he overpays her, it’s as if Pike can’t buy her either. He bought her body but can’t buy her soul. Or maybe she was taken aback because Pike’s generosity violated her world-view. She’d likely grown accustomed to having men treat her like a piece of meat. Not a pleasant outlook on life but one that offers her some sense of stability. So, how is she to react when a gringo pays her in gold and looks upon as a woman than a whore. If he treated her nice and took her away, it might mean something. But even as he pays her handsomely and treats her gentley, he will nevertheless walk out on her life like all the other men who came and went. Degradation is unpleasant but it offers its own comfort. One gets used to it. So, to a woman who’d grown accustomed to defilement, kindness can be a kind of cruelty. It is why the prostitute in STAGECOACH feels threatened by the love of Ringo[John Wayne]. She’s not used to that sort of thing. It’s why the young girl saved from prostitution in RED BEARD doesn’t know how to react to kindness when the old doctor doesn’t beat her up for bad behavior. It’s why the woman reacts strangely near the end of LIFE OF OHARU[by Kenji Mizoguchi] when a client treats her with kindness. And it’s why the wife in SEVEN SAMURAI prefers to immolate herself the fire than rejoin her husband. She’d grown used to debasement and finds it crueler to reenter normal society. But men can feel the same too. The old lord in RAN eventually abandons all illusions about himself and humanity, so when his youngest son comes to rescue him, his reaction is hostile than grateful. He found comfort in the degradation of the world, so why disturb his peace with darkness?) There’s no dialogue, and there’s nothing he can say to her or she to him. And for all practical purposes, there’s nothing Pike can do about Angel. The only sensible thing is for Pike to just swallow his pride, forget about Angel, and ride off with the gold. And yet, Pike is wound up tight. Even a night of sex with a pretty young Mexican woman failed to console or refreshen him. Even whiskey can’t drown out the pain. It’s a moment more comparable to something like THE LAST TANGO IN PARIS than any action movie or Western. Will Kane(Gary Cooper) had troubled moments in HIGH NOON, but his thoughts and feelings were focused on business-at-hand. He’s the good guy, Frank Miller is the bad guy. He wants to take on Frank Miller, but the town won’t come to his aid, even though he’s doing it for the community. One could argue that Will Kane is really doing it for his own pride than anything else — as half the community seems to resent his having made the town G-rated, thereby reducing the profits of the vice industries like liquor and gambling — , but it is something he has to do, and there is no if’s and but’s about it. Pride or morality, one thing is clear, which is that he, as sheriff, has a job to do. Also, Will Kane is a virtuous man whose only sin, if it is such, is the pride of courage and proper manhood. In contrast, there’s something sleazy about Pike sitting around in a whore’s den. There’s even a baby crying in the corner, and who know who the father is. And though Mapache is a bad guy, Pike is no saint either, and it’s even truer of the Gorches who are with another woman in the adjoining room. Besides, Angel knew the kind of game he was playing and what the risks were. Besides, Angel got himself into this mess in the first place by shooting Theresa and gaining the ire of Mapache, who informs Dutch that it was Teresa’s grief-stricken mother who squealed about the missing cases of rifles and ammunition. Though the mother may seem like a traitor to the village and a rat, we can well understand why a mother would be angry over the murder of her daughter, even if the girl was a hussy. Angel nearly brought disaster on all the Bunch when he shot Theresa, and it was Pike and Dutch’s diplomatic skills that defused the tension. Pike even went further and insisted on having Angel back from Mapache’s goons for the Train heist. It was a risky move, but Pike stood by Angel. So, it’s not the case Pike hasn’t done anything for Angel, and it’s probably why Angel ‘played his string right to the end’. Pike and Dutch have been right by him too all along.

Mexican whore surprised by Pike’s gold.

And yet, no amount of intoxication(drink), pleasure(woman), or rationalization(mind) can calm Pike’s frayed nerves as he sits in that tawdry room with the whore. He hears the baby crying, and he sees the young woman looking sort of Madonna-like as she washes herself. At the very least, Will Kane knows what he must do despite his fears, but Pike doesn’t even know what he ought to do. There is no simple right or wrong in any of this. Everyone is a killer, and everyone is partly justified, even Mapache as Angel killed Teresa in front of the men and stole some rifles and ammunition. In that moment, Pike isn’t even sure what he is about or what his place in the world is. As an outlaw, he has no rooted sense of loyalty to any patch of territory; the only tribalism he knows is leading the Bunch and sticking together — as with the nomadic Jews. But as the Bunch are united in robbery and mayhem, there’s little in their lives to truly inspire them. Kane, by the very nature of his profession and calling, stands for something high and noble. The Bunch are under no such obligation/delusion, and yet, Pike feels he must not run this time, that he must do something.
The scene with the whore is crucial because it’s where Pike’s fate is decided(or born, which may be the significance of the crying baby), but it is also an isolated moment, an emotional islet or prison cell, that stands apart from the rest of the film driven by propulsive action or drama. Pike’s biggest decision, one of iron resolve, is birthed from a dark interior of indecision. Light emerges from darkness, and we aren’t sure as to how or why, but it feels right, and in that moment, each of the Bunch sense the feeling and come to an agreement. The men who often bickered with words find unity in silence. It is because of the element of psychological uncertainty that the scene is all the more remarkable as Pike arrives at a bold decision.
It’s true that Angel ‘played his strings right to the end’, but he did what was expected of him, and he didn’t have a choice. His choices have been made brutally stark and simple. He would either be tortured and killed without ratting on the Bunch OR be tortured and killed with ratting on the Bunch.

In contrast, there was more than one viable choice for Pike. After all, even the decision to ride out and leave Angel behind would have been justifiable under the circumstances, and Angel himself would have understood. Though Dutch would have been upset, they are outlaws, not saint-martyrs, and they know how the game is played. Outlaws may profess honor-among-thieves but they are not supposed to be romantics who die for honor. They don’t put friendship over self-interest and money, especially when something like an attempt to rescue Angel is almost doomed from the start. Thus, Pike’s final decision is more about psychology than principle. It’s beyond issues of moral logic. Whatever the ‘voice’ inside his head whispered in his ears, it lifted Pike to do something uncharacteristic of him and yet become the perfect coda to his life.
It is doubtful that such a voice murmured in the minds of the Gorches. Sure, they are upset over Angel too, but it’s hard to imagine Lyle or Tector initiating the action by walking over to Pike and saying, “Let’s go”. It’s Pike who hears the ‘voice’ in his head, and he’s the only one with the authority and regalness to articulate it into proper gesture and action. When he makes a suggestion, it carries a little more weight than if anyone else does. He has that quality about him, which is why Dutch looks up to him. Dutch is tough guy and a doer, but he lacks the edge. Pike is the spearhead, Dutch is the rod. It just wouldn’t have been the same if Dutch had gone to others and said, “Let’s go”. Only Pike could have done it right, and Dutch waits until Pike is ready to lead the pack. It’s like the knights in EXCALIBUR wait for Arthur to heal and come to his senses so he could lead again. In some cases, the passing of one leader is quickly replaced by another who is just as talented. But in other cases, especially in rough & chaotic times, the passing of a key leader can lead to disarray due to reasons of dissension among the ranks or because one else can fill the shoes of the predecessor.

KAGEMUSHA – Shingen in the Middle: the irreplaceable lord.

Consider the anxiety of the clan upon the passing of the lord in KAGEMUSHA. Shingen wasn’t just the top dog but a truly great leader, strategist, and warlord. His hotheaded son is talented in war but has a very narrow understanding of power, diplomacy, and strategy. His insecurity also makes him overly zealous to prove himself as worthy to take his father’s place. And the fact that his own son(Shingen’s grandson) has been chosen as rightful heir makes him all the more eager to prove his mettle, possibly in the hope that the vassals will reverse Shingen’s order and make him the leader of the clan. Though the death of Shingen is kept secret and the clan lasts for few more years, the writing’s on the wall that the clan is eventually doomed. Given the ability and moral character of the vassals and Shingen’s brother, perhaps the clan could have been survived if they had taken command, but they remain true to their late lord’s wishes, which means that the hotheaded son will serve as clan head until his son(Shingen’s grandson) comes of age. (In a way, Shingen’s greatness is the downfall of the Takeda Clan. Though the clan is shown to have other men of talent and intelligence, the sheer aura of Shingen’s invincibility has made the clan overly dependent on his myth. The vassals are so devoted not only to Shingen but to his myth that, upon his death, they are at a loss as to what to do. They might be able to find a leader just as capable as Shingen, but they can’t find anyone to equal Shingen’s myth. In contrast, the character of Tokugawa, who eventually triumphed and gained power over all of Japan, is seen as less egotistical and more cautious in his approach to power. His concept of power is systematic than individual-centric.) The trouble that befalls the world of RAN also results from a transition of power. The first son is too dumb to be ruler for long. The second son is outwitted and out-willed by Lady Kaeda. And the third son is too hotheaded to play it smart. But then, there wasn’t much he could have done. It’s like a wolf pack undergoes its greatest crisis when its leader is injured or dies. It’s never easy for an established hierarchy to adjust to a new one. In SEVEN SAMURAI, it’s Kambei-as-leader that pulls everyone, samurai and peasant, together into a united force. He provides the centrifugal force with his leadership, intelligence, experience, and wisdom. We wonder what would have happened if Kambei had been the first to die. Though not the best or strongest swordsman, he has the strength of mind, character, and will to lead both samurai and farmers in ways no one else can. And it’s lucky that Vito Corleone had Michael Corleone because neither Sonny nor Fredo could have led the family operations for long. Sonny is too rash and hotheaded. And Fredo(John Cazale) is too stupid and weak. Because Tom Hagen(Robert Duvall) isn’t really part of the family by blood, he couldn’t have been chosen, but even if he were, he lacks the icy will of Michael to go all the way and win. He’s a lawyer, not a leader. In any movement, it’s sad to see a key leader go. Not only because of the admiration people feel for him but because he may well be irreplaceable. William F. Buckley had his detractors, but he was a master strategist of the American Conservative movement, and he was credited with some real triumphs. He was a thinker in his own right and made decisions according to his own will and logic. And there were times when he stood firm on certain controversial issues. But consider Rich Lowry the mealymouthed wussy boy who shrugs his shoulders like an elementary school boy eating peanut-butter-jelly-sandwich and mugs for approval from the likes of Al Sharpton and confesses that he goes weepy-poo when listening to the speeches of MLK the jive-ass apelike fraud who hollered a lot of bullshit about some bogus ‘dream’.

William F. Buckley at his peak.
Pansy-boy Rich Lowry who might as well be a fruitkin.

Usually, the main focus of a movie is on the leader-type for he is the most dynamic character of the story. But there are also stories where the leader-type is so larger-than-life that we are made to identify with characters who observe the bigger characters and events from vantage point that is more humanlike and familiar. While the leader-type can be exciting — as George C. Scott is the central role in PATTON — , he can also be mad, nihilistic, inhuman, and monstrous. Think of Captain Ahab of MOBY DICK, the movie as I haven’t read the book. The movie is seen through the eyes of one of the crew. Think of THE THIRD MAN where Harry Lime, a natural leader, is a sociopath egotist. Think of GOODFELLAS where we identify mainly with Henry Hill who serves as our eyes and ears for guys like Paulie, Jimmy Conway, and Tommy who are larger personalities. In the case of THE GODFATHER, it’s interesting to watch Michael Corleone go from the lowliest member of the family to the uppermost member. He goes from the all-too-human brother — a ‘civilian’ — observing the gods of gangsterism to the greatest gangster god of them all.

The tension in THE WILD BUNCH derives from the oft-realization, especially by Pike and Deke, that their authority isn’t easy to come by. They don’t have the commanding respect that John Wayne’s characters have in nearly all of his movies. Or consider Lee Marvin in THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE. Though he fears John Wayne’s character, he is clearly the leader of his gang; and when Wayne’s character is not around, everyone gets out of his way.. John Wayne and Lee Marvin towered over other characters in physicality and personality, and everyone knew it. Or consider someone like James Cagney who wasn’t a big guy but more than made up for his size with tenacious ferocity. His characters were like a wolverine. Joe Pesci in GOODFELLAS and CASINO channeled something of Cagney. Cagney in movies like the PUBLIC ENEMY and WHITE HEAT was a mad dog that kept on biting and attacking and wouldn’t stop until it or its target was dead. A certain recklessness made Cagney’s characters intimidating. They were fearless, and even as they were destined for a violent end, they weren’t gonna go easy. It’s like what Ace Rothstein says of Nicky Santoro in CASINO: “No matter how big a guy might be, Nicky would take him on. You beat Nicky with fists, he comes back with a bat. You beat him with a knife, he comes back with a gun. And if you beat him with a gun, you better kill him… because he’ll keep coming back and back… until one of you is dead.” Neither Pike nor Deke is like the characters played by John Wayne or Lee Marvin(and it would have been interesting with Marvin in the role of Pike because it would have been against the type of character he usually played) and certainly not like the characters played by James Cagney, most of whom were psychotic and unhinged. Pike and Deke stand tall, but neither is a Big Man. And they show all the wear-and-tear that never really registered on Wayne, even as the fat one-eyed gunslinger in TRUE GRIT and the cancer-ridden ex-sheriff in THE SHOOTIST. Wayne had become such a national myth that even his less invulnerable roles presented first and foremost the legend than a man. It’s impossible to see THE SHOOTIST as a Western about just any aging gunman of the West. We can’t help but to see it as Wayne’s last hurrah. (It must however be said that, compared to action heroes like Clint Eastwood and especially Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger of the 1980s, there was much that was human and even humanist about Wayne’s screen persona and roles. He towered over other men but was still of the same species, whereas many of the later action heroes seem to be like a race of gods imbued with godlike powers. This cult of invulnerability probably really took off with the 007 movies and the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone.)

Deke Thorton
Pike Bishop

Pike and Deke are usually caught up in thorny situations vis-a-vis the others because they are tall men and natural leaders, but never quite commanding enough in their authority. For one thing, the kind of men they run around with are not exactly most trustworthy or supportive. After all, honor-among-thieves and honor-among-bounty-hunters don’t go that far. Why would men who rob and kill care much about honor? As for Thornton, he has to deal with the dregs of society, bounty hunters who are too dumb & trashy to be lawmen and too cowardly & gutless to be outlaws. They scamper back and forth between the law and outlawry, scavenging off both. Thus, the very human material that Pike and Deke have to deal with make for troubled authority. Dutch is more trustworthy, but even he poses a problem for Pike. If anything, precisely because Dutch has certain better qualities, Pike is under greater pressure to be something more than an outlaw. Dutch’s friendship has to be earned with a measure of respect, but then, respect isn’t what outlawry is about. As for Deke, even though he leads the bounty hunters, he is also at their mercy because he is under Harrigan’s thumb. He is a mere prisoner out on parole, and the bounty hunters have the license to kill Deke if he tries to run. So, Deke plays the role of leading a pack of men he actually wants to run from. Though the lowliness of the bounty hunters is an affront to Deke’s ‘professional’ pride — whether working with the outlaws or on the side of the law, he likes to do things right — , in some ways he’s probably relieved that he’s leading a pack of incompetents because, otherwise, he would have a better chance of catching up with and confronting Pike, something he wants to stall as long as possible.
The dynamics of the pursuit is ironic because it’s sort of like the prey hunting the predator. As the Bunch are much tougher gunmen than the bounty hunters, it should be the bounty hunters who should be running from the Bunch than the other way around, but due to certain circumstances, legal and psychological, Pike prefers to run than turn the tables and confront the bounty hunters in open combat. Deke and Pike ride across open spaces in pursuit of one by the other, but there are psychic barbed wire between them. Even though Deke is going after Pike and Pike is running from Deke, there’s something within Deke that wants to run from the chase(as he still doesn’t want to kill his friend)itself, and there’s something within Pike that wants to save Deke from the clutches of the law. All these matters make for a Crisis of Leadership in THE WILD BUNCH. Hierarchy is a common feature of many movies, especially action movies and films about politics, but what really stands out about THE WILD BUNCH and some other Peckinpah films is the extremity of anxiety, a sense of rankings among the men being in perpetual flux. This is especially true of MAJOR DUNDEE, THE WILD BUNCH, THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, STRAW DOGS, and OSTERMAN WEEKEND.
Peckinpah must have felt this way about himself as he came to prominence at a time when the cult of the director-as-‘auteur’ was taking off in film circles. Such a mind-set came to affect many directors in the late 60s and 70s, and not always for the good. Mike Nichols had a smash with THE GRADUATE but then began to take himself too seriously as the next Welles-Fellini-Bergman-Antonioni-combined in overdone films like CATCH-22 and CARNAL KNOWLEDGE. He even gave the ‘art film’ treatment to something as silly as THE DAY OF THE DOLPHIN. Among all the notable directors who came to prominence in the 1960s, it’s arguable that only Stanley Kubrick sustained the level of vision and artistry that first made his name, but then, he only managed to make three films in the twenty years since 1980.
Peckinpah was an egotist-artist with big ideas. He sought to command the film-making process like a general, and he insisted on strict hierarchy. He fired record numbers of people from the sets of MAJOR DUNDEE and THE WILD BUNCH. He wouldn’t suffer fools who weren’t professionally up to the job. He probably got this side of him from his grandfather and father who were demanding men. But then, he also prided himself as a rebel who gave the middle finger to established authority and followed his own muse. In the 1950s, he got fired from a TV studio because he came to work wearing jeans. Like John Huston, he liked to play the role of hard-drinking maverick who followed his own whims and didn’t give a crap what anyone else thought. He felt resentful about the ‘suits’ and money-men breathing down his neck and watching over their investment entrusted to him. In a way, Peckinpah approached film-making as a kind of heist. He would ‘steal’ the money from the Hollywood ‘railroad men’ and pursue & fulfill his own vision than deliver what the studio expected of him. Peckinpah felt toward Hollywood what Pike felt toward Harrigan and the Railroad.
Pike, in a conversation with Dutch, takes pride in having forced the railroad to change its way of doing things. It’s like a hacker who breaks into computers and then brags about how he forced the computer makers to improve security as the result of his having pointed out all the holes in the system. So, he isn’t only a transgressor but a transformer of cyber-systems. Likewise, Pike doesn’t just brag about how he hit the railroad a few times but about how he forced it to become a better outfit as the result of his exploits. Peckinpah likewise also saw himself as the violator who actually made the object of his violation better than it was — even though Hollywood establishment had too much pride to admit it. Hollywood had a certain set way of doing things, but Peckinpah was among the key film-makers of the 60s who forced Hollywood to change its ways, and whole new possibilities were opened up. And by incorporating the transgressive new grammar of film-making created by directors like Peckinpah, a whole new chapter of American Movie-making began. Hollywood could only be saved against itself by visionary outsiders. It couldn’t be saved from within because its way of doing things had become overly rigid and stodgy. It had to be changed by mavericks like Peckinpah, Penn, Nichols, and Schlesinger: creative outlaws than crusty in-laws of the industry.
But then, the exchange between Pike and Dutch proved to be prophetic for Peckinpah but many others of New Hollywood. PIKE: “And a hell of a lot of people just can’t stand being wrong.” DUTCH: “Pride.” PIKE: “And they can’t forget it. That pride, being wrong, or learn by it.” DUTCH: “How about us, Pike. You reckon we learned being wrong today?” PIKE: “I sure hope to God we did.” Sadly, Peckinpah and many of his peers were also overcome with pride and came to either take on unwise projects or handle promising material with excess than exactitude, messing up what otherwise might have been masterpieces. Had Peckinpah played his cards right, PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID could have been a masterpiece than a near-great film, and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA could have been one of his greatest films than the fascinating wreckage that it is. It just goes to show that even the right lesson can turn into the wrong lesson. Peckinpah was right in the late 60s and early 70s that Hollywood executives were behind the times and the film-making business/culture had to be shaken up by men like him. But that didn’t mean film-makers, as so-called ‘auteurs’, should get too big for their britches and pretend that they could just coast on personal vision, maverick attitude, and knee-jerk hostility toward any concern for the business/professional side of film-making.

BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA – El Jefe the Dark Patriarch
CHINATOWN – Noah Cross the Dark Patriarch

(CHINATOWN was also released in the same year as BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA in 1974. Both films have the figure of the dark patriarch, played by John Huston in Roman Polanski’s film. Like THE SEARCHERS and THE BIRTH OF A NATION, both films are about the sexual politics of men’s rivalry over the right of the womb and what comes out of it for the survival of the family, clan, or race depends on it. Anyway, notice how CHINATOWN is a work of mastery and brilliance from beginning to end. A real treasure of 70s American Cinema. BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, in contrast, is like something salvaged from garbage heap that sometimes looks like valuable antique and sometimes looks like worthless junk. And yet, it’s a fascinating failure unlike most bad movies that are merely boring. BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA provokes and stirs because the basic material has all the ingredients for a great film. Most failures could only have failed, but tragic failure of BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA exposes all the things that might have gone right if Peckinpah had thought things through instead of just winging the project through. In some ways, Peckinpah’s failure is more interesting than Polanski’s success that we only need to admire and appreciate; I wouldn’t change a thing in CHINATOWN. In contrast, BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA prods each of us to ‘complete’ the work in his or her own fashion. Ironically, Peckinpah and some other writers had done this with the original script of RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY that had only been roughly finished by its drunken screenwriter. We sort of feel like Bennie who’s also under pressure to see the Garcia business through to the end. The experience of watching the film is like carrying around Peckinpah’s screwed-up head and having conversations with it as we try to make better sense of the film. It’s a strange trip because, in a way, Bennie is the main villain as well as the hero of the story. He got himself involved, and his actions indirectly but then inevitably lead to Elita’s death, and then he goes on a rampage to find the ones who are really responsible even though no one forced him into the sordid business. And even though he finally confronts El Jefe and kills him, what does he really know about the man or his daughter? Or about Alfredo Garcia? Didn’t Garcia take advantage of El Jefe’s daughter? Wasn’t El Jefe’s honor insulted, though not as much as Ethan’s when the Indian savages take Debbie and raise her to carry ‘red savages’ in her womb? And didn’t his daughter dishonor her family — unlike the daughter of Bonasera as related in the opening of THE GODFATHER? Bennie’s just a rage machine looking for some kind of closure about his dead woman, and he finally kills El Jefe who actually kept his word and offered the money in exchange for the head. One could argue that El Jefe was ultimately to blame since he put the bounty on the head that triggered a series of events that led to a trail of mayhem. But couldn’t one also blame Alfredo Garcia as the real catalyst for the massacres since he took advantage of the innocence of a powerful patriarch’s daughter? And wasn’t the daughter to blame to some extent too? Surely, as the daughter of a powerful oligarch, she must have known she can’t act like some cheap hussy. She may feel Madonna-like caressing her swollen belly, but she was sexually taken advantage of and she did dishonor her padre. El Jefe is a man of reputation in a very conservative part of the world, and what would happen to his authority if it gets around that his daughter was easily knocked up by some playboy? Just as Bennie has his honor to defend, so does El Jefe. It’s further complicated because both El Jefe and Bennie acted out of what they considered to be noble intentions. El Jefe was defending his family honor, and Bennie wanted to get the money for Alfredo’s head to start a new life with Elita. It wasn’t really out of greed as in material avarice. It was for Elita and to win her respect as a man of some means, even though, ironically, his plan totally turns her off. Bennie wasn’t doing it for money just for himself. The only ones who seem to be acting purely out of greed are the two Mexican gangsters and the quasi-corporate gangster outfit that’s only interested in one million dollars. El Jefe was willing to sacrifice one million for honor. And Bennie was willing to do something vile and gross — removing a dead man’s head — for money to start a new life with a woman he loved. Both had personal reasons. In contrast, the gangsters had only monetary interests. But even among the gangsters, there’s something touching about the two homo assassins. Though cold and ruthless toward humanity, they feel for one another no less than Bennie and Elita for each other. When one of the homos is killed, we can’t help feel sympathy for the other homo who’d rather die with his lover than go on living. With death wish, he takes on Bennie and gets shot and killed; he seems almost grateful as he falls and dies. So, even sociopathic degenerates with no feeling for humanity can share a deep love with a special friend or lover. Perhaps one problem with BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA is the result of the Fictional Distance Paradox, i.e. more the main character closely resembles the artist, the more guarded the artist becomes about himself. Though BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA is, in some ways, Peckinpah’s most personal work, it is also his most repressed and secretive. Sometimes, the artist may be more revealing about himself by creating a distance between himself and his alter egos. If the characters, as alter egos, are sufficiently different from the artist, the artist may feel freer to explore their various facets. But if the character is too much like the artist, the artist may identify too closely with him and feel defensive about the character. Instead of exploring the character, he is guarded. Even as more of the artist is expressed through the character, an embarrassed unease about the self-exposure makes the artist recoil from further examination of the character and instead resort to rage and recriminations. And this is partly true of BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Warren Oates is so thinly disguised as Peckinpah’s alter ego that it’s as though Peckinpah became nervous and uneasy about fully developing his character. Bennie was too much him, Peckinpah. Peckinpah talks through Bennie instead of delving into his character. Through Bennie, we come closest to Peckinpah’s own personality, but we are also pushed away from his soul that is as tightly clung to like Alfredo’s head. It’s like Peckinpah was saying “this is the real me, but don’t come near because I’ll bite.” He invite us into the house but shuts himself in the bathroom. In contrast, consider the characters of THE WILD BUNCH, THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, and PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID. Though Peckinpah surely injected some of his own ego and hangups onto those characters, the sufficient distance between himself and the characters allowed him to probe deeper into their psyches.) Though Peckinpah was very demanding and fired a lot of people on the set of THE WILD BUNCH, he also led by example with strict discipline over himself and curtailment of his own penchant for excesses.
But by the time he was making PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, he was a bundle of contradictions that sent mixed signals to everyone from studio bosses to those working under him. He demanded studio money and support but insisted on doing everything his way. He demanded professionalism from the men and women around him but increasingly lost his own self-control to alcohol, drugs, and women. But he had too much pride — worse, self-pitying pride — to admit his own faults, and so he never fully recovered even though he went on to make THE KILLER ELITE, CROSS OF IRON, and THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND that are, at the very least, highly interesting films. CROSS OF IRON is most definitely a failure, even a disaster, but it’s an impressive work nevertheless. THE KILLER ELITE and THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND(sort of like THE KILLER ELITE crossed with STRAW DOGS) are, in mood and rhythm, masterworks of Cinema of Paranoia on par with THE PRESIDENT’S ANALYST(Theodore Flicker), NIGHT MOVES(Arthur Penn), and PARALLAX VIEW(Alan Pakula) — though, of course, none of these films come anywhere near THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE(John Frankenheimer).
Something that the Kris Kristofferson’s character says in CONVOY summed up the mind-set if not the movie-set of Peckinpah’s cinema: “I’m not the leader. I’m just up front.” Peckinpah didn’t want to lead but insisted that others follow. He was willful in doing things his way but worked in an industry where one had to cooperate and compromise. (And the drugs really brought him down.) Peckinpah’s life and creativity would have been more consistent had he become a novelist or playwright, someone who can, from first page to the last, produce a work exactly as he wishes. But he fell in love with cinema, the most expensive and elaborate of the narrative arts. Furthermore, even as he resented all the differences and dissensions he had to deal with in the making of films, he thrived from such one-on-one and one-against-the-world tussle for control, recognition, authority, and pride. As gifted as he was as a writer, he was best as a creative collaborator than creative one-man-show. He needed the creative sparks from friction with other creative people. THE WILD BUNCH, for instance, was Walon Green’s original vision from a story idea by Roy Sickner. Like Fellini, Kazan, and Kurosawa, Peckinpah’s best creative juices were squeezed from the clash of wills, egos, and visions. He wasn’t fit to be an ‘isolated’ and ‘self-exiled’ artists like Robert Bresson, Carl Dreyer, Andrei Tarkovsky, and Ingmar Bergman. He had to be where the action was. He had to bat his ideas around with others. It’s like Jack Torrance in THE SHINING finds he can’t do anything on his own in the Overlook Hotel.
Consider the scene in LA DOLCE VITA where Marcello Mastroianni’s character decides to get away from the hustle & bustle and work on his novel in some quiet place by the beach, but nothing comes to him. He is naturally too restless. He’s not one of those artists who can sit still and quietly dredge up meanings from within. He’s more into the adventure of finding than in the finding, which requires tremendous amounts of moral, spiritual, and/or philosophical concentration and/or grace. He’s the artist if distractions than concentration. It’s like some people are more into the adventure of looking for gold or oil than in the patience and dedication of really digging in one spot. It’s like the father figure in JUNIOR BONNER with dreams of going to Australia to strike it rich… finally. (Steven Spielberg is a master director of distractions, but then, he never really pretended to be searching for any truth. CLOSE ENCOUNTER OF THE THIRD KIND is a kind of exception because Spielberg was a UFO nut for awhile in the 1970s. But he appears to have been more into the adventure and thrill of UFO sightings than with the humdrum truth that no real extraterrestrial sightings have ever been made. The final scene of the movie is magnificent but very much like the fake Madonna-sighting scene in LA DOLCE VITA. We are taken for fools just like the people who gather around the boy and girl who point their fingers at the Madonna. Fellini and Spielberg had something in common as great showman who made an art of showy distractions that made us forget the truth. It appears Steiner, the intellectual who kills himself in LA DOLCE VITA, was distraught because he couldn’t find any meaning within himself. He could only finds bits and pieces of meaning through art and sounds of nature, but where such the truth or mere distractions?) Peckinpah was the kind of artist who finds his material from the winds and storms of life all around him. His ears are attuned to the bustling noises of the world than to murmurs of inner life. He sometimes hears the voice within but isn’t sure what to make of it or do with it. It’s like the ending of LA DOLCE VITA where the ‘hero’ can’t make out what the blonde girl across the water is saying. She’s like a vision of a pure angel delivering a secret message to him, but the winds and seagulls drown out her voice. But then, maybe the sound of the wind and seagulls is that very message. Or, maybe she had nothing important to say or is just another corrupt soul coming onto him. Or maybe it was about typing lessons as, earlier, she’d told him she wants to learn to type. She is a vision but also a distraction. Some directors are the masters of the physical world of men of action and clashing egos, and Kurosawa was at his most powerful in films like SEVEN SAMURAI with strong personalities, restless busybodies, shifting situations, and lots of action. Even in a more contemplative films like IKIRU and RECORD OF A LIVING BEING(aka I LIVE IN FEAR), what stands out is the difficulty of his characters in coping with existential crises. The Langston Hughes poem about the exploding raisin-in-the-sun comes to mind. Though IKIRU was inspired by Leo Tolstoy’s THE DEATH OF IVAN ILYCH, one significant difference is Ilych finds a measure of peace within himself on his deathbed whereas Watanabe, the old man afflicted with stomach cancer, can only find meaning through interaction with the larger world. If anything, the crisis of the looming death compels him to engage with life like he’d never done before. As for the father in RECORD OF A LIVING BEING, his deep fears about the world result in a harebrained scheme to relocate his entire family to Brazil. His meaning comes only by engaging with the world, even as he tries to remove his family from the world. There’s no meaning to found in the quietude of the self. Meaning comes from grappling with problems of poverty, injustice, crime, corruption, disease, war, destruction, etc., the physical problems of the world. The vision is humanist or Christian than Zen/Buddhist. At the end, all alone in the mental clinic, he simply goes mad and is no longer even able to think, even if it means thinking wrongfully. He’s gone nuts. Compare that to the cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky where the meaning is to be find within the self by trusting the voice from within. For Kurosawa, madness is madness, in RECORD OF A LIVING BEING or in RAN. For Tarkovsky, meaning may be found in the inner voice of madness. The old father in THE SACRIFICE deals with Nuclear Armageddon not by direct course of action — as with the character in Kurosawa’s film who seeks refuge in Brazil — but through a meditative self-exploration by which he might implore with God to forgive and spare humanity. There is also the scene with the candle in NOSTALGHIA, the sort of scene that would have been out-of-place in Kurosawa’s cinema where the wind blows too strong for any candle to remain lit for long. In contrast, Mizoguchi, like Tarkovsky, could draw the audience into a meaningful vision of life even when nothing seemed to be ‘happening’. When things go silent in a Kurosawa film, we wonder who will break the silence with some talk, rage, or violence. It’s no wonder that loudmouth Mifune was so crucial to some of Kurosawa’s greatest works. But even when things fall silent in a Mizoguchi film, we hear the ‘voice’ from within, and this is what makes his films hypnotic and trance-inducing.

Akira Kurosawa
Andrei Tarkovsky
Kenji Mizoguchi
Sam Peckinpah

Peckinpah was obviously closer to Kazan, Fellini, Huston, and Kurosawa than to directors like Dreyer, Bresson, Mizoguchi, or Tarkovsky. He was most alive when dealing with the conflicts of outer life and big talk. Even so, the films of Kazan, Fellini, Huston, Kurosawa, and Peckinpah gained special power by presenting individuals as the troubled bridge between the physical world and inner realm. If films that lean heavily toward social reality tend to be ‘socially conscious’ and preachy, and films that lean heavily on inner reality or ideas face the danger of solipsism or self-indulgence. Of course, the rare artist can make anything work. Gillo Pontecorvo’s THE BATTLE OF ALGIERS is a brazenly political film about external contest of wills but is a powerful work of art, and Robert Bresson’s deeply withdrawn films are some of the best ever made.

The conflictive nature between the individual and his inner self was significant to film-makers like Kurosawa, Kazan, and Kurosawa. The two are almost never in a state of harmony. (This may be why Peckinpah’s two films with Steve McQueen, JUNIOR BONNER and THE GETAWAY are, in some ways, the least characteristic because McQueen’s screen persona seems so at ease with onself even if the roles weren’t necessarily written that way.) In contrast, the films of Dreyer, Bresson, Mizoguchi, and Tarkovsky allow for moments when the individual and his inner-self arrive at a kind of harmony, synthesis, a state of grace pure and true, a kind of ‘spiritual unity’ that becomes, if for a moment, impervious to the whole world. Perhaps this harmony of the individual and the inner self is a kind of delusional madness, as with the outcasts in THE STALKER or NOSTALGHIA. Maybe only through ‘madness’ could man attain such grace. Without ‘madness’, man primarily judges his worthy in relation to the compromised world of status, wealth, social approval, official doctrine, and vanity. His social self dictates his individual self that then represses the ‘useless’ gibberish of his inner voice made of nature, dreams, and spirituality. For a person to function and succeed in society, his individual self must be attuned to his social self. The social self can, of course, deal with issues of morality, conscience, and matters of human rights, but it can only deal with ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ in terms of collective morality. What if the deepest truths reside within the human heart, and what if this truth is spiritual and more the stuff of dream than drama, more the stuff of prayer than sermons? The social self can easily mold the conscious self, but the inner-self is difficult to tap into. What of the individual who rejects the social self and seeks to connect his individual/conscious self with his inner self? In rejecting the social self, he seeks to abolish the conflict between himself and the world. He acknowledges if not accepts the world for what it is and withdraws into himself. And since he is no longer concerned with worldly matters or with others’ opinions of him, he is at last unfazed about connecting with the dreams, imagination, and spirits of his inner self. Consider the eponymous character of Tarkovsky’s STALKER who is at peace with himself. His conscious mind believes what his inner soul tells him. He believes in the miracle of the Zone. Thus, his individual self, his inner self, and the Zone are integrated and interconnected. Of course, this comes at the price of his social self. He is an outcast, almost like a social mutant. Furthermore, there is a danger when individual self merges with the inner-self because the inner-self, as the realm of dreams, fantasies, phantoms, spirt, and passions, can also be a world of madness and desperation. Spiritualists tend to believe that the deeper we peer into ourselves, the profounder truths we shall find, but what if the opposite is sometimes true? What if, as in ALTERED STATES, what lies in the deepest recesses of us is not the illumination of the saint or wise-man but the chaos of the primal beast of aggression? In STALKER, we hear of someone who entered the Zone to receive the holy message but then killed himself when he realized this his deepest desire had really been for money. (Incidentally, if the stalker is at peace with himself, why does he feel this need to persuade people from the outside of the sacredness of the Zone? On some level, he still seeks validation from the normal world.)

STALKER
UGETSU

And there’s some of this in MULHOLLAND DR. where Diane Selwyn goes deep inside herself and enters a darkly beautiful world where she is a saint in love with a goddess, but this ‘dream’ of hers is just a distorted reflection of her crass and egotistical vanities in the real world. Her ‘spiritual’ dream is just a flipped reflection of her material & sensual desires. There is no guarantee that the inner-self is the path to the salvation of one’s soul. If anything, it can lead one to a kind of ‘evil’, which is what happens in UGETSU. There a potter enters into a fantasy world where his innermost dreams come true: he is surrounded by grace and beauty. It is like a heaven. He has tapped into the innermost poetic realm of his soul, the wellspring of his creative talent as a potter. He feel as much at home in this world as the stalker does in the Zone. But in having connected with his innermost dreams, he’s been lulled away from his duties as husband and father. Even though his wife has been murdered and his son is an orphan, he’s oblivious to anything but the dreams within his heart. And it appears he’s been seduced by a demon enchantress, but if this is a kind of hell, couldn’t one say there’s an element of hell even in the dream of heaven? After all, even heaven is a kind of escapism, a desire to forever lose onself in a world without pain and worry, a world where one can be amnesiac and oblivious to everything but one’s own happy union with God. To be sure, the difference between the false heaven that is actually hell in UGETSU and the true Heaven of Christianity or Islam is that the former is gained by neglecting the responsibilities of life whereas the latter is attained by the fulfilment of one’s obligations in life. The man in UGETSU neglects his duties to his wife and child for instant heaven in THIS world, whereas good Christian and Muslim folks are supposed to fulfill their responsibilities in life to be rewarded with the blissful union with God in the afterlife. Still, to the extent that all Churches and monasteries serve as sanctuaries, especially for the initiated, from the rancor and dangers of the world, they too are ‘heavens on earth’ that shield those within from the storms of reality that we must all bear. Life of a monk is especially dubious in this regard. If he forsakes the world and enters an spiritual haven to seek his own salvation, is her serving God, humanity, or merely himself? If indeed God is so great and all-powerful, He wouldn’t need to be served by insignificant humanity. No matter how many prayers people offer to God, God will be the same great God. It’s like it doesn’t matter if a flea or a million fleas offer prayers to a man. A man’s worth is independent of whatever the fleas may think or feel. Also, as man is so much greater than a flea or even a million or billion fleas, there is nothing that fleas can do for him that he could do for himself. So, if a monk enters a monastery to serve God, he is serving a Power that doesn’t depend on the service of man to be great and awesome. But then, what if the monk feels that he is serving humanity. But how can he serve humanity if he’s shut inside a monastery? I suppose he could tell himself that he spends a good deal of time praying for humanity. If indeed he believes that God listens to the prayers of people like him who are most devoted to Him, it could be argued that the prayers may do some good for humanity. Monks could also assure themselves that they’ve devoted their lives to the preservation of God’s truth, and such an endeavor would indeed have been valuable in the Dark Ages and Middle Ages when everything had to be copied on leather or paper in a world where such supplies were precious. Every copy of the Bible had to copied and written down by an individual monk, and all religious texts had to be stored and protected. Also, certain rituals could only be preserved through repetitious upkeep in institutions such as the monastery. Also, the monasteries had the role of deciding what was canonical and what was heretical or trivial. So, even as they separated themselves from the ‘real world’, they preserved the values, rituals, and ideas in the form of dogma and canons that would pass down through the ages. After all, political power, economic wealth, and cultural fashions all come and go or change with the times, but the life of the spirit is supposed to be one with the eternal, the timeless, and transcendental. Therefore, in order for it to be properly preserved, it cannot be overly contaminated with the temporal forces of any given period. It must remain above such in order to be one with God and all of time. But then, this is easier said than done for even the great monasteries and spiritual institutions could not exist apart from or without the support of the forces of politics, economics, technology, and culture. After all, it was those with engineering skills who built the great temples, churches, and monasteries. It was those with money who supplied the funds. It was those with arms who offered protection. And it was those with culture who inspired new interpretations of the sacred texts.

ANDREI RUBLEV – Casting of the Bell

This paradox of monastic separation from the world facilitated by worldly forces was illustrated in Tarkovsky’s ANDREI RUBLEV and Martin Scorsese’s KUNDUN, profoundly spiritual films about the troubled interactions of the religious, the political, the individual, the national, the creative, and the economic. When the great bell is hoisted and rung at the end of ANDREI RUBLEV, what is it the product of, and what is the significance of its sound? Is it the sound of purity? But could holiness and purity resound from a product created with brutality, corruption, deception, egotism, and mad luck(which passes for a ‘miracle’)? Is it truth or a delusion? In the end, does it really matter? It’s like the question posed by the final scene in SOLARIS. The main character finds himself back on Earth. He approaches his father’s house and kneels before the old man. Is the old man real? Is the character really back on Earth? As our view rises higher and higher, we see that he is on the planet Solaris that has conjured all around him the facsimile of the world he’d known back on Earth. And yet, in the sincerity of devotion to his father, there is something about the moment that is as true as if it were really happening. Nothing is pure and perfect in our world because everything is the product of something else. Even the most sacred temples are the product of corruption, power, exploitation, and vanity. Indeed, one may ask why was so much wealth and toil expended on something said to be spiritual? Consider all the pain and hardship that must gone into building Angkor Wat or any giant Cathedral in Russia. So, nothing, even the most spiritually significant object can be taken as an object of purity. No organization, no matter how devoted to God and higher truth, can be said to be free of temporal forces. They all come under pressure of the material powers. Some even gain material power of their own, as did the Vatican throughout the ages. And some end up serving the prevailing power, even if it happens to be antithetical to what they stand for. So, the Muslim clergy in Saudi Arabia serve the utterly corrupt Royal family. So, all Christian churches in China must pay heed to the Communist Party. So, the Dalai Lama of Tibet must make sure to be in good graces with corrupt India and decadent United States. The old Russian churches served the corrupt Tsars, and during communism, they obeyed Stalin for the price of being allowed to survive. In the 1920s, the Catholic Church made a pact with Mussolini’s Italy, and plenty of churches in Germany came to an agreement with National Socialism. In today’s world, Christian institutions and organizations are eager to be in good graces with all-powerful Jews and homosexuals. Given the nature of the relationship between the forces of power and the symbols of purity, is there anything that is pure or spiritual in the world? It is perhaps in the sign of things than in the actual being of things. Nothing can be pure, but suggestions and symbols of purity can be gleaned from them, however fleeting they may be. It’s like the bell itself in ANDREI RUBLEV is impressive but the engineering feat of man. But when we hear the first ring, it suggests something of the miraculous. And in STALKER, the purity isn’t the Room or in any particular place in Room. The three men enter, and it looks no special or different than any other room. But when they quietly sit for awhile and then the rain gushes through the broken roof and stirs the pool before them into shimmers of light, there is a moment of purity. It’s only for a moment, but it’s there and when no one expected it. We can’t hold it, we can’t keep it. There’s nothing we can build or do to capture and secure this essence forever. Nevertheless, we can construct things in the world and in the mind to have this essence pass through as fleeting moments of grace. But then, who wants to possess a miracle in one’s hand like a stone? It would be mundane.

The problem of purity in matters of spirituality also exists in the realm of art, and of course, there is no clear dividing line between spirituality and creativity. Spirituality may grown out of man’s worship of the beautiful things in the world. In worship of beauty, he sought to recreate them, as in prehistoric cave paintings. (Creativity initially sought to imitate things of nature, but at some point, man began to create objects representing concepts that do not and cannot exist in nature. Perfect forms, like the Monolith in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, cannot be found in nature, but man began to conceive of such shapes/designs and make things based on them than on forms found in nature. Thus, dishes became perfectly round and buildings became perfectly square or triangular. But then, it could be argued that, to the extent that even primitive man made representations of living things, he was gaining insight into the possibility of non-arbitrariness of forms. After all, every living thing is ‘designed’ according to a certain genetic blueprint. There is symmetry in how one side of the body is like the other side of the body. Life forms are not perfect forms but they are ordered forms.) And then, primitive man learned how to make sculptures out of clay and stone. His creativity replicated things of beauty of nature, and back then, there was no clear division between the world of nature and the world of man. And in time, primitive man began to worship these products of his creativity as idols, and then these idols began to represent higher and higher concepts until man, especially the Jews, divorced the idea from the idol, and then the purified idea of God banned all idols as false gods for they competed with Him and because no idol, even that which was meant to represent Him, could embody the awesomeness that is His. Once spirituality came to be fixed to an idea than an idol or idols, certain faiths became suspicious of the very nature of art as all forms of human creativity were seen as foolishly and blasphemously competing with the one true creativity of the hands of God. How dare foolish mankind try to compete with God, the creator of the universe? What hubris! And yet, the great irony is God would never have been created in the mind of man if not for man’s creative nature.
Some religions went so far as to see mankind itself and everything in the world as false idols. There is some of this(even if slightly) in Christianity as well, which is why Christianity has strange complexes about sex and even spawned communities like the Shakers that forsook sex altogether. And of course, Catholic priests are not allowed to have sex or get married. If indeed it is only the spirit that can know God, then the human body must be something like a tainted idol that must be shed. But no religion went as far as Buddhism in seeing the world as a mere idol of illusion that one must reject and overcome in order to gain Nirvana. Actually, Buddhism goes even further and says even ideas in the mind are illusions, but if that’s the case, isn’t Nirvana an illusion too since it is an idea of the mind? Buddhist might say Nirvana isn’t an idea but a ‘state’. (In contrast, the Torah, from the story of Adam and Eve onward, is all about sex. The Old Testament is about the control of sex but not about puritanical rejection or suppression of sex. It is for having lots of sex and having lots of kids. It is not sexually puritanical but, rather, tribally puritanical because Jewish elders understood that unless Jewish sexual laws enforced the tribalism of sex, too many Jewish men would run off with ‘shiksas’ and too many Jewish girls would be wooed by ‘dicksas’. As Jews through history often lacked a homeland and protective borders, they depended on laws governing sex as their tribal boundaries. If you control the Jewish puds and poons, you can preserve the Jewish race even if Jews don’t have a place to call home. Without laws governing tribal-sexual behavior, the sexual drive will naturally push Jews to mix with non-Jews since the ‘boing’ of Jewish puds will lust after non-Jewish women and since the vaginal appetites of Jewish women would hanker for puds of all kinds of men. It’s like animals in the wild screw everything. Chimpanzees usually take females from other tribes. Judging by how Cro-Magnons conquered and mixed with Neanderthals, it seems interracism is the natural way of life. It’s like when Mongols invaded China, Persia, and Russia, they banged a lot of women. When Spanish conquered the New World, they humped a lot of women. But Jews came up with laws to discourage such behavior among their own kind. The Torah said non-Jewish puds and poons are ‘dirty’. This idea was later adopted by Northern Europeans, which is why Anglos and Germans were less into race-mixing than Latin Europeans and Slavic Europeans. And even though such an attitude is now deemed ‘racist’, it actually led to less sexual colonization of other peoples and races by the conquerors, invaders, and imperialists. Imagine if Mongols didn’t believe race-mixing; they would have been more likely to leave non-Mongol women alone. Anglos conquered other peoples and lands, but generally left the women of other people alone; in contrast, Hispanics not only conquered the lands of natives of South America but raped and/or sexually dominated the women and bred a race of mestizos. The interracist way of Hispanics was surely more aggressive toward the native folks as the later came to be sexually colonized. Likewise, the race-ist policies of the United States limited the amount of sexual exploitation of black women by white men during the slavery era. If interracism had been encouraged, more white men would have created babies with black women. But white race-ism kept most black women with black men. Christianity is sexually more individualistic than Judaism while also being more puritanical. Christianity focuses on the individual soul’s relation to God. Christianity doesn’t emphasize one’s connection to ancestors and descendants. If anything, it severs ties between oneself and one’s ancestors and potential descendants. It emphasizes one’s spiritual relation to God. According to Christianity, a person’s life/soul can be perfectly wonderful and meaningful even if or especially if one rejects one’s own people/culture and never has sex and never produces children to continue one’s lineage. So, if someone rejects his own race, culture, & heritage and instead converts to Christianity and then has no children but finds meaning through prayer to Jesus, that’s just wonderful and he/she needs do nothing else in life. Indeed, such may be deemed spiritually superior than giving into the temptations of the flesh that even family life entails. What matters most in Christianity is that the goodness of your individual soul will be rewarded with eternity in Heaven. As the Roman Empire became increasingly diverse and as cultural ties & identities grew weaker for Romans and non-Romans alike, it’s understandable why something like Christianity became increasingly appealing to both deracinated rulers and deracinated subjects who were united by abstract citizenship than by lineage/identity of blood and soil. We are seeing the same thing in the US and West where increasing diversity is leading to the universalist appeal of Political Correctness that has replaced Christianity. There is also Holocaustianity that urges gentiles to support Jewish blood-and-soil while urging Jews to undermine gentile blood-and-soil. As Jews didn’t believe in Heaven, their way of spiritual survival was through their descendants. Blood and soul became one and the same. Especially after exile from their homeland, Jews clung to blood and soul in the lack of blood and soil. So, sex and childbearing were absolutely crucial to Jews. A Christian could find eternal life without marriage and family; he or she only needed to pray to God and be good. I contrast, Jewish spirit could only live on through one’s descendants. This sense was so powerful that Lot’s daughters even resorted to incest with father to have kids. If the daughters were Christian-like, they would have found meaning through mere prayer and hope for eternal life in Heaven. But as Jewish soul survives only through one’s descendants, Jews felt a need to have kids. No matter how good a Jew was, there was no Heaven waiting for him or her. His/her spirit could only be carried by his children and then children’s children and then children’s children’s children and so on. The soul of a Jew without children would die with him. Because there was so much emphasis on Jewish obligation to the tribe, there was less of an individual sexual sense. Jewish sex was about serving Jewishness. In contrast, a Christian could, theoretically at least, see sex as a simply a matter between himself/herself and his/her partner. It need not be associated with tribal considerations or obligations. A Syrian Christian could go with a Greek Christian, individual to individual than member of tribe to member of tribe. [Yet, as Jews became secular, their sexuality became more powerfully individualistic than among Christians and post-Christians. Why? Because the powerful sexualism of Jews shed its tribal obligations. Once liberated from tribalism, Jewish lust went crazy all over in the Portnoic way described by Philip Roth. When Jews were religious and traditional, the sexualism of Judaism was controlled by strict religious laws. But secularized, Jewish lust could just be about serving itself. In contrast, even though Christianity is about the individual relation to God, it has tended to favor the spiritual/universal over the sexual/personal, and therefore Christian sexualism became more rule-bound and regulatory along community standards.] Among all the cultures, it was Judaism and Confucianism that focused most on the family and the family’s connection to the history and higher truth. After all, the Jewish Covenant, in all its chutzpah, connected God with the Jewish pud than with the eyes, hands, heart, or mind that would might have been more dignified. It took some boldness for Jews to come up with the idea of ‘God blessed my thing’. It’s almost Howard-Stern-ish, and this may explain why, once Jews went secular and no longer believed in God, much of their culture just became endless schlong jokes. One key difference between Jews and Chinese is Jews were much more dogged about sex. Chinese emphasized the importance of family with the understanding that sex is involved in the creation of kids. But they generally didn’t spell it out. But the Torah is pretty incessant and insistent on sex, sex, and sex. Another difference is Jews put more emphasis on descendants whereas Chinese Confucians put more emphasis on ancestors. Judaism is about how to keep having kids through proper sex so that Jews can carry on as Jews and eventually control the world. Confucianism is about how every generation must look backward and venerate the ancestors who’d come and gone.)
Because of the power of creativity as expression and tool of conversion, most cultures could not resist the temptation to use the sensual power of art to express the spiritual truth of faith. But, could the sensual really represent the spiritual? Isn’t spirituality about transcending the sensual excitements and delights of the five senses? If a work of religious art impresses us, are we really being inspired spiritually or titillated sensually? These questions arose especially in the Renaissance and Reformation with the revival of the pagan past as a means to convey the glory of God and with all the intellectual/moral crises such movements entailed. Greco-Roman pagan spirituality had no qualms about the sensuality and idolatry. Indeed, paganism and idolatry were organically entwined. Greeks and Romans visualized their gods in human forms, and the gods were multi-faceted, high in vision but also low in appetite. Wasn’t the point of Christianity to replace the false pagan gods with the one true God that could not be seen or represented as an idol? And yet, there was something about the revival of pagan past that seemed in harmony with the God of Christianity. Both were awesome. As the lost wonders of the ancient world were recovered piecemeal by piecemeal, Europeans couldn’t help but feel that the ancients, who were pagan, had been the apex of civilization, science, literature, art, and just about everything humanity could achieve. If God is about the ultimate glory and power, then why shouldn’t His glory and power be served by the higher forms of art of the ancients(even if they were pagan) than through the ‘ugly’, ‘gross’, ‘lowly’, ‘gothic’, and ‘barbaric’ forms of expression of the Middle Ages, let alone the Dark Ages? If the greatness of God was deserving of representation through the highest forms of expression, then there was much to learn from the ancient pagans. Also, there was something about pagan art that was transcendental despite its obsession with human forms, especially naked human forms. Classical Greek and Roman art presented the human form as perfect, graceful, and beautiful. It seemed less an idolatrous affront to God than an idealized appreciation of God’s genius because, after all, it was God who created man in all his own little glory. The Genesis even says ‘man’ was made in the image of God. Paradoxically, some may have felt that the arch-spiritualist depiction of man was the greater affront to God. Many of the pre-Renaissance depictions of mankind showed men and women as ugly, unworthy, warped, diseased, indeed almost gargoyle-like. Such depiction of unworthiness was supposed to depict the sinfulness of man who should bury his pride and humbly bow down before God. But in a way, it seemed like an insult to God’s creative genius. Did God really create such ugly and disgraceful creatures? Did God take pleasure in having such sullen, pallid, and droopy people worshiping Him? It’s like Karl-Marx-as-god in MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL can’t stand all the knights groveling before him. There’s a similar dynamics in human relationships. Even though powerful men want loyalty from their inferiors, they also want to lead proud and hardy men. A leader doesn’t want to be surrounded by groveling toadies who get on their knees, weep, and apologize all the time. He wants to be the leader of heroes and winners, not leader of losers. Imagine the kind of pride Hitler or Stalin felt when they stood above thousands of tall proud soldiers with guns.

National Socialist Rally
Russian Military Parade

Even as the leader demands humility among his men toward him, he relishes the image of being served by men who stand tall and proud. Thus, there is a kind of paradox in any power relationship. The great man wants the slavish loyalty of the kind of men who appear to stand independent and proud. He wants slaves who look like masters — like Tyrell Corporation in BLADE RUNNER creates a master race of slaves. The ruler wants to the obedience of the strongest and the bravest, of the best and the brightest. But then, the best & the brightest and the toughest & the bravest tend to be the most independent-minded and most strong-willed. They are most likely to rebel against the ruler. (It’s like privileged men want the devotion of the most exciting kind of women who are least likely to be loyal and devoted except to the most alpha of men.) It could be that the father in the story of the Prodigal Son especially valued the return of his wayward son because, despite the young man’s disobedience, he showed the kind of independence and initiative that proved his superiority over the dutiful son who played it safe and meek. In some ways, the most loyal and most devoted are least valued by their master. Some of the most devoted and humble Jews before God — the kind of Jews who stick to every word of tradition, no matter how archaic — reflect worst on Him. In their sheer nonstop devotion to God, they neglect their looks and wear the same kind of ugly clothes that the most fanatical Jews wore in the Middle Ages. They are fearful of everything that might offend God, and this paranoia makes them unpleasant in personality and outlook. Their total devotion to God had made them neglect their own image and style, and as such, they make for sorry-looking representatives of their religion, culture, and God.

Hasidim the Ridiculous-looking Jews.

I mean how many people are impressed with Hasidim as the representatives of Judaism? They make you think, “does the great one and only God of the universe want those freaks to represent Him?” Likewise, in the dawn of the Renaissance it could be that certain Europeans felt the same way about Christian styles of representation. The Middle Ages had been devout in religious matters, but the emphasis on humbleness made for ‘ugliness’ and ‘grotesqueness’ in art, sculpture, painting, and architecture. If mankind felt sinful in flesh, then his art presented mankind as sickly, misshapen, ugly, self-loathing, and putrid. Such may have been in deference to God, but wasn’t it also an affront to God to render His highest creation, mankind, in such ugly forms? Even if mankind had fallen since the Original Sin, man is still God’s greatest creation on Earth. He is still God’s most beloved creation on Earth. So, how would it honor God to represent mankind in gross and ugly ways found in Medieval works of art? In contrast, the pagan arts presented man as pure ideals of form, beauty, dignity, magnificence, and glory. As mere pagan representations, they could be said to represent narcissism, pride, vanity, and hubris. But if incorporated into Christian theology, such arts could be said to be a tribute to God’s genius for only God could have created something so beautiful and noble. And as depictions of God’s genius, the beauty of man would be less about vanity and narcissism than a humble appreciation of the gift of beauty bestowed upon humanity by God, the sole Creator of the universe and all life. Even though Christianity developed in rejection of Judaism and even though Judaism was fanatically opposed to idolatry, the neo-pagan idolatry of the Renaissance was better suited to honoring the figures in the Old Testament than in the New Testament. This was because, even as the great Jewish leaders and Prophets were humble before God, they could stand tall and proud as warriors, kings, wise-men, and fathers. Also, Jews were not opposed to material power, wealth, and glory, as long as they were in tribute to God. In contrast, Jesus had no interest in being a warrior or a fighter. He had leadership qualities but preached forgiveness and pacifism. He renounced the rich & powerful and went among the poor & diseased, the most wretched, ugly, putrid, & diseased among the mankind. And His death was totally humiliating as He was whipped, tormented, whupped some more, crucified, stripped naked, and stuck with a spear. It’s hard to imagine a more sorry-looking representation of the Son of God. This is perhaps why the most heroic, glorious, and wondrous neo-Classical depictions of Biblical figures are from the Old Testament. It’s inconceivable that Michelangelo could have a made of sculpture of Jesus that was like “David”. Because King David was a proud warrior-king, a leader of the toughest and bravest Jewish fighters, he could be presented like a Greek god or hero. Or consider the sculptures of Moses that has something of the air of Zeus. Or consider Michelangelo’s painting of Adam being created by God. All such works radiate unapologetic with male pride, beauty, and magnificence as long as the depictions are meant as a tribute to God’s creative powers than as haughty narcissism of individual vanity divorced from God or higher truth. But ironically, Jesus the very Son of God could not be depicted in such manner because He was put on earth to suffer with the wretched and finally die most horribly on the Cross for the spiritual salvation of mankind. Given that Christianity was founded as a religion of compassion for the wretched and the poor who might find salvation through humble spiritual supplication before God, it emphasized the lowliness of man before God and discouraged and even attacked all expressions that might be construed as vain, prideful, boastful, or narcissistic. Of course, the fall of the Roman Empire and the ensuing Dark Ages certainly helped the anti-beauty element in art as the very craft of art-making was lost in many parts of what had once been the Roman Empire. Even if people wanted create something beautiful and magnificent, they wouldn’t have know how because the political, economic, and social system had broken down. So, the Art of Humble Sullenness developed in the Dark Ages and came to dominate much of the Middle Ages. But when the world of the Classical ancients was recovered, European Christians began to wonder if the old pagan way was actually a better way to honor God by depicting His creations — especially mankind — as things of beauty and nobility than things of ugliness and putridity. After all, if God has the miraculous hands, why wouldn’t He create man as something more like Michelangelo’s David than Beavis and Butthead, which more closely resemble the depictions of mankind in the art of the Middle Ages?

Medieval Art
Medieval Art

Purity is not of this world, not even of things devoted to purity because even they are the products of impurity of power, wealth, greed, violence, and vanity. Robber-barons have contributed to the building of churches, and Jewish gangsters and sharks have donated to the building of Temples. The much loathed King Herod was actually one of the greatest builders of spiritual monuments in history. And despite all the talk of the separation of the spiritual realm and political realm, those who rise up the ranks of spiritual institutions must play ‘politics’ with those who hold the power in the material sphere. Nothing is possible with purity alone. In Ayn Rand’s universe of THE FOUNTAINHEAD, a great man who sticks to his pure vision is show to prevail in the end, but then how? His projects are funded by those who made money the dirty way. It’s like what the tycoon Wynand says to Howard Roark at the end of THE FOUNTAINHEAD: “Dead things — such as the Banner — are only the financial fertilizer that will make it(the tallest skyscraper to be built by Roark) possible. It is their proper function.” Everyone who has made it had to play the game. The triumph of Roark’s purity must be fertilized by the much of capitalists who rake in the dough from the idiot masses.
As for the purity of the good soul triumphing in FORREST GUMP, keep in mind that Robert Zemeckis’ movie is the impure product of the worst kind of cynical manipulation of public sentiments. It is OPRAH for ‘conservatives’, and shame on Pat Buchanan for falling for it.

Purity is not of this world, but we capture glimmers of it, sometimes when we strive for it, sometimes when we least expect it — like Cable Hogue is gifted with water just when he’s about to give up and throw in the towel. Traces of purity can be heard in the first ringing of the bell in ANDREI RUBLEV. Or in emotions stirred up by a choral by Bach or an image by Michelangelo. Though a church in and of itself doesn’t ensure purity, a person lost in prayer may sense divine presence within its walls. Striving high or appreciating high art doesn’t guarantee higher consciousness in the artist or audience, and even the greatest work of art can only suggest at purity. But in the making and in the appreciation of ‘higher’ things, there are instances of illumination and revelation, if only for fleeting moments. And though these sensations cannot sustained for long, they remind us of all that are in us and around us but go unseen and unfelt for most of our lives. We can appreciate a great painting or great music at any time, but it is only on rare occasions that we connect with it on a level that transcends mere admiration. It’s like every prayer brings man/woman closer to God, but it is only that special moment of prayer that unites man/woman with God. And even as the sensations pass, traces linger in subtle but profound ways. For example, consider the scene with the Moon Watcher ape in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. It freaks out upon seeing and feeling the Monolith, but then the strange thing is gone, and the ape-man probably forgot all about it. He’s back to foraging for food and doing other apelike stuff. But something about the encounter with the object had ‘lifted’ Moon Watcher ape’s consciousness, and this trace impression subtly inspires him to see things in different ways and to pick up a bone and use it in ways that begins a great revolution in the evolution of its kind. In a rough and rugged world, the apes had never encountered something so pure and perfect in form as the Monolith, and even after it had vanished for good, the fleeting traces of its purity linger in their psyches and inspire them to something beyond what they’d been used to. So, even if the pure cannot be owned or held by us, our trace-sense of such things does steer us toward something ‘better’ and ‘higher’.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY – lingering ‘trace’ of the Monolith-sighting

But then, Jesus realized that the ‘high’ need not be found in the High. Jesus forsook not only the temptations of wealth and power offered by Satan but also rejected the high things of official spirituality, sacredness, and holiness as preserved and governed by religious elders and respected institutions. And much later, Martin Luther rejected the Catholic Church with all its great Cathedrals and works of art sanctified by officialdom. You didn’t need the official High to find the genuine high. And you didn’t need objects devoted to purity to touch the pure. You could find the pure in the poor, among the wretched, and the diseased. You could find it in the lowest elements of society. To be sure, Jesus never believed that poverty was synonymous with goodness or nobility. Afer all, the poor could easily be tempted into a life of crime. The poor could easily become brutish and vulgar. The poor could be without grace, live like animals, and never rise about beastliness. The poor could be like Beavis n Butthead or Crackhead Bob. The poor could be lacking in compassion as they had to compete for a piece of bread. If anything, one was likely to find finer qualities among the rich who could afford to be generous and caring, who had access to education and took lessons in spirituality and ethics. After all, how could one know the sacred texts if one couldn’t read. It was the wealthy who could afford to give their children a good education. It was easy to be good if one had the wealth and privilege to keep oneself well-fed and satisfied. A man with a full stomach can think of things(higher things) other than survival. A rich man sacrifices nothing by giving a few shekels to a poor man. A super-rich man can give away $100 million and still be very rich. Consider Sheldon Adelson and George Soros. Besides, how do rich folks make their money? By indulging in ‘greed’. So, the goodness of the rich can never be pure goodness. It’s a show of goodness made possible with money made through ‘greed’.
But then, the poor aren’t necessarily good either. After all, many people are poor not because they aren’t greedy but because they are too greedy. It’s like a lot of Negroes fail in life because their avaricious and impulsive nature make them grab at stuff that don’t belong to them. So, many of them end up in jail or alienate others who don’t want to deal with them anymore. That is one sure way to fail in life. It’s also true that some people are poor because they are just plain dumb and/or lazy. But even in their poor state, the only things on their minds could be money, money, and money. They may not have money but it could be all they want. This is why Jesus said the heart(intention and desire) is as crucial as the hands(deeds and actions). So, if you commit adultery in your heart, you’re no better than one who commits adultery in deed. For example, suppose there are two poor guys married with wives. Both lust after other women, but they stick with their wives because that’s the safe bet in life. But suppose one guy becomes very rich all of a sudden and can afford to ditch his wife and get another woman. In contrast, the other guy remains poor and has no such chance. Now, is the rich guy worse than the poor guy? In actual deed, yes. But the only reason why the poor guy is still with his wife is because he’s limited in his circumstances. Indeed, suppose the fortunes had been the reversed and the other guy got rich. Then, the other guy would have ditched his wife and gone off with a hotter woman. All things being equal, people’s actions do say a lot about them, but the fact is all things are not equal, and the reason why some people stick with the ‘right thing’ while others do the ‘wrong thing’ has as often to do with their circumstances. A lot of ordinary men married to ordinary women — and who tell themselves that they’ll be faithful forever because of their moral principles — will dump their wives and go off with some ‘babe’ the minute they come into some serious money. Likewise, a poor actress married to some ordinary guy will likely ditch him for some glamorous guy once she finds success. There is a huge difference between ‘goodness by lack of choice’ and ‘goodness by choice’. Also, there’s a difference between ‘goodness with no cost’ and ‘goodness with cost’. Surely, if a rich man finds a $1,000 in a lost wallet, it’s no loss to him to return it to the rightful owner. He may believe himself to be acting on principle, but he can afford to do so, and therefore, we don’t know his real motivation, and neither does he. Maybe, he’s driven by vanity of demonstrating that he’s the kind of person who does the ‘right thing’. But if a poor person found a wallet with a $1,000, there’s a lot he could do with the money as every penny is precious to him. If he returns the money to the rightful owner, it’s likely due to a strong sense of principle(though some people will credit it to stupidity). For this reason, Jesus believed that true goodness had to be tested under poverty. Doing the right thing even when you can’t afford to do the right thing is really doing the right thing. Naturally, most poor folks fail this test, but real goodness has to be tested by poverty. It’s like the character in Kurosawa’s HIGH AND LOW has to lose everything to do the right thing. And it was in such righteous folks among the poor that Jesus found the ‘highest’ kind of purity in man. And there is some of this when Pike sees Angel all battered and bruised by Mapache and his men. It’s about as degrading as a sight can be. An ugly and pathetic sight. Angel’s hair is all matted with dirt, his lips are swollen(like that of a Negro), his clothes are torn & disheveled, and he can barely stand. Even little children mock him, and women jeer at him as a loser with no manhood left. And yet, Pike sees something noble in Angel, something more valuable than all the gold he’s carrying. It’s like what Steve Judd says in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY: “What more could a man expect? I got to thinkin’ about that one time — well, sir, I keep records. When I became a lawman, the world lost a first-class bookkeeper. So, to pass the time one day, I sort of calculated, what it’s worth to get shot at. Figured it about a hundred dollars a shot. Getting hit, I figure that’s worth anywhere from a thousand on up. Four brings it up to date. Then tally up all the fights, bush-whackings, cold camps and the like… that time in Lincoln County — five weeks in the hospital, six months out of work. Add it all up, I’d say I was owed about all the gold we could carry out of these mountains… That’s something to hope for.” That is something to hope for, but all the gold in the mountains are less precious than his sense of righteousness. In the end, he “wouldn’t have it any other way.” Likewise, Angel “played his string right out to the end.” Not only did he give up his share of gold for guns for his people, but he accepted his fate like a man. His face didn’t even rebuke Dutch as Dutch rode away alone and left Angel in Mapache’s hands — like Pike fled alone while leaving Thorton behind. Angel knew Dutch had no choice but to just save himself and the Bunch, and if the situation had been reversed, Angel might have done the same thing. So, when Pike sees the pitiful and wretched state of Angel, he not only feels revulsion and disgust but senses a nobility beyond what gold/money can buy. This was one of the running themes of the films of Martin Scorsese, i.e. beauty, grace, and redemption can be found in the ‘mean streets’ than in the church. Perhaps, they have more value if found in the streets because of the risks and dangers. After all, anyone can buy a gold ring in a store, but it takes real work to dig up gold from a mountain or a river. A church declares “God is here with us, so come and pray”, but the streets are filled with everything from high to low, mostly low. If Jesus felt a need to mingle with the lowliest of humanity and then to be dragged through the worst kind of humiliation, degradation, and death to find His way to God, then why should it be otherwise for all those seeking higher communion with God? Of course, one could fallaciously conclude from this that the lowly is the Godly when, in truth, the Godly is attained by rising above the lowliness one must wrestle with. The reason why a film like Abel Ferrara’s BAD LIEUTENANT is so useless is it conflates willful wallowing in filth with washing of one’s sins. If that’s the case, one might as well say Regan in THE EXORCIST was most divine when she was possessed by the Devil and wallowed in her own vomit and poo.

Cinema, the great art form of the 20th century, embodied and hyperbolized all the tensions that have existed between spirituality and sensuality. It is no wonder that Scorsese developed a passion for the church and the cinema. After all, before the rise of high spirituality, there was the ‘low’ spirituality of pagan worship of nature, idolatry, animal gods, avaricious gods(some who even demanded human sacrifice), and human-like gods with all the faults of mankind. High spirituality grew out of low spirituality, like flowers grow from soil rich in dung. High spirituality is the purist distillation of the divine element inherent in all forms of spirituality that are intermingled with nature, sensuality, and every emotion known to man. Thus, even though high spirituality denied the validity of low spirituality, it was born of the low just like the Olympians were born of Titans and just like Athena was ‘born’ of Zeus(but then, Athena served Zeus than deny him). But even when separated from low spirituality, high spirituality couldn’t be pure because it too is, after all, the product of man’s imagination made possible through his impure senses. Despite the claim that the Bible was written by hands inspired and guided by God, too many contradictions, compromises, and madness abound for unity and purity of vision. Furthermore, the practice of the Faith even by the most highly esteemed clergy and the most devout has been anything but a nice clean ride. The story of religion has been as much about disgrace as grace, revulsion as revelation.

Early Cinema
LA DOLCE VITA

In a similar vein, cinema arose from lowness. There were the Nickelodeons and early short films of little or no artistic or cultural significance, let alone moral value. It was marketed as a populist novelty and generally pandered to the lowest common denominator, and in the beginning, almost no one took it seriously as a potential art form on par with literature, opera, theater, sculpture, painting, and etc. And yet, its transformation into a cultural force was swift and dramatic. D.W. Griffith electrified audiences with thunderous action; he lulled them with lyrical passages. And then Sergie Eisenstein, especially through montage, demonstrated cinema as an intellectual concept and ideological contraption. Even so, most people, high and low, regarded cinema as, at best, grand entertainment. It could be spectacular. It could be impressive and beautiful. It could be bold and exciting. It could be brilliant, original, and inventive, like CITIZEN KANE. But could it allow personal art? Spiritual art? Modern art? Given the collaborative and commercial nature of cinema, could any single film artist truly convey his vision through cinema? After all, as significant as Orson Welles was to CITIZEN KANE, it was far from a one-man show. And even if we were credit Welles as the primary author, it was genius as showmanship. Welles was showing off his spectacular talent for film-making than sharing some deep truth. Even its admirers saw it as the greatest film circus up to that time but still a circus. And this could also be said of the films of Eisenstein, i.e. they are political or ideological circuses engineered by elaborate visual theory. Cinema could be spectacular but could it really be spiritual or personal? Could it be pure? A painter, especially a modern painter, could create a work exactly as he envisioned it. A novelist could decide on every single word and pour his heart onto every page. An musical composer could convey his passion exactly as he wished. A playwright could dramatize life exactly as he wished on stage. It was as if the artist, on a person to person basis, was speaking to each of us. He had an uncompromised vision and the means to draw it out and present it to us. When we listen to Beethoven, we are really listening to Beethoven. When we read Kafka, we are really Kafka. His mind becomes our mind. A painting by Vincent Van Gogh is pure Van Gogh. Purity in art can only be person-to-person. Though some art works are performed through many performers — like a symphony or a play — , they are still serving the vision of a single artist. Beethoven composed every note of all his symphonies and had a good idea as to their effect in the concert hall. Every artist worth his salt has his own powerful will, vision, and conviction. He believes what he believes in and gets it across with as little compromise as possible. If he must collaborate with others to create the work, it cannot be pure because the end-result must be a compromise between his vision with that of someone else or others. (To be sure, one could collaborate with others not in the spirit of compromise but to
gain useful insight and advice from other perspectives, like what the main character does with the help of the writer in 8 ½..) Such a work dilutes the contribution of all the artists involved since people don’t see eye to eye on anything. Imagine if Kafka, Hemingway, Faulkner, Tolstoy, and Shakespeare were to get together and collaborate on a certain work. It may be good and entertaining, but it cannot be a pure artistic vision since everyone chipped in as a matter of compromise and in the spirit of creating something the primary function of which is to appeal to the public. Indeed, a work of pure entertainment need not be personal since its main objective is mass appeal. So, TV shows have lots of writers. Lots of Hollywood movies has multiple writers and go through rewrites galore. And many popular songs are collaborative efforts written by two or more composers. The early Beatles songs were generally composed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. As Lennon and McCartney got more personal and egoistic as ‘artists’, they began to write songs on their own even though the songs continued to be credited to ‘Lennon & McCartney’. Bob Dylan, the first true ‘personal artist’ of Rock music, wrote nearly all of his songs on his own. How else could he have composed something so profoundly personal as BLONDE ON BLONDE, which couldn’t have been created in the Brill Building manner. Carole King’s pop tunes were often collaborative works with others, but her most personal album, TAPESTRY, was mostly a solo effort. To be personal means to draw something out of yourself. Thus, there is a kind of purity in personalism. It was easy to understand how a novelist, painter, music composer, playwright, or sculptor could be purely personal if he so wished. There was something like spiritualism in this kind of personalism whether it was religious or not because of the element of purity of vision. Religion, after all, is the search of the purity of higher truth and revelation unfettered by the compromises of the flesh, material world, and temporal concerns. An artist seeks truth with as much purity of courage, depth, and poetry he or she could muster. When we read a genuine work of literature or listen to a serious piece of music, the artist and we become one. He’s not pandering to us or amusing us with a diversion called ‘entertainment’. Rather, he’s opening up to us, confessing hidden truths about himself, as in Philip Roth’s PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT, J.D. Salinger’s THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, or Eugene O’Neill’s THE LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. Or, he’s taking a hard look at reality and using heightened empathy to delve into demons in the heart of society and history, as in IN COLD BLOOD. Because of this personalist possibility of art, spiritual themes could sometimes be conveyed more powerfully through art than through religious practice. In many ways, Dostoevsky’s CRIME AND PUNISHMENT is a more powerful expression of Christianity than most sermons from the pulpit. Sermons are written to appeal to as many people as possible; they are also about how people should be. In contrast, a novel like CRIME AND PUNISHMENT offers secret passage into the sinful hearts of men as they really may be. And DEATH OF A SALESMAN and GLASS MENAGERIE are so powerful and effective due to the confessional and the probing manner of telling. The artist digs into himself and into the hidden souls of others, dredges out the secrets and darkness, and shapes them into creative form. But is such personalism possible in cinema? Obviously, the expensive/commercial nature of cinema demanded that most movies be made as entertainment. So, even when independent-minded film-makers like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin went to work, they were basically making the kind of movies with the widest appeal. The personal nature of their works had to do with style and signature than truth or vision. They were trying to make people laugh.
As for most ‘serious’ movies by Hollywood, they were generally even less personal than the entertainment movies because their purpose was respectability than genuine art. To show that Hollywood wasn’t just about profits(and moral degradation), the studios produced lavish adaptations of some famous novel or classic, but the results were generally bowdlerized fare for ‘middlebrow’ tastes hoping to get some ‘culture’ by watching, for example, a movie version of ANNA KARENINA or WAR AND PEACE.

But even when film-makers could do as they pleased, the mode of personal art wasn’t easy as there were too many elements that went into the film. A film could be written one way but completely changed in meaning by cinematography and editing. A playwright’s work changes every time with different actors and different stage work, but you still have the basic elements of the script and actors no matter how it is done. In contrast, the manner of framing/camera movement/editing/sound-music entirely changes the look, the feel and even the meaning of the work. Drama is about putting on and seeing the play acted out on stage. Cinema is about showing the screenplay and there are infinite ways of doing it. When you see a play, you decide what you want to focus your eye on. When you see a movie, the filmmake constantly decides and changes what you should be seeing. If a play calls for someone to walk from the left side of the stage to the right, you see an actor walk from left to right regardless of who’s playing the part. But in cinema, the act of walking from one place to another can be captured and shown in endless ways: close up, long shot, tracking shot, editing, overhead shot, low angle shot, etc. So, the writer of the film cannot lay a full/pure claim as the ‘author’ of the finished product. But suppose the film maker not only wrote the script but directed it as well. But then, how much does he know about directing? And as the director has to deal with the look and the sound of the film, how much does he know about cinematography and sound? And editing? Even if he knows more than most, he will still have to collaborate with others who know more and may contribute something key to the work that, indeed, may have ended up very differently without their ideas and input. Or suppose an inspired director who knows much about all facets of film-making works on a script that isn’t his. Despite his personal signature and stamp on the film, can it really be said to be purely his? Because many directors are talented with image but not so good with words, they have to hire co-scenarist with whom to work on the script. Akira Kurosawa always worked with co-writers. So did Stanley Kubrick. So did Fellini on most of his films. For a film-maker to be good at everything and do everything would be maddening. So, can cinema be personal or pure like the other arts?
The French School of ‘auteur’ critics tried to get around this with all sorts of polemical arguments. They resolved nothing but began what was probably a useless argument, especially when Andrew Sarris opted it as the ‘auteur theory’ and began to apply it rather broadly across the entire spectrum of Hollywood film-making. The real intention behind ‘auteurism’, at least among the French critics who started the argument(for them, it was a polemic than a theory), was simply that they should be the ones making the films. Since they supposedly knew so much about films and how they should be made, they wouldn’t be mere professionals, collaborators, or hacks but full-fledged authors of their personal vision. Frustrated because they were stuck in criticism than in the actual making of films, they projected their fantasies onto Hollywood filmmakers. As Hollywood movies were less distinctively personal than, say, the films of Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, or Roberto Rossellini, the French ‘auteurist’ critics could project their own creative personalities onto the relative ‘blank slate/screen’ of Hollywood movies and see the ‘personality’ that they themselves projected onto the screen. A Bergman or Fellini film has to take as unmistakably Bergmanesque or Fellini-esque since its directorial personality is so obvious. One cannot project one’s own vision onto the distinct vision on screen. But most Hollywood movies provided a certain leeway for the viewer to formulate their supposed ‘authorial’ personalities, which, as often as not, were really those of the viewer projected on the screen than those of the directors who, for all they knew, were just doing hack work. And through this interactive participatory process with the screen, ‘auteurist’ critics could almost feel as if they had taken part in the making of the film. Others made it by hand, but they ‘finished’ it by head. After all, a Bergman or Fellini film didn’t need a critic to explain that it was visually and stylistically distinct. But as most Hollywood movies looked more or less alike within the same genres, the ‘auteurist’ critics could use their critical chisels to carve out what they deemed to be the ‘hidden’ personality on the screen. Thus, the critic could himself feel an ‘auteur’ for having taken part in discerning an ‘authorial’ personality that had supposedly slipped past the attention of most viewers who’d only appreciated it as virtually author-less entertainment.

Whether film-makers work in the mode of entertainer or artist or both, each has a special ear for different kinds of ‘voices’. Because Kurosawa was more attuned to the outer voice than the inner voice, some of his films suffer from lack of drama. Sometimes when Kurosawa shut out the outer voice, there was silence than the song of the inner voice. He needed the outer voice like George C. Scott’s character in NEW CENTURIONS needed the drama of police work; he didn’t know how to retire into quietude that resounded with previously muted voices. The most notable among Kurosawa’s failures as an artist are much of DODESKADEN and the scenes with the old lord after the fall in RAN, a very loose KING LEAR adaptation. RAN comes to a near-standstill when the old man is cut off from reality and lost within himself. RAN is powerfully adept at dealing with person-to-person relations but fails to delve into the inner realm of the lord who’s descended into madness. ‘Ran’ means turmoil or chaos, and there’s plenty of that in the physical violence, politics, and dramatics, but the most crucial kind of hell fails to register onscreen: that of a soul gone mad. We only see external state of the lord’s madness and sense little that is smoldering within. This is near-fatal at times because the film began with Hidetora as occupying the dramatic center of the story. He relinquishes his power to retire into exalted old age, but he soon finds himself at the mercy of his two older sons. His state of grace turns out to be a mere grace period. The story goes from the politics of power to the psychology of madness. Hidetora was the master of physical warfare in expanding his domain and establishing order over it. He knew how to fight and win with spears and arrows. He was cunning and shrewd in combat and conflict, but he never really learned how to look into the minds of men. (Or if he did, others learned to hide their true feelings better from him.) And as he became ever more powerful and those around him ever more servile, he came to take his power and greatness for granted, indeed as if his power was assured simply by his name, title, and legend. (It’s like Carlito overestimates his power vis-a-vis Bennie Blanco from the Bronx in CARLITO’S WAY. Carlito coasts on his legend as he tells Bennie to get lost, but he’s in a situation where, if he kills Bennie, he has to go all the way and become a gangster again, and if he doesn’t kill Bennie, he opens himself up to a vendetta by Bennie who’s growing ever stronger by the day.) Therefore, he thought that if he handed his power to his sons, his greatness would be assured as usual. And even though he triumphed in a world of cruelty and betrayal, he took the sentimental view that the bond between father & sons and the bond among brothers were sacred and immutable. (Ironically, the most loyal descendant in the story turns out to be Lady Kaeda who, despite having become the wife of the first son and then the second son, plotted to avenge her father and brothers by bringing down the entire house of the Ichimonjis who betrayed the truce with her family, had her father and brothers killed, and took over her family’s castle. Lady Sue, though a wonderfully nice woman, could be said to be the traitor of her family because she quietly submitted to her new status as the wife of the second son even though the Ichimonji clan burned down her family’s castle, killed her parents, and blinded her younger brother. To be sure, one could argue that she didn’t so much give into the Ichimonjis as find peace through Buddha whose teachings assure that everything is a passing illusion. Even so, there’s something like Natalie Wood’s character of Debbie in THE SEARCHERS in Lady Sue. The ‘red savages’ burned down Debbie’s home, killed her father, and raped & killed her mother & sister. And yet, because she was accepted as one of their own by her abductors, she’s come to see the Indians as ‘my people’, and her heart is as much with them as with the her real family that is no more. John Wayne’s character, like Lady Kaeda, never forgives and never forgets. He’s going to take on the Indians, and he’ll even kill Debbie as she’s gone over to the other side and is willing to allow her womb to be used for creating ‘red savage’ babies. There is no greater betrayal than sexual betrayal. On the other hand, we can’t blame her because she was taken against her will and at the tender young age when she didn’t know anything. She’s not like Theresa in THE WILD BUNCH who, as a full-grown hussy-tart-ho, went with Mapache, the very man who attacked her village and killed Angel’s father.)

RAN – Lady Kaeda
RAN – Lady Sue

Kurosawa understood the physicality of conflict and the psychology of emotions, especially repressed animal passions. He was great with passions projected outwards. He was best when he kept the powder dry, lit the fuse, and blew things up. Mifune’s explosive fury in defense of the peasants in SEVEN SAMURAI is one of the great angry moments in cinema. The scene in THE WILD BUNCH where Pike threatens to blow up the rifles and ammunition rigged with dynamite is like a mini-Kurosawa film(or that of Kazan or Huston). But when the dramatic powder gets wet, something doesn’t work in a Kurosawa film. And this is the central problem with RAN. The film continues to work as long as we are dealing with characters on the level of drama or horses on the level of warfare. But we feel like Kyoami the jester when Hidetora walks around lost within himself. Hidetora’s interior remains shut and closed, filled with wet powder that simply won’t light. There’s hardly any words or expression to convey the turmoil and madness within, as Kubrick masterfully did with Jack Torrance in THE SHINING. There’s no tonal depth to suggest at something happening at deeper levels of the psyche, as in David Lynch, Luis Buñuel, Kenji Mizoguchi, Robert Bresson, or Andrei Tarkovsky films. Kurosawa’s psychology is conveyed as exterior phenomenon than interior meditation. (Though Mifune in THRONE OF BLOOD delivers a much more compelling performance than Tatsuya Nakdai in RAN, it too is somewhat lacking because we get the hot springs but not the poisoned well of psychology. Because the film dwells mainly on surface dramatics, it becomes more about a man driven by fear and anxiety than by his own repressed ambition for power. To be sure, this is reflective of the original play by Shakespeare because Macbeth is sort of Hamlet-like in his indecision as to what to do, where to go, and what his heart truly wants. But because of the tireless inner voice, there’s a deeper sense of psychological turmoil whereas Mifune’s character seems mainly manipulated and misled by his wife than driven by his own dark ego.)

THRONE OF BLOOD

Kurosawa was better with flames than ashes. Nevertheless, there are moments in Kurosawa’s films when he almost gets it right. Consider the sequence in DREAMS where an officer encounters a lone soldier who doesn’t know he’s dead. The officer tries to persuade the soldier that he cannot return home and must return to the underworld. The soldier looks at a light in the distance and thinks of home. The scene is overdone dramatically but the motif of the unattainable light has poetic power. And sometimes, Kurosawa could hold our gaze on a beautiful image like a rare pearl in the world. Consider the face of the invalid daughter of the lawyer in SCANDAL, an image so pure that we can understand why Mifune character’s view of life is altered subtly yet profoundly. And there are moments in IKIRU, especially the scene on the swing, that take us to a quieter place within the heart.
Still, the manner of hinting at states beyond matters of physical presence was generally beyond the power of Kurosawa. With Kurosawa, it was what you see is what you get, for better or worse. In contrast, David Lynch, at his best, as in MULHOLLAND DR., could create moods where we sense much more than what we are shown. One of the most remarkable scenes in all of cinema is the scene in the diner where a man is explaining a strange dream to a friend. It begins like just another day in a diner with two friends, but the mood incrementally grows weirder, and we can almost imagine what the man’s dream must have been like. And then, we realize that we are in that dream. The shift feels both sudden and gradual, disruptive and placid. It’s one of the most disorienting moments in cinema. Lynch pulls this off without special effects or obvious trickery other than rudimentary techniques of cinema, but the subtle mastery of tone and ambiance transforms just-another-day into nightmare-in-broad-daylight. Think of all the tricks Alan Parker pulled in the dreadful PINK FLOYD: THE WALL and the cluttered ANGEL HEART. David Lynch(at his best) can create the dark miracle of a nuclear meltdown with a wet firecracker. (Adrian Lynn’s JACOB’S LADDER is like a combo of Alan Parker and David Lynch. Often over-the-top but not without moments that slide imperceptibly into madness.) Kurosawa’s DREAMS is a nice movie, but it is dreams made all-too-tangible, thus not very dreamy. RAN has greatness but could have been a truly profound film if Kurosawa could have delved into the silent turmoil of the fallen lord’s heart. It’s something Mizoguchi might have pulled off. He understood the chemistry of cinema whereas Kurosawa was about physics. Mizoguchi’s vision could ignite spontaneously and entrance us with illuminations of mystery. Time doesn’t come to a standstill when suspended in the world of Mizoguchi. We don’t wait for something to happen since the being itself becomes the happening. It’s the difference between using eyes to see things and being aware of the wonderment of seeing itself. At some point, Kurosawa may have felt that his restless darting-eyes method/approach wasn’t as mature or ‘masterly’ as the style of someone like Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, or even Masaki Kobayashi. So, especially beginning with his wide-screen films, composition came to be favored over montage. Nevertheless, as the stories continued to feature the dynamic Mifune in stories driven by action, suspense, and/or dramatic tension, our eyes continued to dart back and forth in pursuit of the central action than fix into a meditative gaze on overall vision. We are more interested in things happening in Kurosawa’s universe than in the universe itself.
As contrast, in a film like STALKER, Tarkovsky could take us on a train ride that seems to go on forever, and yet, we don’t feel bored or restless. Instead of wondering where the journey will take us, we become immersed in the journey itself, as if every suspended second and every clickity-clack sound of the rail hold some significance as to the truth of things. There’s a contemplative quality that makes us less concerned with what is happening in time than with time itself, which, disassociated from immediate tasks, feels timeless.

In dramatic/narrative cinema, time is measured in terms of what needs to be done and what is being done, so when nothing relevant seems to be happening, we grow confused or bored, and this is a problem with DODESKADEN. It has lots of characters, and we expect lots of interaction, but Kurosawa’s style is strangely disengaged and detached, as if in favor of a more contemplative approach, which is antithetical to the boisterousness of the material. It’s like Monty Python skit with the Greek and German philosophers playing soccer. People are moping when they should be groping. Instead of making room for movement and emotions, arty barriers were erected to slow or freeze the action. Where a multitude of characters busily go about their lives, spontaneity and unpredictability are of th essence. A slum shouldn’t be treated like a Zen garden. In DODESKADEN, everyone is like a puppet waiting for permission to be funny, angry, happy, eccentric, etc. Such artificiality works in the films of Jacques Tati and Yasujiro Ozu. Every character, every little detail, every gesture, and every spoken word in an Ozu film is in tune with the directorial vision. We would never mistake Ozu’s films for realism, no more than details in a woodblock prints would be mistaken for photography. Though set in the real world and concerned with real life issues, they are like poetic puppet-plays where every word and movement seem rehearsed and ritualized. (Such artificiality would be out-of-place in an American setting but seems partly natural in the Japanese due to cultural rigidity and restraint as facets of Japanese social life. On the other hand, Ozu-like approach might work with the traditional British whose emphasis on manners partly ritualized their behavior, though, unlike the Japanese, the British developed the art of ironic repartee to pepper their gentile lives with sly ‘micro-aggressive’ subversion that could be wicked and funny in a wry understated way. Though Beavis n Butthead couldn’t be further apart from the English gentlemanly ideal, their sham-witticisms are a mutated, vulgarized, and demented form of the Anglo tradition. They ‘think’ they are oh-so-very-clever. Ozu’s films are graceful and poetic but also confining and constricted. If one accepts and attunes onself to the obstacles and barriers of this world, one can arrive at a kind of harmony. It’s like ‘grasshopper’ learning to tip toe on ‘rice paper’ in KUNG FU without tearing it. But it is not a natural harmony. It is a harmony that requires cultivation and practice, indeed a quality that needs to be instilled from childhood. One has to sit right, walk right, talk right, and etc. One cannot act like the Mifune character in SANJURO, which is like a Kurosawa vs Ozu movie, a scenario of a wolf lost in a obedience school for dogs. Because control is of the essence in the world of Ozu, physical self-awareness and emotional restraint often go hand-in-hand. Thus, it’s rare to see extreme motions or emotions in his films. People are mostly politely happy, politely sad, politely hurried, politely relaxed. It makes for a certain social gracefulness, but it’s also lacking in vitality. OHAYO is refreshing as an auto-subversive Ozu film because the two brothers — who are learning English by the way and even speak English greetings than Japanese ones — won’t go along with the established proprieties. Since they have no power over their family, let alone over Japanese society, they rebel by shutting up altogether like the woman in PERSONA. They want a TV set, and we can understand why the TV came to be especially appealing and addictive to the Japanese — like pachinko. In a society where every word and movement is regulated, one sought freedom — a sense of randomness and spontaneity — in the craziness of TV shows and bouncing balls of pachinko.) In contrast, the world of DODESKADEN is similar to those in THE LOWER DEPTHS and in RED BEARD, brimming with characters possessed of free will and spirited personalities, of impatience to do things in their own way. We expect them to push against the barriers than tiptoe around them. But under Kurosawa’s misconceived direction, they all seem lost in a wrong world, like the character running through Van Gogh paintings — surely one of Kurosawa’s worst moments — in DREAMS.

DODESKADEN
OHAYO

There are basically three kinds of narrative approaches: the dramatic, the mediate-tive or ‘mediative’, and meditative. In the dramatic, conflict/tension is the key because of unusually strong-willed characters who seek to dominate others or command the situation for reasons of ambition, revenge, righteousness, or panic. Most of Kurosawa’s great films are of this kind. They have strong characters who vie for center stage. Even in an ensemble film like SEVEN SAMURAI, there is a sense of hierarchy, which comes to the fore when Kambei, in a rare fit of anger, draws his sword and forces a handful of uncooperative peasants to pick up their spears and return to formation. An impatient/impassioned struggle for authority, righteous or wicked, is central to Kurosawa’s dramas. Ozu’s films are mostly ‘mediative’ or mediate-tive. Though not without conflict and tension, the key is understanding and harmony. It’s not about a singular personality rising above others or stepping forth to make a difference and demonstrate his ability, worth, goodness, or wickedness through some extraordinary act. Extraordinariness can grow of courage and boldness but also from weakness, fright, and confusion. The old man in IKIRU initially feels despondent and paralyzed before finding the inspiration for a clear course of action. Sometimes, the extraordinariness goes from noble to ignoble, as in THRONE OF BLOOD, Kurosawa’s adaptation of MACBETH in which the main character changes from a loyal vassal to a power-mad usurper. In BAD SLEEP WELL, the extraordinariness is a blend of the good and the bad, as the hero resorts to ethically dubious means to bring down a corrupt corporate system. In YOJIMBO, the hero is a good guy who acts ‘worse’ than the bad guys to make the bad guys destroy one another. There are no such dramatic situations and moments in the films of Ozu. Instead of singular characters who are larger-than-life or louder-than-life than others, everyone is well-aware of his or her place in the social order vis-a-vis everyone else. Some may be higher in the social hierarchy, such as bosses, older folks, and fathers, but no character acts bigger or louder than what his or her allotment in the social/cultural order allows. Also, there’s an understanding that everyone must wait his turn. Life must not be hurried(despite the hectic pace of change in modern Japan). So, if some characters are old and shown more respect, they’ve earned their turn for such attention because they’d done their proper duties, paid their dues, and fulfilled their apportioned roles in earlier stages of their lives. Thus, a child must know his place as a child, a husband must know his place as a husband, a father must know his place as a father, and a grandfather must know his place as a grandfather. In time, with patience, a boy will grow up and go through each of these phases until he dies and is followed by his sons and grandsons. And the key to such a world is harmony, patience, and mutual understanding. Thus, even as Ozu’s world seems very pleasant, it’s a world that requires much self-discipline as everyone must know his place, and this place changes for each person as he grows older. Thus, in a way, we see the extended unity of everyone in an Ozu film. The child we see will one day become a man and the man we see will one day become an old man, and the old man we see had once been a child and a man. We are made aware of these intra-connections with Japanese families and society. There’s a sense that people shouldn’t try to get ahead in line or stick his neck out above the rest. But then, neither should people remain behind when it’s their time to move on. No “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid.” If it’s time for a young woman to get married and settle down, then she should take her turn. She can’t be a young ‘independent’ woman forever. A 30 yr old woman should act like a 30 yr old, not a forever 20 yr old. In the modern world, some people complain that they aren’t allowed to move up fast enough while others complain that they are being forced to move up ahead. Some want to be top-of-the-world in no time while others want to remain in perpetual stage of youth. Some want to grow up too fast, some don’t want to grow up at all. Ozu’s films are about both waiting one’s turn and taking one’s turn. Gently but firmly, they suggest that everyone needs to wait his or her turn but, when the time comes, must take his or her turn. Though Ozu’ world seems placid and pleasant on the surface, it’s not a world of relaxation and casualness. Indeed, such is more likely to be found in the films of Kurosawa. They are filled with willful characters, some who seek power, some who seek the truth, some who drop out to do as he pleases. The Mifune character in SEVEN SAMURAI is like this. Sometimes, he seems more eager and impatient to fight and kill than anyone else does. Other times, he just wants to lie back, scratch himself, and take it easy in oblivious indifference to the world. The Mifune character in YOJIMBO and SANJURO are much the same way. He wants to live by his own time clock.

Toshiro Mifune in SANJURO
Chishu Ryu in AUTUMN AFTERNOON or TASTE OF MACKEREL PIKE

In contrast, the element of patience in Ozu films has both a calming and tightening effect. One always needs to be mindful of the proper pace that steadily takes one from childhood to adulthood to old age. One mustn’t speed ahead but one mustn’t fall behind either. And in social gatherings, one must be mindful of the voices of others, but one must also play one’s own part and voice one’s views when appropriate, even if what is said isn’t much more than greetings and small talk. Most of social interaction isn’t about doing something extraordinary but getting along and going along in a constant give-and-take of social graces. Because Ozu’s films are essentially about the maintenance of harmony among people, they don’t offer much in the way of ‘interiority’. They are about keeping up appearances and manners in relation to others and achieving a kind of grace through the ritual of community within measured boundaries of space and time. In Ozu films, every child reminds one of his/her past, and every old person reminds one of his/her future. They are not individualistic in the American sense(especially since the rise of youth culture that encourages young people to see themselves as a separate race of forever-young-people) because the emphasis is on one’s communal relation to than individual separateness from others. American individualism tends to be egotistical not only in space but in time. It not only insists on doing ‘my thing’ in ‘my way’ in ‘my space’ but in ‘my time’. An American’s sense of individuality tends to be stuck in time, e.g. a teenager forgets he’s been a child once and neglects he’ll be an adult one day and eventually an old person. A young woman out of college hardly thinks about what she’d been as a child or teenager. She has no thought of what she’ll be like in her 30s, 40s, and 50s. Her sense of individuality is stuck in the here-and-now of going to night clubs and feeling so hot and sexy, as if she’ll exult in that mode forever. Ozu’s films are mindful of how everyone goes through the various stages in the film. So, when we see an old person, he or she isn’t simply an old individual but someone the younger characters will become one day. Every moment seems stable because we age slowly and can never actually see the process of aging, just like we can’t see the hands of the clock moving. But unstoppably and unalterably, nothing and no one are excused or excluded from the procession of time. This is why the kids’ rebellion in OHAYO is rather startling. It’s not only uncharacteristic in a conservative society(which Japan was relative to the US) but violates the rules of Ozu’s timetable. The son tries to get ahead of himself instead of being mindful of his place in the family. But then, such is the nature of technology. It introduces an element into our lives that interferes with the well-established schedule of things. With TV as the new authority in the homes of Japan, young ones(and even old ones) became less attuned to one another and duties therein than to the TV that is tireless and relentless in its relay of images from morning to night. Without TV, people have one another to communicate with and their behavior is governed by the time of day. Morning is for waking up, daytime is for school/work, evening is for family and dinner, and nighttime is for sleeping. And if, in real life, people want to take part in a social or cultural event, they must dress up and leave the home to attend the theater or stadium. It too is a kind of ritual. One can read a book alone, but as it’s inherently a solitary activity, it doesn’t interfere with the nature of social interaction. Thus, without the TV, there is the social/cultural life outside the house and there is solitary life in the home with books, thoughts, or sleep. And within the home with family members, there is the personal/communal life that revolves around conversation, recollection of daily events, and etc. Before there was the TV, families spoke to one another more, and this created a sense of family and heritage. But with the TV in the house, the personal/communal life became eroded. There was still the social/cultural life outside the home, and one could still be alone with the book. But when it came to personal/communal interaction with the family, it would never be the same again because the TV(broadcasting the same shows on all the TV sets across the nation) came between the children and the parents, between the husband and wife, and among the siblings. OHAYO is a funny film, and its kids are adorable, but the implications are pretty dire; and considering what TV has done to the world — replace deep sense of culture based on roots, race, religion, and heritage with the shallowness of pop culture monopolized by a handful of media elites whose programs beam across hundreds of millions of screens across the nation — , OHAYO is also a sad film. If TV didn’t dictate the views and ‘values’ of most people, would we have stuff like ‘gay marriage’? With our eyes glued to trash on TV, we have forgotten ourselves in relation to our people, culture, heritage, ancestry, and history in favor of shallow sensations beamed into our eyes and ears from a handful of mega-corporations owned and controlled by hideous Jews and venal homos. The modern train system came to scar the traditional landscape but, in some ways, accentuated and reinforced traditionalism with its regular schedules reminding people of the proper order of things. TV, on the other hand, has made an anarchy of time and space.

OHAYO
OHAYO – As in Barry Levinson’s AVALON, Peckinpah’s OSTERMAN WEEKEND, and Hooper’s POLTERGEIST, the increasing role of TV in modern life.

There’s a sense in Ozu’s cinema that attunement with the procession of time if what life is about. There’s no sense resisting it since no one escape time. Just because you want to be young forever doesn’t make it so. You can accept the procession of time gracefully or rebel against it. But rebelling against it can, at best, delay the inevitable. It’s like Muhammad Ali, in the end, couldn’t stay in the ring, as his match with Larry Holmes made all too clear. With patience and due diligence, people should ideally go through stages of life from childhood to adulthood to old age and death. In time, people will see the futility of resisting or denying the way of time and life. They need to resign themselves to how the way of life had always been, will always be, and should be. Though there are generational differences — with younger women, for instance, more likely to wear modern dress and makeup — , the way of life will be as always, proceeding from childhood to youth to adulthood to old age to death. So, in time, a harmony between the traditional and the modern can be achieved. Traditional or modern, neither can escape the way of time and the way of life. Whether a woman wears traditional kimono or modern dress, she is the child of her parents, and she grows into adulthood and eventually grows old and dies. In time, she too will have realized she must become a wife and mother if she too is to have a role in the cycle of life. (This may have been the reason why Chris Marker was so fascinated with Japan. On the one hand, it seemed so modern and open to change, as if racing into the future ahead of other nations, even the West. And yet, there was another side of Japan that suggested nothing had really changed, that despite all the surfeit of transformation, the Japanese kept with or were trapped in The Way. It’s like the character in LA JETEE who learns to travel freely through time, even visiting the distant future, but in the end, he couldn’t escape the Way of Time, and he dies as a man seeing himself as a boy seeing himself die as a man seeing himself as a boy seeing himself die as a man.) And yet, there’s a hint of melancholy in Ozu’s films as well, a sense that this resilient but fragile cycle will be broken because of something like the TV, which seems innocuous enough but is all the more dangerous for its deceptively disarming intrusion into the home; TV, like the pods in THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS duplicate our lives into shallow fantasies of sentiment, sex, and/or violence; in time, we come to mistake the fantasies as reflections of our lives that increasingly go un-lived as they draw sustenance from TV and entertainment. (Of course, the rise of the TV would eventually come to nearly destroy the Japanese film industry.) While it’s true enough that everyone eventually realizes there is no escape from the way of time and the way of life, the TV and popular culture constantly disconnect people from one another — even from family members — and distract them from the truth that their lives are empty and pointless without the acceptance of responsibilities of life, especially marriage and family, that come with adulthood. It’s like what Vito Corleone said: “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” It is because so many people have been divorced from the true meaning of life, culture, and values by nonstop exposure to TV that they’ve come to absorb trashy false ‘values’ like homomania and ‘gay marriage’. Kids are raised, ‘taught’, and shaped as much by the TV as by their parents, and of course, their parents and possibly their parents’ parents also grew up on TV. Everyone thinks she owns her own TV but overlooks the fact that what comes through the TV is controlled by a handful of Jewish oligarchs and their homo agents who’ve amassed the power to decide what images, sounds, rumors, lies, and ‘facts’ should fill up our hearts and minds.

THE EXORCIST
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

In a way, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM is a far scarier film than THE EXORCIST. Ellen Burstyn’s character as the mother in THE EXORCIST went through some hell, but we know there’s no such thing as the Devil. But there is really such a thing as the TV, and it has possessed the souls of nearly everyone in America. As most of mass media are controlled by hideous, vile, nasty, vicious, and sinister Jews, nearly all Americans are possessed by the wicked agenda of Jews and their favorite allies, the homocules, who rule the airwaves. Together Jews and homocules constitute only 4% of Americans, but they control 95% of the media.

In the end, time has a way of reminding everyone of what life is really about. So, even young people who wanted to be ‘forever young’ and say they’d never get married and/or have kids eventually came around to seeing the truth, growing up, and settling down. Or, that used to be the case before the Rise of the TV or the Televinator. TV not only infects young people with false ideals and impossible idols — making guys lust after ‘bitchass hos’ and making women lust after the ‘punkass mofos’ — but keeps dishing out distractions to people even when they begin to realize that life is meaningless without marriage and family. In a world without TV, even those who’d pledged to be ‘forever young’ in their teens and early 20s come to realize by their early 30s and certainly by their early 40s that ‘eternal youth’ is a myth. And women begin to realize that if they don’t have kids soon, they are going to grow old and die alone. So, they finally begin to get serious about life. Or that used to be the case. But then came the TV and then the cable channels, and then video hookups and then the internet. And now, even as people grow into their 40s and 50s, they go on denying the truth of life as they go on being jolted with constant distractions of entertainment, diversions, videogames, and whatnot. So, even the eventuality of realizing the truth grows weaker with every new generation that is hooked up to yet more life-destroying gadgets that feed people with the false semblance of life. Though most Americans may not be as pathetic as the mother in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, the impact of TV(and other diversions)on their lives is fundamentally the same. It is anti-life and against the proper procession of time. And in that sense, Japan and other modern nations have not only lost the old ways but the way. Ozu knew full well that old ways would always fade as new ways and new fashions take their place. However, he hoped that the way would remain, i.e. even if every new generation has its own styles, it would go through the same fundamental truth of life. And there is some of that in the film STILL WALKING by Hirokazu Koreeda. But when we ponder the total demographic collapse of Japan(as well as much of Western Europe), not only are the old ways gone but The Way has been lost too. The innocuous-seeming TV in OHAYO has come to poison our lives and indeed has taken the place of life. It is really the Culture of Death that is mistaken for the Culture of Life because the sounds and images emanating from TV’s seem so loud and lively; but in fact, TV offers the mere illusion of life. It is a pipe-fantasy, especially as today’s pop culture is so shamelessly divorced from reality, heritage, morality, and values; it is mostly about narcissism, hedonism, excess, and fantasies of power. Some argue that stuff like MADMEN, THE WIRE, LOST, SOPRANOS, GAME OF THRONES(some idiot fantasy about a dwarf), and BREAKING BAD are adult works of art, but they’ve fallen for a conceit that degrades the true meaning of art. Just become some middlebrow fare comes with a modicum of grit and clever dialogue doesn’t make it art. It’s just the trappings of art without the main dish. They are trashy fantasies of crime and violence with just enough ‘smart’ touches and details to fool the likes of Jonah Goldberg(who thinks BREAKING BAD is art) and Francis Fukuyama(who thinks THE WIRE is art because it has a homo-Negro hero.) Such dipshits wouldn’t know real art if it stared them in the face. (Consider NATIONAL REVIEW’s list of the greatest ‘conservative movies’.) People are drawn to the TV screen as the very stuff of life(like moth to a flame), but the TV sucks the life out of them, as happens with the mother in REQUIEM FOR A DREAM. The power of TV mimics life and appears to magnify/amplify the stuff of life, but it’s all an illusion that has nothing to do with real life. But as long as people have their faces glued to the TV, they feel as if in the presence of life(as something glamorous and/or sensationalistic) even as real life passes them by. Without TV, young people would eventually grow up to realize youth isn’t forever. They would begin to feel lonely as the energy of youth ebbs away, as their friends go separate ways, and as their parents grow older and die. In time, they would have feel compelled to find someone, settle down, have kids, and grow into meaningful adulthood. But TV not only fixates many people on the illusions and obsessions of ‘eternal youth’ but provides nonstop panacea of distractions from the real drama of life. It’s oft-been noted that many modern people choose to live alone and don’t mind doing so, but why is this? It’s because they are not really alone. They find ‘company’, ‘meaning’, ‘love’, ‘friendship’, and even ‘family’ through the TV(and maybe worse, through the internet and interactive video games).
TV, movies, and pop music also constantly feed people with images and sounds of youth, thus creating the illusion of fountain-of-youth to every addict. TV is to people-as-they-age what high school girls are to the Matthew McConughey character in DAZED AND CONFUSED: “I grow older, they stay the same age.” His proximity to high school girls gives him the false impression that he’s forever-young when he’s just a ‘loser’(despite his good looks and style) who refuses to grow into full adulthood of the Vito-Corleone-School that is the only true way. Without TV and such contraptions/devices, would so many modern people be willing to live alone? They would eventually grow bored and lonely and come to the realization that life is meaningless without love, marriage, family, and children. They would do the right thing, grow up, find someone, and settle down. Also, without the TV, they would have grown up hearing more about their parents, grandparents, and etc. and they would have a deeper sense of where they came from; and that would make them think about what they owe to the ‘line of my people’.

DAZED AND CONFUSED – Cool guy with pointless life.
GODFATHER PART 2 – Vito Corleone as a real man.

Anyway, if Kurosawa’s cinema is dramatic in the rivalries of power, righteousness, and/or truth and if Ozu’s cinema is ‘mediative’, ‘moderative’, and ‘negotiative’ in its ceremonial vision of life, there is another kind of cinema that favors the meditative.
In the dramatic/demanding narrative, the individual is insistent of his existence, conviction, passion, and/or ambition vis-a-vis the world. Or he may fear the world, as with the old man in RECORD OF A LIVING BEING, and desperately seek escape. Such fears, however, are not content with monastic withdrawal from the world. They are physical and social, which is why the old man in RECORD OF A LIVING BEING tries to convince his family to emigrate with him to Brazil. (On a deeper level, was the old man merely trying to escape from a nuclear holocaust? Or from the shame of living in a once sacred land made profane through defeat to and occupation by Americans?) He’s not content to crawl in a hole by himself. And his concerns are too physical and visceral to be meditative, spiritual, or philosophical. It’s more like he wants to run from Godzilla. He tries to play the Moses-like figure to his family, the patriarch whose authority must be obeyed. When others won’t follow him, he gets on his knees and pleads without pride and dignity, but he is nevertheless sticking by his guns in his absolute conviction that Japan will be demolished in the next great war. This impatient and impassioned quality has made Kurosawa’s films the most popular of Japanese cinema around the world, especially in America as Americans like strong characters who stand high above the rest and insists on doing things their way. In contrast, in the ‘mediative’ cinema of Ozu, there is no towering individual character, and what matters is the characters’ attentiveness to their apportioned places in the social order. There’s a kind of flower-arrangement-like game theory where no flower gets to be top flower but every flower has its integral place in the whole. Because Ozu focused on these interconnections, fragile yet resilient like spider webs, he didn’t have much to say about the interior lives of his characters. He respected their privacy as privacy is yet another necessary element in the arrangement of a polite society. If Ozu peered in too deep, it would have rudely undermined the etiquette so essential to his vision. (Kon Ichikawa was the master of peeping into privacy, and Shohei Imamura was the master of mingling with privacy.) There’s a kind of social psychology in Ozu’s films — like observing the hive mentality of bees — , but it’s a different game than individual psychology that is more familiar to Westerners. (But given the rise of PC, social psychology could become the more interesting field in the future. Does anyone have an independent or individual mind anymore in the West?)

RECORD OF A LIVING BEING aka I RIVE IN FEAR – Toshiro Mifune as an apocalypse paranoid.

If Kurosawa’s cinema is dramatic and Ozu’s cinema is mediate-tive or ‘mediative’, there is another kind of narrative that is meditative and rich in ‘interiority’ of its characters. It delves into the minds/souls of its characters or presents a world processed by the mind than merely seen through the eye. There is the obvious subjective point-of-view shot that shows us what a character is seeing through his/her eyes. The effect is primarily sensory than conceptual. We see through his eyes, not think/feel through his mind.
There is another kind of subjectivity, one that might be called omnipotent-subjectivity. Almost all movies are omnipotent in nature because the camera seems to move around and see everything from an objective third-person viewpoint. This is omnipotent-objectivity. The camera has the power to be at any place at any given moment. It can follow any character, cut to any place or time, and see the world from endless number of angles. In this kind of omnipotent-objectivity, our focus is on whatever is shown and presented to us. The main purpose of omnipotent-objectivity is to provide the ‘ideal’ best-seat-in-the-house view of what’s happening. The view keeps shifting with each edit or movement of the camera, but the changes are made in accordance to the focus of our attention. For example, if a man drops an object into a storm drain and reaches with his hand to retrieve it, we might get a view from inside the sewage drain of his fingers clutching at the object. There is no sense that the camera has a world-view or heart of its own. It’s just a super-pair of eyes that goes anywhere to show us the ‘best’ view on the action, show us the most impressive sights and wonders, focus on the most intimate details of the characters, and etc. Even though omnipotent-objectivity can effectively capture the subjective emotions and moods of characters, the lens itself is a cold observer, not a thinker or feeler. Indeed, even most subjective point-of-view shots are essentially objective in nature because, even as they show us what a character is seeing, it focuses on his awareness of material reality than his interior moods or emotions. In contrast to omnipotent objectivity, omnipotent subjectivity creates the impression that the camera isn’t just a super-pair of eyes but possessed of a brain, a world-view, an agenda, a philosophy, or even spiritual essence. Instead of utilitarian grammar of tidy compositions, fluid camera movements, and neat editing to move in and out of the action or drama, omnipotent subjectivity proceeds with a will of its own, as if impervious to the unfolding action/events. It looks upon the world like the Monolith in 2001: A SPACE ODSSEY does.
There’s an element of transcendence in relation to the action/events, i.e. if the action/event has relevance in minutes, hours, and days, the omnipotent subjectivity may measure time in eons; thus, what may be urgent to those entangled in the action/event has little or no impact on the transcendental or cosmic scale of omnipotent subjectivity; it’s like the ‘mind’ that observes upon BARRY LYNDON seems aloof and distanced from the action even as it meticulously notices every little detail of its richly adorned world. In if violence erupts in a Kurosawa film, the image cuts to the chase to show the action. A film like HIDDEN FORTRESS features a powerful use of omnipotent objectivity. In contrast, omnipotent subjectivity will not surrender its own ‘agenda’ or ‘world-view’ to serve or play second-fiddle to the ‘main action’. It will continue to circle, observe, or even ‘neglect’ the action on its own terms. This was very much the way Tarkovsky approached his art, and it was why I couldn’t quite appreciate ANDREI RUBLEV on my first viewing. I kept wondering why Russian dullard doesn’t cut the image or move the camera to heighten the drama or amplify the violence. Even in the brutal scene of Tartar invasion/sacking of a Russian village, there’s an ascetic detachment amidst the terror — that might have influenced the muted first part of the attack on the Third Castle in RAN — that is so different from Elem Klimov’s treatment of the Nazi pillage in COME AND SEE.

ANDREI RUBLEV – Tatar Invasion

Omnipotent subjectivity has its own pace, momentum, and mood — like that of the donkey in Robert Bresson’s AU HASARD BALTHASAR — , and it refuses to compromise, sacrifice, or surrender its ‘independence’ and ‘will’ to events or expectations. And yet, it isn’t exactly a form of ‘independence’ and ‘will’ since the ‘mind-set’ is closer to being cosmic and transcendental. We aren’t so much seeing and ‘feeling’ through the eyes and ‘mind’ of a specific entity as through the eyes and ‘mind’ of the world itself if indeed there could be something like the world-mind. Omnipotent subjectivity will bide its time and follow its own ‘agenda’ and ‘schedule’. It’s like the opening scene of CITIZEN KANE. When we notice the light in the mansion far away, our curiosity wants to go there immediately and peer inside. Omnipotent objectivity would have cut immediately to our focus of interest. In contrast, the omnipotent subjectivity in the opening scene dwells on other things and other perspectives before approaching the window. It’s like it makes no wine until it’s time. The opening of CITIZEN KANE suggests a view with a meta-mind, as if a strange intelligence/vision is stalking the mansion of Kane as he lies dying. Is it the mind/eyes of death circling the palace in which Kane is breathing his last? Is it the spirit of fate? Whatever it is, it has own ‘program’ and its own peculiar way of approaching and entering the mansion, and we have no choice but to adjust to its pace and mood. This kind of cinema is more mysterious and fascinating because of the presence of a strange intelligence — like the mysterious force that affects the lives of the hero and townsfolk in MOTHMAN PROPHECIES though the movie itself was made in a more formulaic manner of omnipotent objectivity spliced with conventional subjective shots. It’s as if we’ve entered a consciousness, cosmic or otherwise, and are seeing the world through its dreamy eyes. It’s like what the character feels in BEING JOHN MALKOVICH upon stumbling on a conduit that takes him inside John Malkovich, thus seeing and sensing through both his own eyes/mind and the eyes/mind of Malkovich, whom he gradually takes over. When we take still pictures, we use the camera like an eye, but there’s something intrinsically mind-like about the movie-camera since it captures not only images but time itself. Thus, it not only shows what was seen but the process of seeing, and this process implies a mental activity, a consciousness, a will, an intelligence. And yet, cinema sought to be as omnipotently objective as possible, focusing on the action or drama while making its process as invisible as possible as mere conveyer of the events on screen.
It took some time for the camera to develop a kind of self-consciousness — a camera cerveau or camera espirit than mere camera stylo — , and perhaps the first truly startling case was MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA by Dziga Vertov. Even so, Vertov’s main focus was the mind-eye than the mind-soul. It offered a self-conscious means by which cinema could see, reflect, and understand itself. The first artist to perhaps lend cinema something like an ‘independent’ soul was either Carl Dreyer with THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC or F.W. Murnau with SUNRISE. Quite possibly Dreyer took it as far it could go with VAMPYR, possibly the most trance-like and spellbinding of all films. If a movie camera could be smuggled into a dream and retrieved with the captured footage, the result would be something like VAMPYR.

VAMPYR by Carl Dreyer

Most moviegoers are bound to find omnipotent subjectivity a bit heavy-going and dreary because cinema seen through a contemplative mind will tend to mull over things than move along like a tour guide; indeed, it is like a tourist who insists on remaining behind and pondering the exhibit while the tour guide calls on everyone to move on along to the next exhibit. This is why the Russian exile makes an exasperating companion to the young Italian woman whose outlook and pace are more modern, utilitarian, and sociable in Tarkovsky’s NOSTALGHIA. He is a ‘bad tourist’ who won’t stick with the conventional program. Such persons are both independent/individualistic and tyrannical/megalomaniacal. In insisting on sticking with his way of seeing, feeling, and thinking about the world, he sets himself apart from the world with its norms and expectations. But in believing that his perception/conception of the world is deeper, richer, and truer than the conventional view, his mind represents a seed of a new World Mind to colonize the hearts and minds of everyone. Indeed, every visionary prophet — like Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus, Muhammad, or Marx — removes himself from the prevailing World Mind to plant the seeds that may grow over and expand as the new World Mind. Thus, Christianity and Islam are strange historical phenomena as the universalization of peculiar exile/outcast mentalities. Omnipotent objectivity chews for the flavors and swallows to make room for more; omnipotent subjectivity may keep chewing and chewing for the deeper flavors and textures inaccessible with conventional eating. (Both modes miss out on something. Omnipotent objectivity, in its dynamism and alertness to new stimuli, covers more ground but hasn’t the patience and concentration to dwell on any one theme or matter. Omnipotent subjectivity is more immersed in one thing or another but is all-too-oblivious to the rest of the world passing by.) Omnipotent objectivity follows the action, omnipotent subjectivity sticks with its agenda. The former is more journalistic, the latter is more ruminative. Omnipotent subjectivity could be made more engaging with voice-over narration, but the ‘purer’ artists prefer to rely on image(and ‘natural’ sounds) alone. Words, in clarifying the ‘agenda’, also winnows it down to a personality(as well as ‘nationality’ as every language belongs to a specific culture); it personifies the cosmic, which is rather self-defeating. It explains why Stanley Kubrick finally decided not to use voice-over narration for the opening segment of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. The prehistoric ape-man world is all the more mysterious and convincing without the imposition of language that developed much later. It seems like ‘we are there’ than ‘we are there’; indeed, it’s as if ‘we’ don’t figure into the ‘there’ at all, i.e. ‘there’ is there irrespective of the ‘we’. It’s like God is more mysterious through His silences and portents than through His words and laws. It is in the sensing than in the seeing that we gain a truer measure of power and mystery. A visual object, no matter how grand, has limits, whereas a sense of something is beyond form, thereby potentially limitless. This is why the Jewish God became ever more silent and invisible as He grew more powerful and pervasive. It is when something is nowhere that it is everywhere. WICKER PARK and L’APPARTEMENT derive their strange poetry from the sense that Lisa is ‘there’ but then where? And consider the final scene in WICKER PARK when Lisa feels the presence of Matthew before she turns around and finds him.

WICKER PARK

Though omnipotent subjectivity tends to ‘slow’ things down with a ruminative mind of its own, it can also be hyper and hysterical, as with Terrence Malick’s ludicrous TREE OF LIFE where the directorial vision prances with stars and sunlight as if the universe and his personal biography are one and the same as a Broadway production of Star-Child-Is-Born. It goes to show that omnipotent subjectivity can be as mindless as it can be mindful, though nothing comes anywhere near in omnipotent subjective mindlessness as the films of Chantal Akerman, surely the worst director ever. Andy Warhol is another candidate but has the excuse of not really having tried, as his films were meant to be stunts or shticks for suckers knowingly glad to be suckers. At any rate, those without talent shouldn’t even bother with omnipotent subjectivity because the result will be as painful as the films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Bruno Dumont, and Theo Angelopoulos. Hou’s dour refusal to follow the ‘obvious’ action has only resulted in suffocating stodginess. Being ‘different’ is insufficient for art. Hou has been overrated for the simple fact of his not-doing(the conventional), though to be sure, his brand of stuffy non-action has become one of the cliches of the ‘art film’ circuit. The not-doing must be followed by doing-something of value, a totally foreign concept to the humorless and inexpressive Hou. As for Dumont, he’s under the delusion that strained heaviness is tantamount to depth and meaning. It’s like tying ropes attached to chunks of concrete around one’s ankles and climbing uphill in the dimwit conviction that pain is gain. Pain may be a necessary price for gain, but it is not gain itself. Making worthless endeavors difficult and then wasting energy on them is just stupid. As for Theo Angelopoulos, the fool thinks if he comes to a standstill and gazes at something long enough, he’s onto some profound truth unbeknownst to the rest of humanity. It’s like putting the cart before the horse. The art of seeing(that may reveal the truth) is not to be confused with the act of seeing. An act, no matter how earnestly and seriously carried out, is useless to art unless one knows what to look for and how. It’s like lifting weights is not dancing. Angelopoulos’ TRAVELING PLAYERS, a 4-hour snooze-fest, has to be one of the worst films ever made.

TRAVELING PLAYERS – Theo Angelopoulos

The masters of the meditative/trance/dream/surreal cinema since the advent of Carl Dreyer, F.W. Murnau, and Luis Bunuel(and on occasion Fritz Lang) have been Kenji Mizoguchi, Michelangelo Antonioni, Stanley Kubrick, Andrei Tarkovsky, Miklos Jansco, and David Lynch. Nevertheless, other directors, against their usual inclination, have slid into that mode with some degree of success. Think of Hitchcock with VERTIGO, Kobayashi with SEPPUKU(aka HARAKIRI) and parts of KWAIDAN, Sergei Parajanov with COLOR OF POMEGRANATES, Alain Resnais with some passages in HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR and LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, Ridley Scott with BLADE RUNNER, Sergio Leone with ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, Jacques Tati with PLAYTIME, and Francis Ford Coppola with some passages in APOCALYPSE NOW. Of course, there have been directors prefer that mode but usually with little success. We’ve mentioned the horridness of Hou, Angelopoulous, and Akerman; there’s also Pasolini at his worst, with stuff like TEOREMA. Abbas Kiarostami is an important film-maker with some fine films under his belt, but he’s also pushed some of his ideas too far. He was best when balancing design and randomness, not so good when veering too far with one of his pet theories. Bela Tarr made a masterpiece with WERCKMEISTER HARMONIES, but his other films tend to be turgid or belabored, though they certainly have their admirers; but then, even Tarkovsky had only two indisputable artistic successes — ANDREI RUBLEV and STALKER — while his other works range from promising starts to noble failures. Raul Ruiz’s TIME REGAINED is surely one of the greatest films in the vein of omnipotent subjectivity, but I’m not familiar enough with his other works to pass judgement on him as a whole. Werner Herzog promoted himself as a unyielding director determined to go to any lengths to fulfill his vision, and for his efforts, some critics overestimated him in the 70s on the basis of A-for-effort, but his only true masterpiece is AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD, and even that is far from entirely successful. Even more problematic is the cinema of Alexander Sokurov whose experiments range from poetic-but-unsatisfying, as with MOTHER AND SON, to overly conceptualized and gimmicky, as with THE RUSSIAN ARK that, if not for the stunt of the film being a one long single take, wouldn’t have garnered the critical attention it did. Some may add Luchino Visconti and Max Ophuls to this group, and it’s true enough that films like THE LEOPARD, LUDWIG, and LOLA MONTEZ are labors of love playing by their own rules, unfurling at their own magisterial pace, and richly layered in moods, indeed as if we are encased in another world. The effect is not unlike the moment in the opening of CITIZEN KANE when the light goes out in Kane’s window and comes back on again to reveal that we’ve imperceptibly gone from outside the window to the inside. It’s like we passed into the other side of the looking glass. The unity of style, details, manners, and mood throughout THE LEOPARD and LOLA MONTEZ creates an impression, as in Kubrick’s BARRY LYNDON, that we’ve been transported to a dimension where everything is part of the organic whole than mere props or backdrop to the latest ‘interpretation’. Indeed, one of the irritating and/or amusing things about Hollywood historical epics was they played to current expectations than relaying anything faithful about the times depicted. It wasn’t only that the everyone spoke English — often with different accents as British actors mingled with American ones — but that everything seemed dictated by Hollywood’s estimate of public tastes and shaped by the maker’s ideological hangups — SPARTACUS was reduced to an allegory about 20th century radical progressive movement; its hero is a useful symbol than a historical personage in his own right. (Perhaps, such pandering to current tastes and socio-political relevance owed to cinema’s origins in theater. As true realism was impossible in the theater, it was useless for playwrights and production managers to pretend to depict things as they’d really been. Thus, the past could only be depicted as symbols, props, and metaphors for matters of relevance to the present. Something like ANDREI RUBLEV or BARRY LYNDON would be pointless as a play since stagecraft could never lead us believe that we’d been transported to Medieval Russia or the world of 18th century European courts. Also, the science of archaeology is relatively recent, and therefore, most traditional storytelling were more about legends and myths than about the actual facts and features of bygone times.) Most Hollywood historical epics look more or less alike with the similar colors and textures in accordance with officially enforced standards, more like postcards than works of painterly imagination. And the music was usually the stock Hollywood tripe of the time — SPARTACUS suffers from the nonstop bombastic music — , which is why whether it was an epic about ancient Greece, ancient Rome, ancient Persia, or medieval England, it had the same ring of Hollywood. And women all wore the same kind of makeup and lipsticks, the lighting and colors were generally uniform from movie to movie, and the manner of composition and editing hardly differed among them — it’s no wonder that Kubrick wanted to disown SPARTACUS.
Different cultures, times, and places perceived and conceived of reality in different ways. Surely, how time and space unfolds in a monastery differs markedly from how they operate inside the stock exchange room in Wall Street. Therefore, different worlds call for different frames of mind. Tarkovsky’s vision of Medieval Russia is perfect for ANDREI RUBLEV but would be out of place in the world of Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED. Films made with personal vision attuned to unique qualities of certain times and places have a power beyond that found in Hollywood epics that conformed to established standards. Is it any wonder that the Ancient Near East of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, the Ancient Rome of BEN-HUR or SPARTACUS, and the Renaissance world of THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY all seem more or less interchangeable in the way people look, talk, act, and etc? (Since then, the Hollywood’s standards have changed but not the general approach of enforcing the standards. So, every historical epic today looks either like GLADIATOR, TROY, or 300.) And they are scored with the same kind of Hollywood music. In contrast, consider the pagan world of MARKETA LAZAROVA by František Vlácil, the feudal Japan of SEVEN SAMURAI, the medieval Russia of ANDREI RUBLEV, the Italy of the Risorgimento in THE LEOPARD, the 18th century Europe of BARRY LYNDON, the Merry England of Welles’ CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT, and the Central Asia confronted by the Mongol invasion in GIBEL OTRARA. While I love movies like BEN-HUR, SAMSON AND DELILAH, and EL CID, they are essentially superior costume dramas(or parties). Indeed, what is most remarkable about THE WILD BUNCH isn’t the violence but its look and feel. It doesn’t look or sound like ‘standard’ Western of the time, just like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY dispensed with all the established standards of the Hollywood science fiction genre. The limitation of Classic Hollywood was it generally suppressed not only personal vision(unique way of looking at the world) but realistic depiction(the way different realities sound and feel in accordance to their own details and moods). Everything had to conform to the ‘acceptable’. (Kubrick’s THE KILLING is an interesting work as it sticks with all the conventions by the letter — even by every stroke of the letter — , all the while disordering them in such a way as to make a mockery of the genre. Kubrick’s approach was like the Adolph Menjou character’s manipulations in PATHS OF GLORY. Just as the devious general’s manipulation of codes of honor made a mockery of military procedures in battle and justice, Kubrick’s jumbling of chronology accompanied by straight-faced voice-over narrative turned a crime thriller into a farce. Arrangement and tone are everything. It’s like DR. STRANGELOVE began as a serious movie but was turned into comedy by shift in tone and emphasis.) So, Hollywood gangsters had to operate as caricatures of the genre. Even when wild and crazy, it was Hollywood’s image of ‘wild and crazy’, as with the stock characters of James Cagney or Paul Muni. They were types than individualities. And the women had to look or act in accordance with established types and styles, such as the goddess, the temptress, the vamp, the femme fatale, the good girl, the respectable lady, the schoolmarm, the caring mother, the saintly nun-type, and etc. And certain actors and actresses became almost synonymous with certain types. So, John Wayne became the standard model of the Western cowboy. Gregory Peck became the standard model of the stalwart idealist. Barbara Stanwyck embodied intelligence and feistiness in a woman. But they could never be truly singular and peculiar, a person like no other, like Marlon Brando in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. Though Kowalski can be categorized as a type — the male lout of so many Hollywood movies — , he is also something more, a man who reeks of his own biography, psychology, and lusts. He isn’t cut from the same cloth but stitched of his own leather.

Hollywood found both personal vision and commitment to reality/factuality problematic if not threatening because both undermined the standards and formulas around which the industry and its interests revolved. Personal vision insisted on going against the grain of what had been established as safe, profitable, & respectable and imposed the artist’s uncertain and possibly dangerous stamp on the material. And attention to reality dragged cinema to many places it didn’t want to go. While Hollywood made its share of grim movies about social problems such as poverty and injustice, it nevertheless preferred to stick to standards with their familiar dichotomies of good vs evil — as in ERIN BROKOVICH — and pat solutions to keep the audience in a childish state of mind. With standards and formulas, the problems of reality could be simplified into issue of righteous anguish. The formula could replicate the shell of realism while grinding out the same sausage according to industry standard. Consider all the films and TV shows that look and sound ‘so real’ but hardly deviate from conventions of good & bad and political correctness. Because garbage like MADMEN has sex and foul language galore, pseudo-sophisticates are likely to mistake it for truth than sensationalism that it really is. The standard is more assuring to both conservatives and liberals than is a view of reality that comes to grip with reality on its own terms. MEAN STREETS and TAXI DRIVER are more dangerous films than Hollywood gangster & crime movies because there are no pat identifications of characters and no simple demarcations of good and evil. The gangsters of MEAN STREETS are not a breed apart but very much people in our world. They are not a part of an escapist gangster world but the kind of punks we may run into. As for Travis Bickle, he defies any simple categorization of good vs evil, sane or insane.
Though liberals were the first ones to call for greater artistic freedom in personal vision and closer attention to detail whereas conservatives feared that such creative freedoms would encourage nihilism and relativism, in the long run liberals who came to be just as anxious about issue of personal vision and attention to reality in cinema. After all, suppose someone were to make a truly honest film about race relations that eschewed the Liberal standard of something like TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD and MISSISSIPPI BURNING, the film by Alan Parker that, while filled with dark and troubling details, assured Liberals and the Civil Rights crowd with the simple myth of ‘good saintly Negroes’ being oppressed by thoroughly worthless and irredeemable ‘southern rednecks’. But was the reality in the South really that simple? Of course not. (Furthermore, excessive/sensationalistic use of violence may actually have a fairytale effect on the audience because it scares adults into a state of childlike infantilism. It also simplifies the moral issues with the power of fright. A little scare goes a long way in convincing childish minds; consider the mileage religions got with their tales of devils and hells. After all, if one is led to believe that the Deep South was so horrible 24/7 with crazy KKK riding around and hanging Negroes from every tree, then there’s no need to think further about the issue. Just believe in the fairytale of the noble Negro and evil white man. But every society, group, or nation could do this. Even National Socialist Germany could have made a scary movie about communists doing horrible things and frightened German audiences into thinking, ‘the commies are so evil that we, the anti-communist Germans, must be so good’. Also, considering that EVERY race, nation, and group committed their own share of horrors, ‘excessive’ or sensationalistic depiction of such violence in cinema could be used to justify or discredit any people or cause. For instance, if a SCHINDLER’S LIST-style movie about the Nakba depicted Zionists acting horribly toward Palestinians, the audience will come away thinking Zionism is simply evil and there’s nothing more to think about it. But the same thing can be done about American atrocities in WWII to turn the ‘Good War’ into the ‘Bad War’. As every side committed atrocities and horrors, it’d be simplistic to determine the overall good or evil of anything based on ultra-violent depictions of what may have taken place. While SCHINDLER’S LIST may show a lot of factually correct violence, the overall impact is manipulative and childlike because Spielberg is playing us no differently than the way he did in JAWS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, and JURASSIC PARK. Besides, a Nazi Spielberg could have made a similar movie about how Jewish communists cruelly murdered a lot of innocent people in the USSR. While such a movie may show realistic violence based on actual events, the sheer visceral power of the images/sounds would likely frighten and inflame the audience to seeing the world in terms of simple good vs bad. Furthermore, the Nazis would, of course, forbid similar movies made about their own atrocities. Jew-run Hollywood works the same way. It makes all these movies to shame and guilt-bait Northern Europeans and white Americans over the Holocaust and slavery, but it forbids any movie about how Jewish communists participated in mass killings in the USSR, ethnic cleansing & imperialism in Israel/Palestine, and are in the process of committing massive racial destruction of the white race in the US and EU. While there’s surely factual truth to the brutality of stuff like SCHINDLER’S LIST and 12 YEARS A SLAVE, their overall impact isn’t to make people think to but scare them like children into seeing the world in simple terms of good vs evil. The reason why Jews hated Mel Gibson’s PASSION OF THE CHRIST is it pulled the same fright-trick but against Jews. Indeed, the narrative of Jesus’s suffering at the hands of Jews and Romans goes to show the sheer power of fright and righteous outrage, or ‘frighteousness’. Though countless people had been crucified by the Romans, the story of torture and killing of Jesus took on special power because it was mounted as Passion Play over and over and over, thus emotionally working on childlike Christian hearts & minds to feel ‘frighteous’ in their outrage over what had been done to Jesus, especially by the damn Jews. Today, Jews are taking revenge by using the same kind of scare tactic against Northern Europeans and white Americans.)And Jewish Liberals certainly don’t have much appreciation for the powerful personal visions of D.W. Griffith with THE BIRTH OF A NATION, Mel Gibson with THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, Leni Riefenstahl with THE TRIUMPH OF THE WILL & OLYMPIAD, Walter Hill with THE LONG RIDERS, and John Milius with RED DAWN. And the Liberal film critic Roger Ebert didn’t like RIDE WITH THE DEVIL(possibly Ang Lee’s best film if not LIFE OF PI) because of its realism of presenting white Southerners as people than scum-of-the-earth. The film is actually highly critical of the Old South’s racial prejudices but without resorting to the Hollywood Standard of dehumanizing Southerners to shore up easy sanctimony among ‘progressive’ types and the Negroes. Sometimes, a personal vision in close association with respect for reality produces a work that poses challenges to the viewer. Consider a film like MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE or C.R.A.Z.Y. There is no easy way to feel about either whether you’re white, ‘Paki’, homosexual, anti-‘gay’, young, old, father, son, daughter, etc. It simply won’t let the viewer lean on the crutch of the Standard — be it traditionalism, liberalism, radicalism, or political correctness — and affix labels on everything as ‘progressive’, ‘reactionary’, ‘racist’, ‘homophobic’, ‘us’, or ‘them’. They compel us to acknowledge the multiple realities surrounding each of us as every person has a different narrative and his or her own dreams, hopes, fears, and anxieties. To be among other people is to be among other realities.
The appeal of cinema is contradictory because, on the one hand, it brings us in closer contact with other realities(as emoted and dramatized by characters), but on the other hand, it draws us into a shared reality which is dominated by the star character. Cinema makes us see beyond ourselves but also makes us subordinate and submissive to its vision of reality as embodied by its main characters. After all, the ‘reality’ of most movies is dominated by the agendas, missions, or agendas of their main characters. The reason why RASHOMON had such an electrifying effect on cinema wasn’t simply due to Kurosawa’s technical mastery and innovativeness; it was because it undermined the convention of the dominant reality. As every ‘reality’/perspective presented by each witness in RASHOMON had equal validity, there was no ‘correct’ reality for us to surrender to. Most movies serve up a dominant reality as embodied by the main character, and therein lies the power and danger of cinema. (It is even more dangerous with Rap music because it’s all about me, me, me, my reality, my thing, my power, my rage, etc. In contrast, movies and novels, despite the primacy of main characters, still must acknowledge the presence of other people and their contrasting dreams and desires. And country music told stories that went beyond ‘me’. But Rap is only about me, me, and me. It urges young kids to grow up thinking that each of them is either the center of the universe or should worship the center of the universe who happens to be the rap star.) Because most viewers come under the spell of the main character, they end up rooting for him even if he’s a bad guy or a crazy guy, like a bank robber or a nut like Travis Bickle of TAXI DRIVER. Precisely because of such submission-identifications with the main character, Hollywood Jews are very mindful about what kind of movies get made. Jews don’t want movies where the dominant character is some proud white southern guy or a noble Palestinian. Main characters are usually the kind of people who happen to be favored by Jews and homos. If characters from disfavored groups are to be featured in movies, they are shown as villains or despicable secondary characters whom the viewers are made to hate via their submission-identification with the main character. Cinema, especially as practiced by Hollywood, doesn’t so much make us empathize with others as surrender to them(in their dominance as main characters). Cinema makes us more aware of other realities but also fuses our minds into a single ‘shared reality’. If 300 people were shown a favorable film about Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin, they’d be made to empathize with someone — Der Fuhrer or Comrade Stalin — other than themselves. Yet, they are also being merged into a single mind united in admiration for Hitler or Stalin. Thus, cinema both expands and narrows empathy. Whites who go weepy-poo over the mountain-sized Negro who wuvs a wittle white mouse in GREEN MILE may be rising above their conventional white reality, but they are also being fused into a single politically correct ‘shared reality’ that has no sympathy and empathy for white Southerners and noble white race-ists who see the truth, especially that the notion of a mountain-sized Negro who wuvs a wittle white mouse is a pure myth that has no basis in reality. Whenever cinema expands sympathy/empathy in regard to one people, it narrows and even annihilates sympathy/empathy for another people. A film like Otto Preminger’s EXODUS makes the audience ‘empathize’ with Jews and Zionists but shuts their hearts/minds to Arabs and Palestinians. So, cinema doesn’t necessarily expand empathy; rather, it expands empathy in one direction while shutting it off in other directions; and the directions of empathy are determined by those who control the film industry, and in the US, they are Jews, just like in National Socialist Germany, it was guys like Joseph Goebbels.

EXODUS by Otto Preminger – Cinema favors, even dictates, collective ’empathy’ for one people while denying it to another people. EXODUS made Americans feel for Jews, un-feel for Palestinians.

Anyway, even as the rules of the Standard have changed, even most movies made today stick to the Standard(even if the New Standard), not least because the movie studios will, 99 times out of 100, only fund and promote projects that either stick with the standard or don’t threaten it — if you want to be a personal film-maker, don’t make stuff like THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, and if you want to deal honestly with reality, tackle subjects/issues that don’t make Jews, homos, or Negroes look bad. (It’s like in Communist China, you can make honest films about social problems AS LONG AS it doesn’t reflect negatively on the Chinese Communist Party.)
In their combined effort to resist the stultifying pressures of the Standard, personal vision and respect for reality became allies at one time, but it was never an easy alliance. Italian Neo-Realism in the postwar period was the most powerful declaration of this alliance. As cinema under Mussolini’s regime had mostly been a second-rate imitation of the Hollywood Standard that favored ‘safe entertainment’ and melodramas, a film-maker like Roberto Rossellini broke free with a combination of a powerful personal vision/style and an almost documentary-like plunge into raw reality with all its poverty, violence, and desperation. Luis Bunuel took it even further with LOS OLVIDADOS in Mexico. And in America, the film-maker who most effectively combined powerful personality with raw reality was Elia Kazan in the 1950s. (The special hatred that leftists felt for Kazan had less to do with his cooperation with HUAC than the fact that he was one of the great theater and cinematic talents of his generation. Had Kazan been just another hack, it would have been no great loss. But his genuine talent made it a big loss, especially as Kazan did some of his best work AFTER he turned on his former communist friends. My guess is Kazan’s actions had less to do with principles than with his oily Greek lack of character as Greeks are some of the biggest opportunists that ever lived. In the end, it wasn’t about ideology but ethnicity. Because Kazan wasn’t a Wasp but a fellow ethnic, Jews took it especially bitterly. According to the Jewish Narrative, the ethnics should be united in the Progressive Struggle against Country Club Wasps. But then, Jewish rage and bitterness about the Hollywood Ten were also more about ethnicity than ideology. Jews saw the whole affair as conservative Wasps using anti-communism to come after Jews. If today the homo agenda is the proxy of Jewish power in America, communism was the proxy of Jewish subversion in the 30s to the 50s.) It was as if the purity of personal vision and the truth of reality were one and the same. But of course they weren’t and had only been joined at the hip because of their resistance against their common enemy, the Standard of the day. In fact, personal vision tends to play by its own rules, biases, preferences, and passions that are, more often than not, at odds with the larger social reality and, of course, the competing personal visions of others. If personal vision is allowed to break free of the Standard and do as it pleases, it is more likely to try to impose itself on reality than serve to honestly reflect reality. Just consider the films of Oliver Stone that pretend to be about real world problems but mostly project Stone’s own paranoia and demons on the world, especially in nonsense films like JFK and NATURAL BORN KILLERS. Even when personal vision deals with the rough stuff of reality, it seeks to mold reality according to one’s own personal ‘logic’ and ‘principles’.
Perhaps, the film method that most accurately reflects reality is cinema verite, but it’s certainly not the favored approach of film-makers with powerful personal visions. Rather, cinema verite is favored by film-makers who care more about the subject matter than the subjective vision. For cinema verite film-makers, the camera is merely a tool for capturing what’s out there. (Does cinema verite capture reality more truthfully or accurately? But then, which cinema verite do we mean? Surely, the methods of cinema verite have changed with the technology. Today, most of cinema verite — if indeed it is still called that — is shot on digital video and even with steady-cam. Yet, classic cinema verite was shot in 16 mm film with shaky hand-held camera. The images tended to be grainy washed-out color or black & white. The image was often jerky since the camera was hand-held and steady-cam technology arrived much later. The old cinema verite style came to be identified with truth, reality, honesty, and accuracy, but was it really? After all, our sensory systems come with natural steady cam mechanism. Even when we were running, our spatial perception remains stable. So, the shaky hand-held look isn’t accurate in terms of how we experience reality. Also, we see reality as crisp, clean, and colorful. Unless one has optical problems, we don’t see grainy images, and we sure don’t see reality as b/w. So, actually a 007 movie’s visuals are closer to reality than what was shown through classic cinema verite. So, what made classic cinema verite seem so truthful if its images actually looked less like the reality we see in the world? Classic cinema verite seemed more truthful because it tackled topics and subjects overlooked by Hollywood. Also, it captured images of real people doing real things in social reality. Also, there was an element of spontaneity and unrehearsed-ness so essential to life. So, a kind of Pavlovian mind-set took over and conflated truth with distortions. If social reality is ‘distorted’ with grainy b/w images while escapist fantasies of 007 are captured in realistic color, one might come to associate grainy b/w with truth and lifelike color with untruth. And yet, the real world looks crisp, clean, and colorful, more like YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE than DON’T LOOK BACK or GIMME SHELTER.) For the film-maker with personal vision, the camera is a molder of reality into a kind of self-enclosed ‘universe’ with its own logic, form, and feel.
Therefore, as the personal film-maker gained ever more freedom and power to do as he pleased, he became ever more disassociated from not only the Standard but from reality. Some became indulgent, like Coppola with ONE FROM THE HEART. Others turned solipsist, like Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette.
But the strangest product of personal creativity was when the artist imposed his hyper personal vision on the rawest representation of reality, resulting in works like THE LAST MOVIE(Dennis Hopper), BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, HEAVEN’S GATE(Michael Cimino), APOCALYPSE NOW, FITZCARRALDO(Werner Herzog), CRUISING(William Friedkin), and 1900(Bernardo Bertolucci). Personal vision, good or bad, can do as it pleases within its own personal space of the imagination, but when it rubs up against brutal reality, it is confronted with the crisis of the Compatibility Principle. Is the personal vision compatible with the social/natural world being presented? (Indeed, the very question is absurdly contradictory since the world is bigger than any single person and doesn’t care what anyone thinks, however grandiose his ego may be. In FITZCARRALDO, the nature and primitive folks — indeed most of the civilized folks — don’t give a crap about the hero’s mad idea of establishing an opera house in the middle of the Amazon. And yet, there is something about the human mind that is latently and patently megalomaniacal, as evinced in Terrence Malick’s ludicrous TREE OF LIFE. Why is this? It’s because no matter how vast and timeless the universe may be, each of us can only know of the universe through his or her mind. As our mind processes our consciousness of the universe, there’s a lurking sense within us that our mind IS the universe, especially as the world/universe known to each of us began with our birth and will end with our death. Indeed, babies can’t differentiate between their perception of reality and reality. If they want something but if reality doesn’t provide it for them, they get awful frustrated. It’s only later that they realize that their perception of reality and reality are separate things and that reality doesn’t exist to conform to their every wish. A child may wish upon the stars, but stars don’t care. Fairy tales appeal to children because they offer the hope that one’s wishes and hopes could magically come true, indeed as if the universe listens to our dreams and does everything possible to realize them for us. It’s like the universe takes care of Forrest Gump. It’s like the David in A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE forever wants the universe to re-materialize his ‘mommy’. But adult minds know that the universe doesn’t work like that. It doesn’t conform to our wishes. Instead, religions say the universe works according to the designs of God or gods. Instead of expecting the universe to make our dreams come true, we should accept life as it is and accept universe as it is. We should leave it up to God or the gods who are the true creators and controllers of the universe, and their ultimate plan is beyond our power of understanding and knowledge. And yet, there is a fairytale element in religion because, through prayer and/or meditation, we believe God and gods — or higher reality — will serve as conduits with the universe for our wishes and dreams. The universe doesn’t exist to grant us our wishes, but maybe God will nudge the universe to do us a favor if we pray hard enough and/or lead exemplary lives according to His will. One difference between pagan religions and Judaism/Christianity/Islam is that gods are part of the universe in the former, whereas the universe is the mere creation of God in the latter. In the pagan-verse, universe is bigger than gods; in the Judeo-Christo-Islamo-verse, God is bigger than the universe. Atheist rationalists feel themselves to be the most adult and mature. They see the universe for what it is on its own terms. They don’t believe that the universe pays heed to us, and they don’t believe in God or gods that can serve as intermediaries between us and the universe. They seek hard truths about the endless facets of the universe through observation and experimentation. And yet, there is a kind of fairy-tale element to scientific rationalism as well. There is the over-exuberance and optimism among many people that science will figure our and solve everything. It may even create the transhuman technology that may turn us into godlike beings. Also, some atheist-rationalists become so enamored of their minds as truth-seekers and truth-finders that they come to worship their own power of reason as the most awesome thing in the universe. Is it any wonder that so many famous atheist-rationalists are among the most glib, arrogant, prickly, and arrogant jerk-offs? Like Sam Harris for instance. It’s especially annoying because the highest sense of right vs wrong for these so-called atheist-rationalists is little more than PC tripe that continues to spread the lie that “race is just a social construct” and “it is ‘homophobic’ to insist that a man’s fecal hole is not a proper sex organ.”) Bertolucci’s 1900 is supposedly about real people, real struggle, and real revolution, but everyone and everything is used as clowns, freaks, and animals in Bertolucci’s personal vision of history as circus pageantry of the radical chic imagination. BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA is wound up so tightly within self-pitying paranoia that it has no real connection to the grim realities depicted all around.
THE LAST MOVIE suffers from pretty much the same problem. It’s what one might call ‘method film-making’, one that has no real interest in the Latin American locale it’s set in — but then, keep in mind EASY RIDER is about a couple of bikers who go to New Orleans to lose themselves in acid trips and self-indulgence. (There’s a paradoxical appeal to travel or adventure. On the one hand, you’re removing yourself from familiar surroundings and going to another world where you have to learn about and adjust to new things, people, and culture. On the other hand, it is a means to get closer to yourself or your imagined true self. It’s like Burt Reynolds character in DELIVERANCE says, “Sometimes you have to lose yourself before you can find anything.” The place where you live and work may designate what ‘you’ are, but this ‘you’ is already established and set in stone. And you may not like this ‘you’ where you’re stuck in. So, you may set off to ‘paradise’ or ‘new land’ for the chance to find the ‘real you’. It’s like Joe Buck goes to NY to find the ‘real you’ as a hustler who’d rake in big bucks by bedding rich older women. Of course, if you have a lot of money, you can travel to paradisiacal resorts to lose yourself to find the ‘real you’. But it is a fantasy sustained by money. Part of the appeal of Mexico for Sam Peckinpah was the fantasy of finding the ‘real you’ there as modernity came to dictate too much of what an American was supposed to be; America was controlled by technology and mass media, the new ‘railroad’ of the latter half of the 20th century. Many directors traveled around the world in the late 60s and the 70s to find the ‘real you’. Hopper, William Friedkin, Herzog, and Peckinpah made films in Latin America. Antonioni made ZABRISKIE POINT in the US. Kurosawa had planned to make an American film — THE RUNAWAY TRAIN — , but the project fell through, but he eventually made DERSU UZALA in Russia. Some directors worked in ‘exile’ because funding dried up at home. Others took the plunge in the spirit of searching for El Dorado — not for gold but the truth of man and nature. ) It was like someone rolling up his sleeves to wrestle with reality only to roll around drunk in the mud. Imagine if Jesus decided to drink a whole bottle of whiskey before going among the wretched. The problem of many ‘auteurs’ was intoxication in their own egos, and this problem could be resolved neither at home nor abroad; the problem was really a matter of the heart. It’s like Peter Fonda’s character near the end of EASY RIDER says, “We blew it”, which would turn out to be prophetic words for the ‘auteur’ film-making of the 1970s that conflated personal excessive-ism and adventurism with truth, integrity, and even sanctity.
Few film-makers messed up as royally in this regard as Michael Cimino with HEAVEN’S GATE, a work that was supposed to be about American history, suffering immigrants, power & corruption, and all the other issues that were a matter of life and death in the Western frontier. And yet, Cimino’s main interest wasn’t with the history(or historical facts), characters, morality, politics, and human lives but with his personal obsession with the ‘pictoriality’, which would have been fine if he were a painter or a still photographer. But as a storyteller dealing with an important chapter in the American West with hefty themes of politics, ethnicity, and money, his mind, heart, and eyes were in the wrong place. He should approached the material like a novelist, not a landscape painter or art photographer. The film accuses the rich Wasps of misplaced moral priorities, but the film suffers from something similar: misplaced aesthetic values as Cimino prized his personal obsession with pretty things over matters truly relevant to the core issues of the story. It’s as if Kurosawa had made SEVEN SAMURAI in the style of Franco Zeffirelli. The result, impressive as it is in pictorial terms, is as ludicrous as DUEL IN THE SUN directed by King Vidor under orders from the bloated David O. Selznick.

Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST works because it’s a mythic tale told in a mythic manner, but the material of HEAVEN’S GATE is too earthy and humanist for super-vista treatment. Because the characters are supposed to be of flesh-and-blood, their humanity is diminished when presented as ants on a canvas suited for mountains & valleys or presented as models posing for a fancy art photographer; it’s as if the characters stand and move in ways to complement the arty scale and style of photography than the photography adjusting to capture the natural rhythms of ordinary men and women. It’s like if BASEMENT TAPES were recorded as a grand choral symphony. Jan Troell, with EMIGRANTS and THE NEW LAND, did a better job in capturing the reality of immigrant life in frontier America. Cimino seems to have taken his cues from David Lean’s RYAN’S DAUGHTER, a movie in some ways more misconceived than HEAVEN’S GATE, the epic scale of which was partly justified by elements of open spaces, frontier life, and wild adventure in the American West. In contrast, as Lean’s film is about local events in a small Irish town, it called for intimacy than epic scale. It should have been made like one of his earlier films, but his addiction to grandeur made such downscaling impossible; ‘Lean’ had become synonymous with bigness. Even so, RYAN’S DAUGHTER is still an impressive work, something that cannot be said for the bloated works of Terrence Malick who has turned into a total embarrassment to himself and to the suckers who fall for that stuff every time.

Cimino was obviously less interested in the characters that what surrounded them. In this, HEAVEN’S GATE has something in common with LOLA MONTEZ. It’s a strange effect when the setting and the background become the ‘main characters’ while actual characters are reduced to props and the story serves as excuse for elaborate production values. It’s like a song where the lyrics and the singing are secondary to the orchestration and production of the number. Of course, sometimes production values are used mask the absence of core material. It’s like Pink Floyd’s albums after the departure of Roger Waters were mostly grandiose orchestrations around a hollow core. One problem of HEAVEN’S GATE could have been the lack of a strong enough story, but even had there been one, Cimino chose the stereoscope over the stethoscope.
What every film artist must ask is whether his personal vision is compatible with the reality he’s representing or the world/universe he wishes to create. Obviously, Ingmar Bergman’s
personal vision would be ill-suited to capturing the world of DAZED AND CONFUSED, and Ozu’s personal vision would have been useless in the world of APOCALYPSE NOW or THE WILD BUNCH. Consider how Coppola messed up THE OUTSIDERS and RUMBLE FISH, simple tales of young toughs and social misfits by imposing personal visions utterly incompatible with the materials. THE OUTSIDERS, for some reason, was made in the manner of GONE WITH THE WIND, DUEL IN THE SUN, and EAST OF EDEN. It goes for epic tragedy with gold-tinged nostalgia when hard-nosed storytelling would have sufficed and done better. RUMBLE FISH is so busy being ‘experimental’ that it has no time to make us care about characters who never develop into anything.
In the case of CROSS OF IRON, Peckinpah loaded the story with so many of his pet themes that we wonder why a story set in the Eastern front in World War II feels like out-takes from THE WILD BUNCH and other tales of American outlaws. James Coburn’s Steiner is impressive and likable, but he is more the Western loner type than any plausible commander of men in the Wehrmacht. It’s one thing for artists to find their own personal take on the material but quite another to dump their psychological obsessions and/or aesthetic preferences on it. The result can be something as atrocious as Baz Luhrman’s THE GREAT GATSBY or just about anything by Terry Gilliam except for MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, parts of TIME BANDITS, and FISHER KING. Gilliam usually had poor, if any, understanding of the source material and just poured lava of gooey excess all over it, resulting in garbage as BRAZIL(a perversion of George Orwell’s 1984), TWELVE MONKEYS(atrocity against LA JETEE), and FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS(CGI run amok in the most drearily literal approximation of the hallucination experience).
Kubrick had an excellent nose for sniffing out materials best suited for his personal vision, and I suspect the problems he had with SPARTACUS went beyond his disagreements with Kirk Douglas. As an intensely character-driven narrative, it offered less room for the director to play the role of ‘auteur’. Likewise, in the earlier project of ONE-EYED JACKS, Kubrick’s departure may have been only due in part to his personal falling out with Brando. He may have sensed that the material simply didn’t suit his sensibility and approach. (The remarkable thing about Kubrick as was the case with Eisenstein, was how he rarely lost sight of the overall concept and how everything, from the grandest design to the smallest detail, meaningfully interconnected with everything else. The problem of directors like Peckinpah, Coppola, Herzog, Visconti, and Cimino — even Lean and Kurosawa — in their bigger productions was a tendency to lose sight of key things as the result of their obsession with other things. Kubrick was one of the few directors who kept his head above waters nearly at all times, though he too lost the sight sometimes, as in the ending of THE SHINING and some of the later scenes in FULL METAL JACKET. When one compares BARRY LYNDON with HEAVEN’S GATE, Kubrick’s genius becomes obvious in contrast to Cimino’s real but limited talent. In BARRY LYNDON, everything interweaves seamlessly and integrally whereas the very strength of HEAVEN’S GATE is inseparable from its weaknesses, i.e., it looks damn great because Cimino neglected just about everything else. Kubrick fed all the children to grow big; Cimino overfed one child to grow into a giant while starving the rest.) While some directors are very adaptive and can easily adjust themselves all kinds of styles — like Brian DePalma, John Huston, and Kon Ichikawa — , other directors prefer to stick with their preferred vision. The obvious examples are Yasujiro Ozu, Robert Bresson, and Michelangelo Antonioni. Some directors are only good at their chosen method and style. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine Ozu or Bresson would have been good at anything other than making their own films, but some directors who are capable of a wider range of expression choose to remain true to their signature style out of conviction and ego. After Kubrick, Kurosawa, and Lean became renowned for their special kind of mega-vision, they simply couldn’t settle for anything else. It was only in ‘retirement mode’ following RAN that Kurosawa was content to make ‘small’ movies again.

Personal vision is inseparable from the artist’s personality, and in the cinephile community, the introverts have generally received more acclaim than the extroverts. A useful contrast can be seen between Federico Fellini the extrovert and Michelangelo the introvert, at least in their cinematic styles. The extrovert personality of Fellini was all about color, noise, rancor, hubbub, and busybodied theatrics. It was about engaging with the world, usually not in the most thoughtful of ways. So, the bride in THE WHITE SHEIK foolishly allows herself to be seduced by some cheap model of a photo-play magazine. And the ne’er-do-wells of I VITELLONI are experts at wasting time and refusing to grow up. No one really searches for meaning or is capable of finding any, but there’s a lot of humor, amusement, pathos, and even accidental grace by the way of comedy or tragedy or both. Characters stumble through life with their immaturity, insecurities, delusions, and ambitions(usually tawdry and indistinguishable from delusions), but on occasion, they do trip upon wisdom too, especially when they least expect it. It’s not a profound vision of life, but it captures life as a multi-layered circus full of joys and sorrows. Fellini, like the character of LA DOLCE VITA, was not an intellectual nor even capable of anything resembling deep thought. At his most philosophical, he could only get a whiff of something more substantive and meaningful that always lay beyond his grasp. Fellini’s outlook on life wasn’t much different from that of Jordan Belfort in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. The difference is that Belfort never felt any trepidations or remorse about his indulgences and excesses, whereas Fellini, due to reasons of his Catholic/traditional upbringing and ambitions as artist, was conflicted between a desire for shameless bacchanalia and sober reflection. He could neither fully indulge himself without shame nor fully embrace the life of the mind in rejection of temptations of life-as-nonstop-circus. He was a born magician of cinema and could find poetry & beauty even in shopworn sentiments and crudest vulgarity. Who else but Fellini could have made a classic like LA STRADA? Having come to prominence in the 1950s when the cultural community was hungry for film-makers as personal artists(especially as modernist artists), Fellini came under pressure to be more cerebral, sophisticated, and avant-garde. But he just didn’t have it in him to be a truly modernist artist or intellectual artist. This insecurity first surface in LA DOLCE VITA, the main character of which is only good for partying, carousing, fooling around, drinking, and having a good time. Fellini was a great magician-party-animal-circus-master of cinema; he was not a thinker, intellectual, or avant-garde-ist. But due to the cultural/intellectual burden on his shoulders as one of the giants of cinema-as-art, Fellini felt compelled to make some grand statement about society, mankind, and etc. And cinephiles wanted to see deeper meaning in his films. Therefore, LA DOLCE VITA was rather misinterpreted and overpraised as a commentary on excess, decadence, loss of soul, and alienation. But in fact, if the film has any virtue, it’s because the main character knows how to have one hell of time with celebrities and the glamorous crowd. When he meets his friend, an intellectual-philosopher named Steiner(a sort of austere Antonioni-like figure), he begins to feel self-doubt, even something like shame, because unlike Steiner, who seems devoted to things of meaning and beauty, he himself is frittering away his life on women, partying, and frivolous distractions. (But then, he feels betrayed by Steiner who ends up killing not only himself but his own children as well. He also feels betrayed by his father who goes off with a young woman.) So, he goes off on his own to write a serious book, but he just can’t do it. He is all about living-it-up. He can’t sit still and think and peer into his own soul. He has to keep on moving. Fellini was that kind of a film-maker. Not a deep artist but wonderful at capturing the humor, the exuberance, and the pathos of life. There is no special meaning to be found in his films. What matters is the charm, the magic, the sparkle, the occasional poetic passage. LA DOLCE VITA was really Fellini’s confession of shallowness and emptiness. It was his way of saying, “I have nothing to say but I sure know how to party”, and his films were great circus acts. But then, the critics misunderstood LA DOLCE VITA, and many of them saw it as a kind of profound statement on the soullessness of modern man. So, Fellini’s confession of emptiness was taken as a testament of his profound understanding of modernity. LA DOLCE VITA was compared with Antonioni’s L’AVVENTURA, obviously much deeper work. Fellini was both irritated and exhilarated by the critical misunderstanding of his film. He’d demonstrated his worth as master-magician and worthlessness as thinker, but the educated fools were hailing him as a great modern artist with deep insights into the modern condition. On the other hand, his ego just soaked up all the adulation, and he begin to think, “Gee, maybe I really am a great artist-philosopher with something to ‘say’.” The great success of LA DOLCE VITA with both the critics and the audience raised expectations for his next film sky high. But, in fact, he really had nothing to say. Indeed, his best films of the 1950s were about clowns, fools, losers, derelicts, outcasts, and ne’er-do-wells, and their value lay in Fellini’s warmth, humor, and sympathetic treatment. There was nothing intellectual or deeply meaningful about them; they were certainly intelligent and insightful, and plenty of great art has been about ordinary people, and great truths about us can be unearthed from our lies. THE GREAT GATSBY, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, and MULHOLLAND DR. are about shallow losers or vain dreamers wrapped up in lies, but they reveal something very true about the human mind. Art seeks the shadow of truth from the body of lies. But, for the most part, Fellini wasn’t psychological enough of a director to go even as deep as Fitzgerald, Miller and Lynch — and, of the three, only Lynch could really be called a modern(ist) artist. Fellini was essentially insightful about emotions, rarely penetrating about the workings of the mind. But with the great success of LA DOLCE VITA, everyone expected Fellini to make a yet ‘profounder’ statement about modern man, but he really had nothing to say and nowhere to go(like the actor in TOBY DAMMIT keeps running into a dead-end or cul-de-sac down every road). Didn’t he confess as much in LA DOLCE VITA? After all, what does the guy do in the final scene? He raises his hand, admits he can’t hear the voice, and wanders off with some tart to party some more. Fellini was like Andy Warhol in that he loved to be where the action is, except that he joined in the party(unlike the cold Warhol who watched others destroy themselves) and was adept at capturing the magic on screen. But when the party ended and lights went off, Fellini felt tired and lost. At most, in a state of hangover, he felt a remorseful craving for something pure and cleansing(like the water offered to Guido by Claudia Cardinale in 8 ½), but it would always be beyond his grasp, but then he really didn’t want it because, as soon as his energy level was restored, he was back to partying some more. Many of his films are like wild bacchanalia interspersed with momentary respites and fleeting sustenance from the morning breeze along the seashore. It is like the moment when Kane clutches the water globe and mutters, “Rosebud”. But Fellini could not enter the depths, the regions of meaning accessed by artists like Carl Dreyer, Luis Bunuel, Kenji Mizoguchi, Robert Bresson, Stanley Kubrick, and, at his best, David Lynch. Fellini could only return to more bacchanalia, more distractions of and from life, which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because Fellini sure knew how to live it up but a curse because he could never find the truth that the sober side of his soul was yearning for. But, following LA DOLCE VITA critics expected the world of him. Fellini was now desperate. He’d meant LA DOLCE VITA as a confession of ‘emperor has no clothes’, but the critics saw an ‘amazing technicolor(though in b/w) dreamcoat’. So, what was he to do? His real forte was in making circuses with colorful characters, but all these critics were hailing him as a ‘Great Modern Master’ and expecting him to deliver something profoundly meaning and innovative. Fellini’s next film 8 ½ is maybe the greatest fraud in movie history but also one of the greatest films ever. It is a fraud because it’s really a sendup of ‘art cinema’ in which all the ‘avant garde’ flourishes are borrowed from other art forms, especially Salvador Dali, who was something of a charlatan himself. Fellini didn’t really know or care what the hell he was doing, and there is no deep meaning to be found anywhere in the film. If anything, it is even a bigger confession than LA DOLCE VITA that he has nothing to say and hasn’t a clue about ‘modern art’. Fellini was really a sentimentalist, a dramatist, a clown, a circus master. What did he know or care about intellectual, heady, or avant-garde stuff? Even though he’d become accustomed to big city life, he was, at heart, an Italian hick who’d hustled himself to the top of the profession. His talent was real but as a juggler, a performer, and a magician, not as a meaningful artist or high-concept visionary. And indeed, the bulk of 8 ½ is about the main character goofing around, evading obligatiosn, lying to everyone, betraying everyone, partying, fretting(about being found out as a phony, not unlike the Jew kid in EUROPA EUROPA or Tom Cruise character at the orgy in EYES WIDE SHUT), ‘praying’ that it will all work out somehow, and etc. He seeks escape by remembering his childhood when things used to be so simpler. He seeks solace in dreams and a put-on conscience, not unlike the self-serving shtick by Martin Balsam’s character in CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS who is also afraid of being found out, which is especially galling as he won’t only go to jail but fall from his exalted place as the much respected member of his community; everyone thinks he’s such a wonderful person when he’s really a cheat, a coward, a liar, and even a murderer; worse, he’s a murderer without the courage to even do the killing himself, and after the woman is killed, he pretends to be racked by guilt and conscience when it’s all just his way of coping with the fear of being caught. Indeed, when he knows he’s free and clear, all the clouds of conscience and guilt lift from his shoulders and he’s happy as can be. (But then, the Woody Allen character in the film is a liar too. He pretends to care so much about the truth and art, but he is most hurt when the woman he loves goes with a man despises and envies. He should be most upset over the suicide of a philosopher — echos of Steiner — , not least because he’d been working on a project about him, but he’s actually most upset when Mia Farrow’s character rebuffs him for the Alan Alda character. So, in his own way, he is just as deluded as Martin Balsam’s character. His ‘integrity’ as a true artist/documentarian is a crutch for his failures in life. And if indeed he is so much into the meaning of life, why does he spend so much time watching old Hollywood movies[that pander to mass tastes] with his niece?) Fellini felt he finally chewed more than he could swallow. He was like Tom Cruise in RISKY BUSINESS and EYES WIDE SHUT, someone way over his head. He was a phony like the guy in TALENTED MR. RIPLEY or PURPLE NOON. But he wasn’t entirely to blame since the critics misinterpreted his films, especially LA DOLCE VITA. But then, he wasn’t entirely honest either because LA DOLCE VITA was partly designed to be misunderstood as a moral/intellectual commentary on the state of soulless modern man instead of something honestly empty like BEACH BINGO PARTY, A MAN AND A WOMAN, or THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

LA DOLCE VITA
LA DOLCE VITA

Just consider the magnificent opening scene with the Christ statue being flown across Rome from a helicopter. It seemed pregnant with meaning. People are more likely to be impressed by a flamboyant lie than a simple truth, and Fellini’s magical visual touch certainly wooed a lot of critics(who followed his ‘vision’ like the bustling crowd at the false Madonna sighting in the film). Fellini wanted to come clean and admit his fraudulence(and flatulence), not least because he couldn’t sustain the facade for too much longer. But he also exulted in all the attention hailing him as one of the greatest film masters, as one with the power to transform cinema into a form of modernist art, thereby on par with all the other art forms that had undergone full transformation via Modernism. Cinema had already demonstrated its worth as entertainment and even serious art.
But could it be a form of modern art? Bergman surely tried in the 1950s, but his modernist touches were mostly borrowed from other arts than found within the intrinsic DNA of cinema, something that Bergman finally accessed beginning with PERSONA. Fellini’s 8 ½, a true miracle among miracles, managed to both confess the truth about Fellini’s emptiness and establish his stature as a great modern film-artist. How did he pull it off when everything in the film is really a fraud, evasion, derivation, distraction, send-up, parody, or a joke? The tremendous opening scene is essentially something taken from Dali and other modernist painters. Fellini got away with it — and arguably for the last time — because he pulled it off with the consummate talent of a natural born circus master. He tossed everything into the air but managed to juggle it with breathtaking mastery hardly seen in cinema before or since. Given what he’d done before and what he’d do afterwards, 8 ½ is truly a standout in his body of work. Its scope, breadth, imagination, wonderment, and ingenuity go far beyond his earlier films, but, all said and done, it is really a circus film, one that would collapse if Fellini pulled the plug on the party. It is like one of those parties thrown by the eponymous character of THE GREAT GATSBY. All that really counts is the showmanship because there’s little beyond it. There is, to be sure, the longing for something more, but the character Guido, as Fellini’s alter ego, not only can’t find it but doesn’t really want it because it would mean the end of the party.
Fellini must have been nervous right after he finished 8 ½. What would the critics think? Would they finally wake up and see him as the fraud that he is? After all, the film constantly shows up its character Guido as filled with doubt, insecurity, and confusion. Besides, if the film does arrive at a certain truth, it is the hope that Guido has finally figured out how to make his masterpiece(to be realized in the future). Of course, one could use circular logic and argue that 8 ½ is that great masterwork that Guido is resolved to make as the film ends. And as 8 ½ is indeed masterwork, one could argue Fellini was telling the truth. And yet, as 8 ½ is a confession of an artist with nothing to say, it is also an admission of fraud. This way, Fellini got to tell the truth and the lie all at once; and only he could have pulled it off because he had both depth of talent and shallowness of thought. 8 ½ one of those rare instances in art when sheer talent creates an illusion of depth to meaning that isn’t there, but in art, illusion is enough if sufficiently inspired and ingenuous. (It’s somewhat comparable to the success of the Beatles’ SERGEANT PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND that was hailed and pored over for meanings it didn’t possess. But if the test of time has properly depreciated the Beatles’ Summer of Love album, Fellini’s film has rightly remained near the top because it has hardly been surpassed as a phenomenal feat of playful imagination.) The rapture that greeted 8 ½ proved to be Fellini’s undoing henceforth. It probably would have been better for his career if everyone had reviled it and forced him to return to his earlier roots. Oddly enough, 8 ½, though even a bigger confession of fraud than LA DOLCE VITA, was hailed even more as proof of Fellini’s stature as one of the supreme modernist artist of cinema. Of course, Fellini had hedged his bets in the making of the film so that it would, on the one hand, impress viewers with its modernist touches, and on the other, wink and say “I’m just playing around” in case people got suspicious of his pretentiousness. At any rate, 8 ½ works so wonderfully because it’s filled with colorful characters with big personalities and striking features. In this, it is very much like Fellini’s other great film, I VITELLONI, which overflows with life. (On the other hand, 8 ½ begins to show signs of Fellini treating his characters as props than as people. Some are even treated as nuisances and pests than as individuals with their own dreams and passions. As Fellini’s fame grew larger, his ego grew larger; and as his main characters came to reflect his enlarged ego, a ‘democracy’ of characterization went out the window. In I VITELLONI, every character shines with distinctness and clings tenaciously to one’s individuality; he or she is equal to anyone else as a unique individual regardless of the billing. This goes for even small characters like the sister who fools around with an older married man. And as much as we loathe the crook who robs the heroine of NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, he registers as a complete human being with blood, albeit poisoned blood, flowing through his veins. In contrast, even though LA DOLCE VITA has a flashy cast of characters, few are memorable because they exist mainly as props whose values are accorded by Marcello Mastrioanni’s character interest in them. In earlier Fellini films, even extras had full value as individuals regardless of their relevance to the main characters or Fellini. Beginning with LA DOLCE VITA, with its vamped subjectivism, characters begin to register only in relation to the main character who serves as Fellini’s inflated alter ego. They lack substance as individuals in their own right. This is even more pronounced in 8 ½ where many characters appear and disappear in accordance to Guido’s attention span, agenda, or interests. In the earlier films, Fellini’s films created a neutral space shared equally be everyone, main characters and minor characters alike. Beginning with LA DOLCE VITA, physical space became more in tune with the subjective mind-space of the main character, and this is taken further in 8 ½ where the reality shifts between objective physical space belonging to everyone and subjective mind-space belonging to Guido; sometimes, one spills into the other, sometimes they seem synonymous. In JULIET OF THE SPIRITS, things are so surreal and outlandish that everything seems to be happening in the creative mind of Fellini(pretending to understand the mind of his wife); she seems lost through most of it, like Ida Lupino among the men in JUNIOR BONNER; it’s supposed to be her show and about her life, but Fellini is pulling the strings. In the later films, there is only the mind-space with its puppets and phantoms. Fellini began with depictions of the real world with realistic characters. He sparkled some magic onto the realism, but it was realism nevertheless. And then, the reality became more closely associated with the subjectivity of a particular character who came to stand as Fellini’s alter ego. And then, especially in 8 ½, there was a conflict between reality-as-independent-of-the-mind and reality-as-production-of-mind-play. This uneasy tension made for creative spark. Then, with JULIET OF THE SPIRITS, Fellini went completely for reality-as-production-of-mind-play but still kept one realistic character, Juliet or Giuletta, in his purely subjective vision. With later films, however, he removed the last vestige of objective reality — anyone or anything independent in substance/will to his creative ego — and just presented as reality-as-production-of-mind-play strewn with his puppets and phantoms, as in FELLINI SATYRICON, surely one of the most vapid films made by a major film director.
In 8 ½, it’s as if everyone’s value shifts in accordance to Guido’s capricious whims. Even the erotics is erratic. In contrast, every character in THE WHITE SHEIK, no matter how small, has substance unto himself or herself. No one is presented as a mere hanger-on. There’s a sense that even if he or she means little to the film, he or she is just as real as anyone else in the actual world. In contrast, unless someone means something to the Guido in 8 ½, he or she might as well be a feather in the wind. There is less sense of the actuality of the world apart from the subjective will/whim of the artist. JULIET OF THE SPIRITS is even more extreme than 8 ½ as, other than the character of Guilietta played by Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina, no one has any personality that amounts to an independence or individuality; nearly everyone is a mere prop. Still, at least 8½ and JULIET OF THE SPIRIT have at one least one character of substance, around whom all the props and puppets revolve. Films like FELLINI SATRYICON, FELLINI ROMA, and AMARCORD don’t even have that and thus lack the gravitational pull at least keeps everything in orbit. They are films where paper-thin characters and props float around like space debris in what had become the empty space of Fellini’s mind.
As Fellini’s lacked depth of soul and the breadth of mind — and the patience and diligence to search for either — , his art relied mostly on the clash of egos and personalities.
Amazingly enough, even though 8 ½ shows the first obvious symptoms of Fellini’s megalomania, it is nevertheless inhabited with memorable and eccentric characters. It isn’t simply a one-man show. Consider the wonderfully etched characters like Guido’s wife, his mistress, the movie producer, the cardinal, his friend(and the man’s much younger lover), and so on. Even small characters are much more than stand-ins, and even a gargoyle like the big fat whore on the beach has her own humanity. 8 ½ is about Fellini’s big fat ego being pricked as well as being inflated. But then, its great success filled Fellini with the foolish notion that his inflated ego — not least by self-administered blow-jobs — alone was genius enough to keep churning out masterpieces, when, if anything it led to blimps filled with stale air like JULIET OF THE SPIRITS, FELLINI SAYTRICON, FELLINI ROMA, and etc.

An artist like Bresson could eschew noise & distractions and find meaning from silent meditations on the human soul. He could go it alone, even inside a prison cell. The voice he or she needed dwelled within. The truth he or she needed didn’t come from approval or vindication by others. Fellini could never go it alone, and his art was all about the dynamics of human interaction. So, when Fellini inflated his ego and dispensed with genuine human contact beginning with JULIET OF THE SPIRITS, his cinema was dead as a beached whale. Sure, his films continued to be filled with colorful, loud, boisterous, freakish, and wild circus antics, but they’d all just become clutter and noise. And all the characters were just reduced to figments of Fellini’s imagination, yes-men sycophants who just hung around to blow more hot air into Fellini’s ego machine. Fellini said FELLINI SATYRICON should be appreciated like Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, but he completely overlooked a crucial difference. Kubrick was the kind of artist with the power of concentration, focus, depth, and meaning to go deep within himself for inspiration to create a genuine visionary work of art. There was no hedging the bets or insecure clowning around in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY as there was aplenty in 8 ½, an accidental masterwork that could have been pulled off only once by a miraculous confluence of factors. Kubrick had the power of deep concentration; he was a chess player who consciously understood how everything should come together. Fellini was a circus master whose works succeeded or failed on the magic of the moment. Kubrick’s art was that of a planner, Fellini’s was that of a performer. Kubrick’s films gained in structure what they lost in spontaneity; Fellini’s films bet everything on magic at the risk of mastery.
Compare the visionary power of Kubrick in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY with the bloated staleness of FELLINI SATYRICON. Even in the silent stretches of Kubrick’s film we sense an intelligence and purposefulness to the artist’s design. In contrast, Fellini’s junk epic comes to a standstill even when Fellini throws everything including the kitchen sink. It’s busy and hectic but there’s no discernible intelligence or vision behind chaos. It’s like music filled with lots of noise and pomp to mask the lack of worthy tune and lyrics. Junk is junk, and we cannot be fooled otherwise even if lots of junk are tossed around. Busyness of trash doesn’t turn it into treasure.
In 2001, the absence of conventional action widens our senses to deeper and/or alternative realities, but when the bare conventions of characters and plot break down in FELLINI SATYRICON, we are only left with the detritus of Fellini’s imagination.

FELLINI SATYRICON – More is less when the vision is junk.
Monica Vitti with Michelangelo Antonioni

In contrast to the extrovert personality of Fellini there was the introvert personal vision of Michelangelo Antonioni. One drew its strength from engagement with the world, the other from disengagement. Even Antonioni’s most political feature film, ZABRISKIE POINT, features a radical who is alienated from his cause and an apathetic heroine who, upon gaining something like a political consciousness, indulges in a solipsist fantasy of destruction that resembles a modern abstract painting than a purposeful vision. Fellini’s films are about the togetherness of people. Even when close friends or dear lovers separate from one another, they bump into others, new sparks fly, and life goes on. Through much of THE WHITE SHEIK, the groom and bride remain apart, but the former has his hands full with relatives and the latter is dilly-dallying with a troupe working on photo-play(for a serial magazine). People are always bumping into other people, and even strangers become instant associates, partners, friends, and even love interests. Everyone has his or her story or shtick. Sometimes, the moment is precious for restoring the reason for living, like in the last scene of NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, when the band of merry-makers bring a smile to the heroine’s face. (Their surrounding of her was later echoed in the sheep’s encirclement of the donkey in AU HASARD BALTHASAR.) Her tears gain a sparkle. Sometimes the social friction flares into rancor and recrimination, as with all the characters with frayed nerves in LA DOLCE VITA and 8 ½. Or what seems like inspiration can soon turn into irritation. In 8 ½, Guido finds some guy’s goofy dance funny as hell but blows up later when the guy does it again. It’s like everything in the world is both a wonder and a blunder depending on whom, when, and where. The stolen idol in I VITELLONI is just some cheap contraband to the thieves but a thing of beauty to the village idiot to whom its safekeeping was entrusted. Throughout 8 ½, there’s the sense of futility and fertility to everything. Guido could be observing something ordinary & humdrum but then it may burst into a vision, a miracle. 8 ½ isn’t a religious film but a kind of Catholicist spirituality does inform much of the film. According to Catholicism, everything in the world is a miracle because it is the creation of God. So, the Lord’s divine fingerprint is on everything. Most times, we are too busy living, and we are too tired and dreary to notice the miracle of the world around us. Therefore, Catholicism offers dazzling iconography so as to leave no doubt as to the wonders of God. Still, the preferred ideal is to see, hear, and sense the miracle of God in everything, even things that, at first sight, don’t seem particularly special, beautiful, or wondrous. But if you know how to see, then you will see that everything — every leaf, every stone, every raindrop, every living creature, every person, etc. — is a miracle for it is the creation of God, the Creator of the universe. As Guido’s religion is cinema, he has these epiphanies where people and things that seem ordinary suddenly transform in his imagination into things of wonder, beauty, purity, and miracle. Consider the scene when he goes for some spring water at the spa but then the woman offering him the water is transmuted by reverie into the vision of a white angel. What sets an artist apart from most people is that he or she sees what most people fail to see. What is the same old same old stuff to most of us is, for those with higher aesthetic sensibilities, a thing of great fascination and mystery. And for those who are creative as well as aesthetically sensitive, the mundane stuff we ignore serves as the very material for verse, painting, music, novel, or film. (To be sure, different artists are aesthetically sensitive in different ways. It’s like Orson Welles was pretty much blind to Antonioni’s art, and Bergman had little use for Orson Welles. But then, religious prophets are the same way. They see the divine in something while seeing none in something else that appears divine to other prophets.) When most of us see a block of marble, we just see a big rock. But Michelangelo saw images and forms that could be carved from it. Or someone might see great beauty in the original purity of the marble itself. Consider how a Japanese Zen garden can place a rock in a certain way so as to bring out its poetry even though it hasn’t been altered in any way. When we see a farm field, it’s just a farm field, but Van Gogh saw much more when he did his paintings. A great musician can hear some simple folk melody and find depths and beauty unknown to us, and it can serve as the inspiration for his own composition. Just as any human appreciates much more of the sights and sounds than any dumb ape, a great artist sees and/or hears much more than we do. What to us is just ‘stuff’ is for them the source of their epiphanies and inspirations. Their heightened senses could be the blessings of God or maybe the tricks of the Devil offering a Faustian pact. But whoever is pulling the lever, the great artist sees, hears, and/or senses more than the rest of us. Fellini, having been raised as a Catholic, must have been acutely aware of this mental phenomenon. Also, as Catholicism was filled with both holiness and corruption(and constantly warned against false visions and miracles), it was never easy to tell apart truth from falsehood. Consider the two children who claim to have seen the Virgin Mary in LA DOLCE VITA. They claim a holy vision, but they could be pulling a stunt hatched by unscrupulous adults seeking to exploit the superstitious — the Catholic priest in the film declares it a fake.
Every great Catholic art or architecture is the miraculous creation of artistic genius but also the product of patronage of the wealthy, corrupt, and powerful. It is also the product of vanity and narcissism on the part of the artist who dares to equal God in the power of creation. There is the Madonna/whore dichotomy in Catholicism that’s been the subject of much discourse. Guido has the vision of the pure angel offering him water, but later he meets the actress(Claudia Cardinale)whose beauty inspired the vision. A woman working in the vice-laden movie industry, isn’t she just another ‘whore’? There is also the mother/whore complex as when, in a dream, Guido’s mother kisses his cheeks and then kisses his lips, and when he pulls away, it’s the face of his wife. The fat whore Saraghina who dances on the beach for the children is a gross caricature of sexuality, and the Church elders warn child Guido that she’s the spawn of the Devil, and he must stay away from her kind. But then, there is a tender moment when the boy returns to the beach and watches the wretched woman who, in that moment, isn’t a whore but a nature mother in tune with the music of the winds. Everything and everyone are in state of grace and fallen-ness. It all depends on how you look at them, and the ‘how’ shifts with the moods, whims, wills, and temperament. And of course talent. Some have it, some don’t. Even those who have it don’t have it all the time, and even those without it have it for that one bright moment, which accounts for the one-hit wonders in pop music. While other boys just saw Saraghina as a lusty monster, little Guido sees something ‘pure’ about her as well. As she sits by the beach and hums a siren’s melody, she’s no longer the gross whore but a woman with her own broken dreams.
Guido the film-maker would like to be inspired by everything, but he has only so much control over his creativity. Sometimes when he tries hardest, the well is dry and he feels like throwing in the towel. But then, when he least expects it, there’s a sudden rush of vision, the miracle idea or image he’d been seeking all along without knowing it. But then, when he goes to work on that idea/image, it has vanished and gone like the wind. Or it no longer seems so special later. It’s like finding beautiful stones on a beach, only to find them rather ordinary at home away from the sunlight and sounds of the sea. In a way, 8 ½ is a religious film in that the object of worship is the Mammon of Cinema, or Cinemammon. The film artist tries to play the role of god, transforming mundane things of reality into the miracle on the silver screen. And of course, we, who no longer attend churches, go to movie theaters for communion with the light.
God Himself wasn’t sure about the value/nature of His Creation in the Bible. At times, He is very proud of what He brought forth. He looks upon mankind and all His creation with warmth and joy. But there are times when He wonders if it’d been worth it. He finds mankind stupid, hideous, vile, and perverted. And why the hell did the Serpent do what it did by tempting Adam and Eve? God tells Jews that pigs and lobsters are filthy and not to be eaten, which means not all of God’s creations are good. Much of God’s creation bring forth pestilence, locusts, famine, toads, Negroes, and all kinds of natural disasters, like earthquakes. Sometimes, God seems to want to call it quits and throw in the towel. Just end it all just like Guido decides to call it quits near the end of 8 ½. But then, there’s always something that makes God continue with His faith in mankind. According to Christianity, He finally had enough of the Jews and made a new Covenant with the rest of mankind so that His glory will be better fulfilled and served by them. As for Guido, just when he’s about to walk away from the project, he has a new vision, The Vision, and he finally realizes what he must do to make the film and fulfill the vision. He feels a rush of inspiration assuring him that everything in his life, everything he remembers, and everything he sees, hears, and feels are all the miraculous material for his creation, that if he stops thinking and fretting too much and instead opens up to himself, he will naturally be guided the creative light to new highs. Fellini may have rejected the God of the Church, but he came to believe in the god of his own creativity, and it did wonders for 8 ½, but then his subsequent films — with the possible exception of the short TOBY DAMMIT — suggest that self-worship isn’t a viable long-term strategy in art or in anything for that matter. (It certainly isn’t true in politics. While self-worshiping figures like Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao rose very fast and went very far, their empires or world orders couldn’t last very long. In the current West, the two groups most into self-worship are the Jews and Homos. They worship themselves so much that they insist that everyone bow down to them in politics, economics, spirituality, finance, academia, foreign policy, and etc. Indeed, homos now insist that even Christian bakers and flower shop owners supply food and materials for their vile ceremonies that debase the true meaning of marriage. And Jews demand that all politicians get on their knees and sing hosannas to Israel and never ever criticize any aspect of Jewish power. We can only hope that such wanton and megalomaniacal self-worship among Jews and Homos will bring about their downfall, and once they are down, they should be kept down forever because the Jews and homos have well-demonstrated their true nature and what they are capable of. Homos have followed the Christian rulebook of power. Christians played the helpless victim but were seeking for ways to gain power justified by their sanctimoniousness, and once they had the power, they were going to shut everyone down whom they found unholy or sinful. Because Christian power was premised on moral sanctimoniousness and righteousness, it was difficult to oppose once Christians gained power over you. Pagan power was must power, and power could be opposed with power. But as Christian power was supposed to be righteous, divinely ordained, and justified by sacrificial victim-hood, opposing it wasn’t merely a battle of wills but a battle against God Himself. Likewise, even though homos have disingenuously sought power on legal and secular grounds, they’ve been working with Jews to promote homomania as the New Christianity, and this explains why Jews and homos are so eager to turn the church in ‘gay’ havens. Once homosexuality has been sanctified this way, opposing ‘gay marriage’ will not be an a crime against the law but a crime against God.)

While Antonioni’s films feature their share of human drama, beginning especially with L’AVVENTURA the characters increasingly became disassociated from each another. Even when people were together in the same room or at a lively gathering like a party, sense of disconnect precluded meaningful interaction. Mike Nichols channeled Antonioni for the opening scene of THE GRADUATE where Benjamin Braddock is alone and wants to be. (Though 8½ was Nichols’ most beloved film — he reportedly fired someone for not liking the film — , his two most renowned films, THE GRADUATE and CARNAL KNOWLEDGE, owe more to Antonioni than to Fellini. The non-stop garrulousness of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? and CATCH-22 are more Fellini-like. Given Nichols’ beginnings in comedy, you’d think his films would be more Fellinesque than Antonioni-ish, but perhaps opposites attract. Since wit, flair, and clowning-around came all-too-naturally to Nichols, he may have been more fascinated with the Antonioni’s obstinacy, a tougher nut to crack for meaning. Likewise, Allen was attracted to his opposite in sensibility and style, Ingmar Bergman, though Bergman had made his share of comedies before his rise to fame.) Loneliness is a feature of Fellini’s films and explains why his characters need to intermingle and raise a ruckus. They are afraid of being left alone, like Zampano at the end of LA STRADA. (Loneliness is a strange phenomenon for it is not simply a matter of numbers. A person can have lots of friends & associates and feel lonely, and a person can know just a few people yet feel complete. Consider Ryan O’Neal’s character in OLIVER’S STORY. He has friends and associates. He even finds a new lover played by Candace Bergen. But he continues to feel lonely because the love of his life Jenny is no longer around. Same goes for the Richard Gere character of MOTHMAN PROPHECIES. Pat Garrett of Peckinpah’s film knows a bunch of people but feels lonely because he’s given up the kind of life that had once defined his freedom. In contrast, a person could know just a handful of people but feel he or she has everything because the people in his or her life are special to him or her. When a person fixates on someone with affection, obsession, or guilt, the problem of loneliness takes on a whole new meaning. His or her mind-set goes from generalities to specificity. Prior to the fixation on a certain person, just about anyone would do. Purely on the level of generalities, Zampano could have just found another woman after abandoning/losing Gelsomina. But he can never find her again. She went from a general property he’d bought from an impoverished family to a someone unique and irreplaceable. When dealing with generalities, loneliness can be fixed with someone new. There’s a sense in Shohei Imamura’ BALLAD OF NARAYAMA that the man had no special connection with his first wife who passed away. He gets a new wife, and life goes on. But he has a special relationship with his mother, and losing to the her mountains is a most heartbreaking moment. When VERTIGO begins, Scottie appears to have a general attitude about womenfolk: there are pretty women and non-so-pretty women but no special woman as far as he’s concerned. He might date one woman, and then another and then another. But when he fixates on Madeleine, she becomes the only one, and no one else will do. When she dies, he’s overcome with a loneliness that cannot be consoled or cured because his life has come to have meaning only in relation to her. And prior to the imprinting, David in A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE saw the world in terms of generalities. Monica was just one woman among many other possible ones. Had he, in his pre-imprinted state, been taken to another woman, he would have been her happy toy. But once his love is imprinted onto Monica as his ‘mommy’, nothing can fix his loneliness unless he is reunited with her. David could be surrounded by all the people in the world who shower him with love, but he will still be lonely because only ‘mommy’ will make him feel complete. In the world of the INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, pod people ‘think’ and ‘feel only in terms of generalities. They are incapable of forming special attachment to anyone. Everyone is interchangeable as part of collective pod mind-set. Great happiness isn’t possible with mere generalities but neither is great sadness. There would be no special person, no ‘soul-mate’, no one to fixate onto, as Diane Selwyn does with Camila in MULHOLLAND DR. But then, the loss of anyone close could easily be replaced with someone else. The price of great happiness is great sadness down the line as nothing lasts forever.)
In contrast, the characters of Antonioni films fear what might called ‘one-liness’ more than loneliness. Fellini characters want to join the party and be the life of the party. Sometimes they feel sick from over-indulgence and seek rejuvenation with a bit of fresh breeze from the sea(to be reminded of the ‘rosebud’ of their lives when things had been simpler and ‘purer’), but back to the party it is after the recess. Fellini was like a circus master making sure that everyone in his troupe ran around together, fell all over one another, laughed and cried with one another. Antonioni was like a sculptor, and there’s a certain rigidity to all of his characters who seem frozen in their individuality and fear being thawed lest they melt like Frosty the Snowman. People come in closer proximity to one another, but they don’t really connect with one another. Physical interaction doesn’t ensure emotional connection. Why? Simplest explanation is because every character is a projection of Antonioni himself. If an overly garrulous artist were to project himself onto every character, they’ll all be yapping at one another constantly — like the characters of the films of Lina Wertmuller. If an introspective and restrained person projects himself onto every character, they’ll mostly be sitting or standing around feeling overly self-conscious of his or her place in the world in relation to others. To an extent, all creative artists project something of themselves onto all of their characters. Woody Allen is an extreme case, which is why many of his characters sound like a mere sockpuppets of Allen.

ECLIPSE by Antonioni
BEING JOHN MALKOVICH

It’s like the scene in BEING JOHN MALKOVICH when Malkovich enters Malkovich and sees everyone turned into a variation of himself. So, as most characters in Antonioni films have been Antonioni-ized, naturally they have a difficult time communicating with one another as they are too self-absorbed with existential conundrums. The actual Antonioni wasn’t so uncommunicative, and he had his share of affairs — with most of his actresses — , and he gave his share of interviews; he could be a smooth operator at film festivals. He was also bold in his international ventures, making films in countries like the Great Britain(BLOW UP), United States(ZABRISKIE POINT), and Spain(THE PASSENGER). Even so, his personality and outlook were miles apart from Fellini the prankster, showman, circus maestro, the clown, the reveler, the and tall-tale peddler. Antonioni has a ruminative personality, somewhat like that of Steiner in LA DOLCE VITA, and I wonder if Fellini was slyly alluding to Antonioni in that regard. Fellini, like Kurosawa, was an artist of impatience in both method and subject matter. They liked the feel of characters who pushed and were pushed. Consider the beginning of HIGH AND LOW where the Mifune character feels pressure from all sides: by business considerations, by his chauffeur, by his wife, by the kidnapper, by his underling, by his competition, and etc. There is something of urgency that needs to be addressed. Without these crisis situations, Kurosawa films usually come to a standstill. Likewise, Fellini is where the action is. The action can be serious or frivolous, but like a moth attracted to a flame, Fellini and his characters cannot resist the party, the revelry, the show, or whatever that gets people excited like children. What the elder Mexican villager says in THE WILD BUNCH applies to just about everyone in a Fellini film: “We all dream of being a child again.” The biggest scene of AMARCORD is when the townsfolk sail out to sea to see the passing of a great ocean liner. It’s e-citin’, e-citin’! Fellini’s characters are really children-at-heart.
In contrast, Antonioni’s characters come across as if they have no memory of childhood. Indeed, they seem frozen in time, the modern soulless present. And even though they don’t want to be alone, they also don’t want to be together either because the values, visions, and necessities(and lack of choices and alternatives) that used to unite and hold men and women together are no longer relevant or in play in the modern world. There isn’t even the recourse to sentimentality as in Fellini films in which even the worst of sinners and betrayers find moments of grace through memory, nostalgia, atonement, and/or yearning. Zampano is in a bad state at the end of LA STRADA, but he also finds true meaning of love in his memory for Gelsomina. Guido, reminiscing about his childhood and better times with his wife, certainly isn’t averse to sentimentality. Broderick Crawford’s character lies mortally wounded at the end of IL BIDONE but gains a measure of peace that had eluded him(and that he’d eluded) all his life by a communion with death. Even though Fellini’s movies are vibrant in the hustle-and-bustle of the here-and-now, they are also rich in reminders of all that had been and lost. (They are rich in nostalgia of all that had been lost, whereas the films of Antonioni are only aware of the loss without hope of recovery through sentimentality of memory.) Consider the scene of Marcello Mastroianni’s character’s meeting with his father in LA DOLCE VITA. It is both warm and dispiriting because his father reminds him of simpler times but also depressing because his father’s behavior(with a younger woman) undermines his nostalgia for a ‘simpler’ world that hadn’t been so simple. The corruption didn’t begin with the son but was handed down through the ages from the fathers. Fellini’s characters betray their youth, their traditions, their ideals, their characters, and etc. In a way, even the playboy husband in I VITELLONI, in finally taking on his responsibility as father and husband, betrays his true nature of Bill-Clinton-hood. Moraldo does try to remain true to his principles, but then, he leaves his hometown and will surely change into some city slicker. So, nothing stays the same, but then, that’s as it should be as a process of growing up and coming to terms with the world. Even so, the stuff of memory never leaves us, continues to haunt us, and may even inspire us in unforseen ways. (Nearly all of Fellini’s films after JULIET OF THE SPIRITS are filled with nostalgia, which is rather odd since they also go out of their way to be ‘modernistic’.) This is how Guido feels at the end of 8½.. Though straining to be a forward-looking modernist artist, he realizes that what matters most are his memories, some of which are always with him, some of which are readily recalled, and some of which are forgotten but may be retrieved through dreams and visions. Sometimes, as with archaeology, what is thought to be completely lost, buried, and forgotten reappears in the form of ‘inspiration’.

8 1/2 – Guido’s Dream
L’AVVENTURA

In contrast, it’s as if everyone in Antonioni films, at least beginning with L’AVVENTURA, is living in some science-fiction world where the air and water have been laced with chemicals that induce amnesia. The woman goes missing in L’AVVENTURA. She could have died, she could be living, she could have been abducted, she could have run away. Her fiancé and her best friend(Monica Vitti) go looking for her, but it’s not long before they forget about her and have an affair. And then, near the end, the woman finds him with another woman. It’s not amnesia in the literal sense but in the emotional/spiritual sense. Sentiments and passions of one moment don’t carry over to the next. It’s as if every moment has its separate emotions. It’s as if, modern Italy, cut off from the past, is perpetually trapped in the ‘truth’ of the moment. It’s like the guy in MEMENTO who cannot store new memories and can only experience the urgency of the here-and-now. But at least, his life has meaning because of the powerful memory of his wife’s rape and murder. It fuels his life with the passion of eternal revenge, like the mythology of Jesus’s Crucifixion kept Christian passions alive across the millennia; many Christians don’t know much if anything about the all the history that happened between the death of Jesus and the present, but they ‘remember’ the Crucifixion like it happened yesterday. In contrast, modern Italy succumbed not only to the inability to store new memory but the amnesia of old memory. At least in Antonioni’s time, there was the life of the mind/intellect to counterbalance the rising power of consumerism and pop culture — there was still an element of shame and doubt in resistance to total surrender to hedonism and narcissism — , but even that is gone in today’s guilt-free and shameless world. (With homosexuality as the most popular item of worship in New Europe, fashion has replaced passion — bitchy Elton John is the reigning icon of holiness — , and shamelessness is the New Decency. If anything, shaming sexual perversion& degeneracy and defending sane values founded on the truth of biology and morality constitute the New Shame. So, shame on you for not being shamelessly supportive of the homo agenda funded by Jews. Incidentally, homo agenda was once promoted as something fun-and-free and subversive against the repressive & humorless Christian moral order. But once Christianity is made homomaniacal, wouldn’t homosexuality be the new humorless sacred taboo? Homosexuality will have gone from a subversive and ‘radical’ act to the new sacredness that cannot be challenged or violated as it has the blessing of the church. Funny how that works.) Modern Italy, with its postwar prosperity, became cut off from the past. And the affluent among modern Italians were cut off from other Italians. They became part of the soulless cosmopolitan set of people who live for fashion, style, and privilege. (This severance from the past was effected & encouraged by both the right and the left if for different reasons. The Italian right, as it became associated with disgraced Fascism and its call for revival of Roman glory, preferred amnesia, and so, the likes of Silvio Berlusconi helped shape a ‘new right’ that was all about money, glitz, materialism, consumerism, mindless pro-Americanism, and etc. Also, as the right generally lacked intellectual and artistic firepower, it sought to undermine leftist intellectualism & culture by turning the masses into brain-dead sheeple addicted to pop culture; this was also the core of Reaganism and Thatcherism. There was a time when right had been about identity, heritage, history, and pride, but as European history came to be associated with Fascism, National Socialism, World War I, World War II, and imperialism & ‘racism’, the only approved theme remaining for the right was amnesiac libertarian worship of money, narcissism, and individualism — and Jew-worship. Oddly enough, given that postwar economic boom in Europe came to be associated with capitalism and the bourgeoisie, the European left, at least for a time, played the reluctant role of preservationists of heritage. As every European town and community came under bombardment of American pop culture, American-style consumerism, and capital investment by a corrupt collusion of big business and big government, the left found itself playing the role of defender of local culture and traditional community. Consider Barbara Koppel’s HARLAN COUNTY U.S.A. Luchino Visconti’ LA TERRA TREMA is about a fishing village its own distinct dialect or even language. And Pier Paolo Pasolini was highly critical of consumerism and made films like OEDIPUS REX & MEDEA in the spirit of preservation of cultural memory. But given the nature of leftism, it couldn’t function indefinitely in the role as preserver and defender of heritage. Defined by the cult of change, even radical change, the left’s long-term was total transformation of society. Is it any wonder that the European left is now trying to Africanize Europe?) Antonioni’s rich & privileged set tend to be more socially insular than the rich crowd in Fellini’s films. The rich folks in Fellini’s films mingle with rest of humanity more. Consider the rich guy in NIGHTS OF CABIRIA who picks up the eponymous heroine, a lowly prostitute. Think of how the guy in LA DOLCE VITA rubs shoulders with everyone from high to low. Or consider how Guido in 8 ½ has to deal with everyone from the film producer to the lowliest stagehand. And when he takes his mistress to a hotel, they are met by the hostess who’s a simple small-town woman. To us, the mistress looks over-dressed like a cheap whore, but to the hostess she looks ‘refined’ and classy, which is in keeping with Fellini’s Catholicist vision of everything or everyone as pure and profane; it all depends one’s point of reference/reverence. As Fellini’s characters are dying for company, they will settle for anyone than no one. In contrast, Antonioni’s privileged characters not only insulate themselves in their own world but have problems connecting with one another on even the most rudimentary level.
When an affluent person does try to connect with the lower orders, the result is stilted, forced, obtuse, or alienated. Consider the scene in RED DESERT when the woman buys a sandwich from a worker and starts eating it — a far cry from Jesus and the poor. Or consider the beginning of BLOW UP when the fancy photographer emerges from factory in a worker’s disguise. Even when these characters rub shoulders with the lower orders, it’s just a stunt, an experiment, or theorem. There’s the lack of ease that exists among the characters, high and low, in Fellini’s films. (Even among the privileged, there’s a sense of nouveau-riche-ness that unites various individuals in Fellini’s films — “rich or poor, we all came from the ‘same village’” — , whereas the rich in Antonioni films could have dropped on earth from an alien space ship.)

RED DESERT
BLOW-UP

Once a culture has been severed from its past and heritage, there is only the present of modernity, and as modernity is always about change, fashion, the disposable, and the plastic, there is nothing in the here–and-now that is worth preserving for the long haul. Nothing modern is built to last. Modern architecture create feelings of disassociation than association. If the culture has become like this, why wouldn’t the soul follow? After all, humans are social beings who are profoundly affected by the prevailing culture. If culture emphasizes connection to the sacred past, then it also fosters memory, nostalgia, and a sense of where we came from as well as where we are. But if culture emphasizes only the here-and-now, then even our sense of self will only be obsessed with the present. A people without a collective memory complement persons without individual memory. One mental habit fosters another. Modern Italy lost its link to the past, and modern Italians lost their connection to their own pasts. And yet, couldn’t one argue that this was necessary and good since the past was filled with oppression, exploitation, superstition, ignorance, brutality, and hypocrisies? Especially given the history of Fascist Italy and Mussolini’s ignoble alliance with Hitler and the disaster of World War II, many Italians had a hard time waxing romantic about the past. Even the Catholic Church was marred by its association with Fascism. Also, Italian history had been one of stagnation and decline since the great period of the Renaissance that, by the way, had only been a local phenomenon. Thus, intellectuals and artists felt an obligation to reject the past for the better future. But what should serve as the basis of the new truth? Many turned to Marxism, and Antonioni’s art was informed by some degree of Marxist critique of society. With the fading of religion and tradition, Marxism seemed the best bet for it unified the reality of the present with the understanding of the past and the vision of future. It was the only secular and modern creed that could replace the full breadth and depth of what religion had once provided for mankind. And yet, just as the ancient Romans couldn’t dispense with all their rich pagan history and culture in their embrace of Christianity, modern Italians simply couldn’t toss out their rich Catholic tradition in favor of Marxism. Even as the Catholic faith & tradition were fading and losing its grip on society & culture, they were nevertheless an integral part of Italian life and culture. Pier Paolo Pasolini understood this and sought to blend Marxism with Catholicism. At any rate, capitalism was seen as the main threat for it was about the complete tyranny of the present(against the past and against the moral, as opposed to merely materialistic, vision of the future) dictated by the power of money, narcissism, consumerism, and fashion.
Before and/or beyond the sphere of capitalism, things could have value apart from the tyranny of the fashion of the here-and-now. Classical music survives and carries on regardless of whether it cranks out hits or not. Ancient architectures devoted to the gods(or God) or some higher value impress people generation after generation. Much of modern architecture now looks old and dated, but the Parthenon has lost none of its value. Much of modern architecture paid homage to the conceit of the present as the only proper measure of the present, but conceits don’t last. What seems compelling and urgent to the radical aspirations of one generation seems silly and childish to the next. Much of modernity is about hype and fashion. Indeed, the very notion of timeless truth & meaning is anathema to the modernist mind-set. And yet, modernism makes a fool of every generation because the modernism of one moment often ends up appearing silly and meaningless to the next. Indeed, even some of Antonioni’s films have lost favor among subsequent generations who have no idea and no interest in what he obsessed over and was trying to convey. And yet, modern man has no choice but to stick with modernism because the umbilical cord to the past has been severed forever. (To be sure, a kind of infantilism prevailed after modernism won the culture war and was followed by post-modernism. Modernism won but then grew tired and bored in its victory. Since traditionalism no longer posed a threat or challenge to modernism, elements of it could be incorporated into modernism and sold as post-modernism. This was appealing since once the novelty of modernism wore off, people discovered it isn’t very fun and often ugly and abrasive. In contrast, there is much that is nice and pleasant about traditional aesthetics. When traditionalism was still alive as a cultural force, the culture war was between traditionalism/classicism and modernism/avant-garde-ism. And classicism especially came to be loathed when it became the favorite style of Fascists, National Socialists, and conservatives[and even Soviet Communists who eventually fell out of favor with the Western Left]. So, modernists were hellbent on totally winning the war against traditionalism and classicism, at least in field of high art. And they won. But the victory wasn’t very fun since most people — even modernists — didn’t really find much of modern art all that pleasant or likeable. They hankered for some of that old beauty and form. And beauty/form could finally be revived because traditionalism and classicism had completely lost the war and no longer posed a threat. It no longer had a war camp of its own. Since traditionalism/classicism only remained as spoils of war[that was won by modernists], modernists, revamped as post-modernists, could use them in their own way. Thus, post-modernism was never any kind of revival of cultural conservatism but the modernist appropriation of elements of traditionalism and classicism as war loot. It’s like Jews and homos at one time attacked the Christian Church. But now that they’ve defeated Christianity and forced it to worship Jews and bends over to homos, they’re toying with Christianity the way post-modernists toyed with forms of classicism/traditionalism. But in the end, modernism didn’t win the culture war either. If anything won, it was consumer-fascist-narcissist-populism of Hollywood blockbusters, video-games, Rock music, Rap music, breakdown of barrier between mainstream culture and porn, and TV shows. The fact is modern art & modernist sensibility, in all their opaque intellectualism — oftentimes phony — , failed to appeal to most people. Modernism’s attack on traditionalism and classicism didn’t bring the masses over to modernism. It led to the masses rejecting both traditionalism and modernism. Traditionalism was no longer viable as it had been trashed and dismissed by modernism as ‘uncool’ and ‘reactionary’, even ‘Nazi’-like. But modernism failed with the masses because it was too intellectual, abrasive, ugly, disorienting, confounding, and/or conceited. So, in the end, modernism also destroyed itself. As people were no longer instilled into the values of traditionalism and couldn’t warm up to modernism either, there was nothing left for them in culture but pop entertainment of hedonism, narcissism, infantilism, and vulgarism. Sometimes, when one thing destroys another, the final victor is the third party. It’s like once Byzantines beat back the Persians, the final victors were neither the Byzantines nor the Persians but the Muslims.) Perhaps, the umbilical cord to the past had been cut even before the rise of modernism. Perhaps it was when Christianity spiritually severed man’s ties to the soil, to his tribe, and to his sword. Christianity replaced man’s pagan connection to his soil with his aspiration for Heaven above. Even so, Christianity did continue to connect people through the generations. Even if Christianity de-emphasized kinship ties and blood roots among a people, it nevertheless held them together through the Communion of blood with Christ. So, even if you knew nothing of your ancestors, you knew they shared your faith in Christ, and that this flow of Faith would continue forever and ever. Also, there was a sense of urgency in Christianity because of the story of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. Because of what had been done to Christ and because of His triumph over defeat/death and His message to His Disciples, every generation of Christians felt they had an obligation to fulfill the Christian mission. It’s like the guy in MEMENTO feels an urgent meaning in life because his last memory is of the death of his wife that calls for revenge and redemption of his manly pride. Even if he can’t store new memory, his life is still charged and directed by a ‘sacred’ memory scarred into his soul. And Christianity had a similar effect on Western Man. Even if one argues Christianity caused a kind of amnesia in Western Man by severing his ties to blood-and-soil, it nevertheless imbued him with the recurring memory of the sacred past that calls for vengeance and fulfilment of Christ’s tragic/triumphant mission on earth. If the story of Jesus had simply been one of a wise man who arrived on earth, preached some nice lessons(exactly those in the New Testament), and then died peacefully, there would have been no sense of urgency to Christianity. It is really the story of His Crucifixion and Resurrection that has energized the faithful through the ages. Even though Christianity is said to be a religion of forgiveness, there is also a powerful undercurrent of vengeance. It’s something C.S. Lewis got right, which is why the Lion that submits to death eventually returns and kills its enemies. In the long run, Christianity is less about forgiveness of sinners than a delayed revenge to bring forth punishment like the world had never seen. And much of this hatred was directed at not only pagan Romans but at Jews. As Romans converted to Christianity and then lost their civilization to Barbarians, the anti-Roman aspect of Christianity lost its fervor. But as Jews continued to survive, maintain their community, and continued to reject Jesus(and exploit Christians through all sorts of dirty business practices), they became the focal point of much Christian vengeful feelings.

Anyway, there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle. Modernism had changed the West. Even if modern man wanted to go back to the past, he couldn’t because the ‘innocence’ had been lost for good. Any modern attempt to cling to the truisms of the past was bound to fail since what had been organic and natural then no longer spoke to modern man in the same way. (But then, how many people in the modern world are truly modern? Take a look at Negroes. They live with all the modern gadgets, but how many of them know anything about modernism[as an artistic, cultural, and intellectual movement] when they don’t read books and only listen to rap music? How many white folks know or care anything about modernism or traditionalism? Many whites seem to know nothing beyond video-games, TV, and movies. Same is true of all those Japanese addicted to dumb manga and anime. Among ‘millennials’, their idea of news is reading junk off twitter. Most people in the modern world are not moderns or post-moderns. They are neo-primitives surrounded by modern technology. They are like the ape-men of 2001 but with iPhones.) So, neither could Mussolini revive the glory of ancient Rome nor could Hitler re-establish Classicism as the correct art form of the modern world. Maybe the ‘spirit’ of modernism was diseased, but it had wholly infected the Western World, and its symptoms had to be addressed and accepted one way or another; it wouldn’t be eradicated by suppressing it under an artificial cast of past glory. It’s like you cannot un-know what you know. Even if what you know is disturbing, you must deal with what you know that pretend it can be willed out of existence. Italian Fascism and National Socialism, especially in the area of art, were a form of collective repression of the neurosis of modernism that had indeed infected the modern West and had to be dealt with. And despite the problems, what had been gained from modernity was too addictive and alluring to 20th century man who valued things in accordance to individuality, freedom, personal choice, science & technology, entertainment and pleasure, and etc. And perhaps there is nothing of ‘eternal’ or ‘timeless’ value. Maybe such ideals were mere illusions of the past when mankind had failed at steady progress and pretended to know the will of God and truth for all times. After all, how could any man know the true intention of God, and how could anyone be sure that the words in the Bible are really God’s truth? And who’s to say God really exists? And if the Catholic Church is really the fountain of human wisdom, how come its canons were changed with the passage of years? Also, how could anyone know the eternal truths about nature when science reveals new truths about life and the stars all the time? At one time, almost everyone believed in the ‘timeless’ celestial truth about how the Sun, moon, and the stars revolve around Earth. But it proved to be false. The story of the Creation came to be replaced by the theory of evolution that presented the best theory on the origins of life. On the other hand, scientific truth can be perverted by radical ideology. National Socialists made a mess of racial science, as did Marxist scientists like Stephen J. Gould who was not above falsifying data to promote the lie that ‘race is just a social construct’. But the most ridiculous lies are now peddled by homos who insist that a man’s anus is a ‘sex organ’ and that the surgically created fake vagina of a transvestite should be regarded as a real vagina. Or, how about the ridiculous notion of ‘two mommies having children together’? So, modern sensibility can be just as ludicrous as old superstitions in distorting the truth of nature. Even if one were to argue that ‘timeless’ or ‘eternal’ truths don’t exist or cannot be known by us, it is nevertheless undeniable that certain things are truer than others are. And the idea of ‘two mommies’ or ‘two daddies’ is not only ridiculous but a sick joke and crime against nature and truth.

What was modern man to do if he was emotionally amnesiac and could no longer look to the past for inspiration? This is the conundrum in the films of Antonioni. If, like Tarkovsky or Solzhenitsyn, Antonioni was an arch-reactionary who believed in the ‘eternal’ wisdom of the past, he could urge modern man to look back and regain what had been lost. But Antonioni, even as he valued the past, didn’t believe it held answers for modern man. So, if the past is not the answer, is the answer to be found in the present? But how can there be any answer in the present when modernity is all about amnesia, fashion, alienation, uncertainty, and neurosis? In an ever changing world, any ‘truth’ may lose validity sooner than later. The uncertainty principle applied not only to the arts, culture, and fashions but to human relationships and values as well. The man in L’AVVENTURA goes searching for his lost lover but soon forgets her and goes with the woman’s friend who also loses her emotional connection to her friend and falls in love with the man; but then, the missing woman was hardly the faithful type herself as friend and lover.
At the end of the movie, the man found making out with another woman. He acts like Bill Clinton. Of course, horny men, the Don Juans and Casanovas, have always been around. But at least in the past, the morality of matrimony and/or faithfulness was upheld by society, and even those who fooled around was supposed to keep it discrete and feel ashamed if exposed in scandal. Even Fausto the playboy of I VITELLONI feels ashamed about what he did when his father finds out, and he relents to marrying the girl for the sake of family honor and the girl’s reputation. But what happens in the more libertine world of L’AVVENTURA when even the element of shame is fading away? The film ends with the man and the woman realizing what they’ve become, what they are really like. He does feel a degree of shame, and the woman, though betrayed by him, also realizes that she betrayed her friend as well. Because the man and woman in L’AVVENTURA, though modern individuals, still grew up in a world with some sense of tradition, family, and shame, they do feel, in the end, some degree of shame and remorse, some sense of self-betrayal.

L’AVVENTURA

This is why today’s young people cannot connect with anything in L’AVVENTURA. The modern individuals of Antonioni and Bergman films still experienced formative childhoods in worlds where tradition, old values, and shame did matter. They broke free from traditional constraints and embraced modernity, but they’d been molded in part by ‘timeless’ tradition and couldn’t shake it off entirely(and in a way, they didn’t want to as their ambivalence about modernity never entirely went away). It’s like Paul Schrader, even as he embraced the life of urban ‘sin’, could never wholly let go of his religious upbringing. They valued the freedom of modernity, but freedom also made them ill-at-ease with its erosion of continuity, community, and certainty. Since the 60s, entire generations have grown up feeling totally shameless with inane TV shows, loud and raunchy pop music, movies filled with violence and nudity, porny songs and images, wild celebrity news, and etc. Even Robert Mapplethorpe’s disgusting homo art no longer offends people. All controversies about obscenity have, more or less, subsided. What can shock us when Lena Dunham has a porny TV show in prime time?
Famous people used to be censured or shamed for getting caught with bad behavior long ago, but today they not only get away with it but are often praised for it. If some star in the 1950s or even 1960s had gotten caught with just one ounce of what some of today’s actors, musicians, and athletes brazenly act out in public today, he or she would have been ruined for life. Since we live in a shameless age when even young teenagers talk openly about porny stuff — and their parents either ignore it, find nothing wrong with it, or join in the conversation — , how can anyone understand the emotions of L’AVVENTURA, the film about the Last Shameful Couple. Today, boys and girls get together and talk with potty-mouths about all sorts of obscenity and filth.
Spring Break of the 80s were mild affairs compared to what happens today — and things were pretty wild in the 80s.
We don’t know if the emotions at the end of L’AVVENTURA will sink into the characters or not — probably not — , but at least they feel the weight of moral compromise that accompanies their freedom. But no such feelings exist in today’s shameless world. Sure, boys and girls still get angry out of jealousy, but it’s not because they’re offended by the immorality of infidelity but because their pride may get wounded. (Since girls cannot morally denounce men on grounds of infidelity anymore, the angry and vindictive ones turn to false accusations of rape to get even with men who won’t reciprocate their horny affections. Consider the ridiculous stunt pulled by Emma Sulkowicz.) In a world where some white guys even invite ‘black bulls’ into their bedrooms to hump their white wives — and this sort of thing hardly causes a stir as a social/moral issue — , we know we’ve come a long way since the time of Antonioni.

Antonioni’s films feel emotionally stranded and desolate because there’s nothing modern man can turn to for substance and sustenance. It’s like modern man and modern woman — at least the affluent — are islands unto themselves. To be sure, there are as many kinds of ‘modern man’ as there are individuals. After all, the affluent/urban characters of LA DOLCE VITA and 8 ½ are no less modern than the characters of Antonioni films. Some revel in the new freedom/hedonism and don’t care all this stuff about ‘loss of meaning’ and alienation. Guido’s friend in 8 ½ admits he left his wife, shacked up with his daughter’s friend, and is having a grand time. He isn’t troubled in the least, at least for now.
There are revelers in Antonioni’s films too. Consider the party scene in LA NOTTE. But if Fellini only intermittently leaves the party behind to get some fresh air and make token gestures of remorse before rushing back to party some more, Antonioni remains aloof and distant at the party itself. In Antonioni’s films, is modern man really enjoying the partying & carousing or losing himself in distractions to fend off the sheer emptiness of life? And if his life is empty, shouldn’t he search within himself for meaning? But can modern man explore a soul that’s been disemboweled of old faiths & truths and filled with indigestible ambiguities?
Could modern man find the new truth through slogans about workers and the revolution? Marxists thought so, but living conditions improved for a broad section of the public after World War II. People, even the working poor, were no longer so economically desperate that they wanted a revolution or radical social change. Without the possibility of revolution, what truth could be gained by representing or championing the working class or the poor(especially when they were likely to call you a ‘commie’ for speaking in their name)? They were too uneducated, crude, and vulgar in their likes and dislikes to find or offer up truth on their own; they could only be led, but they no longer wanted to follow. The ‘truth’ for the workers and the poor could be either Christian, Marxist, or nationalist but not much else. Through Christianity, even the poor and wretched could find meaning through God and the love of Christ. Through Marxism, the poor could be inspired with visions of a workers’ utopia. Though nationalism, the poor could be made to feel as part of the larger ethnic family and used as foot-soldiers to defend the motherland or attack enemies.
But as individuals in the modern world, what did dumb poor folks or under-educated working class have to offer? They had no taste and no ideas. It was the affluent folks who could afford to study, have the leisure to read books, appreciate art and culture, and understand/discuss intellectual matters. And so, Antonioni’s main interest was with the affluent class with access to leisure, arts, culture, and ideas. So, why is there such a sense of emptiness in his films? It owes to the lack of organic connection to things. It’s like what Meathead discovers in the episode “Gloria Discovers Women’s Lib” in ALL IN THE FAMILY. He earns good grades, but they mean nothing to him because Gloria, with whom he had a row, isn’t there to share the joy with him. It’s like the Last Man on Earth scenario where a man can claim ownership of everything but feels nothing but emptiness because there’s no one to connect to, no one to share anything with. Or consider John Boorman’s HELL IN THE PACIFIC. Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune play bitter enemies stranded on an island during World War II, but they become reluctant friends because man is a social animal that needs companionship. (In a way, all forms of affluence has a disassociating impact one way or another. To be affluent and fancy means to be surrounded by nice, fine, and beautiful things. It means to separate onself from humanity and the world that are not so fine and fancy, and this usually means most people. Affluence and privilege are always exclusionary. Of course, one finds new friends and associates in the world of affluence, but nothing seems quite real because most people in the world don’t live that and can’t afford to live like that. Also, if one looks back into one’s ancestry, the chances are that one’s forebears didn’t live so fancy. They were mostly humble folks, like the Okies in THE GRAPES OF WRATH or the people in those Ellis Island photos from the early 20th century. They wore simple clothing, ate simple food, and didn’t know any fancy stuff. When one begins to put on airs of a haute fancy person and identifies as ‘special’, he or she may be upset with reminders that his or her ancestors weren’t so fancy-pants. Indeed, one may feel embarrassed to be associated with such unfancy folks. Therefore, not only socially but psychologically, one further removes oneself from reality and truth with all their unhappy, inconvenient, or embarrassing reminders. One cocoons oneself in a world of affluence, beauty, and refinement — like the people in Alain Resnais’ LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD. But can a people who are shut off from the reality of most people — and one’s ancestors — lead lives of truth? Consider Holly Golightly of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S. She’s found her niche in New York. In a way, she’s just a call girl, but she can afford fancy things, and possession of nice things makes her forget about everything else. We are drawn to beautiful things, which is all very good. But the danger lies in how the beautiful world draws us in like a magic garden and makes us forget about most of reality that can’t live up to beautiful ideals. Consider what happens to the potter in UGETSU when he takes leave of reality. Consider what happens to Odysseus with Calypso. When you enter an art museum filled with beautiful things, you want belong to that world of ‘culture’ and dignity. It’s like how Siddhartha was raised in an enclosed world of beauty and grace. He later discovered the truth and realized he’d grown up in a false world. On the other hand, he could never shake off the ideal of perfection/beauty and decided that the ugly real world is also illusion, and that the ultimate truth is Nirvana, the eternal harmony of being. Anyway, affluence brings individuals in contact with fine things that are so alluring that individuals seek to be even more closely — and exclusively — associated with fine things. Thus, they become separate from the real world. And yet, due to Christian, humanist, populist, democratic, and/or Marxist strains in Western thought, the affluent are made to feel guilty for their privilege and separateness from humanity. Modern privilege was especially problematic since it made fancifulness out of radicalism. Radical element of modernism waged war on traditional forms of beauty, grace, refinement, loveliness, and grandeur. It stripped away the flesh of beauty and left only the bleached bones. Thus, modern culture became sterile, more like a desert than a garden. It is no wonder Antonioni used the desert as a motif, symbol, or even literal setting, as in ZABRISKIE POINT. Even the greens in BLOW UP look more like a green desert than a green garden/park. Even water feels dry in Antonioni films. If the traditional garden of privilege was lush, the modern desert of privilege was sterile like the moon. Consider the coldness of modern architecture made of glass, concrete, and steel. And yet, the modern desert was also alluring because, as with Japanese minimalism, it was the elite product of intensive design-making and conceptualization. It came with the label of intellect and avant-garde-ism. It wasn’t pleasing and comforting like the traditional garden but nevertheless set itself apart from the culture of the hoi polloi. Also, it elegantly set itself apart from nouveau riche who had money but no taste — like Woltz the Hollywood mogul of THE GODFATHER. It was a way of being both affluent and tasteful instead of gauche in vulgar narcissism. Still, modernist privilege posed a contradiction because, on the one hand, its allure separated individuals-who-could-afford-it from the rest of humanity, but, on the other hand, its sterility and aridity didn’t satisfy human appetites and aspirations. It’s like going to a fancy restaurant where they serve conceptual dishes that are satiating. One is drawn by the allure and pedigree, but the eating isn’t enjoyable like a slice of NY pizza. Modernist aesthetics drew in affluent people seeking privilege, but the whole point of modernism was to favor neurosis, anxiety, and ambiguity, which could never be satisfying except as intellectual ego-trips.) Yet, even without literally being the last person on earth, there are ways in which people can become disassociated from others and from the world. People can be disconnected from own family, from their own tribe/race, from their own faith, from their own nation/land, and etc. But then, because people are, by nature, social, they dread loneliness, isolation, and boredom. In the modern world, what is often called ‘entertainment’ is really a virtual community for a lot of people who are disconnected from community, race, tradition, family-that-produced-them, and family-they-might-have-but-don’t. It’s like Joe Buck in MIDNIGHT COWBOY just stares into the TV set when he can’t connect with anyone in New York. He gets to feeling so lonely that when he once again bumps into Ratso, his face lights up with a smile, that is before realizing he’s supposed to want to hate him. It’s like even bitter enemies in John Boorman’s HELL IN THE PACIFIC become ‘friends’ when they find themselves stranded on an island. Humans are naturally social creatures, and they need a sense of community, and for this reasons, the human mind and behavior always seek connection to others. Even as people go from one place to another, they seek out new compansions. If they can’t, they settle for a ‘virtual community’ through books, movies, music, games, and etc. Some find a sense of community through prayers to God or meditation as in Buddhism. The old man in DERSU UZALA finds a sense of community through his animistic view of nature. So, through long stretches of aloneness in the wilderness, he sees himself as a member of the family-of-nature. (But then, there’s nothing like human-to-human company, which is why Dersu feels sad to bid farewell to the Russian explorers he’d befriended.) The moron in Werner Herzog’s GRIZZLY MAN takes the family-of-nature concept too far and believes the bears to be his brothers and sisters. The young man in Sean Penn’s INTO THE WILD is a lonelier creature because he believes in nothing. He’s a contradiction because his travels are the product of his idealism, but idealism is useless apart from human community. What use is human ideal to a cactus or coyote or clouds or the plant that poisons & kills him? We all need to be part of some community, part of some cause. Of course, some communities are more stable and substantive than others. All communities offer an identity to those who belong, but not all identities have the same depth, meaning, and power. After all, if your main identity is based on economics, what happens when you go from poor to rich or rich to poor? Or if your main identity is tied to a workplace/company, what happens if that company goes out of business or fires you? This has been a problem in Japan in the modern era. Many Japanese after World War II became loyal employees of certain firms. They became Toyota men, Sony men, Honda men, or some such. And they thought in terms of lifetime employment. They would give their all to the company, and the company would, in turn, take care of them. It was like the traditional samurai way when samurai devoted themselves to a clan in the hope that the clan would use them and value them. But with the economic malaise in Japan, many salarymen or sararimen had to be let go. Their main identity as ‘company men’ proved to be useless. Likewise, when the wars ended and Japan was unified under the Tokugawa, many samurai were let go by their clans. They’d devoted their lives to the clan in exchange for a kind of identity, but that identity could easily be taken away. The samurai could be let go, and then they’d be identity-less ronin, or masterless samurai. So, the workplace cannot be a very strong identity. Neither can any profession, especially as modern technology keeps changing the nature of production and distribution. There was a time when generation after generation for centuries, a man’s family could be identified with blacksmith-work, leatherwork, weaving, or some such. In our world, the jobs of your parents’ generation will be replaced by entirely new professions and skills when it’s your turn to enter the work force. The one area that may be impervious to such change could be in food and drink as cheese-makers and wine-makers hardly change generation after generation even as they incorporate new technology to keep making the same products. Some people find their main identity in subcultures such as Deadheads, Trekkies. STAR WARS fandom, Horror movie buff-dom, Rock Music obsession(as in HIGH FIDELITY), and the like, but those are not solid identities because they are all at the mercy of fashions and trends. Since the death of Jerry Garcia, what happened to the Grateful Dead cult? Who identifies as a Beatlemaniac anymore? Also, what person in his right mind wants to grow old mainly thinking of oneself as a Trekkie or someone who collects Yoda and Boba Fett dolls? There is are huge HARRY POTTER and HUNGER GAMES fandoms, but kids of the future will have their own new pop culture obsessions. All these things come and go. Even Beatlemania, the Big Kahuna of the Boomer cultural identity, is all but forgotten. People still like some Beatles songs but that’s about it. It’s just a piece of nostalgia that means little to today’s young people who have their own music to go nuts over. These are not deep identities. They have no roots, and they vanish when the top soil blows away to make room for new trash. Identities of deeper roots involve nation, race, blood, culture, land, and historical memory/consciousness. If a Russian fixed his identity mainly on servitude to the Tsar, what would he have been once Tsardom was abolished? If a Russian fixed his identity on class or caste, such as aristocracy or serfdom, what would he have been once serfdom was abolished or the aristocracy was banned? If he fixed his identity on an ideology like communism, what would he have been once communism was no more? If he’d fixed his main identity on American pop culture of the 90s, what would he have been once fashions changed? If he’d fixed his main identity on a job he got at a Starbucks that opened in Russia, what would he be if the store closed or if he were let go? So, all such identities are not deep, though some are deeper than others. In contrast, an identity founded on race, culture, land, and historical memory is far more substantive even though they too can come under threat. If a race is invaded by another race and forced into extensive race-mixing, then his original identity can be lost forever. Or a language/culture can be lost or replaced by another. Consider how the Irish now mainly speak English than Gaelic. And most young Chinese in Singapore speak better English than Chinese. And even people in non-western worlds took on lots of Western cultural attributes in dress, food, manners, arts, and attitudes. And the land of one people can be conquered and taken by another people. Look what happened to Serbs and Kosovo; look what happened to Palestine after Zionists drove out the Palestinians. And people can forget their historical memory because the powers-that-be that control the media and education can replace one tribal narrative with another. Thus, if white Americans in the past saw things from a Euro-centic, Anglo-centric, and white-American-centric perspectives, a lot of young white folks now see things mainly through the perspective of a Judeo-, homo-, or Negro/mulatto-centric narrative. It is no wonder that even though white civilization is facing existential threat in both the US and EU, the main obsession of even the so-called ‘Western Right’ is serving Jews, ‘saving Israel’, proving that it’s not ‘racist’, and pandering to homosexuals with the notion that the West must keep out Muslims who don’t support ‘gay marriage’. This is what happens to a conquered people when their ethnocentric narrative is prohibited and replaced with the ethno-centrism of another group of people who rule as the New Power Elite. (White Americans are a conquered people. They may still be affluent and well-off, but they must seek approval from their Jewish masters and homo agents. It’s like many French people continued to live well under German Occupation during World War II, but they were not free. A people can be well-off and prosperous and still be lacking in freedom. There are affluent and well-off Palestinians in Israel, but are they really free under Zionist domination? Economically, white Americans are still better off than, say, black Americans and Mexican-Americans. But they have no political, cultural, or moral power of their own as they must always be mindful of the dictates of Jews and homos. We now live in a nation where businesses are forced to cater to ‘gay weddings’ or else be destroyed by the full brunt of Jewish oligarchs, their Wasp collaborators, and the federal government. White Americans are no freer under Jewish domination than French were under Vichy regime that took orders from the Germans. They are no freer than East Germans and Poles under Soviet domination. Sure, most East Germans and Poles led decent lives — by world standards if not Western standards — , but they were hardly free as long as their nations were forced to remain in the Warsaw Pact.)

Antonioni was well-aware of the new opportunities for people to get together, communicate with one another, have fun together, and etc. in the modern world If anything, modern people had more freedom, means, and opportunities to socialize and interact than before. And people could take on all sorts of identities and become global in their outlook. So, if one chose to immerse oneself in the new social order, one could have a pretty good time. But were the new identities, the ever-changing fashions, the opportunities for fun & hedonism, and the freedoms to move around(great expanded with rising incomes, affordable-ness of autos, and air travel) providing modern man with any real meaning? Did the new choices lead to a higher truth? After all, wasn’t Odysseus’ journey meaningful in the end because he had a place to return to, which was his home with wife and son? But what is the nature of the adventure in L’AVVENTURA? Ostensibly, it begins with the search for the lost woman, but the two principles soon forget all about her and travel around like they’re on a holiday. And when the guy finds a new woman to fool around with, he doesn’t hesitate for a second.
If modern people(of means) so wish, they can have finds all sorts of company, spend money, travel around, and have a good time. But do they add up to anything in the long run? Do they connect with anything of personal and historical worth? Does it offer any meaningful vision of the future on a personal or communal level? Or, is it all about the here-and-now? When we look at the politics of America, does anything have any value beyond what is fashionable at the moment? Everyone, from the elites to the masses, all seem to be agreed on ONE THING and ONE THING ONLY: to submit to the fickle and fashionable truth hyped by the Jewish-and-Homo elites. If indeed Americans have deep values, how did they so quickly come around to ‘gay marriage’? If Christians really are a people of conviction and courage, why did they become such craven slaves and sheep of not only Jewish oligarchs but of degenerate homos as well? Where in the New Testament does it say the main responsibility of Christians is to obey super-rich Jews and decadent homosexuals? Only a people without roots, conscience, courage, and conviction could so easily be swayed to reject their own core values and principles. If ‘truth’ were to be determined only in terms of the here-and-now by the powers-that-be that mold our amnesiac minds through television and dumbed-down PC education, then there is no real truth, and certainly no conservative truth. True conservatism is about believing in certain truths, sacred principles, and deeply held values. And if you can’t hold onto them due to fear of the powers-that-be and the mobs whipped into frenzy by the powers-that-be, then you’re a collaborator-coward, not a courageous individual of conviction. Also, if your conservatism is so shallow and without roots that it can be fundamentally altered with the mere removal of top soil, then it was never any real kind of conservatism in the first place. It was just a brand of Conservatism Inc. devised by the GOP that panders to rich oligarchs(like Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers) and defined by clowns like Rush Limbaugh on Talk Radio. What kind of conservatism pretends to be so resolutely for one thing at one point but then becomes so resolutely against it a short while later, all the while believing that it’s holding onto the same convictions? True conservatism isn’t possible with such mindless amnesia. But then, the West is now a place where Christian churches are convinced that the faith has always been blessing and singing hosannas to homosexuals. Where do they get this stuff?
Of course, conservatism can be plenty stupid and stodgy in clinging onto dead, decayed, and discredited beliefs & prejudices that really have no value in the modern world. And smart conservatism must always be mindful to replace the dead cells of society and soul with healthy living cells. And a proper appreciation of true liberalism can work with true conservatism in a symbiotic relationship to keep the good things and reject the bad things, as well as to be rid of the bad things and admit good things. So, if the dead or diseased cells of conservatism must be gotten rid of and if the healthy cells of liberalism must replenish the body politic, all the better. Conservatism grows sick when it refuses to let go of the dead cells — like knee-jerk rejection of the scientific truth of evolution and the refusal to believe the fact that homosexuals are born homo — that refuses to make room for healthier cells, and liberalism grows sick when it admits what are clearly cancerous cells, viruses, and other nasty germs that will cause the body politic harm. So, while accepting the truth of homosexuality — that homos are born homo — is a good kind of liberalism that conservatism needs to appreciate, the crazy idea that homosexuality has the same biological and moral value as real sexuality is like surrendering the body politic to cancer cells or deadly virus. And once a society is infected with filth, the disease keeps spreading and tries to destroy the very core of conservatism. Good liberalism targets only bad conservatism while protecting good conservatism that preserves all that are essential to a healthy society founded on true facts, meanings, and values. (Good liberalism is like maggots that eat at the rotten flesh while leaving the living tissue alone.) Good liberalism opens the window to good new ideas to replace the bad old ideas. But bad liberalism opens the door to all sorts of corrosive ideas that infect and destroy even the good core of conservatism. It’s like a good immigration policy tries to bring the best, most functional, and most useful people into a nation, whereas a bad immigration policy opens the gates to a whole bunch of dysfunctional idiots who will mess up the country. Worse, it may even welcome illegals and send a message all over the world that the nation exists to be invaded and plundered. That way, instead of the core population being served well by the arrival of good immigrants, it is overwhelmed and destroyed by the invasive tide of the useless horde. This kind of bad liberalism has infected the body politic of Sweden, and it seeks to silence all conservative opposition to the madness while opening the gate of Sweden to an endless stream of useless and dangerous people from all over the world.

Though Tradition is no guarantee of truth, meaning, & beauty and must come under a critical eye, it does have value in serving as a brake to the power of Fashion. For most people, it is not a matter of ‘irrational’ Tradition vs ‘rational’ Reason but a matter of Tradition vs Fashion, and most people don’t think rationally or logically about either. Most of what Liberals call ‘reason’ is really the latest Fashion of Political Correctness cooked up by the Powers-that-Be that cranks out stuff like ‘year of the women’, ‘rape culture’, ‘environmental racism’, ‘white privilege’, ‘homophobia’, ‘hate speech is not free speech’, ‘check your privilege’, ‘slut pride’, ‘trigger warnings’, ‘micro-aggressions’, and etc. It sounds like ‘reason’ because of employment of fancy terminological sophistry, but it’s really pseudo-intellectualism to obfuscate than reveal the truth. How else but through obfuscation could the so-called ‘progressive left’ have gotten away with lies such as ‘race is a social construct’, ‘gender is a social construct’, ‘opposing gay marriage is homophobia’, ‘gender is fluid’, ‘a trans-gender man is a woman’, ‘an illegal alien is an undocumented immigrant’, and etc.? They’ve fooled a lot of young people — as well as unsuspecting old people — with clever terminology that sounds smart and rational but actually mystifies & confuses the truth with smoke-and-mirrors trickery. Similarly, Marxism fooled a lot of people with its fancy jargons that made the silliest theories sound like the most intelligent ideas in the world. And the ‘auteur theory’ got more attention in the US than it deserved because the French terminology made it sound especially intellectual. And of course, religions in the past gained power over the elites with their fancifully worded spiritual terminology. While superstitions were enough to dupe the masses, the vain elites had to be won over with fancy talk, and Christian theology came up with all sorts of high-minded theories about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that convinced a lot of educated people that it wasn’t just about hocus-pocus but a grand thought experiment about spiritual Truth. While truly smart people can cut through the bull of obfuscation — or cunningly use it themselves to fool the less pseudo-intellectuals — , most-people-who-aren’t-smart-but-think-they-are fall for smoke-and-mirrors obfuscation all the time. The reason why Scientology attracted some smart people is because of its highfalutin formulations that sound intelligent but really just fall apart under scrutiny. The so-called ‘social justice warriors’ or SJW who bleat along to Politically Correct dictates are swayed by hype and dogma than anything like real thought. This is especially true of ‘millennials’ who were weaned on PC and homomania from cradle.
Of course, both the ‘right’ and ‘left’ pretend that they have ‘reason’ on their side. So, Ann Coulter, who knows little about how evolution works, argues for Intelligent Design on the basis of ‘reason’, and there are tons of Liberals who deny racial differences also based on ‘Reason’. And libertarians invoke ‘reason’ for every single one of their value-free proposals premised on little else but nihilism, self-interest, and hedonism. And, crazy feminists, contradictory multi-culturalists, ridiculous homomaniacs, and black rage peddlers all claim to be on the side of ‘reason’.
Nevertheless, because of the Right’s traditional ties to religion and the beginnings of the Left as a secular Enlightenment movement, there’s a tendency to associate ‘reason’ more with the left than with the right. After all, communism claimed to be ‘scientific’ and ‘materialist’ whereas the Western Right attacked the Soviet Union for its ‘Godless communism’. But, as we know, communism was hardly scientific or rational. And, so many leftist and Liberal causes over the years have fallen by the wayside because they got so many things wrong about human nature, economics, psychology, and etc. And even if liberals had tried to be completely logical and rational, they could only rely on available data, and there simply wasn’t enough to paint an accurate picture of absolute truth. Thus, so much of so-called ‘rational’ liberalism was based on conjecture, wishful thinking, speculation, faulty data, miscalculation, blind righteousness, and even utopian fantasies. Also, one wrong premise often lead to others. For example, liberals came to believe that all races were the same and social differences were only a matter of economic or cultural factors. So, the idea was that changing social policies would fix all problems. But then, Great Society programs led to the implosion of those false hopes, something that the Liberal Establishment that controls the government, media, academia, and corporate culture is loathe to admit since doing so would open up a whole new paradigm of social, racial, and political discourse that could undermine the ‘rational’ premise upon which Jewish supremacist power and white Liberal sanctimony are founded.

Tradition isn’t always right for the simple reason that nothing is true or superior because it’s been believed or practiced for a long time. If tradition is paramount, then Jews should never given up stoning people. And we should still believe that the Sun revolves around the Earth. Humanity sometimes has to break out of tradition to make true progress. (Progress can arise from within by struggle for better understanding of truth and/or justice, or it can accidentally come from outside when the invading culture suppresses or prohibits the customs of the conquered culture. For example, suppose a conquered culture practiced human sacrifice, but the conquering culture bans that sort of thing. Suppose the invading culture is just as cruel and merciless in its own way but nevertheless reviles something like human sacrifice. Whatever one thinks of the invasion & the oppression, it was through them progress of ending human sacrifice was made.) But some more radically minded liberals fall into the fallacious habit of thinking that rejecting tradition and replacing it with new ideas is always a form of progress. But this is like saying that since Galileo was right by challenging the established view of the planets, every crackpot would-be scientist with a new idea is necessarily right. There are cases when tradition is true, sane, and just, and it is the new ideas that are insane, dangerous, and ludicrous. Also, the dumber liberals become so obsessed with certain causes or concepts that there’s the danger of their growing cancerous and beyond any sensible proportion. For example, if ‘equality’ means ‘equality under the law for all citizens’ — a rich man who commits a murder is just as guilty as a poor man who commits a murder, and a poor man accused of a crime deserves just as much legal protection as a rich man accused of a crime — , it makes good sense in a society that stands for justice for all. But if concepts of ‘equality’ metastasize to the point where things that are clearly not equal are promoted and pushed as of ‘equal’ value, then we end up with stuff like homomania that says a man’s anus that excretes feces is as much a sex organ as a woman’s vagina that produces life; we are to believe that a fake vagina of a trans-gender freak is equal to a real vagina of a woman. When conceit of ‘equality’ thus turns cancerous, the disease keeps growing and spreading all through the body politic, and now, US forces ‘gay marriage’ on all states and forces all businesses to cater to sick degenerate ceremonies like ‘same sex marriage’.
Of course, an idea like ‘equality’ doesn’t go radically crazy like this on its own. Most people, if left to their own natural inclinations and devices, could be made to accept the truth that homosexuals are born that way, but they would also find homosexual behavior to be odd and gross. If people were left to their natural thoughts and feelings, something like ‘gay marriage’ never would have had a chance. But as it happened, the Jewish elites own nearly all of media, Hollywood, academia, government, finance, and etc. Also, Jewish Power, even as it spreads filth and foulness all over, cannot be noticed or criticized. Indeed, consider how the arch-liar Sabrina Rubin Erdely of ROLLING STONE is allowed to get away with her brazen lies by a media-political complex that watches out of for her kind. Old Boys’ Network has nothing on New Jews’ Complex as her ilk with the same psycho-pathology are prevalent in just about every elite institution and industry.

Sabrina Rubin Erdely the vile lying Jewish hag bitch protected by the New Jew Complex

On the one hand Antonioni felt that modern society, with its separation from the past(of tradition, spirituality, continuity, and sense of certainty), its cold sterile art & architecture, its air of sterile sophistication & disdain for sentiment/attachment, and its atomized individuality centered on ideas of alienation or hedonistic addiction, made communication among people near-impossible or pointless. Yet, he also noticed how modern freedoms, amenities, entertainments, diversions, and conveniences made human interaction easier than ever. So, why not just embrace the new forms of communication availed by the new affluence of the postwar era? Why not just join the party? Antonioni worried that the modern means of communication were not really connecting people in meaningful ways. They didn’t facilitate genuine human-to-human or soul-to-soul contact. As often as not, modern things served as barriers than as bridges among people. They were also facades creating a false impression that the moderns were somehow more advanced and sophisticated than their predecessors, but were they really? Besides, even if moderns did have more advanced consciousness about intellectual and cultural matters, did such a sensibility necessarily translate into more meaningful lives? Or did it make people preciously aloof from the very organic stuff of life? Modern trappings created all sorts of distractions and distortions among people, and some people were led to believe as belonging to something new and important by the way of this buzz. But the buzz could be just a series of ‘happenings’: things of ‘value’ only as they happen but of no worth as soon as it’s over. Indeed, one reason why LA DOLCE VITA has dated so badly is because all the ‘happening’ is the film no longer titillate or jar us. Viewers in 1960 may have been excited by glimpses into the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but what seemed racy and scintillating at the decade’s beginning soon came to be regarded as tame and staid. It’s like all the trashy parties thrown by Andy Warhol had no value beyond cheap sensationalism of the moment. It’s like the decadent party in the final part of MIDNIGHT COWBOY brings people together for fun, drugs, sex, and stuff, and as long as the party goes on, they feel like they are part of something, but it won’t mean a thing as soon as it’s over. There is no communication among those gathered. There is no meeting of souls. It’s just people rendered soulless and brushing against one another as fashionable objects. (But then, the intellectual and culture-heavy party at Steiner’s in LA DOLCE VITA doesn’t go anywhere either. Though it’s a gathering of thinkers, poets, and sophisticates, no one seems to believe in anything. They are too high-minded to let loose & have but also too cynical, world-weary, & apathetic to speak up for anything substantive or meaningful.) Even when they give into lust and have sex, there are no feelings involved. And among the decadents, there isn’t even sufficient animal drive to make it exciting, which is why the love-making at the end of LA NOTTE looks like drudgery. It’s as if modern man has not only lost his soul but his/her instinct to be vitally alive and wild, and the only way he/she can derive any kind of real experience is from the barbarism of another culture. It could be why Monica Vitti dresses up like a Negress and dances like a savage woman in L’ECLISSE or ECLIPSE.

ECLIPSE – Monica Vitti as Jafro-Jiveress

In the world of Antonioni, modern Europe may be rich and getting richer, but it has lost confidence and faith in its own values. It lives for empty materialism or for intellectual ideas that merely reiterate on the meaninglessness of everything. It lacks vitality, and the only thing going for it is finance, industry, and middle class consumerism. It has lost faith in sacred tradition, religion, and moral values that, while having repressed vitalist-animal instincts over the millennia, imbued European man and woman with depth and meaning. The old faith has been lost due to rise of science, reason, and progress. And then the horrible crises of war and horror in the 20th century robbed Western Man of even hope in science, reason, and progress. Western Man and Woman have grown so decadent that they have forgotten how to be natural anymore. Modern world offered new freedoms of sex and hedonism, and men and women indulged in them, but the sensuality was divorced from the truth of nature. It wasn’t pleasure as part of nature but as a product of consumerism safely removed from nature; this would especially be true with the Pill that allowed men and women to indulge in sex far less fear of pregnancy.
The old pagan instinct rooted in the blood and soil of nature had long been lost. And when the Nietzsche and Nazis tried to revive it as a political ideology, it brought Europe to the brink of total ruin. So, what was left for European man? Marxism? But, for the intellectual and artistic class of Europe, the proletarian revolution and the situation in the USSR & Eastern Europe hardly offered a satisfying alternative. Some paid lip-service to the Revolution, but their were not there. So, what was left for modern Western Man at the end of this tether? This is the question raised in ZARDOZ as well. The Eternals have grown so decadent and apathetic that they no longer believe in their own ideology, creed, and project; but they’d also become so removed from the way of nature for so long that they, on their own, are incapable of reconnecting with the vitality of life. So, they turn to the brutality of the Exterminators who attack them, rape them, cut and gun them down. They seek deliverance by death. Western Civilization has reached this state. It has lost faith in itself. It no longer finds answers in its own civilization. Furthermore, Western folks are afraid to reconnect with their blood-and-soil roots to revitalize their souls and spirits. A people who’ve lost confidence and faith in their own civilization either try to reconnect with their barbaric past — as German nature-lovers, romantics, and neo-pagan visionaries did in the 19th century — , take up some radical utopian cause to reinvigorate their hopes and spirits, or turn to the exoticism and/or eroticism of another culture. Europeans cannot return to their own blood-and-soil since the prevailing ideology of PC deems that as ‘racist’ and ‘atavistic’. There used to be the faith in the future via Communism, Fascism, and National Socialism, but they all failed. There is still a radicalism at the core of the EU project, but there is no central idea, theme, or vision that matches the great ideological movements of the 20th century. Homomania and Holocaustianity are hardly unified or meaningful ideological visions for the future as Marxism had been for much of the 20th century. Bored, confused, shallow, and trashy, the West of the 21st century seeks vitality via the exoticism and/or eroticism of the non-West, especially the Negroes. Since Negroes are seen as the Holy Victim Race, their blood-and-soil and animal passions aren’t seen as ‘racist’ but as ‘progressive’. But the real attraction to Negromania has little to do with ideology and everything to do with white addiction to funky music, wild orgasmics, athletic prowess, and ultra-macho thuggery. Just as white Conservatives in the US have ‘outsourced’ their nationalism and racial consciousness to Israel, many white folks in America and EU have outsourced their animal/nature instincts to Negroes. And even as white folks feel certain trepidations about Islam, some Europeans welcome Muslims as a way to outsource their own defunct religious faith onto a religious culture that still seems robust and hale in its powerful faith. And since Western gentiles have been made to feel guilty about everything — and as so many great Western thinkers have been denounced and degraded as ‘dead white males’ — , they have outsourced all intellectual thought to Jews, homosexuals, and their allies. When a people are not allowed to think freely, feel freely, and act freely in their own interests, they feel constricted, dull, and lifeless. Yet, the yearnings of the Will-to-Power don’t go away. Since they cannot feel and practice those instincts and emotions for their own ‘racist’ interests, they ‘outsource’ them to other groups whose aggressions and self-interested agendas are still deemed permissible and justified. Such a dynamics can be found in the very nature of sports? Most guys want to be tough warriors and heroes. But most of them are not, so they project all their desires onto their sports ‘heroes’. So, even though the victory of the athlete has nothing to do with the spectator, the latter thinks ‘WE won’. Likewise, even though the victory of Israel has NOTHING to do with white Americans, the latter think ‘WE won’ whenever Jews destroy their enemies. And even though Negro males sexually conquering white women does nothing whatsoever for white male pride and dignity, white boys are into ‘cuckold culture’ and identify with Negroes doing their wives and/or girlfriends. The wombs of white women are the genetic products of 10,000s of years of evolution made possible by the sexual union of white men and white women. So, you’d think white men would like to see white women reserve their wombs for the creation of more white babies. But as increasing number of white women opt for interracism and refuse to carry white babies within their wombs that are reserved for the incubation of Negro/mulatto babies, the White West is facing something like the catastrophe at the end of ZARDOZ. Just look at all the wild-ass Negroes of black Africa ‘migrating’ to Europe in huge numbers. Every Negro penis seeks a white vagina, and since white women now grow up to ‘jungle music’ and interracist porn from a young age, the end of Europe isn’t far off. Of course, Jews see this as sweet revenge. They are cackling with glee over the racial downfall of Europe. The Eternals of ZARDOZ became trapped in their self-made world of radical idealism; they became divorced from healthy instinct. With intelligence, they gained great power and privilege, but they lost the sense of vitality that only comes with the connection to nature, physical and psychological. And since they completely lost the connection to nature, they lost the will to live. They couldn’t find the will within themselves and surrendered to the barbaric will of the Brutals/Exterminators, but of course, it could only mean death and destruction for the Eternals.
The Alternative, the true way of racial revitalization and survival, was shown in the great classic THE BIRTH OF A NATION. In that film, proud white men learn to be warriors who organize, unite, and fight against the ghastly Negroes who be running wild for watermelon and white pussy. White guys haven’t lost their racial pride, warrior soul, and natural possessiveness of their own women whose wombs must serve as the preservers of the white race. No invasion is as total as sexual invasion. After all, a people conquered in idea can still survive as a race. Pagan Europeans were conquered by the idea of Christianity, but they were still Europeans and their bodies, via sex, continued to produce Europeans. A people can be invaded by land and still not be conquered as a people. Jewish lands were conquered by the Romans, but Jews still made sure that Jewish wombs took Jewish seeds and produced Jewish babies. But when the women’s wombs are conquered and colonized by another people, it is finally the end for a people. (The mestizo-ization of Latin America led to the permanent downfall and powerlessness of the indigenous folks.) Worse, if the women of a nation or race willingly and happily surrender to the conquering men while rejecting their own men, then it is really over. And it appears that the white race is almost truly over. A race that elects a mulatto piece of turd like Obama(who is the product of a white race traitor sexually surrendering to a disgusting black Afro-jiver) is a race that doesn’t have a future. A race without a will to survive is no race at all. It is just waiting to be devoured and to die. It is like a paralyzed/immobile animal that is being devoured alive but unwilling to do anything about it because it has been made to believe that the devourment is a ‘good thing’. Given the greatness of the Western achievement and unique beauty & magnificence of the European race, there has never been a tragedy like this in all of history. But, of course, the ugly and nasty hideous Jews are cackling to their hearts’ content.

There is an element of self-restraint if not self-denial in the films of Antonioni. It can be found in the ending of L’AVVENTURA. The man fools around with yet another woman, which means that he has no trouble finding women, having a good time, and getting it on. He has no problem ‘communicating’ with other people. But when Monica Vitti’s character stumbles upon his ‘betrayal’ and flees from the scene, he stops smooching the new tart and goes after Vitti’s character. He becomes aware of the shallowness of his attachments and promises, spoken or unspoken. With the freedom and the new libertine spirit of modernism, he can certainly move around and have a good time, but what does it all amount to?
In LA DOLCE VITA, the guy indulges in all sorts of bacchanalia, and it is only on occasion that he feels something like a “buyer’s remorse”, but then not for long because he figures he should go have some more fun. Fellini wasn’t without some degree of trepidation about the New Affluence and New Decadence, but when push came to shove, he loved to revel in them. Antonioni, due to reasons of ideology, intellect, and/or personality/temperament, wasn’t as willing to let loose in the new order. There’s a frigid side to his women, an awkwardness to his men. Even the young photographer of BLOWUP, while casually carousing with two young women, doesn’t seem to really get into the act. Despite the nudity and romping, it is strangely sexless. He’s miming than really interacting in life.

Antonioni’s films are acutely aware/conscious of man’s uncertain condition, but because this consciousness ultimately connects with nothing, believes in nothing, and settles for nothing, it’s a philosophical and spiritual dead-end. This isn’t to fault Antonioni’s vision(that honestly conveyed his perspective on modernity) but merely to point out its limitation. The ending of L’ECLISSE is a tour-de-force of cinematic modernism, but it’s only a question mark with no answers. There is only the uncertainty principle, a sense of fragmentation of mind and matter than can never be made whole again. There’s a certain fascination, but the only choices for the audience is provocation, confusion, or boredom. (Stanley Kauffmann defended it; Dwight MacDonald derided it.) It’s not the kind of strangeness of, say Kafka, that could be pursued as a game even if it ultimately leads to no answers. There is an element of search and inquiry in the works of Kafka, whereas the films of Antonioni are ultimately about nothingness. The searches in THE TRIAL and THE CASTLE lead nowhere in the end, but they tantalize and fascinate, whereas even the act of searching itself — in L’AVVENTURA for example — become a mere excuse, an afterthought, for lives lived as non-sequiturs. Antonioni’s characters are disassociated from even the effort of searching; they are like space aliens stranded on a wrong planet and given up any hope of return. In L’AVVENTURA, neither the two main characters nor we care about the missing woman. We’re curious the moment she’s gone, but when the ironically titled ‘adventure’ begins, we don’t sense any kind of suspense, development, or connection. Each scene/moment exists independent of all the others.
It’s been oft-mentioned that the film was loudly booed at Cannes because it didn’t resolve the mystery of the missing women, but the audience missed the point because the subject of the missing woman was dropped almost as soon as the ‘adventure’ began. There was no need to wait to the end to realize that the ‘mystery’ didn’t matter since its centrality, let alone its urgency, had been long been abandoned.
It would actually have been more jarring if the missing woman showed up at the end or the truth as to her disappearance was revealed. Indeed, even the element of mystery became irrelevant to the story. There are stories where the mysteries are revealed, and there are stories where the mysteries are kept hidden to the very end, and that hidden-ness functions as a mind-teaser, provoking many possibilities. Consider the ending of David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ. In the end, we aren’t sure if the assassins are still in the game or not. Is Deckard in BLADE RUNNER a replicant or not? We don’t know for sure, and it matters that we remain sure. But the unsureness of the missing woman in L’AVVENTURA doesn’t matter at all; indeed, it had stopped mattering for quite sometime; therefore, if the audience at Cannes were upset over the lack of resolution to the mystery, they were simply watching it all wrong. Or, maybe they did ‘get’ what Antonioni was up to and found it all very painfully obvious, laborious, and pointless — like Pauline Kael and Dwight MacDonald did of Antoniioni’s subsequent films, though they both greatly admired L’AVVENTURA(probably because it was the first of its kind and because its experimentalism was balanced with genuine human characters and emotions, whereas the later ones became overly formalistic, conceptual, self-conscious, and mannerist; Antonioni came to pursue one aspect of his artistic obsession at the expense of ‘conventional’ human elements; Fellini fell into the a similar problem when he began to indulge in his own fantasy-scape at the expense of everything else; and of course, Terrence Malick took it to even further with TREE OF LIFE, one of the most self-absorbed, self-obsessed, and self-centered films ever made).

Antonioni had a powerful and profound way of saying, “I don’t know”, “I have no idear”, and “You got me”(what Benjamin says to his father while lying in the pool in THE GRADUATE), and while this outlook/attitude brought into focus the existential malady of the West of the late 50s and early 60s — and even became vogue via Hollywood films, such as the Mike Nichols film, that popularized it — , it couldn’t really lead anywhere, which is why Antonino’s films became less and less relevant and interesting to movie audiences. (They can be analyzed and interpreted but cannot be played as mind-games like the films of Alain Resnais, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and David Cronenberg.) After all, what can be learned from someone who admits he has no answers(and isn’t the most exciting film-maker in the world)? There’s a guest at the Warhol-Factory-like party in MIDNIGHT COWBOY who just says, “I don’t know, I don’t know,” and eventually, people tired of Antonioni’s “I don’t knows.” Certain artistic statements can be bold and important within the context of cultural and social history but end up as dead-ends. Some new things are fertile and can birth more things, whereas other new things, as striking as they may initially seem, turn out to be ultimately sterile and barren. It’s like the modernist painting that is all black. As a first try and novel statement, it may have value. But it’s not something that can inspire new ideas. This is why, as important as Antonioni is to film history, his imitators have mostly turned out to be useless.
As if Antonioni himself recognized the limitation of his vision/concept, he began to tour with it around the world as if it might regain freshness in different settings. It’s like a Rock star whose act has grown stale in his own nation may find eager abroad — like how Bill Haley, already passe in the States, was greeted as a sensation in Great Britain. (That his Italian films had their biggest defenders outside Italy may haven encouraged Antonioni’s wanderlust.) Antonioni began his world tour by making a film in the U.K. called BLOW-UP set in what was then ‘Swinging London’. It had the same ennui of the earlier films — it was like beating a dead horse — but with the adding elements of youth culture, stronger sexual content, and elements of murder mystery. Thereby, it wandered partly away from the usual theme of confusion-and-boredom-of-modernity that had become Antonioni’s bread-and-butter in L’AVVENTURA, LA NOTTE, L’ECLISSE, and RED DESERT(which even Antonioni fans will have to admit is something of a drag). BLOWUP was slicked and spiked up a bit, but in the end, it led to the same shoulder-shrugging of “I don’t know.” It was as if Antonioni was saying that the main character, we the audience, and he the artist need the ‘colorful’ distractions of the story/situation/narrative because our lives are so without meaning and purpose. Perhaps, even our need to see movies is just that: to ‘feel’ connected to something because of the overwhelming fact that we are connected to nothing, especially as modernity has no organic connection to anything. The value of the murder mystery to the photographer in BLOWUP was that it gave him ‘something to do’, something for his mind to wrap around because, otherwise, there would only be boredom and vapidity. Even the male revolutionary in ZABRISKIE POINT seems to have taken up arms not out of any real conviction but because he needs ‘something to do’ in a world where nothing seems worth doing, where nothing offers a compelling reason for us to exist in the first place. We create diversions and we destroy diversions not because they really make sense to us but because we constantly need ‘something to do’ to stave off the emptiness and boredom; but we mistake this need for diversion as ‘conviction’. The young woman’s fantasy of radical destruction in the final scene of the film seems more like revolutionary shopping spree of nihilism than any meaningful act. It’s as if modern man, even as radical, rebels not out of meaningful conviction for a better future but to fend off the sheer pointlessness of life that has been cut off from any vision of timeless truth.

BLOW UP – Murder caught on film?
ZABRISKIE POINT – Explosion Fantasy

It is then no wonder that, even as our society become less religious and more ‘secular’, the spiritual visions of Carl Dreyer, Robert Bresson, and Andrei Tarkovsky have come to be favored over the existential debility of Antonioni who diagnosed the symptoms of the modern malady but offered no solutions or even a vision of a solution. In the final scene of BLOW-UP, the David Hemmings character seems in sync with the modern condition. He is more coolly accepting of his state than the troubled characters of Antonioni’s earlier films — all the more remarkable because he may have captured a murder on film but was foiled in his attempt to solve the mystery. (This was a time when European streets, especially in Northern Europe, were so safe that one could idly philosophize as to whether an act of murder or violence took place or not. There’s no need for such fantasizing in today’s Europe where rape, robbery, and other forms of violence are quite common throughout Europe thanks to the arrival of massive hordes of black Africans.) At the very least, the characters of earlier Antonioni films felt troubled and ill-at-ease(and even resisted a little) in a modern world bereft of heartfelt attachments, genuine faith, and sense of roots. In contrast, the Hemmings character seems unfazed by the meaninglessness of it all. Does his life have purpose or not? Did he witness a murder or didn’t he? Did the murderers vandalize his place and steal the evidence? In the end, he doesn’t seem to care one way or another. BLOW-UP, like THE GRADUATE that came a year later, was one of the key films of the so-called Film Generation, but its star has faded over the years because it projects an attitude(or at best a sensibility) but presents no vision, no truth, no meaning. It’s one thing for an artist to admit that the truth is beyond his grasp but that he still reaches for it, but it’s quite another for him to say there is no truth, he’s come to an dead-end, and it’s all pointless. If he feels that way, why keep on making films? Why go on living? Why not, like Steiner in LA DOLCE VITA, just kill oneself?
In a way, both Fellini and Antonioni came to a dead-end if for different reasons. Fellini was a man of huge ego, a natural storyteller & liar(very entertaining one), a reveler & charlatan; but, at least up to 8 ½ , he’d balanced his megalomania with big colorful characters(whose willful personalities held their own against Fellini’s), maintained a degree of realism against tendency toward fantasy, and nurtured a measure of doubt & remorse that restrained over-confidence.
So, conscientious characters(like Moraldo in I VITELLONI) and conscientious moments(like when Zampano in LA STRADA is finally overcome with grief), fleeting and far between as they may be, offered glimpses of the life that could have been away from the rambunctious but meaningless distractions and compromises of life. But the ending of 8 ½ signified Fellini’s desire to let go of all his inhibitions and fly off freely with unfettered imagination. His later films became like THE FANTASTIC VOYAGE where a mini-submarine enters the bloodstream of a patient and explores the workings of his body. In treating his own mind as the only universe worth exploring, Fellini’s talent shrunk to the size of a flea. Though still capable of some remarkable passages in films like FELLINI SATYRICON, FELLINI ROMA, and AMARCORD, there was no more progress, no more exploration, no more curiosity in anything but his own ego-driven self-monumentalizing fantasies. When an artist comes to conflate his ego with genius itself, he ends up making films like the later Fellini, Terry Gilliam, and Terrence Malick of THE NEW WORLD and especially the godawful TREE OF LIFE. It was as if Fellini entered Fellini like John Malkovich entered Malkovich in BEING JOHN MALKOVICH. Every character became just a pasty sockpuppet or cut-out comic toy of Fellini than an individual in his or her own right, like the wonderful full-bloodied characters who enliven THE WHITE SHEIK, I VITELLONI, NIGHTS OF CABIRIA, IL BIDONE, and etc. It was also the unfortunate result of the rise of ‘auteur’-ism or maestro-ism that made a cult out of the film director as THE creator of the film than as the main contributor to the whole work. A circus ringleader must allow others to do their thing, and get out of their way. He has to lead them and guide them, but he is not everything, and Fellini understood this in his earlier films. As Orson Welles said, characterization and acting are very important to film, but the cult of auteur-ism and maestro-ism emboldened some directors to emphasize their vision, design, concept, and/or grandeur at the expense of all else. So, Pier Paolo Pasolini began to dispense with anything that could be called acting in the late 60s. Fellini no longer has any use for ‘conventional’ characters that were recognizably human or individualistic. Everyone in AMARCORD is a type, caricature, puppet, clown, or cut-out. In 8 ½, the all-too-human young boys see a giant caricature of whore on the beach, but in AMARCORD, the young boys are no less caricatures than the fat gross lady with big breasts. In 8 ½, even Saraghina the whore caricature is given a moment of grace when her individuality shines through, but everyone is non-stop ridiculous in AMARCORD and most of Fellini’s later films. If the director’s vision is powerful, rich, and potent enough, it can override the more ‘conventional’ use of actors & characters, and this was true enough in the films of Robert Bresson, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and BARRY LYNDON, Jacques Tati’s PLAYTIME, and Andrei Tarkovsky & Michelangelo Antonioni at their best. But this was deadly for Fellini because his films thrived on colorfulness and vividness, and nothing is more colorful and vivid than human personalities. Indeed, a single standup can bring the house down. So, for Fellini’s films to work, he had to be generous and share the stage with powerfully realized actors. It was a terrible idea to use his actors as mere projections of his fantasies. No matter how crazily and loudly they acted in the later films, they were dull and dreary because they lacked individuality and merely went through the motions of sockpuppets controlled by an ego out of control.
But then, Antonioni also hit a brick wall because he gave up searching for the truth. In L’AVVENTURA, the man and woman stop searching for their friend. The couple settle for ‘love’ without love at the end of LA NOTTE. As for L’ECLISSE, the ending is just a question mark. It’s as if Antonioni decided there’s no point to life. Since there was no longer any truth to be found within oneself, in the past, or in any hope for the future, the only thing left for Antonioni was to travel. So, his next three films were made in the UK(BLOW-UP), the US(ZABRISKIE POINT), and SPAIN(THE PASSENGER). But the different locales were just distractions from the truth that there is no truth. Like the ‘adventure’ in L’AVVENTURA, it didn’t lead anywhere since there was no truth to be found. Life was made bearable only by the the distraction from the lack of truth that rendered everything boring and pointless. In all three films, the characters even try to distract themselves from their own lack of meaning by taking on the narratives or identities of others. The guy in BLOW-UP is a photographer who ‘steals’ the images of others. His interest in the possible murder has less to do with any moral concern than that its narrative offers his respite from his zombie-like existence. In ZABRISKIE POINT, the would-be revolutionary steals an airplane, and after he dies, the young woman ‘appropriates’ his radicalism — though she has no idea what it’s about — and fantasizes about blowing up the mansion of the bourgeoisie. In THE PASSENGER, a character literally steals the identity of someone else to escape from himself. (And of course, it could be said that Antonioni ‘stole’ their identities.) Things happen in all three films, but there’s also a feeling of emptiness because everything that happens is a mere distraction from the emptiness. Antonioni gave up trying to deal with or fill up the emptiness. It was just there, stretching out forever like the desert in ZABRISKIE POINT, and one could, at best, only induce momentary self-amnesias and find new distractions to alleviate one’s sense of alienation from the modern world. This attitude seemed ‘mod’ for awhile, but it also grew tiresome for many viewers. Even critics began to give up on Antonioni, especially beginning with ZABRISKIE POINT — it must, however, be pointed out that his Italian films were more appreciated outside Italy, his British film was more appreciated outside the UK, and his American film was more appreciated outside the US.

Though Antonioni is still considered a giant — rightly so — , and his films are still watched, they are discussed as much as they used to be. They are treated more like museum pieces that living art that still speaks to us. This is in striking contrast to the 1960s when, within two years of its release, L’AVVENTURA was #2 in the ‘greatest films’ in the Sight and Sound Poll. For some time, it was also the most written-about and discussed film after CITIZEN KANE. But then, most people in the film community lost interest in Antonioni — of course there are diehards — , and young cinephiles will trudge through his films more out of sense of obligation than genuine interest or fascination. This may seem counterfactual given that so many films favored by film festivals owe something to Antonioni’s approach and sensibility. Consider all the praise heaped on the likes of Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Theo Angelopoulous, Bruno Dumont, and many others. And one of Godard’s most praised films LE MEPRIS, owes something to Antonioni. And if the first big names of Mainland Chinese cinema worked in the dramatic/humanist vein, they were followed by the more subdued styles of film-makers who seemed to owe more to likes of Antonioni than to the likes of Vittorio DeSica or Akira Kurosawa. But seriously, most people don’t enjoy Hou or Angelopoulos. Most people who pretend to like them do so out of sense of obligation since their nerdy critical mentors have touted them so often — same goes for the ludicrous reverence for the dreadful JEANNE DIELMAN, easily the worst film of all time. But no one really enjoys them because, let’s face it, they are dead-end cinema.

In contrast, there is a striving for meaning & depth and a vision of the sacred & transcendental in the films of Andrei Tarkovsky. There is a sense of the search for the Grail even if it remains beyond attainment. Tarkovsky had a rapport with nature, with the vision of the motherland, deep appreciation of his parents, historical memory, and spiritual connection to Christianity. He had a sense of tragedy that connected the mundane present with the scars of history and/or personal biography. It was the opposite of the sensibility of amnesia so dominant in the films of Antonioni. Also, if Antonioni’s resistance against amnesia was futile because of lack of any meaningful connection to tradition and the past, Tarkovsky felt a deep spiritual connection with everything about Russia, intimate and grand. His mind was filled with reflections about his father and mother. In THE MIRROR, there’s something about Russia as the bulwark against the terrible Mongol horde whose modern-day equivalents are the rabid Chinese Maoists pushing against the borderlands of mystical Russia. Unlike the Eternal-like(of ZARDOZ) modern decadents of Antonioni films who lack the will to defend their civilization — why defend something one doesn’t even believe in? — , the Russians of Tarkovsky’s vision do want to defend and preserve Mother Russia(from both threats from the West like the Nazis of IVAN’S CHILDHOOD and threats from the East like the vile & cruel dog-eating yellow hordes shown in ANDREI RUBLEV and THE MIRROR). Even in exile in NOSTALGHIA, the Russian writer never forgets whence he came. His memories fill his dreams. If he is alienated from anything, it is from the atomized modern individualism where one’s existence is little else beyond individual whims and desires that lack depth and attachment. Tarkovsky understood the separation and unity of nature and spirituality. Nature is raw and violent, and spirituality is about transcending the animalism of man. But nature was also timeless, beautiful, and pure according to its ways and rhythms. In SOLARIS, the nature of another planet even seems to have a mind. (Though based on Stanislaw Lem’s novel, Tarkovsky’s adaptation is less conceptual and more organicist.) Nature cannot be corrupt like civilization. It can be terrifying to mankind, but then, nature didn’t exist to accommodate man at every turn. For man to act as though nature exists only to cater to his wants and needs would be vanity and hubris. Likewise, God doesn’t exist to make everything easy for man either. Nature had its own ‘pure’ rules, and God had His own ‘pure’ design, and man is caught between the mysterious chaos of one and the mysterious order of the other. God inspires man to build cathedrals and art apart from nature, and nature seeks to reclaim everything built by man back unto itself. One makes us strive toward Heaven, the other pulls us back to the soil. And yet, both are pure in the way man can never be. Man is a creature that has rejected nature, but he is also still an animal that can never become God; indeed, man cannot even live up to his own ideals, as the history of communism amply demonstrated. And so, man is ‘corrupt’ because he can’t return to nature and be part of nature like all the plants & animals, mountains & rivers. And he can’t become the equal of God either. He is too elevated for earth, too lowly for heaven. And yet, within that limbo-state of man’s imperfection, impurity, and corruption, there is also a tragic quality that is missing in nature and in God. And sublimity is to be found not in purity and absolutes but in the alchemy of apparent opposites and contradictions. Sublimity is paradoxical by nature, and it could be said man is more pure(or purist) than nature and God because he must struggle for every ounce of purity he attains. Man can never take purity for granted.

THE MIRROR
NOSTALGHIA

Likewise, the power-one-strives-for has more the feel of power than power one can take for granted. If anyone can lift 500 lbs like a feather, it would be great power but it wouldn’t feel like great power. In gravity-free outer-space, you can ‘lift’ amazing amounts of weight, but it doesn’t feel like power because it’s too easy. In contrast, consider the effort that went into raising the bell in ANDREI RUBLEV. Nature is simply what it is, and God is the ultimate in power and eternity; nature doesn’t consciously strain/struggle for power, and God is effortless in His power. But man must always struggle for power, with power, against power. In this struggle, he can become beastly like an animal, dogmatic like a clergyman, or cynical like modern man. But he may also come upon hidden sacred spaces where nature and spirituality exist as an amalgam that transcends or harmonizes their apparently opposing natures, and in some ways, this strange union of the two realms has a power beyond either nature or spirit. Consider the church ruins superimposed against nature in NOSTALGHIA . Consider the erosive/corrosive effect of the natural elements on works of art, such as painting, sculpture, and architecture, through the relentless and ruthless digestive process of time in the final scene(in color) in ANDREI RUBLEV. Consider the Zone in STALKER where all the man-made buildings and objects are being drowned, dissolved, and reclaimed by nature — like the towns and villages to be flooded in DELIVERANCE by James Dickey & John Boorman. The tragedy of man’s ideal creations, spiritual or secular, disintegrating and being eroded by nature should be depressing, and yet there is a sacred, even triumphal, chord to the process as well. Yes, all of man’s creations will eventually be lost, but the process of loss also entails the re-unity of nature, man, and spirit. Nature provides the raw material for man’s creativity, and man creates ideal and ‘higher’ things as he strives for God and reason. And yet, in the process of man’s ideal creations being reclaimed gradually and organically by nature, it’s as if nature, man, and spirit are united as in a Brahmaic dream.
Water is the obvious motif of this process of reharmonization. Water flows throughout STALKER and NOSTALGHIA as the stuff of nature, man, and spirit. It is the ocean planet in SOLARIS that facilitates the momentary convergences of the natural, the material, the psychological, the personal, the rational, and the spiritual. It is the source and the destiny of everything. This sense of ‘impure purism’ comes more naturally to Eastern Europeans, especially Russians, than to Western Europeans — though Germans, having retained more of their pagan spirit — had some of it too, at least in the 19th century. As Russia was so vast, it was less totally settled and well-ordered as the smaller nations to the West. Also, as the Russian character was more slovenly and bearish, the Russians never became so well-mannered, impeccable, and disciplined as Western Europeans. This kept them more natural, especially as they were swilling excessive amounts of vodka, dancing on tables, and wrestling with bears. Also, as Russians took up Orthodox Religion that was heavy in ritualism and fatalism of the world-as-is, Russians became less idealistic than Northern Europeans Protestants and even Latin Catholics. Russian Orthodox Church, at one time, even opposed antibiotics to syphilis because it was thought to negate just punishment or moral consequence of sinful behavior, but I suspect the Church also saw such medical progress as an affront to the natural way of things.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY – Space Station
SOLARIS – Space Station

One of Tarkovsky’s complaints about 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was its perfectionist antisepticism, as if indeed man could create and maintain an artificial environment of perfect order — though, to be sure, the order in Kubrick’s universe, as in Tati’s PLAYTIME, eventually breaks down.
Of course, Kubrick’s vision of the future was hardly a utopian ideal, but Tarkovsky found it too picture-perfect and idealized despite the overall skeptical tone of the film on the limitations of man. Tarkovsky’s preferred vision of the world was one of ceaseless disintegration of clutter into clay. In SOLARIS, the technology and machinery seem to be falling apart piecemeal by piecemeal. At the end of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, David Bowman undergoes a transformation that places him in a state of near-total order(some French palatial retreat in space) and then to cosmic rebirth whereupon his reincarnated self looks like the most perfect baby one can imagine(or like the guy in HAROLD AND MAUDE). It’s like a prototype of new mankind perfected by the forces of the perfect Monolith. (If ape-men were the raw material for the evolution of man, mankind was the raw material for the rise of new man, the reconstituted Bowman debugged of all the faults of mankind.) It’s as if there is a perfect and exact design to the cosmos, and the superior beings of the Monolith represent this quality. Though the Stargate scenes looks like a maelstrom of chaos, actually it appears to be a calculated process — intelligible to the extraterrestrials, gibberish to us — whereby Bowman is being transformed from a mere man to a higher human in tune with the order the universe as by the Monolith. David Bowman is helpless before this power, but he is also taking a proactive role for he is the one who is being ‘improved’, ‘saved’, and ‘recreated’ into a higher being who may spearhead the next evolutionary leap for mankind. Bowman does participate even though he doesn’t have a choice, and his new self will play a role that will be as momentous as the role of the Moon Watcher ape who realized the power of the tool. As Bowman shall have an active and creative role in his own future, his is not a case of resignation to the world. He is about redesigning the world to take it to a higher level.
In contrast, the final note of SOLARIS is resignation(as in the acceptance of the harmony of nature and spirituality, not in the loss of hope and trust, like in the ending of Cormac Mccarthy’s THE COUNSELOR, a resignation to hell-on-earth). The astronaut-scientist gives up trying to understand or alter the planet Solaris or all the things that has happened to him since his arrival in the space station. And it’s as if the planet has no higher intention or vision for mankind. It is not a cosmic repository of some ultimate plan for humanity. The strange planet is like both the most primordial and the most advanced thing in the universe. It feeds on and digests the thoughts, dreams, fantasies, and anxieties of humans a giant stomach-brain. The process seems to have no rhyme or reason, no clear purpose. It just does what it does, just like the stomach unthinkingly produces all kinds of acids and enzymes to break down food stuff into molecules. And yet, because its process feeds on human minds and souls, one cannot help thinking that the process is also meditative, philosophical, and/or spiritual. Does it do what it does unthinkingly or thinkingly? We know parrots repeat what we say without knowing the meaning of the words. And we can program computers to mimic human logic without being conscious of what they’re doing and why. After all, even today with all the talk of artificial intelligence, there isn’t a single computer in the world with a mind of its own. Deep Blue may beat the best human chess player, but it still has no idea what it is doing since it has no consciousness. Lacking such, it has no vision, no plan, no design. And life began without consciousness as mere molecules beginning to replicate themselves and then by producing the DNA that made the process more efficient and prolific. It all happened without life knowing why, and indeed, it wasn’t until the rise of modern man that organisms began to wonder the ‘why’ of things and began to live life in accordance to his vision/design. Until that moment in the story of life when a form of life finally began to consciously control and order itself, life on earth had been like the process of the planet of Solaris. Life just functioned in accordance to its innate programming. Indeed, apart from us, most of life still acts that way. Even the most intelligent animals only follow their programming without knowing or asking why. And Negroes in Africa still act like, which is why they’re all about fighting and fuc*ing that seem to the main codes in their DNA. To be sure, f-and-f are the main codes in all human DNA code, but the non-Negro races, especially white folks, tend to think more about the ‘why’ of stuff than Negroes do. But then, this isn’t always a good thing because the question of ‘why’ tends to make life self-conscious, and a self-conscious life loses its vitality in being overcome with too many questions and being dispirited by the realization of the lack of meaning to most things. After all, Buddhism is about the self-annihilation of life and existence.
At any rate the planet of Solaris is especially fascinating for embodying both the most elemental/primordial and the most sophisticated/advanced properties of life. Its processes seem natural than mediated. It’s like the pods in THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and the creature in John Carpenter’s THE THING are, at their root, unthinking beings. (Of course, much about human life is also unthinking. Our brains functions even when we don’t use them consciously. Our hearts beat to their own accord. Our lungs, livers, pancreas, bladder, and etc. all function beyond our control. This is why the theme of suicide is fraught with much suspense in the arts. We can’t just shut off our hearts. Life must be ended by conscious-physical violence against the body. We can’t simply choose to stop living by conscious choice or will. We consciously choose what foods to eat but the process of digestion is beyond our power. Some people have the runs, and some people are constipated, and in both cases, it’s beyond the control of the shitters as different people have different digestive rhythms. And even though people consciously choose to have sex, their sexual drives are beyond their conscious control. It’s like Beavis feels the ‘boing’. It’s like Amanda Marcotte the hussy strumpet can’t help herself. And the sperm and the egg have no idear what they are doing when they get together to form into life. Indeed, before we mature into sentient creatures with some degree of self-control and free will, we are the products of processes we have little or no control of. Before we become reasonably individualistic and independent, we are like the pod people. Toddlers are podlers. And in some cultures that suppress individuality and impose the cult of correctness, be it religious or ideological, even adults are ‘podern’ than modern.) The pod people in INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHEERS, without thought, will mimic nearby humans(and maybe other mammals) who are asleep. The pods act like invasive plants acting in accordance to their innate programming, but then, pod people do seem to ‘think’ like human beings, albeit without emotions(except in their fanatical ‘passion’ to turn everyone into someone like them; it’s like PC secularists pretend to be about reason over emotions, but they get viciously riled up about turning everyone into a mind-clone of themselves). And even though they have the power of perception and cognition, they only seem to think in one way, ‘think’ alike, and believe in the necessity of turning everyone into a pod person as well. So, are they really thinking or are their brains merely mimicking the process of human thought(as a bee-like ‘hive mind-set’) while denying the possibility of independent thought?

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)directed by Donald Segal
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS(1978) directed by Philip Kaufman
BODY SNATCHERS(1993) directed by Abel Ferrara

But then, maybe individuality can only be found outside thought because all truly logical thought must arrive at the same correct conclusion. After all, if everyone does a math calculation correctly, he will arrive at the same answer. The only way one can be different is to come up with the wrong answer by miscalculating or by using a different method calculation what is faulty. We associate thinking with individuality because it takes conscious will to think, but if all people could really think equally logically, they would arrive at the same conclusion, in which case thinking would be about consensus, agreement, and conformity. In such a world, one would have to think wrongly be to different and individualistic. In this sense, one could argue that the pod people in THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHER are indeed thinking correctly, and they have the right ideas for creating and running a peaceful society of equal justice for all. They live together in harmony and, even though, their lack of emotions seem inhuman, one could counter that it improves their thinking since emotions are often an hindrance to thinking because, after all, emotions are often about fear, anxiety, ego, greed, hate, hostility, suspicion, envy, resentment, narcissism, egomania, megalomania, craziness, lust, and etc. Without emotions, people’s minds will be calmer, and they are more likely to agree on the truth as their thoughts will not be clouded by emotions and egotism. And many of today’s Liberals seem to feel this way. They think they are factual, rational, empirical, and scientific. They think they are so true and correct that there’s no more need for debate — ‘the debate is over’ and that’s that — since those who disagree with them are seen as either resisting necessary change, stalling the inevitable, too dumb for even consideration(and should be shut up for ‘hate speech’), or just plain crazy. Some Liberals say that those who ‘deny’ Global Warming should be treated like ‘Holocaust Deniers’. Some Liberals say certain topics or views shouldn’t even be broached because they are ‘unacceptable’. Some say there’s no need to discuss the matter any further since the ‘debate is over’. We are told that all rational, sane, and decent people have to be on the side of ‘gay marriage’, and if you disagree, you must be a member of the Westboro Church, a mouth-breathing Christian Rightist who thinks Earth is 6,000 yrs old, or a mentally ill ‘homophobe’. As Jews control the media, government, finance, education, and nearly all the politicians, even people who know better just choose to shut up out of fear lest their careers be damaged. As for those who speak up, they don’t have the power or means to be heard. Even though Liberals claim to be rational and factual, their sense of correctness makes them rabid and virulent in their righteousness. Some even become as murderous as HAL the computer in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY that thinks truth and facts are entirely on its side, indeed so much so that it has the right to terminate any who might disagree or try to disprove it.
Oftentimes, the emotions of righteousness come to override the sense of rightness. If initially, many liberals did feel that science, facts, data, and truth were on their side — especially as so many conservatives were mindlessly mired in archaic tradition, religion, and stodgy prejudices — , many liberals became more enamored of their self-righteous moral narcissism and cult of ‘white guilt’ than in facts, truth, and reasons. If initially liberalism was championed for its greater concern for reason and science — and understandably so as conservatives tended to stick with old truisms without critical re-examination — , it eventually came to be championed for its holier-than-thou than smarter-than-thou attitudes.

At one point, the sense of rightness and sense of righteousness went hand in hand. But over time, as more and more of Liberal orthodoxies came to be undermined and/or discredited by mounting evidence, Liberalism turned into a ritual of screaming, shouting, accusing, and tarring-and-feathering so that free thinkers wouldn’t even dare invoke superior facts, truth, and reason to discredit Liberal sense of rightness. (After all, if the rightness is lost, the factual basis for righteousness will be lost. For religious folks, righteousness is beyond factual rightness since their sense of truth is based on faith. In contrast, the secularism of Liberals premises its sense of righteousness on factual rightness. So, if Liberals lose the war of rightness, they may well lose the very foundation of their righteousness.) Growing more desperate, Liberals even began to argue that righteousness mattered more than rightness. So, anthropology departments gave up on claim to science since new data on DNA went against the favored ideology that ‘race is a social construct’. And there are Jewish professors who say that certain issues shouldn’t even be discussed even if such may be true because they are too ‘dangerous’ and people are too dumb to understand them properly. And on the ‘gay marriage’ issue, there hasn’t been any meaningful debate at all. Those in favor of it just kept insisting that they are ‘rational’ over and over without demonstrating why while, at the same time, using their monopoly media/academia power to defame and destroy anyone who argued otherwise. And they employed a lot of fanfare, pageantry, pop culture icons & idols, celebrity promotion, symbols, and massive rallies, none of which has anything to do with reason, thought, facts, or sense. After all, a thousand or even a million ‘gay pride’ parades cannot disprove that fact that the male anus is NOT a sex organ and that a fake vagina of a transvestite is NOT a real vagina. ‘Gay marriage’ was promoted in the US like the cult of the ‘great leader’ was promoted in communist nations. It was a form of hysteria backed with muscle of politics, finance, threats to politicians, blacklisting, legal bullying, and etc. And even though Jews were the main pushers of the agenda — in both the Democratic and Republican parties — , American Conservatism Inc. diverted the main attention of American Conservatives to issues about Israel, Iran, and Russia, indeed some even going so far as to suggest that the homo ‘rainbow’ is the ‘new red, white, and blue’. Some Neocon scumbags say we should hate on Russia because it doesn’t allow massive homo rallies(which are actually Jewish Supremacist victory parades by proxy)on Red Square. And scum suckers who fell for this out of intimidation, brainwashing, hysteria, or cowardice didn’t use their brain cells since none were necessary. It was all about waving the ‘gay’ flag at homo rallies and screaming like tards and feeling good about oneself because one’s view on ‘gay marriage’ is in tune with the predilections of Oprah, Miley Cyrus, Obama, Tim Cook, Elton John, Ellen Degeneris, and etc. So, in America, despite the Liberal conceit of being rational and factual, it was never the case that Political Correctness ‘won the culture war’ because its ideas, views, and values were impeccably on the side of facts, truth, and reasons. If anything, the level of hysteria, mania, lunacy, and panic so intrinsic to Political Correctness is proof that many Liberals, deep in their hearts, feel insecure about their core convictions. Sure, their rabidity is genuine, and they think they’re correct, but there must be times when they look around the world and see that reality doesn’t conform to their ridiculous views. So, what are they to do? They must constantly resort to hype and hysteria while, at the same time, claiming that their sense of truth and justice are totally grounded in facts and reason. (Liberals can get away with so much since they hold the whip hand over the Conservatives. Because of the cults of anti-‘racism’, anti-‘homophobia’, and the rest of that crap, the forces on the Right are afraid to present all the facts on their own side. Look what happened to Stephanie Grace over mere emails about race; she was outed by a Jewess. Consider what happened to Jason Richwine[outed by a Jewess] and James Watson. And even diehard Liberals like Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez got in hot water for noticing Jewish power. Look at the German-exchange student harassed by rape-accuser Emma Sulkowicz, another vile Jewess. Notice that the biggest snitches and witch-hunters are Jews and Jewesses. An American Conservative is someone who fears Jewish Liberals more than he loves facts and truth. American Conservatism is essentially about ‘how to woo Jews to the GOP to win more elections with cash donations from the likes of Sheldon Adelson’. That’s about the gist of it. Since it chose political expediency over truth, American Conservatism is hardly a champion of truth. Indeed, more often than not, American Conservative argument against Liberals goes, “we are actually better Liberals than you are because you guys are the ‘real racists’ by supporting stuff like abortion that kills so many black babies.”) Liberalism grows ever less truthful, factual, and reasonable by the day because its core premise of what constitutes truth revolves around the Identity of Victim-hood. The problem is one person’s victim-hood is another person’s oppressor-hood. Jewish Zionists claim they are the poor victims in the Israel/Palestinian conflict, but there are plenty of Leftists and/or People of Color advocates who might see things differently. Though homos gained political leeway by presenting themselves as members of a victim-group, it might not be long before the true representatives of the underclass and non-whites begin to notice that homo power is essentially white and connected to the 1% of the ruling class of America. Indeed, homo power gained great traction as being the one permissible form of white power in the ‘progressive’ community. As the ‘anti-gay’ or pro-true-sexual position was associated with ‘racist’ and ‘sexist’ white American Conservatives, many non-whites, feminists & women, and Jews knee-jerkedly offered their support and protection to the overwhelmingly white homo community. Even though black and other non-white groups weren’t exactly enthused about homos, they supported the pro-homo party of the Democrats out of their hatred of White Conservative GOP. So, white homos got the best of both worlds: they got protection from non-white ‘victim’ groups, the blessings of the feminists, and the protection of super-rich Jews. They could wear the badge of ‘victim-hood’ and have access to the world of privilege dominated by Jews. Imagine having both ‘white privilege’ and ‘holy victim-hood’. Homos, like Jews, got both, and as a result, became co-rulers of America alongside the Jewish oligarchs.
It was always about the power of the Jewish elites who cleverly manipulated ideas and images to dupe most Americans into sheeple-hood. In a way, the PC people are worse than the Pod People in THE INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. Though pod people creep us out, they are correct in a way. Their social order really works. They practice what they preach to maximum harmony, equality, and peace. They act according to programming than individual thought, but there’s no fault in their logic. For a society to maximize harmony, order, and peace, the Pod Way is the right way. In contrast, PC crowd don’t even agree on the same sets of ‘facts’ and ‘truths’. Blacks are under the delusion that white cops/folks are going around murdering innocent black people. College girls are under the impression that 1 out of 4 college girls are raped on campus by blonde crypto-Nazis. ‘Millennials’ are under the impression that 25% of Americans are homosexual. Jewish Liberals are under the impression that they are ‘victims’ whose tremendous power and wealth shouldn’t be conflated with ‘white privilege’ — I agree, it should be called ‘Jewish Privilege’, which is the real privilege in America. Liberals say there are no racial differences but make their own decisions — residence, education, sex, work, etc. — based on awareness of the very racial differences that they deny. Some feminists are offended by the notion that trannies’ fake vaginas are real vaginas, and trannies, in turn, are offended by feminists who refuse to acknowledge them as real women. The whole thing is ridiculous, and there’s no consistent logic or world-view to this craziness. At least there is a core consistency to the logic of the Pod People. And the Pods practice what they preach.
Most Liberals, Jews, homos, People of Color, and feminists talk the talk but don’t walk the walk.
They just project all their hypocrisies on the bogeyman of ‘white conservative male privilege’ even though Wall Street, Las Vegas, Harvard, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and other oligarchic industries are run by Jews and super-rich Democrats.
Also, the Pod People are incapable of lying to one another — though they do tactically lie to humans — , whereas Liberals, Jews, homos, Negroes, and etc. lie to one another all the time. Especially as the new Liberalism is associated with CEOcracy whose idea of ‘equality’ and ‘justice’ amounts to forcing every baker, pizzeria, flower shop, and photography studio to servicing ‘gay marriage’, what does it have to do with the needs of most people? A lot of these CEO’s are, of course, Jewish, and their insistence that all the straight people bend over to the homo agenda is really about their desire to see all gentiles kneel before Jewish power. Jews feel that majority straight folks’ obedience to the homo minority elites is complementary to majority gentile folks’ servility to Jewish minority elites. Jews fear that if the majority straight people wake up and rise up against homo minority elites, then it might encourage majority gentile folks to wake up and rise up against Jewish minority elites. This is why Jews got so angry about Russia’s pro-true-sexual policies. It is too straight, too goy, too Christian, too ‘white nationalist’. It doesn’t bow down to the likes of Masha Gessen the vile disgusting lesbian Jewess.

THE THING – John Carpenter (1982)

The creature in THE THING is also unthinking and thinking. Its basic core is a cellular code that takes over other organism and mimics them. So, just a few cells of that stuff can take over an organism. It can act like a virus or bacteria that infects and spreads without consciousness. But once the thing morphs into the full-bodied duplication of the host, it can consciously strategize its program. For example, the Thing can take on the form of gooey liquid — obviously a life-form without a brain — and then take over a host such as a dog or a human. Once it takes over the body of a human or dog, it is able to use the host’s brains to serve its program. The Thing acts without thought, but it can also ‘think’. But the Thing-acting-without-thought and the Thing-acting-with-thought follow the same program. If indeed the Thing can think, why does it ‘think’ only in one way: to spread the agenda to take over all other organisms? After all, isn’t thinking about ‘free will’? If the Thing can think, why can’t it think to stop acting like the Thing?
We know why viruses and bacteria act they way they do. They just keep spreading as much as possible because that’s all they’re programmed to do. They weren’t meant to do anything else. They don’t have a choice in the matter because they act according to genetic programming, and that’s that. In contrast, the human mind has choices. It can choose to do or not do something. Or a person who thinks in one way or is liable to do something can be made to think in another way or persuaded or pressured to do something else. So, there is no absolute certainty when it comes to creatures with consciousness and intelligence. Virus will always act like viruses, but humans will not always act in one way. So, how strange that the Thing-with-a-human-mind, like the pod people, is only capable of acting in one way EVEN THOUGH it has obtained the rational capacity to ‘think’ things over like a human. If the Thing mimics an amoeba, it can’t think because amoebas don’t have brains. But if the Thing mimics a human, it obtains the human brain or a replacement that functions like a human brain. And it indeed it can use human language and human reason. And yet, the Thing-as-amoeba and the Thing-as-human are fundamentally the same in acting ultimately to serve its program of total invasion and takeover of all life-forms. (Incidentally, what would happen if the Thing were indeed to take over all life-forms? Would all creatures, as manifestations of the Thing, stop killing one another and live together in harmony?) Are we to assume that the minds of the Thing-as-humans are not really minds? They are just facsimiles of human brains but with entirely different functionality? Perhaps, they don’t even possess consciousness but only create the impression of such to others around them. Perhaps they are like artificial-intelligence computer programs that only create the impression of real self-awareness. After all, there have been some computer programs that converse with people and ‘act’ as if they possess minds-of-their-own when, in fact, there is no mind/consciousness at all. So, could it be that the Thing and Pod People are merely programs that act in a way that appears outwardly human but possesses nothing that is genuinely human. Or, is it the case that the Pod People and the Thing-as-humans do have working brains and are self-aware/conscious like real humans, BUT they can only ‘feel’ in a certain way, and this ‘feeling’ drives all their thoughts and actions in the service of an unbending agenda. This ‘feeling’ is so powerful that no amount of persuasion and reason from real humans could change their minds. It’s possible that they may fake conversion, but deep down inside, they will hold onto the one-and-only agenda. The Thing is especially devious because its human manifestations are far more full-ranged than those of the Pod People. Pod People will hide what they are, but their emotionlessness sort of gives them away. In contrast, the Thing-as-humans can exhibit the full range of emotions of their hosts. They can seem individualistic, independent, and free, and yet, they are single-minded in their agenda of total invasion/domination. The Pod People are more like Protestants or Communists. They are communal/collective, emotionally narrow, consensus-driven, colorless, bland, group-oriented, and puritanical. In contrast, the Thing-as-humans are like Jews. They can be full of personality, idiosyncracies, eccentricities, and ego. But they are driven by the single-minded agenda of total domination and control. This is why Jews are so dangerous. When a committee of solemn, sober, and severe Protestants or communists try to impose their priggish or puritanical righteousness on us, we may or may not go along, but we know for sure that their Order will be less free, less colorful, and less lively. We know they are gaining control, and we are losing freedom. We know what’s at stake.

THE THING – The Jonathan-Rosenbaum-like Blair

In contrast, Jews speak and act free-spirited, individualistic, contrarian, and witty, and so are we apt to think that the Rise of the Jewish Way will make for a more free and liberal(as opposed to PC Liberal) society. But in fact, Jews are driven by the single-minded agenda to gain control over all of us. And when Jews act ‘wild and free’, it doesn’t mean they think we gentiles should have the same freedom, chutzpah, and spirit-of-mind. Our freedom must serve the Jewish agenda. It’s like Jews will say, “We believe in freedom of speech and the right of anyone to express his opinions, but we don’t condone any speech that degrades such-and-such.” In simple terms, it means “free speech must be approved by us Jews.” So, gentiles can be pushy and nasty as long as they never attack Jews and instead attack those whom Jews hate. It’s like masters allow dogs to bark as long as it’s not at the master but at those whom the master doesn’t like. Our gentile ersatz-chutzpah must be aimed at targets such as Arabs, Palestinians, Iranians, Chinese, Russians, Christians, and/or white American conservatives, the groups that Jews loathe and hate.
Indeed, strong-willed independent-minded people are that way because they not only seek to resist and rebel against the official system/truth but because they want to impose their own official system/truth on everyone else. In the past when Jews didn’t rule the system or control the official truth, they often emphasized their spirit of free thought, the need for controversy, and the value of maverick style. This excited lots of white gentiles who looked up to Jews as the pied-pipers of more freedoms and liberties. But Jews didn’t simply want the freedom to be pushy and brash; they wanted to be pushy and brash to gain power for themselves and then to destroy everyone they didn’t like. Jews are like the character of Blair in THE THING, who sorts of reminds me of Jonathan Rosenbaum, the Jewish film critic who bitches on and on about those evil anti-communists but has always been soft on leftist totalitarians, especially of the Jewish ilk; he’s also been relatively soft on Israel despite his leftist bitching about gentile nationalism.
Jews seem like free-thinking independent minds, and indeed they can be at times, but when push comes to shove, all their ‘freedom’ and ‘independence’ are really about serving the Agenda of Jewish Supremacist Power which is written in the DNA of Jews going back thousands of years. Jews are the Thingowicz.
Indeed, what is truly fascinating about many highly intelligent Jews is they are capable of thinking freely about lots of stuff, but their core agenda remains narrowly about The Agenda. Consider Eric Hobsbawm who was a communist party member to the very end. He was a highly read, highly thoughtful, and free-thinking person, yet he couldn’t or wouldn’t shake off his communist conviction to the end of his life despite the fall of communism, end of the Cold War, and triumph of capitalism. But then, I wonder if he was a communist because he was communist first or because he was a Jew first. After all, his main sense of indebtedness to the Soviet Union had to do with the fact that Stalin defeated Hitler, the main enemy of the Jews. Why are so many Jews independently-minded but also tribally & ideologically rigid? Why are they so much like Blair in THE THING? It could be a matter of personality as well as ideology. Their ideological fixation is really tied to a personality of immense egomania. So, even when the ideologies among Jews differ — communism, Zionism, free market capitalism, homomania, libertarianism/objectivism, interracism, anti-white-ism, etc — , we see the same kind of rabidity and viciousness where Jewish seek not only ideological commitment but ideological ownership. A goy with a less powerful personality will commit himself or herself to an ideology. The understanding would be that he or she is subordinate to the ideology that he or she has pledged allegiance to. He or she doesn’t get to decide what that ideology or cause is about; he or she exists only to lend support. In contrast, Jews have a powerful personality that sinks its fangs into the ideology and injects its own venom to mold the ideology to their liking. Indeed, look what Neocons did to American Conservatism. They didn’t merely come over to serve it but to take it over and remold it to serve the Agenda. Marx didn’t invent socialism, but he insisted on his own radical brand of socialism. If gentiles think in terms of being ideal students, Jews think in terms of being dominant teachers. And so, Marxism became THE face of socialism. Ayn Rand didn’t just lend support to individualism and capitalism but used her powerful personality to formulate her own vision of American freedom by calling it ‘objectivism’. Though she claimed to be totally rationalist, she could not be understood apart from her powerful Jewish personality. All such people were very smart and capable of logical thought, but they tended to fixate on a single-minded truth that became their core convictions. It’s like Willy Loman in DEATH OF A SALESMAN. He ain’t a genius, but he’s smart enough to know better, but his personality becomes so immersed in his own dream of success and self-actualization that he can never let go of his delusions. The massive ego needs to feel justified, so it didn’t matter to Eric Hobsbawm and Noam Chomsky that they were so wrong about so many things. As highly intelligent men, they were certainly capable of understanding and realizing that they’d been wrong, but their strong personalities only dug in deeper and refused to admit wrong. But then, such kind of dogged personality tends to be Jewish, and it’s especially problematic with Jews since their fanaticism is served by higher intelligence. Though higher intelligence can lead to greater truth, it also fosters greater self-esteem, self-regard, arrogance, and contempt for dummies. Thus, the high-IQ Jew thinks he knows everything and takes pride in knowing better than others. So, when he is found out to be wrong, his pride simply cannot take it, just like the HAL computer in 2001 can never admit it was wrong. Also, as the smart Jew may be lacking in looks and physical prowess, his ONLY source of pride comes from intellect. So, Jews guard intellectual pride with intense fervor. Even when the Jew is found out to be wrong, he prefers to use wit and sophistry to come out on top. It’s like when Bernie Madoff the Jew was finally exposed, the Jew media went into hyper-drive to (1) fool us that Madoff’s main victims were Jewish (2) it’d be ‘antisemitic’ for us to notice that Madoff is yet another Jew caught in a financial scandal. Jews do wrong but, instead of admitting wrong and being judged, turn the tables and judge the gentiles. Is it any different with Sabrina Rubin Ederly the vile disgusting Jewess of the UVA rape hoax? Or consider Stephen Glass of the New Republic hoax scandal. The dirty Jew kept on lying to the very end until he had no more cards left to play. Even then, he made himself out to be a victim of mental issues and wrote a novel in the name of helping the public. What a freaking Jew.
When Jews stopped worshiping God, those with the biggest brains and biggest personalities began to worship themselves. It goes to show that personality can trump thought even as thought continues to operate as thought. It’s like no amount of pleading by Biff in DEATH OF A SALESMAN could ever change Willy Loman’s mind. It’s like no amount of pleading by the editor of the New Republic could persuade Stephen Glass to confess he did wrong in the film SHATTERED GLASS. It was not because Glass was incapable of understanding the truth. It was that his personality was stronger than his rationality. We see the same kind of mind-set in Sabrina Rubin Erdely whose Jewish personality forbids her from fully coming clean. She is rationally capable of knowing what she did wrong and why. But her Jewish personality trumps her rationality and integrity(if she has any). Even as she knows, it is her personality that is the real driver of her mind’s agenda. Stephen Glass finally did come clean, but it was only after tremendous pressure and force. Otherwise, he would have settled for what Erderly did: half-hearted(if that) ‘apology’ that ignores the main points of the issue while making himself to be the wronged party. It’s sickening but Jews with such personalities are all over US government, finance, media, academia, high-tech, and entertainment. When a nation is ruled by the News Jews Network of neurotic and sociopathic freaks who have the gall to parade around as our moral betters and arbiters, we are really in a lot of trouble. But because of the Holocaustianity Cult, we cannot call out their foulness even as scum like Masha Gessen, James Kirchik, Victoria Nuland, Sheldon Adelson, Haim Saban, Abe Foxman, Paul Krugman, Bill Maher, Al Franken, Barbara Boxer, Rahm Emanuel, and etc. continue to fleece this country in every way possible.

The Thing acting very Jewishy

Anyway, even though the Pod People and the Thing-as-humans seem to be driven by a ruthless and unalterable agenda than by individuality and conscience, are we really all that different? While it’s true that the Thing goes all around the galaxy to conquer all sorts of planets and life-forms, don’t humans act much the same way? After all, what are humans doing in Antarctica in THE THING? Aren’t they also life-forms driven by an inner-agenda to conquer and take over everything? In one way, THE THING is about a movie about humans defending themselves against the invasion of an alien creature. Yet, in another way, it is a war between invader and invader as both humans and the Thing are invaders in Antarctica. And wasn’t United States, whence the scientists and crew came, the product of one bunch of people taking over another continent and colonizing it? And how come whites and blacks in THE THING are working together in Antarctica? Weren’t blacks brought over to America to work as slaves for the New World? Weren’t black minds taken over by the ‘white thing’? They took on white names, and they are working with whites in Antarctica to gain control over it. (To be sure, the wild nature of Negroes makes it difficult for whites to gain control over. White Conquistadors had more success with the smaller indigenous people of the Latin Americas who’ve adjusted themselves to the white domination.) But one difference between humans and the Thing is the element of ego. Though both humans and the Thing-as-humans rely on teamwork in their rivalry, humans are often combative with one another over issues of pride whereas the Thing-as-humans bide their time in what seems like perfect cooperation. But then, the Thing can survive as both thinking and unthinking organism whereas humans can only survive as thinking organisms. The Thing can exist as man, dog, or just a vial of blood. It can become humanlike and ‘think’ like a human, or it can spread like micro-organisms.

The Thing as Blood. Think of the Zelig-ish blood of the Jew.

Though the human body is made of countless cells, nothing about man can survive without the functioning of the system of the whole. In contrast, if the Thing were to be cut up into a thousand pieces, each piece could carry on as the Thing. If a human were cut up thus, he would simply die. And yet this seems odd because most of life within the human body is without consciousness. Each individual cell has no mind of its own. Organs like hearts, lungs, liver, and etc have no minds of their own. Indeed, even the brain has consciousness only due to countless neurons working together; a neuron or a handful of neurons have no mind of their own. Human life can continue living and functioning even when the conscious mind goes defunct. A brain-dead woman who is completely incapable of thought can be kept alive to old age. Consider Terry Schiavo. And her womb can be inseminated and grow with life even though she has no idea what is happening to her. (Could it be the planet Solaris is like an amniotic sac that gives ‘birth’ to the thoughts and dreams of those who come near it but no conscious knowledge of what it is doing, indeed like a brain-dead woman whose womb nevertheless works?) Yet, even if the conscious mind is shut off, the body continues to live because the central nervous system still operates at the basic level of regulating the functions of the essential organs. Because nothing about us can continue independent of the central command network(or the central nervous system), we are at the mercy of our consciousness if we are to lead our own lives. It’s like Terry Schiavo had to be kept alive by others and had no means to keep herself alive. As with all unified-system organisms, everything about each one of us lives or dies together with the whole. If there’s trillion bacteria and you kill 90% of it, the 10% is just as alive as ever. But if you kill the heart of a man, everything about him dies. Thus, every cell in our body is dependent on the working of the central command system. It’s the great trade-off of life. Every virus or bacteria is independent of other viruses and bacteria. So, if there’s a batch of one trillion bacteria and if all are killed by one, the one is alive as always and can grow into millions, billions, and trillions. And yet, because each bacterium is independent of others, whether on its own or with innumerable others of its kind, it can only operate as a lone organism. It lives even when others die, but even in the presence of 100 trillion bacteria of its own kind, it cannot rise above its basic/simple programming. In contrast, every cell in the human body is not independent as a lifeform. If the heart dies, and then it won’t be long before all the cells in the body die. And yet, while the person is alive, the various cells, with all their differentiated roles, can cooperate to achieve what independent micro-organisms cannot, no matter how many of them there are.
Human power must be concentrated and guided by the mind, and human life must be regulated by the main organs. Not all parts of the human body are equal in their functions. If a person loses a finger or even an entire hand, he can still live. But if he loses his liver or heart or lungs, he is dead. Thus, if the core-life-regulator within man dies, everything dies too.
Civilization is like that. If the core rots and falls apart, all of it soon fall apart. This is why advanced civilizations like the West are especially vulnerable. As everything is interconnected and as the center has control over and regulates everything, if the center fails or gives out the wrong kinds of signals/orders, then the entire system fails sooner or later. In a savage or barbarian order, there is the lack of an elaborate command system. So, if one savage or barbarian tribe goes kaput, yours will be just fine because your tribe functions independently of other tribes. Because of such independence, there’s bound to be lot of violence among tribes as they vie for advantages. But no tribe’s existence or well-being is crucially dependent on those of others. In contrast, everything and everyone are interdependent in a civilization — indeed, even so-called individual freedoms are possible only because of this interdependence, i.e. you can travel safely from New York to Los Angeles as a free individual because there is a wide network of highways, cities, towns, and Rule of Law from coast to coast — , and so there’s far less violence among even total strangers in a civilization. But if the central command system falls apart, everything goes down with it. If electricity and water departments fail, then people will be rendered helpless. Unless the system is restored quickly, the only way people would be able to survive is by reverting to barbarism. Throughout history, there has mainly been two modes of existence for peoples. Complex civilizational interdependence and simple savage/barbarian independence. Both had their advantages. Complex civilizational interdependence allowed for greater numbers of people over a vast area to work together and live in relative peace under Rule of Law and rule of centralized force. Because so many people came to depend on the center of power, they forfeited their own agendas and left it up to the central command to decide the values, the visions, the goals, the ambitions. The center would decide, and everyone would just follow. This worked as long as the central command was effective and had the right/good ideas, as well as confidence in itself. But if the central command failed via corruption, lack of talent, inability to defend its borders, or infection with bad ideas, then the system fell apart. And as the people had come to depend so much on the central command for everything, they would suddenly find themselves without direction, meaning, and vision. When the Rome fell, the effect was especially cataclysmic because most people had no independent sense of what being Roman meant. They’d left it up entirely to the state and the command system. So, once the command system fell, the people were clueless and had no idea how to put it together again.

THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE – Civilization
PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT – Barbarian 

In contrast, a savage/barbarian people are much more limited in their scope, vison, capability, and ambition. But each savage/barbarian tribe knows what it’s all about. It doesn’t need some emperor or mighty central command in order to know what it’s all about. It’s like the quasi-barbarian outlaws of THE WILD BUNCH. It’s like the quasi-barbarian mavericks of PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID. Bob Dylan as Alias speaks the barbarian code: “I could live anywhere. Could leave anywhere too.” It’s all about the clan, the warrior spirit, the freedom to roam and loot, hunt and gather. Even a small tribe of savages/barbarians know what they’re about and what they need to do in order to survive. Their means of survival maybe crude and primitive, but they are self-sustaining in their mode of survival.
What is remarkable about Jews is they managed to absorb and master both modes of existence. As the founders of a great complex religion and a system of social hierarchy, they developed a powerful central command system. Look around the world today, and it’s obvious that Jews in Wall Street, Hollywood, Las Vegas, Silicon Valley, London, Washington D.C., and etc are very adept at managing and controlling vast & elaborate central command systems. Look at Israel, and there’s a complex organization in government, economics, technology, and military.
And yet, every Jew isn’t only like an interdependent cell of a larger system but an independent cell that can regulate itself apart from the larger body. If a bunch of ordinary Romans had been separated from Rome and put in some other corner of the world, they would likely have been lost and been unable to maintain the essence of Roman-ness. Their sense of Roman-ness would have depended on the central command system. They needed the elites to make all the decisions and definitions of Roman interests. They themselves would have submitted to the social order controlled from above. So, while ordinary Romans could thrive as Romans within the system, they’d be nothing outside it. If removed from the Roman system maintained by the elites, they would wither and lose their Romanness and just become something else; maybe even revert to barbarism.
In contrast, if a bunch of ordinary Jews were to be separated from the larger Jewish community, their sense of identity and destiny would be no less powerfully Jewish than that of Jews in the larger community governed by the central command system. While Judaism is hierarchical, it also says every Jew is equally precious in the eyes of God. So, no matter where a bunch of Jews are or how poor, small in number, or separated from the main population of Jews they may be, they are no less the Chosen of God than the Jews of main community are. Thus, Jewishness has a certain independence from the power of social hierarchy and social control. If a part of Roman community breaks off from and loses contact with the core Roman social-political order, it is bound to wither and fade. But if a part of Jewish community breaks off from and loses contact with the core Jewish social-political community, it will remain powerfully Jewish and may eventually give birth to a new complex and powerful Jewish social-political order. Jewishness not only emphasizes the need to cooperate and follow the orders of the central command system but also the need for every Jew to be self-sufficient in his core sense of Jewishness. As much as a Jew needs to feel as a part of the larger social order, he also feels that, no matter where he may be, he is no less the chosen of God with a special destiny than Jews in the main community. So, Jews are indeed like the Thing. They can function as both a command system and as independent systems. If your arm is cut off, it is dead as it has lost connection to the central command system of the body. But if the arm of the Thing-as-human is cut off, it can crawl away and live to continue with the Thing Agenda. This may explain why Jews are so obsessed with their ‘dick jokes’. It’s like they see their puds/schlongs as independent organisms that can crawl and hide and survive even if cut from the body.
This is why Jews are so formidable. Most goyim are dependent on the central command system. Everything about them is regulated and controlled by this system. They cannot feel or think apart from this system. Even so-called libertarians who consider themselves as ‘free thinkers’ merely spout the PC-approved stuff pushed by the powers-that-be. There may be some resistance in time of change, but eventually most within the system just go along. Look how everyone sucks up to the MLK cult and the Holocaustianity. Consider how even the GOP and Christian churches are bending over to ‘gay marriage’. In contrast, Jews think and feel as they wish to instead of totally relying on the central command system to tell them what to think or feel. Jews may hide their feelings and thoughts and pretend to agree with the central command system, especially if it’s controlled by gentiles hostile to Jews. But it’s all just a ruse. Jews really work to take over the central command system in order to control everyone with their own agenda. While both Jews and Liberal gentiles may be agreed on ‘gay marriage’, the difference is that Jews formulated and pushed it whereas gentiles bent over to it and swallowed it. Jews pushed it on the basis of “Is it good for the Jews?” If most homos were virulently anti-Jewish and pro-Nazi, would Jews have promoted the ‘gay agenda’? Suppose Christianity had been pro-homo from the beginning and suppose homos had been at the forefront of anti-Jewish campaigns for many centuries. Would Jews have promoted homosexuality? Or suppose most homos were poor, untalented, and living in trailer parks. Would Jews have formed an alliance with them in the media, entertainment, and government? When Jews push ‘gay marriage’, it is to boost their own power. When goyim accept ‘gay marriage’, it is to submit to the elite minority power of Jews and homos. It’s not about equality or protecting minority rights. It’s about the Jewish entrenchment of elite minority tyranny on everyone else. But ‘millennial’ sheep are too dumb to realize this.

When Jews had little or no power in the US, many of them pretended to go along with the goy majority. But it was just pretense. Deep inside, just like the ‘conversos’ of Spain following the Inquisition, American Jews held onto their own agendas(even as they wrote Christmas songs). They only feigned agreement while keeping true to their Jewishness. In contrast, when Christians and gentiles bend over to the Jewish-favored agenda, the surrender is total. It’s not only political capitulation but cultural, moral, and spiritual capitulation, indeed to the point that the West now gets down on its knees and worships Jews and homos as demigods. Because gentiles feel and think only in relation to the central command system, they are always at the mercy of whoever controls the center. Jews are different. Suppose Christian Rightists were to take over elite institutions & industries and push their agenda on everyone 24/7 like Jews and homos are doing today. In time, many people, under the constant barrage of such pressure, will likely go along with the Christian Right agenda. And Jews may pretend to do also, but it will only a ruse on the part of Jews. Because of the Jewish sense of special connection to the Higher Being and because of Jewish practice in maintaining cultural/spiritual independence even in goy-dominated central command systems, Jews have learned to both co-exist within the non-Jewish central command system and to maintain their separateness from it. And even as they co-exist within the goy-run central command system, they work to gradually gain control over it than serve it. It’s like what the Jew does in Veit Harlan’s JEW SUSS. Though the film has been condemned as ‘notoriously antisemitic’, it offers a pretty accurate picture of what has happened to the West since the end of WWII? Jews pretend to serve the central command system of the goyim but really seek to gain control, and then, they use media, finance, education, and even the Christian church(which is gutted of its original values and replaced with homomania) to turn all the goyim into slaves of Jews.

It’s like the Thing doesn’t just infect a person and passively becomes a part of him(like an intestinal parasite) but remolds the person’s mind that he will serve the Thing Agenda than his own human agenda. Since Jews don’t want us to notice what they’re really up to, they use proxies like dumb Evangelicals who care more about Jews and Israel than about Jesus and their own race. Or they use proxies like black males to castrate the pride of white males by sexually conquering white females. Or they use homos to push the New Normal so that the majority of straights and gentiles will become accustomed to bending over the power of elite minority tyranny.
When Jews and gentiles come together in support of a universal ideology/agenda, the Jew thinks, “how can this ideology serve my interest and my people’s interests?” whereas gentiles think, “how can I best serve this ideology?” Jews want ideology to serve them, gentiles want to serve the ideology. Also, Jew thinks, “what can I or we(Jews) mold this idea in my or our way?” whereas gentiles think, “how can I best serve the Jewish genius who knows everything?” Jews like to personalize all ideas, even universal ones. So, Marx had to create his own brand of socialism, and Ayn Rand had to erect a monument to her own brand of capitalism. But, Jewish power derives not only from individualism. Individualism of the libertarian kind only leads to atomization, trivialization, and frivolity. It is only in connection to the larger history, culture, tradition, and community that one’s identity gains richness, depth, and meaning. Sigmund Freud wasn’t religiously Jewish but profoundly Jewish in tribal identity. Ayn Rand was a proud defender of Israel. She did it on ‘objectivist’ grounds, but it was really tribal pride at work. When she denounced ‘racism’, she meant the gentile kind, not the Jewish kind. An individual doesn’t produce much in the way of culture. Few great individuals do, but most people don’t. Most people receive culture from their ancestors/parents and then pass it down to their children. Culture and identity are thus beyond the individual. They would have no meaning as mere individual choices. They have meaning because they are something to preserve and maintain through the ages from generation to generation. Libertarianism cuts the individual off from his/her ancestors and from his/her descendants. He/she feels no deep connection to culture. He/she feels no special obligation to remember and preserve the culture and identity as handed down to him/her by their parents, and he/she feels no obligation to pass culture and identity to his/her children. They are merely slaves to fashion that is always controlled by the powers-that-be with oligarchic control of education/indoctrination and entertainment. Also, libertarians feel no special connection to others of their own race, culture, and heritage. As atomized kernels of corn, they can be picked off one-by-one by the avaricious Jewish rooster. How else did Sheldon Adelson become so rich? Libertarians think they are free as individuals, but it’s only the freedom of losing one’s power and identity. There is no long-lasting power without unity, identity, and continuity. Israel would never have been possible if every Jew acted like a libertarian who only cares about his or her narrow self-interest. Ilana Mercer calls herself a libertarian, but she differs from goy libertarians because she cares more for Jewish identity and power over all other considerations. And only from such mind-set can there be power beyond the individual who, by the way, lives for only several decades. Also, individual power doesn’t last long or go very far because individual power is nothing compared to the combined power of the state, nation, community, hierarchy, and etc. Indeed, the rise of libertarianism on the American Right was a huge advantage for Jewish Power. With the spread of libertarianism, white folks began to break apart into atomized individuals whose main interest became marijuana and gambling than identity, unity, and continuity of their race. Thus, the unified Jewish Power of Liberalism was able to pick off the atomized pipsqueaks of American Conservative/Libertarianism.

Anyway, the appeal and relevance of Tarkovsky’s films will likely outlast the those of Antonioni. Even if organized religion had faded in Europe and is fading in America — where so-called organized religions should really be called ‘disorganized religions’ as most churches are more about personalities and personableness than creed and hierarchy — , people respond images and sounds of great spiritual power. A sacred/mysterious sense of nature, culture, and spirituality offers greater sustenance than an alienated sense of meaninglessness does; also, if modern alienation was fascinating as something novel and disorienting in the past, it has become mundane and invisible in a world where children are born into modernity-as-banality. For those who grew up in a world still defined by vestiges of traditionalism, the rise/spread of modernity in the 20th century was jarring and intellectually challenging, but for those who were born and raised in the new order, the overwhelming sense of modernity has been one of normality than alienation. If Franz Kafka were a ‘millennial’, he’d likely be some fun-loving Jewish kid playing around on Twitter.
Initially, modernism was restricted to arts like painting and sculpture. But when it began to affect architecture, even the masses with no interest in modern art(in galleries and museums) were turned onto modern sensibility. As for technology, its role as a force of modernism was ambiguous. An idea like form-follows-function was both ultra-modern and anti-modern. Ultra-modern because it dispensed with traditional ornamentation, but anti-modern since it undermined individuality and personal vision. If indeed form must follow function — which is what technology favors — , then design is a more a matter of utilitarian engineering than creative eccentricity; it’s no wonder that modern architecture soon turned into same new same new.

Antonioni’s best films are not dated like others from the same period. If a film is all about innovative technique, its speciality fades once the shock-of-the-new wears off and its new bag of tricks are absorbed into the art-form(to much better effect in the hands of other artists). If a film is all about topicality and polemics, its relevance passes with the times, like yesterday’s newspaper. If a film is all about being in groove with the Zeitgeist, it will likely look derivative, foolish, and insipid once the fashion changes. Claude Lelouche’s A MAN AND A WOMAN isn’t without some good qualities but came to look foolish pretty fast. Films of the Zeitgeist tend to be superficial and fleeting. Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, though not without certain real strengths, looks mostly stupid and foolish now.
In contrast, Antonioni’s world-view was genuinely personal, thoughtful, and heartfelt. And yet, his concerns were the psychological complexes of a specific and transitional period in Western history. Like the theories of Freud, even the deeper dimensions of Antonioni’s anxieties and thoughts may have no bearing on the lives of most people today. We would like to think that if the ‘superficial’ differences among people of various times and/or places could be wiped clean, there would be a shared understanding based on common set of deeper emotions and psyches. It’s like, if each of us were to extend a line into the ground from one’s standpoint, it will intersect with all the lines of everyone else on the planet. On the surface of the earth, we are scattered all over the world, but every line from every person will extend to a single point in the core of the earth. The worlds of CRIME AND PUNISHMENT and KING LEAR are very different from ours, but the works are not dated because we can still identify with their core emotions and psyches. Even if our values, creeds, and methods are different from theirs, it doesn’t take much empathy for us to relate to their lusts, rages, vanities, loves, ambitions, and etc. Even though the modern world directs and shapes people’s emotions differently than in the past, the core emotions are the same. Even if the traditional clay and modern clay are molded differently, we know they are both of the same clay; therefore, any clump of clay, even if shaped ‘this’ way, can understand another clump of clay, even if shaped ‘that’ way. On some level, clayishness understands clayishness even if not all clumps of clay are molded in the same way.
We no longer believe in monarchy, but we understand the psychology of the anxiety of power in MACBETH and HAMLET. Young people are no longer constrained like the lovers in ROMEO AND JULIET, but they can still relate to the mad power of love, which is why TWILIGHT was such a hit.
Ironically, in some ways, we are more universal in our inner isolation/separateness than in our shared social commonalities. On the one hand, the more deeply a person enters into one’s own psyche, the more he or she withdraws from everyone else. On the other hand, in connecting with the root/core emotions, drives, and complexes within oneself, one gets a better sense of the inner lives of others since the primal/elemental nature of everyone is more or less the same.
Thus, we can speak of two forms of universalism.
Idealistic/rational universalism seeks to make everyone think alike and agreed on the same principles. Instinctive/irrational universalism seeks to discover the ‘dark’ roots within the human souls that are essentially the same within every person around the world. Karl Marx tried to make everyone think alike and act in accordance to the same principles. Sigmund Freud explored the ‘dark’ root forces — especially sexual in nature — that were universally present in within the beings of everyone.
This is why a film like ERASERHEAD is so unnerving. It’s both highly private/particular, a glimpse of the hidden dimensions of a unique character’s sub/consciousness, AND brazenly general/universal, an exposé of the bio-sexual processes coursing through the body/mind of every male. It is like Beavis saying, ‘Boing!’, a universal declaration of what every male privately feels within. The more private, the more ‘primate’; and the more primitive, the more animal and basic; and the more basic, more universal as the core nature of what it means to be human or ‘humanimal’. And there’s something about the huge success of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY among womenfolks. Even if not every woman wants a fist up her arse, almost all women are turned on by social and sexual power of dominant men.
If people were to ‘share’ their irrational natures more universally than their rational ideals, then their animal drives will prevent the universalism of shared ideals. It’s like the members of any given species of animals share the same nature, but, more often than not, it is this uniform nature among them that keeps them apart and growling at one another. So, even as the rational ideals call for unity and togetherness, the ‘irrational’ nature(more or less same in all humans) keep people apart. But then, it could also be the other way around. A society can use rational arguments to keep individuals and/or groups apart, and it could be the call of nature that brings people together.
Libertarianism is a strange ideology in that it both champions ultra-togetherness and ultra-separateness. It says every individual should be totally free to choose whom to associate with and whom to disassociate from. Paradoxically, to guard the individual from a particular collective community, libertarianism urges the individual to embrace all of human community on the universal level. Individuality means maintaining one’s autonomy and separateness. It urges us not to join, at least fully, in any particular group since group identity may trump integrity of individuality. But individuality also means choice, implying that one can pick and choose identity or identities as one wishes. But does a Zelig-like existence without a fixed identity really strengthen one’s sense of individuality? If one can be whatever, what then is one’s identity? Doesn’t one end up like the ever-morphing creature in John Carpenter’s THE THING? One of Peter Sellers’ problem was, at some point, he didn’t know what he was. His personas became him, but personas change all the time. Maybe, he preferred personas because he didn’t like the real him, if indeed he did know the real him.

At any rate, it’s not only libertarianism that offers rational arguments for separateness. A racial group can argue for separateness from other groups on the rational basis that other races pose a threat and danger. White folks could use a totally rational argument premised on such grounds against Jews and Negroes. If you allow Jews into your community, they use their higher IQ, pushier personality, and tribal viciousness to take over and dominate(and even exterminate)your kind. Just look what happened to the Palestinians. And if you allow Negroes into your community, they will use their stronger muscles and more aggressive instincts to commit crime and acts of violence. Also, as blacks are more aggressive and less intelligent, their genes mixing with your race will make your race more savage, degenerate, and pathological. Those are solid rational arguments, but of course, Jews who control the academia and media forbid such discussions. Also, Jews even promote the dark forces of ‘irrationalism’ to weaken any rational race-ist argument against integration. Jews know that males naturally worship stronger males — look at white boys shrieking with delight in their worship of black athletes and rappers — and females naturally feel the hots for stronger/tougher males. So, if a society encourages wild ‘irrational’ sexual passions to run riot, then white girls will surrender to Negro males and wussified white boys will cheer from the sidelines the spectacle of Negro males taking white women. Indeed, white folks in both US and EU are moving in their direction. Jews control white folks through both rational argument and irrational passions. Political Correctness forces all white folks to believe that all races are the same, and that any discussion of racial differences is taboo and ‘unacceptable’, especially if it focuses on superior traits among whites. Dissent is not allowed. But at the same time, through sports culture and pop culture where the boundary between mainstream and pornography is dissolving, the Jews are spreading and encouraging the message that whites need to surrender to their primal ‘irrational’ passions whereby white girls go with Negroes and white boys cheer on the superior alpha male Negro as the ‘rightful winner’ in the racial competition. And white boys and girls are falling for this in both EU and US. In the politics of the brain and the passion of the groin, white gentiles are totally owned by the Jews. And yet, the main priority of American Conservatism is “We must bomb Iran for the sake of Israel.” Behind closed doors, Jews must be cracking up at the totally sorry-ass state of white gentiles.

Given that our root emotions and deeper psyches have much in common across time and space, why do the films of Antonioni mean so very little to so many cinephiles today? Why is it that it’s easier for young people today to identify with the emotions and psychologies of late 16th century peasants in SEVEN SAMURAI, medieval Russians of ANDREI TARKOVSKY, French woman in THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, and the donkey in AU HASARD BALTHASAR than with the sensibility and characters of Antonioni? It’s because certain emotions and psyches are more elemental, accessible, and moving than others. Even though the world of SEVEN SAMURAI is far removed from ours, we can understand the fear, the rage, the bravery, the heroism, the sacrifice. And even though we have little in common with medieval Russia, we are stirred by vision of the sacred. Though TREE OF LIFE is a terrible film, we can understand the appeal of reverence for the cosmos(and egomania about oneself). And we can access the pain, agony, and tragedy of the French nationalist-Christian heroine in the Carl Dreyer film. And we can feel sympathy for the stubborn saint-donkey. But what are we to make of the opaque, uncertain, confused, and self-negating doldrums of Antonioni — what Andrew Sarris referred to as ‘Antoniennui’. In the 50s and 60s, such a sensibility correlated with existentialism and even gained a measure of fashionable hipness, not least because Antonioni used attractive and sexy actresses. The mere fact of uncertainty in the aftermath of World War II, a sense of disconnect from defunct tradition, the emptiness that accompanied the new prosperity(especially modeled after American materialism), and expansion of freedoms and choices but with loss of direction all converged to make for a world rife with contradictions: the excitement of boredom, the certainty of uncertainty, the vigor of paralysis, the meaning of meaninglessness. Fellini fed on this mood also in 8 ½ , a film made by someone who has no film to make, an act of inspiration in one who can no longer find inspiration, an attempt at love by someone who doesn’t know how to love, a statement of someone who has nothing to say. Fellini got away with it once, with 8 ½. For that brief moment, uncertainty seemed fresh and glamorous. And indeed, much of the appeal of Antoninoni’s films had to do with the fact that they presented beautiful people with problems of privilege. Whether Antonioni intended to or not, he made ennui fashionable and sexy. How could it not be with the likes of Monica Vitti, Jeanne Moreau, Marcello Mastroianni, Alain Delon, Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, and David Hemmings in Swinging London in BLOWUP? But uncertainty that declares itself morally, spiritually, and culturally bankrupt really has nowhere to go. It’s like popping diet pills than eating real food. At the end of LA DOLCE VITA, the Mastroianni character raises his hands in resignation and walks away with a loose woman. Perhaps there is a kind of hope in that final image as the pretty young girl(who had beckoned Marcello from across of inlet) slowly turns and stares for an instance at the camera, at us. It’s an angelic image of ‘purity’ that later appears in 8 ½ in the Madonna-like apparition of Claudia Cardinale. Fellini didn’t believe in the miracles of the Catholic Church, but he wanted to believe in the ‘miraculousness’ of his own visions of beauty and purity. But then, as the intellectual script collaborator asks in 8 ½, what does the image mean? What does it symbolize? How is it relevant to the story? Such an image may have meaning in mythology or religion, but in the mind of a non-believing and cynical modern man, isn’t it just a fleeting figment of imagination. Still, Fellini held onto such visions of hope and purity, which may not be of this world but can nevertheless can be captured in portents, glimpses, reveries, dreams, inspirations.

Even that minimum faith in hope or vision is absent in the films of Antonioni. There is just barrenness, emptiness, disorientation, and confusion. No matter how carefully his films have been studied and analyzed in terms of their formalism, architecture, and conception, they all boil down to the fact that modern life is meaningless. In MULHOLLAND DR., the gangster keeps insisting, “this is the girl”. For those watching the film for the first time, it may be confusing and befuddling, but it also fascinates because of the tension and suspense that direct the attentions and emotions — those of characters’ and ours — toward something strange, mysterious, dark, and hidden. We want to know more and become immersed in the material. But we know in Antonioni’s films that his characters can’t really feel anymore, believe anymore, live anymore(other than as soulless modern zombies), and think anymore. They are just marking time. There’s opaqueness worth considering in light of modernity’s uncertainty principle, but it cannot be penetrated or isn’t worth penetrating because there’s nothing in its core or on the other side. Ultimately, it’s about vacuity(that leads us to a wall) than mystery(that leads us into a maze). Even genuine despair and tragedy are impossible in the films of Antonioni because no emotion or conviction develops or is carried from scene to scene. Also, the neuroses, as they exist, tend to lack depth as Antonioni used most of his characters — at least after L’AVVENTURA — as catwalk models dressed in his shifting mental garbs. They exhibit qualities that, instead of emanating from their own pores, feel imposed by Antonioni. There is some of this is MULHOLLAND DR. as well because, after all, it turns out that all the characters in the first four-fifths of the film are really sock-puppets or myths within Diane Selywn’s(Naomi Watts) mind, but the strange tension between their apparent independence/individuality and their artificiality/imagined-ness intrigues us.
But because Antonioni presents his characters as individuals in a seemingly real world, their overt straight-jacketed confinement in Antonioni’s austere(or even severe) moods and sensibility sometimes frustrates us into perplexity and impatience. We wonder when the characters will finally come alive and do things instead of waiting to be moved around like chess pieces by Antonioni? At times, the characters stand still or move very little, as if they’re modern sculptures than flesh-and-bone humans, and one can argue that was precisely Antonioni’s point. But how many times was it worth it to make that very point? After all, films are narratives and tell stories. It shouldn’t function merely like a painting or sculpture. It’s an art where we expect something to happen. A film like THE GRADUATE makes the same point but as a backdrop and/or as increments to the story that carries us along without ever flagging. While serious cinephiles may feel obligated to rank Antonioni’s films higher as ‘art’ while dismissing Nichols’ film as a slick piece of entertainment with the mere trappings of the ‘art film’, in the end I wonder if Nichols’ film might come to be appreciated more highly in the long run, just like MIDNIGHT COWBOY now seems the greater film than many of the European ‘art films’ that inspired its styles and touches. Films need strong characters and stories(and real technical mastery), and THE GRADUATE and MIDNIGHT COWBOY have those in spades.
Kubrick sometimes used his actors in the manner of Antonioni — like chess pieces — , but there was a vigorous logic to all his ‘moves’ whereas Antonioni’s ‘moves’ seem oblivious to any logic of the ‘game’. It’s like moving chess pieces not to play the game but merely to form certain patterns on the board. If every new configuration on Kubrick’s game-board is a logical phase interconnected to all the earlier and later moves, every new configuration on Antonioni’s board has little bearing on what went before or will come afterwards.

BLOW-UP

BLOWUP is more enjoyable than LA NOTTE, L’ECLISSE, and RED DESERT because, apart from its breezier pace, it does suggest a kind of game: The photographer in the film plays with images to create a narrative puzzle, but he too is just an image — an imaginary tennis ball — toyed with by Antonioni. Photographer is bored and fixates on some perceived or imagined murder mystery to lend some urgency to his life, just like Antonioni was similarly ‘bored’ and made films to give him ‘something to do’. But everything — the imaginary tennis ball, the mimes, the characters, the narrative, the actors, the film, the film-maker, and we the audience — is a distraction from the central fact that modern life is useless, pointless, and meaningless.

Maybe Antonioni’s main reason for his depressive state was nothing more than an envy of youth. He was born in 1912, so by the time he gained the freedom to live the life of a reasonably successful modern artist was in the 1950s, he was already in his 40s, and when he made his landmark film L’AVVENTURA, he was approaching 50. In one scene, the male character, who is middle aged but still handsome and attractive, intentionally knocks ink on an architectural sketch of a younger man getting started out in life. The man is still something of handsome devil who get the ladies, but he is past his prime, and he doesn’t have much time left. It’s like the angst of Marlon Brando character in LAST TANGO IN PARIS. (Or consider Mrs. Robinson in THE GRADUATE who clings to Benjamin Braddock as hers and will not share him with her daughter Elaine. On the other hand, she seems protective of Elaine. She ‘corrupts’ Ben by taking sexual possession of him and then says he’s not good enough for her daughter. But, he would have been good enough if he hadn’t jumped in the sack with her. Strange how that works.) Film culture was coming alive in the late 50s and 60s. It was growing away from ‘grubby’ humanism and becoming glamorous and sexy. If Antonioni had been 20 or 30 at this time, he might have had a more optimistic disposition. But he was middle aged and past his prime as a virile man. He was nothing like the Alain Delon character in L’ECLISSE. He was more like the over-the-hill man in the film’s beginning who seems impotent or something than ‘boing’-ish in the Beavis-manner. Antonioni got his share of women but only because he’d become a world-renowned film-maker. By the time he became truly a celebrated figure, his youth and vigor had left passed him by. And it could have been this middle-age crisis, as much as the neurosis of modernity, that led him to make films sagging with resignation.

BLOW-UP
STALKER
THE SHINING

Cinephiles have come to prefer Tarkovsky’s wet mysticism over Antonioni arid sterility if only for the reason the former is more conducive to life in both the literal and figurative sense. One can attach and grow on the world of Tarkovsky like a moss, whereas one feels parched in the world of Antonioni. Soil is more welcoming than sand. But then, Kubrick’s star has risen even higher over the years. Kubrick wasn’t a mystic, but there is certain mystique around his personality; it’s possible that no other film-maker, not even Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock, has provokes as much as fascination. As awesome as the greatest films of Tarkovsky’s are — cinematic art cannot go any higher than ANDREI RUBLEV — , they are ultimately about faith. We are asked to let go, believe, and resign ourselves to the higher/deeper truth. In contrast, Kubrick’s films are about illumination, sometimes, especially in THE SHINING and FULL METAL JACKET, about dark illumination, the light inside the belly of the beast, whether it be technology, ghost world, or sexual psychology.
Kubrick films’ effect on certain cinephiles has been somewhat analogous to the effect of the Monolith in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY on the ape-men. The cinephiles feel ‘touched’, ‘infected’, and ‘imprinted’, altered in some deep hidden corner of their psyche. They don’t know how they’ve been altered, but it’s as if their consciousness has somehow been made more acutely aware of things not only in Kubrick’s films but in all of cinema and in the real world itself. Delusional as such conceits may be, the documentary ROOM 237 is proof that such nuts do exist. We can’t fully understand or explain the exact essence of the Kubrick mystique. It’s clearly not just about the stories or dialogues. If another director had made THE SHINING or EYES WIDE SHUT with all the plot details and dialogue intact, it would still have been worlds apart from Kubrick’s version. We know Spielberg’s NAPOLEON won’t be anything like Kubrick’s version no matter how much Spielberg tries to be faithful to Kubrick’s vision that was never realized. It simply wouldn’t have that element, the Kubrick touch, that sparks or triggers something mysterious within us somehow ‘changes everything’. And we don’t know when it will strike, just like the Moon-Watcher Ape in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY begins to notice something different about bones sometimes after the Monolith has disappeared. Tarkovsky offers much food for thought, but in the end, we are to accept what is offered in gratitude, fold our hands in prayer, and just believe. Kubrick is more like a bartender, like Lloyd in THE SHINING whose every serving of drinks keep opening up new levels of consciousness, imagined or otherwise. (One point of similarity between ANDREI RUBLEV and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is in how profound changes are sometimes barely discernible. There are two ways of changing the world. By physical transformation[such as following an earthquake or hurricane] or psychologically alteration in the way of ‘seeing’. Even if the world remains exactly the same, if our way of ‘seeing’ changes, then the world is changed by our different perception of it. It happens to all of us on some level. We can watch a film as a child and get nothing out of it but boredom. But as we grow into more perceptive film-viewers, the exact same film can seem entirely different. Same film but with different way of ‘seeing’. Even an intelligent film critic such as Stanley Kauffmann admitted that he simply couldn’t recognize his former self that wrote a dismissive review of Luchino Visconti’s THE LEOPARD. Seeing it later, it was such an obvious masterpiece that he wondered how he could have been so blind to its virtues. For those with a very simple way of seeing, the world seems much the same even when it has been drastically changed physically. To a Negro, reality is just about hollering, running around, acting apelike, and being childish. It’s like a chimpanzee can’t tell the difference between an art museum, Walmart, an ape-house at a zoo, or a jungle. They are only seen as playpens for the chimps to run around in looking for bananas and to let the good times roll. But if one gains a new way of ‘seeing’, even the exact same place can yield whole new meanings, possibilities, and revelations. Indeed, this was the great revolution in the mind of Western Man. He gained a new way of ‘seeing’. So, what seemed like the same old same old to other peoples seemed ever new, revelatory, and fresh to the Western mind in fields such as philosophy, science, math, medicine, psychology, and etc. Once man gains a new way of ‘seeing’, he gains the potential of seeing what is not there but could be there. It’s like there is no ready-made tool for the Moon Watcher Ape in 2001. But when he gains a new way of ‘seeing’, he ‘sees’ the form of a tool in the bone. This is the difference between the white man, yellow man, and the Negro man. The Negro man sees everything as ‘cargo’ for him to loot, pillage, and vandalize. He sees everything as a hippo-for-lunch to chuck a spear at. He can’t see beyond things-as-they-are and have no curiosity of how the thing-came-to-be-in-the-first-place. The yellow man is able to see more. He can see the value of things of other more advanced civilizations, such as that of the West. So, if yellow man sees something useful, he learns to imitate it and make his own copies of it, even improved copies. But he’s not adept at seeing what is not there or seeing far beyond what is there. In contrast, the Western man, especially in Northern Italy, Germany, Britain, Jew-world, and France — and few other places — gained the power to ‘see’ what doesn’t yet exist. Thus, the white man, with his greater power of ‘seeing’, could create civilization out of ‘nothing’. In contrast, the Negro man has no such mind-power. He only reacts to the physical world that already exists and that he regards with only the most rudimentary interests, especially as his sexual hormones focus most of his attention on booties, loot, hippo-for-lunch, and other stuff that gets his jive-ass instincts all excited. Anyway, the profound change in the way of ‘seeing’ is the subtlest of processes. In many Hollywood Biblical epics, the profound change is presented as loud, blaring, grandiose, and dramatic. It’s like God appears as a pillar of fire in TEN COMMANDMENTS and makes a big fuss while making the Law Tablets. In contrast, it’s not clear what exactly the Monolith does in 2001 when it appears among the apes. It just stands immobile while apes scamper all around it and holler like Negroes. Eventually, the apes calm down and act less Negro-like and more white-like. But then, the Monolith is gone, and that seems to be that. But then, one of the apes feels a ‘trace’ of the Monolith in him like a flashback or something. It’s a mere trace of ‘thought’, but it has a profound impact on how he sees the world. Though it’s the same world with the same rocks, animals, and stuff, the ape now sees a very different world because he has a new way of ‘seeing’. He’d seen everything in terms of ‘is’, but with the new power of ‘seeing’, he senses the proto-vision of ‘could be’. So, a bone isn’t just a bone but ‘could be’ something in one’s hand, a weapon, a tool. It is a most profound revolution and yet it’s hardly discernible. It’s a silent revolution within the mind of the ape, but it really changes everything. Before the world could be changed, the way of ‘seeing’ the world had to be changed. This has been the basic difference between the white man and the Negro. Negro only sees the world in terms of ‘is’. So, if white world is wealthy, the Negro thinks, “It ‘is’ or ‘be’ rich, and I want me some of that.” It never occurs to the Negro that white riches exist because whites had the power to envision the creation of what doesn’t exist in the world. Unlike the Negro who only sees what ‘is’, the white man could ‘see’ what ‘could be’. So, the white man went about transforming ‘nothing’ into something. In contrast, when the Negro done see ‘nothing’, he just assumed it be ‘nothing’ and that’s that. And if the Negro sees something made by others, he thinks it’s just there for his taking — like apes running off with bananas. It never occurs to apes to plant banana trees. It never occurs to Negroes to build civilization and industry. They cannot ‘see’ beyond what ‘is’. If something ‘is’, then it is there for the taking. Once Negroes take it and it be gone, Negroes done look for other things to take. Because modern leftist ideology is so focused on materiality, it misses out on psyche-ology, to be distinguished from psychology as the understanding of hidden corridors of the mind. Leftist ideology wouldn’t understand the true significance of the revolution in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY when the ape-men begin to ‘see’ the bone as a tool. Leftist ideology would only focus on the ape and the bone. But why did the ape begin to use the tool? It wasn’t because both the ape and bone materially exist. After all, if that’s all that counts, why didn’t the apes use the bones before the Moon Watcher ape began to ‘see’ other uses for it? It’s because materiality isn’t enough. A revolution happened within the psyche of the ape that made him ‘see’ things with new eyes. Leftist ideology assumes that all people and all races have the same abilities and power to understand and create stuff. But there are indeed differences in the way of ‘seeing’ among individuals and among the races. The white psyche is different from black psyche. Thus, white wealth cannot simply be understood in terms of white oppression of blacks, especially as black African backwardness goes way back before whites even set foot on the Dark Continent. In 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the tribe of apes with the new way of ‘seeing’ uses bones-as-weapons to defeat another tribe of apes. A leftist would see it as oppression by one tribe of another. But why does the one tribe use tools while other tribe doesn’t? It’s because one tribe has a way of ‘seeing’ that the other tribe doesn’t. The losing tribe could pick up the same bones and use them as weapons, but they lack such power of ‘seeing’, and so, they don’t. Whites didn’t become richer than blacks because they oppressed blacks. They came to oppress blacks because they grew richer due to their more advanced ways of ‘seeing’. When the white world met the black world, the white world was already way more advanced than the black world because whites had attained the power of ‘seeing’. And even though whites did oppress blacks, white civilizational pressures on blacks also raised black consciousness somewhat, that is before blacks began to revert to their jungle nature with the rise of youth culture, domination in sports, and the Civil Rights Movement. Anyway, the profoundest revolution in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is also the most silent. It is a psyche-revolution or ‘psychevolution’. Indeed, the ape isn’t even aware that something fundamentally has been altered in him. He just felt a slight spark that subtly shifted his way of ‘seeing’. But this alteration has the profoundest implications. When Bowman later goes through Stargate, the difference is he sees and experiences the very process of how his consciousness is being altered and transformed. The ape didn’t know what happened in his mind; Bowman is shown what is happening in his mind as he is being changed into a higher being, the Star Child. This is where Bowman is different from, say, Jack Torrance or the Moon Watcher Ape. Bowman is aware of the processes that remade him into something different and higher. In contrast, Jack Torrance, though profoundly altered by the ghosts of the Overlook, has no idea that he is being manipulated by other forces. He thinks he’s the same person. And the ape has no idea what happened inside his mind. He just knows he can use a bone in new ways. The revolution was deep and silent, too profound for the ape to understand. So, the ape, once he gains the power, just exults like a crazy beast; he’s not very reflective of his new power. Anyway, the crucial change took place after the ape commotion around the Monolith following its appearance in the morning when the apes awoke. The Monolith slipped something into the psyches of the apes as they jumped around it and touched it. But it is later that, in a quiet moment, what had been slipped into their psyches slips out and offers new suggestions to their eyes. This trace slippage makes the Moon Watcher ape to ‘see’ things anew. So, the real moment of revolution isn’t during the wild commotion around the Monolith but when the Moon Watcher is quietly fiddling around with some bones. Likewise, the real moment of revelation in ANDREI RUBLEV isn’t during the commotion of making the bell. There’s lots of ruckus and noise in the making. The real revelation comes when the bell finally reverberates with the first ring. It’s not a particular loud ring. It’s almost like a silent ring, but it rings deep and stirs something in our soul/psyche. The difference between the silent change in 2001 and ‘silent’ change in ANDREI RUBLEV is that Kubrick’s film is about the mind whereas Tarkovsky’s film is about the soul. The ape discovers a new way of using his mind; and who knows what the reconfigured David Bowman will be capable of doing with his boosted intelligence? In contrast, the ringing of the bell in ANDREI RUBLEV is a more a moment of revelation than revolution. Though it took technological knowhow to cast the bell, the final purpose is to produce a sound that affirms the soul. It need offer nothing more. It’s not about changing the world — though the world can be changed for the better with higher spiritual consciousness — but healing the heart. To the extent that Kubrick had worked on A.I. for some time before passing it on to Spielberg, it could be what interested him most was its theme of silent change. After all, David’s greatest moment of change is during the silence after Monica reads off a few words and forever imprints David’s affection onto her. The world itself remains exactly the same, but David now ‘sees’ everything differently because of his ‘spiritual’ connection to Monica. Before the imprinting, everything in the world was equally interesting to him in a neutral way. He felt the same way about every person and everything. He had no particular bias or attachment to anything. Likewise, prior to the thief’s ‘imprinting’ onto the Takeda Clan in KAGEMUSHA, he felt no particular like or dislike for anything. Perhaps, the secret to the White Right is in the art/science of imprinting. After all, I can’t explain my feelings about Western Civilization by reason, ideology, or facts alone. At some point, my feelings became imprinted onto its greatness, sacredness, beauty, and etc. to the point where I came to powerfully feel ANYTHING is justified in defending and preserving it. I know all about the ‘historical sins’ of the white race, but I just don’t care. When it comes to preservation of the West, ANYTHING is justified in my book. For those without the imprinting, they will never understand, just like the thief in KAGEMUSHA didn’t understand until, by some strange process, he became ‘imprinted’ with the sacredness of the Clan. So, the White Right must figure out ways to imprint white souls with the vision of Western Civilization, white race, white culture, and white uniqueness. Without such imprinting, the bond will not be strong. Jews are powerfully imprinted with their vision of Jewishness. Jews use the power of Pop Culture and Political Correctness to prevent the imprinting of white consciousness onto the glory of the white race. PC and Pop Culture, such as the image of the mountain-sized Negro who wuvs a wittle white mouse in GREEN MILE, are used to imprint white souls with holy vision of Negro-ness, homo-ness, and Jew-ness. And Jews begin early since children are most impressionable and ‘imprintable’. So, it isn’t enough to rely on reason and ideology if white nationalists want to save their own race. White Right must spread the kinds of images and sounds that ‘imprint’ white souls onto visions of white greatness, sacredness, beauty, and uniqueness. As there is imprinting, there is also ‘expurging’. If the process of imprinting makes one feel spiritually and sensually bound with something, the process of ‘expurging’ has the opposite effect. It makes one feel repulsed and disgusted to be associated with something. An obvious example is Joseph Goebbels’ use of anti-Jewish propaganda by associating Jewishness with ugliness, sewer rats, parasitism, deception, and exploitation of the noble ‘Aryan’ race. And Jews use ‘expurging’ by disseminating sights and sounds that associate whiteness with KKK, Holocaust, cruelty of slavery, ‘white privilege’, ‘angry white males’, and etc. Since white kids are raised with horrific images that associate white power with the ‘evils of racism’ and with holy images that associate Negroes with MLK-as-godly-icon, it’s no wonder that so many whites are brainwashed PC fools who feel ill-at-ease about their own race but grovel at the feet of Negroes, Jews, and homos. Look at all those Swedes who welcome racial suicide. The most obvious examples of imprinting and ‘expurging’ in recent times concern the freaking homos. As homos have been presented as nothing less than angels while the crazy Westboro church has been featured as the official face of ‘anti-gay’ crowd, stupid Americans emotionally came to associate homos with holiness and opponents of ‘gay agenda’ as crazy lunatics like the Westboro church clan. Jews are very clever in the way they manipulate us emotionally and ‘spiritually’. Anyway, once David makes a soul-connection with Monica, everything in the world is seen either as an obstacle or pathway to Monica. Nothing is neutral anymore. This is certainly true of how Jews see the world. Because Jews are so Judeo-centric, everything and everyone in the world are seen in terms of “Is it good for the Jews?” Though Jews urge non-Jews to see the world in more neutral and less tribal terms, the Jewish way of seeing the world is centered on their vision of tribal domination and supremacy. In 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the ape ‘sees’ something more in the bone than just a bone once his mind has been altered. Once David’s mind has been altered by imprinting, he sees something in Monica that is more than just a woman named Monica. She is the one and only ‘mommy’. In David’s case, it is a birth of love but also a birth of enslavement because he can’t let go of this attachment. A silent enslavement. The paradoxical nature of motifs is they tend to be small but crystallize/encapsulate tremendous amounts of meaning. It’s like the key that opens the door to everything. This is so with Rosebud in CITIZEN KANE. The Monolith is like the Rosebud of 2001. In ANDREI RUBLEV, the motif isn’t so much the bell as the first ring resonating from it. For a brief moment, its ripples encircle and enclose everything in the film. Of course, the significance of any motif isn’t in the object itself as how it is presented and related to shifting situations and contexts; consider the changes of meaning to the jewelry in EARRINGS OF MADAME DE. If we didn’t know that Kane muttered ‘rosebud’ before he died, the sled wouldn’t have been a motif. It would have been just an object. It would mean no more to us than to the workmen who toss it into the fireplace. What the men do seem ‘cruel’ and thoughtless only because we know of its significance. Likewise in 2001, the motif isn’t so much the Monolith itself as a few key images of it when key changes take place. Consider the trace memory of the Monolith in the Moon Watcher’s mind just before he picks up the bone. Likewise, Zuzu’s petals and the necklace in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE and VERTIGO carry significance because of the way they are introduced and then reiterated at key points. In most stories, the use of motifs is little more than a trick, a device to weave the plot together. Indeed, this has been said of Rosebud in CITIZEN KANE, i.e. it’s a gimmick to tie the narrative together with an element of mystery; I personally disagree as I find it quite poetic and moving. The use of motifs in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and ANDREI RUBLEV clearly go beyond trickery or gimmickry. They aren’t merely devices but poetic hints/whispers that crystallize everything into view. It’s like that special note[s] in a piece of music that brings the tune into special focus. They become meta-motifs.) Ingmar Bergman once said Tarkovsky is the greatest, and it may have had to do with his own shortcomings. Bergman sought to be an introspective artist, more along the line of Dreyer, Bresson, and Antonioni. He was well-aware of the greatness of Dreyer. As Bresson and Antonioni were his contemporaries and came to worldwide prominence somewhat later, it would be misleading to suppose Bergman was directly influenced by them. But the shift in his style and approach in the early 60s do signify a certain self-conscious attempt to become a full-fledged modern artist. Most of Bergman’s films of the 1950s were essentially traditional or conventional. They were artistic and masterly, clearly the work of a genuine personal film-maker. Bergman used cinema remarkably and intelligently to convey, much better than almost anyone working at the time, the range of narratives, emotions, and dramas that appealed to mature and thoughtful film-viewers. Some, like A CLOWN’S EVENING(aka SAWDUST AND TINSEL), THE FACE(aka THE MAGICIAN), SEVENTH SEAL, and SUMMER WITH MONIKA, were truly superb. But even though Bergman was doing it better than others, he wasn’t necessarily doing what hadn’t been in film, drama, novel, painting, and photography. He was not a groundbreaking artist.

In retrospect, THE WILD STRAWBERRIES is impressive for some of the acting and scenery, but the much of the story is hokum, the flashback sequences are predictable, the surreal touches are strained, the symbolism is obvious, and the dramatic tensions are routine — the usual father/son and wife/husband thing. Some of things he did are embarrassingly like Art Film for Dummies, as when the couple step out of the car and argue in the pouring rain. Talk about obvious symbolism. As for the Bibi Andersson playing two characters, it’s comes across as a gimmick; and her two boyfriends, one being religious and the other being an atheist, are worse than a parody of Bergman. WILD STRAWBERRIES is superbly crafted, but it’s as if Bergman went out of his way to concoct a middlebrow ‘art film’ that would be ‘accessible’ to even those who’d never seen an ‘art film’. At any rate, despite Bergman’s striving for depth, he was actually, like Fellini and Kurosawa, better at dynamic tensions and confrontations than meditative immersion/exploration. Bergman came from theater, and he was a natural at using his actors in dramatic, humorous, difficult, and quizzical situations. Things were usually interesting in his films when something was happening, when people were talking, when emotions ran high.
So, it was a change in tone when Bergman directed THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, WINTER LIGHT, and THE SILENCE. Of the three, the first continued partly in the vein of the earlier films with its share of high drama and talkativeness. But the other ventured beyond the established modes and probed deeper into the soul or psyche; the problem was Bergman couldn’t dig very deep. If you dropped stuff into Bergman’s holes, you could hear them hit bottom soon enough. The problem wasn’t lack of Bergman’s lack of intelligence or talent. He simply didn’t have the ‘faith’ that Dreyer and Mizoguchi had to dig very deep. Some people may probe the soul and commune with the universe, whereas others may just feel fidgety, bored, and frustrated in face of the dark mystery. The vision, illumination, transcendence, or the deeper truth never comes to some people no matter how hard they try, how intelligent they are, and/or how talented they are. Bergman was, by nature, an artist of drama than dreams. To go where the dreams are, one needs the glow. Bergman had the fire. Glow illuminates something within, the fire sets things alight. And Bergman, along with pyromaniacs like Kurosawa and Fellini, was better off playing with matches. THROUGH A GLASS DARKLY, WINTER LIGHT(aka COMMUNICANTS), and THE SILENCE are remarkable films and well worth watching, but they obviously fall way short of Bergman’s deeper intentions. He doesn’t quite attain the meaning and depth he was striving for. The one time he did break through was in PERSONA — with the help of illness in a hospital that inspired hallucinations — , but even that film is largely about dramatics between two women. Even though Liv Ullmann hardly says a words, the other woman Bibi Andersson talks enough for both of them; also, the use of closeups is very eloquent. In films like HOUR OF THE WOLF, THE PASSION(OF ANNA), CRIES AND WHISPERS, and FACE TO FACE, Bergman worked in a more meditative mode, but the results were uneven and spotty, often confused and strained — one cannot attain grace or depth by strain. No matter how hard he tried, he was like Jake LaMotta hitting the prison wall with his fists in RAGING BULL. Bergman was coming up empty because he didn’t have the ‘faith’. And he wasn’t coming up with much in the way of intellectual ideas because he was essentially a dramatist, not a thinker. In some of his films, it’s as if his characters want to isolate themselves from the distractions of the world in order to come in closer contact with their own souls, psyches, or inner-truths, but all they find is frustration, confusion, boredom, desperation, and etc. The minister in WINTER LIGHT can’t connect with God even though he is a man of God. Bergman’s later characters cannot with themselves even though their god is modern psychology. Bergman was adept at psychology but through drama than through introspection. He needed egotistical collisions for emotional debris to be inspected for psychological content. Otherwise, his films could be wearying. Some critics stand by THE PASSION, but I just barely managed to slog through it. In contrast, Tarkovsky at his best(and even at his worst) could dispense with all the drama, talk, & usual rigamarole and enter into strange soulful zones of awareness. And even though Tarkovsky was steeped in the traditional arts and drew heavily from them, some of his achievements had no correlation in other art forms and film grammars.

It was illumination than conflagration, the likes of which had never been seen in films prior to ANDREI RUBLEV, the highlights of SOLARIS, and STALKER. And in this, Tarkovsky was the true heir to Carl Dreyer and Kenji Mizoguchi. But even with Tarkovsky, it was never just a matter of will because, after all, he came up short in THE MIRROR, SOLARIS, NOSTALGHIA, and especially THE SACRIFICE, as worthy and interesting as those films are. But ANDREI RUBLEV and STALKER put him in the pantheon, and greatness isn’t just about quantity. It’s like David Lynch’s claim to greatness relies on just two films: ERASERHEAD and MULHOLLAND DR., though he made some other remarkable films as well. Because Tarkovsky plumbed the depths, his art was riskier and more challenging. It was about truth than trickery. Bergman, in contrast, was best as a trickster, and in this, he had something in common with Fellini. In a way, Bergman’s most revealing film is THE FACE(or THE MAGICIAN). It’s a story about a man who fakes mystery and magic he doesn’t really possess but is very good at tricking people, indeed so well that even a man of intellect and reason nearly flips out like a Negro. Bergman’s circus was smaller than Welles’ or Fellini’s, but their art was really games of illusions. When Bergman went for ‘interiority’, he usually failed — and did no favor to Woody Allen who imitated that stuff in insufferable crap like INTERIORS and ANOTHER WOMAN.

I wonder if, in the long run, Bergman’s most notable legacy will have been in the area of the autobiographical and/or genealogical drama. Generally, cinema, even ‘art film’, has served as a means of escape from familial ties and obligations. Even (semi)autobiographical films tend to deal with narratives, issues, and conflicts outside the family. This is understandable since the family is thought to be confining and burdened with responsibilities. Yasujiro Ozu mostly made family dramas, but their idealized characters and situations offered poetic escapism from family realism. They were soap-opera-as-art than social-truth-as-art. It’s Japanese family life as it should be than as it is. I highly doubt if Ozu’s family life as child was as neat and well-ordered as in his films. Peckinpah injected some semi-autobiographical material into films like PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID, BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, and THE KILLER ELITE, but they were mostly escapist in nature. They tended to elude problems of family life than grapple with them; one exception might be JUNIOR BONNER, but despite the affection between father and son, between brother and brother, and between mother and son, there isn’t much in the way of real bond to keep them together.
But then, the whole idea of going to a movie is to get away from home, which is associated with family life. Indeed, movie-going has been closely associated with dating, and dating is about getting away from the home to be with a friend or lover. (Of course, the irony is that the sexual passions behind dating lead to sex, and sex leads to pregnancy, and pregnancy leads to creation of a family. Dating is escapism from family life to the possibility of a new family life. Mrs. Robinson in THE GRADUATE understands this all too well. She had sex with Mr. Robinson in his car when they were young. It was a way of being free, but it led to pregnancy, and that led to marriage and family. Of course, the birth control pill and contraceptives changed people’s attitudes about sex that has become mostly disassociated from its biological consequences. It is no longer seen as pleasure leading to obligations of family but pleasure-for-pleasure’s-sake, which further devalues the family.) So, who wants to deal with problems of family life in movies? And if movies do deal with the subject of the family, we prefer mythic scenarios like the grand gangster clan in THE GODFATHER. There’s almost nothing about the family in the films of Antonioni. Or those of Jean-Luc Godard. Your average film-maker seems to have no interest in his or her family, but even if he or she did, he or she would know it’s not the most popular subject in cinema. This is in stark contrast to the novel where family life continues to be an important subject. Maybe it’s because novels have more space to explore the subject; also, novels are not spectacles, so it doesn’t have to be ‘big’, something audiences expect even from ‘art films’. Francois Truffaut’s 400 BLOWS is semi-autobiographical, and it was followed by four sequels, but they, especially the sequels, were more about what-ifs than about Truffaut’s real life. And as Truffaut remained estranged from his mother and her family for most of his adult life, there wasn’t much about parents and children. Fellini touched on family matters in some of his films, but the family was in the background. And in a film like AMARCORD, everything is background as there isn’t anything like a central character or situation. More recently, Terrence Malick with THE TREE OF LIFE and Richard Linklater with BOYHOOD(and maybe BEFORE MIDNIGHT) made semi-autobiographical works delving into the problems of family. But THE TREE OF LIFE is ridiculous facebook-movie-making, and BOYHOOD seems to say American men and women stop growing up at the age of 18. Is it about a boy and his father or about younger boy and older boy?
Bergman touched some raw nerves on family life, much of which was related to or inspired by his own experiences as son and husband(or lover), in films such as WILD STRAWBERRIES and WINTER LIGHT(surely inspired by his memories of his minister-father), but he didn’t directly confront issues related to his own family until much later, especially in ‘retirement’ from directing-feature-films.

FANNY AND ALEXANDER

FANNY AND ALEXANDER could be seen as the first in this series, but it was more a sensationalized view of some of his childhood memories, as well as a fantasy vision of a family life he wished he had. It made for good show but wasn’t particularly revealing about the bare bones truth. Bergman as director was too much of a master and showman to get down to the brass tacks essentials of the matter. It was too personal and hurtful, even embarrassing, for comfort. He preferred to deal with family issues only indirectly or touch upon on them elliptically, which may have been why he often preferred to make films about women/daughters than about men/sons. Consider AUTUMN SONATA, about a mother and daughter. And though Bergman had a brother as well as a sister, he preferred movies about sisters, such as CRIES AND WHISPERS. As director, he was artist first and confessor second.
So, it was as writer that he produced a number of scripts(directed by others) that were personally more self-exposing/revealing in nature. Given that one’s own parents are probably the least ‘cool’ subject imaginable in cinema, either as entertainment and ‘art film’, it is remarkable the extent to which Bergman decided to use the medium of film to explore and express the issues and problems of his family life, his relations with his parents, and his parents relationship with one another. Indeed, there’s almost nothing it in cinema. (This is surely one reason why Bergman is regarded by some as more a man of theater than man of cinema. Theater, after all, has been very much about the family. Think of Arthur Miller’s DEATH OF A SALESMAN. Think of Eugene O’Neill’s LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT. [With all the homomania, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone wrote a play called Long Gay’s Horny into Tight.] Think of the plays of August Strindberg and Henrik Ibsen, whose socio-political drama THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE is also a family drama. Consider Anton Chekhov’s family-centered dramas. As the stage is more intimate and as plays tend to be more confessional/personal than movie scripts, drama has been more of an autobiographical medium than cinema has been. Also, since use of space is limited on the stage, plays tend to deal with people stuck in one place than roaming around freely. What is a more spatially restricted than the home, and what happens in the home? Family life. In contrast, movies are about open spaces, so naturally we prefer characters who leave home and seek action elsewhere. Some of the most powerful films about family have actually been based on plays. Think of the recent AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY by Tracy Letts[who is a man despite the ‘faggish’ name]. If THE GRADUATE had been written as a play than as a novel[that spawned a movie], it would likely have been more about Benjamin Braddock arguing with his parents than about driving around looking for love. TV shows, with their fixed studio sets, especially in sitcoms, brought back the family, but as TV is mostly about escapist entertainment than confessional art, its version of family life tended to be soap-opera-like. To the extent that drama was taken over by homos who have ambivalent feelings about the family, something was lost in American Theater, which went from a platform for exploring the American Family[as in DEATH OF A SALESMAN] to a platform for homo fantasies of alternative community. It went from family confession to decadent exhibition. It went from RAISIN IN THE SUN to Fudge in the Moon.) Anyway, Bergman’s genealogical/parental films are valuable because, apart from artistic considerations, they turn the lens on a subject that cinema and most of pop culture have done everything to turn us away from. Whatever value arts and entertainment may have, their damaging effect has been in turning away modern man/woman from the core stuff of life. The core truth of life is we exist only because our parents put us here. Each of us, whether we like it or not, is 50% father and 50% mother genetically. Yet, the cult of youth, the cult of the cool, the cult of intellectualism, the cult of fashion, and etc. have made us disassociate ourselves from family life. And arts and entertainment have served as escape routes. Of course, everyone should develop an identity and life outside the family. And young Bergman appreciated the power of art to open venues of personal freedom he couldn’t find in his religious house and strict upbringing. But there is a difference between developing beyond the family and severing ties with the family, especially in favor of something as ‘ahuman’ as modernity and something as inhuman as decadent pop culture.

DEATH OF A SALESMAN

In the final stages of his career, Bergman decided to turn his cinematic thoughts to his origins, his parents, and to himself. After all, as much as he loved theater and film, he wasn’t made by playwrights and film-makers but by his father and mother. And no matter how much he tore himself apart from his father, his father’s blood flowed in his veins as well.
Prior to delving into parental matters, Bergman dramatized aspects of his own life with works such as SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE. And later, he wrote FAITHLESS that was directed by Liv Ullmann. (Though FAITHLESS is about Bergman’s own affair with a woman, it cannot be fully appreciated without Bergman’s relation with his father. Bergman self-righteously accused his father of abuse and hypocrisy all his life, but how does he square with the fact that he hurt other people in ways that went beyond the cruelty of his father. It’s easy to accuse others, more difficult to look oneself in the mirror and find the same poison flowing in one’s own veins.)
The appeal of Bergman’s films about his own life is understandable given the film community’s high regard for him as one of the great masters. But it was riskier move for Bergman to create works about his parents because parents-of-film-makers simply aren’t the most appealing/exciting subject for movie audiences and because Bergman had difficult issues with his parents. There were raw nerves involved. (Any revelation about family issues could be embarrassing. Also, it could be self-righteous and self-pitying. It was also unfair since the accused party, especially if dead and gone, had no recourse to ‘set the record straight’, especially by making a counter-film. And indeed, Bergman’s films about his parents make him seem both deeply empathetic & penetrating and prickly & vicious. There are moments in SUNDAY’S CHILDREN when we wanna say, “Why not just bury the hatchet? The old man is dead and gone, so enough already.” And yet, certain scars simply don’t go away simply because people want them to, and if Bergman could never resolve his personal issues about his father, then he had every right to keep exploring them over and over.) No one wants a family-from-hell, but then, it’s the problems that make any subject interesting. If Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill had FATHER-KNOWS-BEST-kind of dads, they might have grown up to be well-adjusted men in dentistry or accounting. If Bergman’s parents had been perfectly nice and normal, there wouldn’t have been fewer scars, fewer things to mull over.

BEST INTENTIONS
SUNDAY’S CHILDREN
PRIVATE CONFESSION

BEST INTENTIONS, SUNDAY’S CHILDREN, and PRIVATE CONFESSION aren’t much remembered, revived, or discussed, but they should be given greater consideration because they are exactly the sort of thing most film-makers shy away from in their treatment of cinema as a form of escapism especially from the essential facts of life. We try to comprehend the world through books, movies, arts, culture, and ideas, but we cannot truly understand ourselves without the knowledge of deeper connections to our parents and families. Tarkovsky also injected elements of his father and mother into his films, and in his case, the emotions were less problematic as his appreciation and affection for his parents ran deep. In contrast, Bergman was tormented in his feelings about his parents, especially the father. From PRIVATE CONFESSION, it’s obvious that a part of him saw his mother as the betrayer of the family for her affair with another man; and yet, he also sympathizes with her because her infidelity was an act of rebellion against a cold husband and suffocating tradition. In her own way, she did what her son would do later in life as a modern artist. There were lots of barb-wire fence and buried mines between himself and his parents. But he decided to go there, and in some ways, his richest works are his works about his parents that were directed by other film-makers. Bergman was hardly the first, let alone the only, artist to use cinema as a family portrait, but he dug deeper than most. If only as contrast-reminders of what most film-makers refuse to do(especially honestly), the genealogical-trilogy by Bergman merits attention. As genuine works of art, they command respect. Bergman’s reputation as a film master is assured with several masterpieces, especially SAWDUST AND TINSEL, SEVENTH SEAL, THE FACE(aka THE MAGICIAN), and PERSONA. He also made a number of excellent films in a long illustrious career. But Bergman’s art at its deepest, most reflective, most honest, most introspective, and most thoughtful are to be found in the trilogy about his parents, the source of his life and the problems he could never resolve. And the issues were simply about life, not highfalutin stuff about philosophy, metaphysics, modernity, intellectualism, and etc. In the end, all ideas and views are fashions; they come and go. What is true is life itself, and the inescapable fact is, as Cokie Roberts said, “we are our mothers’ daughters”, and I would add, “we are our daughters’ mothers”.

Steve McQueen and Robert Preston as son and father in JUNIOR BONNER

Though Peckinpah’s films generally aren’t about family, they owe a great deal to the fact Peckinpah grew up in a world without TV. He grew up hearing stories from his grandparents and parents about the Old West that was no more. His imagination of the West was arguable more inspired by these stories than Hollywood Westerns, which may explain why his Westerns look and feel so different from the standard that most people came to respect. Just as Coppola’s firsthand knowledge of Italian life enriched THE GODFATHER, Peckinpah’s childhood in a genuine Western family added depth and texture to works like THE WILD BUNCH and JUNIOR BONNER. Sadly, Peckinpah dug himself an early grave with over-indulgence in alcohol and cocaine, and it was truly a great loss to the film community. Had he taken care of himself, there’s no telling what he may have been capable of up until the 1990s had he lived.

TIME OF THE GYPSIES

But if Peckinpah died at the age of 1959 in 1984, his legacy lived on in the film-makers he inspired. One of the best is Emir Kusturica whose TIME OF THE GYPSIES, surely one of the greatest films ever made, makes an homage to THE WILD BUNCH. Kusturica is the opposite of Tarantino. Both have seen tons of movies, but whereas Tarantino only knows movies — with the exception of RESERVOIR DOGS, his first film and only masterpiece — , Kusturica, like Peckinpah, blended his multi-faceted movie love with the very stuff of life with all its richness and problems. It is depressing that the film community cares more about junk like PULP FICTION and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS while having forgotten true masterpieces like WHEN FATHER WAS AWAY ON BUSINESS and TIME OF THE GYPSIES, a film whose breadth of imagination, depth of emotions, singularity of vision, and power of personality is as great as it gets.

For Part 1 of the Blogpost, CLICK HERE.

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Neo-Fascist Consideration of Walon Green & Sam Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH: The Ride of the ‘Last Barbarians’(and Some Notes on Akira Kurosawa, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, and Ingmar Bergman). PART 1.

http://ostrovletania.blogspot.com/2015/05/walon-green-sam-peckinpahs-wild-bunch.html

Sam Peckinpah on the set of THE WILD BUNCH

For Part 2 of this blogpost, CLICK HERE.

Topics Discussed: Technique, ‘form is content’, Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead, Modern Art, modernism, painting, sculpture, narrative art, time and art, Memento, Narrative Trap, Sergei Eisenstein, Battleship Potemkin, Stanley Kubrick, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Akira Kurosawa, Seven Samurai, Leadership, Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola, Jim Jones, Jean-Luc Godard, Weekend, John Milius, Rap culture, jungle tribalism, Bitchassho-Igrayne-Taliban Syndrome, Excalibur, John Boorman, Zardoz, homosexual right, far-right feminism, leftist feminism, madonna, Camille Paglia, New Feminism, jungle fever, ‘subconspiracy’, D.W. Griffith, The Birth of a Nation, Bad Sleep Well, Jordan Belfort, morality and materiality and money-ality, 13th Warrior, Milton Friedman, To Live and Die in L.A., Mexican corruption, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Ride the High Country, Franz Kafka, Red River(Howard Hawks), High Noon, Mulholland Dr., David Lynch, continuum and ‘individuum’ of life, La Jetee, Bob Dylan, Basement Tapes, Andrei Tarkovsky, Andrei Rublev, Richard Linklater, Texas, New York, libertine-ism, Spartacus, Kirk Douglas, John Ford, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, exhibitionism, narcissism, Lena Dunham, piggishness or piggerousness, Broadcast News, Albert Brooks, National Socialism, Adolf Hitler, alpha female nationalism, Jim Jeffries, Jack Johnson, tribalism and survival, The Jewish Formula for Tribal Survival, Rambo, Rocky, Sylvester Stallone, Straw Dogs, The Getaway, Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, Social-communal dream-nature, John Schlesinger, Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate, Harold and Maude, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville directed by Robert Altman, The Godfather, black saint, Mean Streets, total goodness and total badness, individualism and tribalism, Takeshi Kitano, Walter Hill and psychology, The Long Riders, Wild Bill, making-something-out-of-nothing, Protestant Work Ethic, Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean, John Huston, Dirty Dozen, Robert Aldrich, In Cold Blood, The Great Gatsby, Death of a Salesman, The Longest Yard, The Last Days of Disco, Whit Stillman, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Vito Corleone, Clemenza, Spartacus, Kirk Douglas, Zionism. 

There are few films I’ve seen as many times as THE WILD BUNCH. One reason is the marvel of its film-making, which is so inspired, original, and powerful on multiple levels. It is that rare film that is both masterly and revolutionary, confounding the borderline between the traditional and the ‘radical’. Like the goddess Athena born complete from the head of Zeus, THE WILD BUNCH emerged as an instant classic, a complete universe unto itself. It was startling and stately, urgent and timeless. On that score, it was a landmark film not unlike Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY.
Certain ‘seminal’ films garnered attention for their innovative qualities, but novelty alone passes as a fad, which is why so many films by Jean-Luc Godard and Nagisa Oshima are all but forgotten. Godard’s films that have lasted over the years were built on something more than experimentation and contrariness. After all, technique is just a means of expression. The fact remains that the major themes of art are timeless and revolve around the profound questions of fear & desire, love & hate, power & weakness, vision & void. Technique(however clever or brilliant) that fails to grapple with the great themes is just a tic, a quirk, an eccentricity. We can appreciate TV commercials, some of which are devilishly clever or stylish, but can never truly admire them. It is also why so many films of the 60s that seemed ‘new’ and ‘different’ then seem so empty and hollow now. They were little more than exercises in ‘Look ma, no hands, Look ma, no feet.’ Richard Lester’s A HARD DAY’S NIGHT has had a better shelf-life than HELP! because the Beatles emerge as vivid personalities, making the film more than an assemblage of Lester’s visual tricks. In contrast, all we notice in HELP! is technique because the Beatles seem bored with the ludicrous plot and stoned out of their minds.

The issue of technique brings to mind Stanley Kauffmann’s critique of someone’s characterization of a TV commercial as a mini-RASHOMON. Kauffmann took exception because the appraisal implied that RASHOMON’s significance was all about technique. In truth, Akira Kurosawa’s film is about something. Its form adds up to meaningful content. Some film critics and scholars have maintained that CITIZEN KANE is mostly trite and to be admired only for its groundbreaking techniques. But would a film have exerted so much power over the years if it were little more than a bundle of trickery? Even if it’s the best kind of trickery, is trickery ever enough, at least in the narrative arts?
Didn’t Francis Ford Coppola prove beyond a doubt with ONE FROM THE HEART and RUMBLE FISH that technique alone isn’t sufficient to hold our interest?
Of course, technique is essential to art. The notion of ‘form is content’ is true inasmuch everything about any work can only be manifested through its form. Every detail, every movement, every word, every sound, and etc. are part of the form. Even so, there’s a difference between forms-used-to-convey-certain-truths-about-life and forms-played-with-just-to-impress-the-senses.

The unbending Howard Roark(Gary Cooper) of Ayn Rand’s THE FOUNTAINHEAD

There is in Modernist Art, to be sure, a means of using form to make the form aware of its own intrinsic qualities and possibilities. It’s like what Ayn Rand said of architecture in THE FOUNTAINHEAD: materials used to build architecture must be true to their own innate qualities than represent other things. Her radical individualism extended even to inanimate objects. Just as she believed that the great individual should never compromise and yield to the conventions of others, she thought that every object had its own essence that mustn’t be repressed, denied, or bent to the ‘will’ or nature of any other object. So, if buildings were to be made of steel and glass, forms must be devised to reveal the full magnificence and expressive potential of those materials. Steel and glass shouldn’t be used to represent or ‘serve’ other forms that are natural to other materials. (But what can one say of plastic when its very nature is to easily mimic anything and everything?) Modernism’s agenda of allowing materials/forms to explore and discover their own intrinsic qualities was more amenable to something like painting and sculpture. Thus, abstract paintings dispensed with representing people & things and dwelt on the possibilities of all the various forms that could be conveyed through combinations of colors and patterns on the canvas. But this became more problematic with intrinsically narrative forms such as novels and cinema. Given the nature of paintings and sculptures, the power of interpretation/appreciation is almost completely in the hands of the audience. A painting doesn’t tell you how it should be approached. It is up to every viewer who has all the time in the world. One can stare at a painting for five minutes or five hours. The viewer has total control of time in his/her relation to the work. Thus, even if a certain painting or sculpture seems strange or opaque, the viewer has the luxury of patience to gradually arrive at his or her own interpretation of the work.
In contrast, in works where the artist controls the element of time, he has an obligation to string successive moments together into meaning and sense. Because we are no choice but to follow his command of time, he has to make something of it that forms into a ‘narrative’. If the progression is completely arbitrary, random, or chaotic, audience is left with confusion and ultimately boredom. If a painting doesn’t make sense immediately, the viewer at least controls the time and could discern sense from it through concentrated meditation and interpretation. But if a film progresses by making little or no sense, we remain confused and even cheated. If something is sufficiently strange or ‘difficult’, we need control over time to slow down and ponder its impact and meaning. It’s like we need the freedom to stop reading and consult a dictionary to look up words when reading a text loaded with obscure words or written in foreign language. Because we have no such control of time when we watch a film, a film that follows the logic of an abstract painting will simple tire and wear out the mind of the viewer. This isn’t to say a film cannot be modernist. Cinema can be many things, but because things are always in a state of flux in a film, the narrative must develop into some semblance of story and meaning that is sufficiently intelligible to the audience. Not surprisingly, the best modernist film-makers found means to balance the strange and the familiar. This is why David Lynch’s ERASERHEAD and MULHOLLAND DR. are more successful as works of art than something so baffling as TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME and INLAND EMPIRE. This is why Ingmar Bergman’s PERSONA that hovers between clarity and chaos works better than HOUR OF THE WOLF that surrenders to disintegration. If indeed every art form has intrinsic qualities, controlled time and narrative are essential to novels and especially to films. (Even though the reader controls the speed at which he or she flips through the pages of a novel, all texts are meant to be read in the order in which they were written. There’s no rule in painting or sculpture that says one has to look at ‘this’ detail before ‘that’ detail, but it’s the rule of literature that you begin with the first page until you reach the final page. The reader can control the pace but not the progression. Since narrative is inevitable and intrinsic to novels and film, it is the foolish writer or director who has tried to apply the rules of modernism in the other art-forms to the novel or a film. This is why Andrew Sarris bemoaned most of what passed for ‘avant-garde cinema’. Personally, while I can tolerate and even enjoy something avant-garde and short like “Mothlight”, I would lose interest if it ran for hours on end..

Granted, modernist artists did try to expand the perimeters of cinema, but they could never entirely abandon the rules of narrative because the meaning of film derives from the connective and associative links among everything from the beginning to the middle to the end. Thus, some of the most remarkable instances of modernism in cinema are found in works like LE JETEE(Chris Marker), MURIEL(Alain Resnais), and SIMON OF THE DESERT(Luis Bunuel) that tread carefully through a mine field of uncertainties. Even when a painting or sculpture makes no sense on first impression, the viewer controls the time and space(around the work) to make sense of the work. But as a film is constantly progressing along the continuum of the narrative, if moment after moment after moment makes no sense, it moves along unintelligibly and fails to form into any larger meaning. Of course, there’s the other kind of avant-garde cinema that goes for near-total static-ness or ‘staticity’. In a film like this, almost nothing happens, and one could theoretically approach it like a painting, photography, ‘real time’, or ‘life’. Consider Andy Warhol’s EMPIRE. But even this doesn’t work because the intrinsic nature of cinema is to tell a story, to take us places, to reveal things, to offer change of scenarios. After all, why go see a movie if we simply want to stare at a single object for hours on end? We could just look at a still photograph or a painting. We could just sit on a park bench and stare at a building for two hours, and it won’t cost us the price of a ticket. “To thine ownself be true” is generally the best advice for art, especially cinema. (I suppose a film that fixes on a single image or hardly changes at all can challenge our ‘conventional’ notions of art, film, photography, time, and life as the film both confirms and violates the principles of every one of those forms and/or states, but it’s too easy and lazy way for the ‘artist’ to be provocative — leaving it all up to us to ponder the meaning of whatever he or she did or may have done — and too boring and dreary for us since such works are the dime a dozen of every art school.) SANS SOLEIL by Chris Marker is a fascinating case of a film that skips back and forth between the realms of order and chance, and it is perhaps as far as cinema can go in narrative experimentation without falling into the abyss.
LE JETEE, Marker’s most famous film, is about a man’s search for meaning in a post-apocalyptic world without memory and moral order. French film-makers, at their elliptical best, have especially been adept at exploring curious links among things of no apparent relation to one another. A kind of poetic intellectualism that favor ideas between things than ideas about things.

THE WILD BUNCH, like 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST(by Sergio Leone) demonstrated a work need not be non-modernist to be revolutionary and original just the same. But then, great artists have been illustrating that truth since the origins of human creativity. The Ancient Greeks certainly didn’t need modernism to create ground-breaking works of art. And what did Botticelli know of modernism during the Renaissance? Modernism certainly hastened the pace of change and experimentation in art by allowing, encouraging, and even pressuring the individual artist to work against tradition & convention and to come up with his own unique expressions. Though art had always been changing through the ages in every culture, the general tendency has been for the emergence of an official, sacred, and/or ideal form of expression that eventually imposes its standards on those who follow. Thus, even most of the great innovators worked within certain approved visions.

Modernism fundamentally deviated from standards & conventions and boldly ventured into new forms and expressions. If the Renaissance was inspired by ideals and if Romanticism was fueled by passion, modernism was driven by self-conscious neurosis. If earlier ‘movements’ used art as a means of expressive representation — of beauty, ideals, moods, and reality — , modernism turned art back on itself to explore, subvert, and then devour itself. Modernism was not only the biggest enemy of tradition but of itself as its aggressive ‘agenda’ always needed something to challenge, subvert, bore through, and upend. If traditional forms of art had continued in the spirit of adding something more to a proud heritage, modernism functioned iconoclastically by either rejecting, disassembling, or burrowing through all that had been prior. Once the traditional arts had been shunted aside as no longer relevant in the 20th century, modernism could only progress by ‘attacking’ earlier or contemporary forms of modernism, and then, finally, the modernist had nothing left but to turn the scalpel on himself, and then it had effectively died as a movement. Modernism wasn’t like a garden or a forest but like a fascinating disease that wouldn’t stop until it infected and ate up every flower and tree in the garden and forest and then turned on itself.

If the element of change served art prior to modernism, it was as if art existed to serve the mania for change under modernism. And there was an explosion of new shapes and patterns hitherto un-imagined by artists and critics of earlier times. So, where did modernism go ‘wrong’? It inevitably discovered that art forms can easily be exhausted of their possibilities. Paintings and sculptures soon ran out of new ideas. Also, as the shock of the new faded, even new expressions no longer generated much excitement. Once novelty became the standard in arts-and-culture, it no longer seemed very novel and fresh. Everything became the same new, same new.
Also, as time passed, certain achievements of modernism became established forms copied by innumerable artists. They simply became the New Tradition. Think of the countless painters who painted like Picasso, Klee, Kandinsky, Matisse, Pollock, etc. Indeed, certain modernist expressions became as standard as styles in English landscape painting had been in their day.

Also, there was a narcissistic-nihilism at the core of modernism that undermined the long-term appeal of many of its works. If indeed the fame and respect accorded to an artist depends on his willful differentness and eccentricity, then art has turned into a game of signatures than meaning. If we accord special attention to something because it ‘stands out’, then artists are encouraged to think in terms of hogging notoriety. But even this is a self-defeating game since the art world has been and always will be dominated by people with clout, connections, and money. So, even the kind of ‘notoriety’ that is favored is generally what is approved by the cultural establishment and the powers-that-be. But then, what is the use of politically correct notoriety? After all, can an artist can succeed today by being notorious in ways that offend Jewish oligarchs or homosexual princelings? Furthermore, the problem with notoriety-for-notoriety’s-sake is that something that gained attention in that manner — often through hype by the media and/or in the academia — has no other value, and notoriety is usually a case of here-today-gone-tomorrow. Who cares about the ugly photos of Robert Mapplethorpe or “Piss Christ” anymore? If not for the obscenity trial or hyped-up controversy, no one would have paid them any attention as that kind of filth is dime-a-dozen in the arts community that has long been filled with not-too-bright kids from affluent families who couldn’t make it to college on substantive academic grounds.

One of Robert Mapplethorpe’s silly antics.

In his review of Federico Felliini’s 8 ½, Dwight MacDonald rebuffed those who accused Fellini of art-for-art’s-sake by asking “for what better sake?” MacDonald was being somewhat disingenuous since the issue really depends on how one defines ‘art’. If by ‘art-for-art’s-sake’, one means indulging in fancy technique and empty brilliance, MacDonald wouldn’t have endorsed it either. But if ‘art’ is defined as the inspired use of creativity to explore & convey certain truths about life or to envision startling forms of power & beauty, then ‘art-for-art’s-sake’ is purposeful and meaningful. Generally speaking, the narrative arts tend to be humanist or human-centric whereas fine arts & architecture can range from humanism to spiritualism to formalism. A building doesn’t necessarily have to stand for something or mean anything. It could be an expression of geometry than morality or psychology. A painting can be devoid of what is recognizably human. It could be an exploration of colors, shapes, and patterns that exist nowhere in reality. But narratives tend to fixate on a story or progression of something, and just about the only interesting things on those terms are creatures such as animals and humans. We can enjoy an hour long documentary about a wolf or eagle but not so much about moss on a rock or a piece of deadwood floating in water. Theoretically, a film can have no humans and no animals. It could just cut from one landscape to another or track across a deserted area. As there could be noone or nothing to follow, we would be faced with dead time no matter how much time passes. Even after an hour, we would still have no sense of beginning, middle, and end since an image of a place in and of itself means nothing in terms of narrative. (I suppose time lapse photography could be used, as in KOYAANISQATSI and BARAKA, to convey a ‘story’ of clouds and stars — things that are virtually inanimate in real time but come to life when sped up. Another way by which film images can be made interesting without animals and humans are as accompaniment to music as music lends ‘life’ to just about anything. Even so, audiences prefer images caught on mobile cameras than still ones, and the mobility itself, even if there are no animals and humans to be seen in the film, lends a sense of human presence because any kind of camera movement implies the roaming curiosity of an ever restless human observer. Also, narration isn’t only about action but intention. Lots of action without intention is less interesting than minimum action with intense intention. Mosquitos are very active, but it wouldn’t be very interesting to watch them buzz around restlessly for hours on end. But even the near-still moment when the ape in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY stares at the bone is interesting because of a new dawning of intention.) An image becomes part of a narrative only if an animal or human enters and lends it purpose. It is only the human or animal that has a sense of time and acts & reacts through time in accordance to his or its neeeds. If a man is hungry, he goes to a food mart to get something and then returns. There is the want of food, the trek to get the food, and the trek back with the food with the idea of consuming it back home. Without people, neither the food mart nor the house has any meaning in relation to the story; indeed, there wouldn’t even be any kind of story in the first place. The significance of the existence of the food mart and the home owes to man’s uses of them. Of course, nature — rocks, lakes, and plants — came into existence prior to animals and man, but they too are without a story unless there are creatures to interact with them. Story isn’t so much about what happens as who is aware of what happens. If a star system blows up but no one knows about it, it’s not a story. If nothing happens but a woman sitting alone in a room thinks up a story in her head, it’s a story even though it only ‘happened’ in her imagination.
Unless life exists, even a billion suns wouldn’t know that they exist.
Also, even though there is a kind of ‘story’ of the birth, life, and death of stars, it takes place over billions of years and are thus meaningless on the human scale. Even among living organisms, the sense of narrative can only exist among creatures that are animate and have complex memories. When Jean-Do in DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY loses his ability to move, his story essentially comes to an end in terms of a ‘lived life’ and continues only in the realm of memory in which he can move back and forth in time. Though not nearly as incapacitated, a similar kind of logic pervades TIME REGAINED(directed by Raul Ruiz) and MULHOLLAND DR. in which the protagonists more or less recede from lived life and wander through the realm of memory, wishes, and dreams.

In contrast, the character in Christopher Nolan’s MEMENTO is very active, but as he cannot form new memories, he’s forever trapped in the present that remains emotionally tied to the ever receding past when he still had the ability to store new memory. The hero of MEMENTO is really running around in circles and caught in a Narrative Trap since he is unable to link whatever he is doing with whatever had transpired(since the attack that destroyed his ability to store new memory) except through odd fragments of tattoos and mementos that, more often than not, mislead than lead. As it turns out, he’s been manipulated by a rogue cop, that is until the rogue cop himself runs out of luck and is gunned down by the hero in the mistaken conviction that the rogue cop is the murderer of the hero’s wife. In a way, one could say the rogue cop got what was coming to him, and it’s great for the hero to be finally free of the cop’s manipulations, but on the other hand, one could argue that the rogue cop had been doing the hero a favor by coordinating things so that he, the hero, could go on believing that his life has meaning by following clues to perpetually hunting down the killer of his wife. With the cop dead, who will play this game with him? Who will supply him with the ‘leads’? The cop had been to him what the company is to its employees in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS: offering ‘leads’ that gives them some semblance of purpose in life. Somewhat similar to his situation, albeit different in contour, is the hero of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s MAN WITHOUT A MAP(aka RUINED MAP) who, at the end, suffers from amnesia and forgets all that had happened to him prior to the blow to his head. He is able to form new memories, but the memory of everything that had made him what he is has become lost to him.

THE WILD BUNCH was one of those rare films that seemed both new and classic upon its release in1969. The most obvious reason for the newness was the level of violence, especially in tandem with fast-cutting and slo-motion, but there was much more. There had never been a Western that looked, sounded, and felt quite like it. Even without the violence, THE WILD BUNCH was a new kind of film. One might draw comparisons with the films of Akira Kurosawa — especially SEVEN SAMURAI, THRONE OF BLOOD, and YOJIMBO — , silent classics like THE BIRTH OF A NATION & the films of Buster Keaton, certain expressionistic works of German cinema in the 1920s and 1930s, and early Soviet cinema, especially of Sergei Eisenstein and Pudovkin. Among earlier American directors, the powerful films of Elia Kazan, especially VIVA ZAPATA, come to mind.
It is interesting that boldness, daring, and eccentricity in action cinema are mostly to be found in the early era of cinema — especially the Silent Era — before they were revived with Peckinpah, Steven Spielberg, and Walter Hill in the 1970s. As action directors, most established masters such as John Ford, Howard Hawks, David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock and others tended to prefer classic setups, lateral movements, clean editing, and stable framing to techniques that amplified the sense of spontaneity, unpredictability, and dynamism. Hollywood cinema, well into the late 60s, mostly dispensed with the kind of rambunctious style found in D.W. Griffith’s first great epic. The violence in THE BIRTH OF A NATION sometimes feel like “There’s a White Riot Goin’ On.” It seems as though the action isn’t contained within the frame but about to flow over into the theater and whup some Negroes in the audience. It’s no wonder that Pauline Kael wrote of SEVEN SAMURAI as the greatest action film since THE BIRTH OF A NATION. It looks like an uncaged animal running wild, whereas even in the African safari films of Howard Hawks, the action looks walled and corralled within the frame of the film. Indeed, the frightening power of THE BIRTH OF THE NATION probably had as much to do with its style as its subject. Just like the audience freaked out during George Melies’ “Arrival of a Train” by naively mistaking the train for real, the sheer power of THE BIRTH OF A NATION made it seem as though the KKK on the screen were about to leap into the audience, grab some Negroes, and hang them from the balcony. It done make the Negro flip out if he be foolish to attend a screening.

A Negro responding to an outdoor screening of THE BIRTH OF A NATION.

It was like 3D before 3D. Negroes who done seen it probably felt like Negroes who done freaked out watching BLACULA where some bitten Negress done turn into a vampire and be running toward the audience. In THE BIRTH OF THE NATION, the camera not only observes and records but participates and rumbles.

And it was this quality that was so electrifying and thunderous about Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI, the sheer impact of which wasn’t equaled or topped until screens across America were blasted with THE WILD BUNCH. (Arthur Penn’s BONNIE AND CLYDE was only a warmup.) SEVEN SAMURAI was like a giant aquarium that shattered and flooded the audience with fish & water. With THE WILD BUNCH, it was as if the dam burst.(Stanley Kubrick may have felt obligated to top it with all the blood in THE SHINING.) With films like BONNIE AND CLYDE and THE WILD BUNCH, the audience didn’t so much respond to violence on the screen as from the screen. The editing didn’t so much neatly match a series of ‘objective’ shots as frenetically alternate between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ shots. And instead of a steady and logical progression of images, there was an element of syncopation, thus conveying the impression of violence occurring at different levels, paces, and intensities — psychological as well as physical — among the participants. The startling thing about the action scenes of Sergie Eisenstein was how the impersonal progression of violence were inter-cut with the individual & idiosyncratic reactions to them. The famous Odessa Step scene in BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN is effective not only for the masterly choreography and steadfast progression of the soldiers marching down and shooting in lockstep but how those elements are juxtaposed and counterposed with the panicked & all-too-human spontaneity of the people who are being mowed down. The diametrically opposed clash(yet also strange fusion) of the faceless troops marching to order and the multi-faced scramble of humanity driven by fright makes for powerful cinema. (The first gun battle in THE WILD BUNCH reverses the emphasis of the Odessa sequence by showing us the faces of the gunmen while rendering faceless most of the civilians caught in the crossfire.) The uniformly mechanical and ruthless advance of soldiers suggest a shared sense of time and place, of ‘objectivity’. They march as one and fire as one. In contrast, their victims all experience time differently, ‘subjectively’. We see how each victim has a unique face and responds to the tragedy in his/her own way. Eisenstein employed the same kind of visual and stylistic dichotomy in the famous battle scene in ALEXANDER NEVSKY that pits the uniformly armored & disciplined troops of the Teutonic Knights against the ragtag Russian warriors whose faces and formations suggest humanity and individuality(rather ironic since the film was made for Stalinist Russia). The great battle scene in SPARTACUS surely borrowed a few cues from Eisenstein.

Most classic Hollywood action scenes can be said to be observational. Usually, a third-person observation of the action is followed by another then another. This sense is reinforced by the fact that the camera usually tends to be fixed and steadfast. Even when the camera is in movement, as in the fight with the Indians in John Ford’s STAGECOACH, it holds steady as if framed like a still photograph. Also, as the zoom was invented later, classic Hollywood movies had to rely on cutting or camera movement. As Hollywood mostly eschewed the kind of montage developed by D.W. Griffith and the early Soviet masters as extravagant, showy, arty, or intimidating, the cutting was mostly economic and/or ‘invisible’. Furthermore, the camera movement was limited by the awkward size of the camera, especially in epic productions. It required the development of lighter cameras and the zoom — as well as fresh grammar in editing — for the language of film to open up new horizons. But then, the general conservatism of aesthetics owed more to studio formulas and dictates that had come to discourage overt experimentation among film-makers. After all, even before the advance of film technology, remarkable things had been done in the silent era, indeed in many ways more remarkable than what came to prevail before the likes of Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, John Frankenheimer, and Sam Peckinpah came along to reinvigorate cinema.

In the movies of John Ford and even Howard Hawks — though RED RIVER was something of an exception — , action is presented as if seen through the eyes of referees who are untouched by the melee. In contrast, in the films of Elia Kazan, especially VIVA ZAPATA, and Sam Peckinpah, beginning with MAJOR DUNDEE and culminating with THE WILD BUNCH and STRAW DOGS, there’s no such refereeing of violence; we see and feel the violence through the players, and the game is played without rules. Thus, the violence isn’t ‘observational’ as in most John Ford movies. Even when brutal things happen in Ford movies, the camera generally maintains a steadfastness and distance from the mayhem. It never need worry being hit with arrow or shot. But in MAJOR DUNDEE and THE WILD BUNCH, it is as if the camera itself, as player than referee, must duck from bullets, run & hide, exert its last ounce of strength to survive, etc. The camera in classic Hollywood movies is like the Tin Man(of THE WIZARD OF OZ)that gets things but doesn’t have a heart. It is a machine and a tool without personality. It watches and records objectively. It was as if the camera that had been like a hungry animal or Frankenstein monster in the Silent Era(and early German and Soviet cinemas) had been tamed, leashed, and turned into a steady and obedient tool. But in the new kind of cinema that developed in the post-war period, the personality of the camera was resurrected; it came alive almost as if it had a heart of its own. It didn’t merely have a steady eye but gained legs and lungs. Consider the sheer power of Roberto Rossellini’s OPEN CITY. It seems as though the camera is part of the partisan movement, fighting, suffering, struggling, spying, and weeping with the participants.
It’s like the how HAL computer of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, though designed and programmed to dutifully serve man, gains a personality and will of its own. Of course, HAL is something far more ‘radical’ since it has gained a mind than a heart. It seeks not participation with but power over humanity.(Kubrick saw himself as a kind of human computer who processes information and possibilities faster and more powerfully than any other director. He might have wondered, what if an artificial-intelligence-film-maker were to work with him on a project? Suppose, instead of aiding and serving Kubrick, the A.I. began to take over and insist that the project should be its?)

Anyway, in some ways, the new styles of action brought the violence closer to the human level via personalization, and indeed, many defenders of the New Violence in Cinema put forth a moral argument, i.e. that increasingly realistic depiction of bloodletting would make people more sensitive to the true nature of violence. But there was something disingenuous in the argument since the New Violence wasn’t merely more realistic but more stylized, and style tends to mythologize and romanticize whatever it touches as something larger-than-life. The element of style turned violence into the something like the battle-of-the-gods. In this, Kurosawa may have led the way with YOJIMBO, which then inspired the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone that were both gritty and grand, indeed as if we were watching grubby gods of the West duel for mythic stakes. And THE WILD BUNCH is, at once, one of the most realistic & grubby movies about men of violence AND one of the most feverishly romantic and grandiose action films ever made. And despite the blood realism, the action scenes fiendishly challenge and defy the laws of plausibility. The realism pushes close to surrealism, as if John Ford is teetering over into Luis Bunuel territory.

THE WILD BUNCH is worth revisiting not only for the usual considerations of story, characters, themes, action, and etc. After all, there were similar movies set along the US-Mexican border. And there have been similar characters, similar conflicts, and similar situations in other films. And as thrilling and exciting as THE WILD BUNCH, there have been many films since with as much or even more action/violence. The reason for the continued fascination with Peckinpah’s film is simple: Everything. Every detail counts in THE WILD BUNCH. Shot by shot, scene by scene, it is an astounding work. Every detail/element has worth in its being apart from whether it has meaning(as motif, metaphor, or symbol). THE WILD BUNCH abounds in what Susan Sontag called the ‘erotics of art’. One can surely ‘read’ or interpret the images of children sitting around a mound of ants and scorpions for symbolism, but even apart such considerations, there is a visceral and poetic power in their presence/presentation alone. Though any film can be open to interpretation, it is the great film that invites interpretation because its elements capture our fascination even before our rational faculties come into play. Impression precedes interpretation.
It’s like the difference between Madeleine and Midge in VERTIGO. Both women can be patiently observed, studied, and analyzed by any man, but it is Madeleine who completely captures Scotty’s fancy to the point where he wants to know her and understand her. It’s no mere dry academic exercise. Though anything or anyone can be observed and studied, people generally fixate on the thing or person that has special power over them, and this power precedes understanding and analysis. And this power is never egalitarian as, for example, beauty is not universal and genius is a rare quality. Most of us don’t know the psychology of why humans appreciate beauty, but we know beauty when we see it. We don’t know the mechanics of humor, but we know what is and isn’t funny.

Deke Thorton and the Bounty Hunters

THE WILD BUNCH is a work of genius or perhaps momentary genius as Peckinpah would never equal it or come anywhere near it again(even though he would go on to make several more remarkable films) — and ‘collective genius’, a rare miracle where the various talents of all involved mold into a singular vision beyond the scope of any single artist. Just about everything about THE WILD BUNCH is a marvel. Any shot from the film could be framed as photographic art. The choice of actors and the way they look & sound, the pungent dialogue, the wounded emotions, Jerry Fielding’s score that is both gallant and beguiling, the rhythm and pacing, the natural elements of sun/sand/river/wind, the use of folk melodies, the suspense, and all else ring true. Though partly inspired by John Huston’s depiction of fallen man in THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE, Walon Green and Peckinpah’s vision is closer to the chaotic world of Luis Bunuel’s LOS OLVIDADOS. In Huston’s movie, the world is bad because humans choose to be bad, especially as they can’t resist the temptation of greed. In contrast, THE WILD BUNCH takes it as a given that people are naturally barbaric and interminably driven by their instincts, not unlike the ants and the scorpions. In such a world, ideals and codes of honor are mere illusions, and yet, they are illusions humans cannot do without because man is a conceited animal who instinctively distinguishes himself from nature. It’s like what Pike Bishop says to Tector Gorch: “When you side with a man, you stay with him. And if you can’t do that, you’re like some animal – you’re finished! We’re finished! All of us!” Of course, there’s an element of self-interest in what he says because he has a sentimental attachment to Old Man Sykes(whom Tector Gorch was trying to kill) and because he’s worried about his own authority being challenged by younger or rougher elements of the Bunch.

THE WILD BUNCH is a true wonderment, visionary firmament and inferno rolled into one, a triumph of film-making where everything excites us, incites us, and provokes us. It is a paradise for fetishists of just about any facet of film-making, probably accounting as to why it is one of the few Westerns with great appeal to women as well to men. It’s one hell of an action movie for those who simply want to see a good show, and it’s great study material for anyone who wants to learn all the facets of what constitutes great film-making and cinema-as-art. By studying THE WILD BUNCH, one can learn just about
everything that is essential about cinema, at least prior to the rise of CGI.

As with most so-called action movies, much of the screen time of THE WILD BUNCH doesn’t feature action or violence. Like SEVEN SAMURAI, the narrative dwells more on character development, plot twists, tensions within and without the group, and welcome respites from danger. It is nothing like THE ROAD WARRIOR or 300, vast stretches of which offer little else but action and mayhem(though with some impressive results).
It is the rare movie where everything not only comes together but has its own integrity, commanding attention in its own right. Kurosawa’s SEVEN SAMURAI is such a film, which is why, despite its length of 3 hrs and 20 min, it never flags. There’s a sense that everything and everyone not only relate to the story but to themselves in ways that has nothing to do with the story. They may be secondary to the story but not subservient to it. They are in the background but not the background.

SEVEN SAMURAI – Akira Kurosawa

As the story of SEVEN SAMURAI is centered around villagers trying to defend themselves from a herd of bandits, there’s dramatic unity from beginning to end. In contrast, THE WILD BUNCH was a risky undertaking because of the lack of overarching dramatic narrative or purpose. It begins with a bunch of outlaws trying to rob a bank and fleeing with only half the crew. SEVEN SAMURAI begins with a party of bandits about to descend upon a village like locusts but then deciding to ride off to plunder another village. (Amusingly enough, even though bandits are a gang of thieves, they do have a farmer’s sense of seasons & timing and decide that it is as yet too early to ‘harvest’ loot from the village before them as they’d raided it not long ago.) Instead of following the bandits whose lives tend to be haphazard and improvisatory, Kurosawa fixes on the peasants whose lives are rooted in the soil. Unlike the bandits, the farmers have a sense of long-term attachment and commitment, and the story follows their attempt to defend the village by hiring a group of masterless samurai.

SEVEN SAMURAI – Opening Scene
THE WILD BUNCH – Title

In contrast, THE WILD BUNCH follows the bandits fleeing a town they just robbed. Unlike people of a settled community, the members of the Bunch have no fixed goals or long-term plans. Their lives lack direction. They are nomads going from place to place to rob and loot or just to see what’s up. They are without a fixed theme, which is part of their dark romantic appeal as wanderers.
The masterless samurai in Kurosawa’s film are somewhere between the farmers and the bandits. Ideally, samurai are supposed to serve the masters of a clan, but without masters, samurai become ronin, masterless and rootless. Farmers, in contrast, always have land beneath their feet on which they grow food, build homes, and raise families(which is why it is emotionally impossible for some villagers to abandon their homes when the samurai decide that the outlying areas cannot be defended). Farmers, regardless of whether they’re free or not, have meaning in growing food on the land on which they raise families. In contrast, samurai have meaning only insofar as they have someone to serve. (One advantage of Jews was that, even torn from their lands, they always had God to serve.) And as role of samurai is to fight, nothing threatens their existence more than peace. In wars they may die but with meaning and purpose. In peace they may live but lack purpose if they are without a clan. Thus, the samurai wish to belong to a clan, but lacking such, they feel tempted to turn to banditry. Of course, some farmers also feel temptation to become bandits. They could have lost their lands to drought, war, or indebtedness. They could have been driven to desperation by hunger. Or they could have been excited by the prospect of riding around and stealing than toiling from sunup to sundown. As the young son of a honest farmer says in YOJIMBO, “A long life eating gruel — to hell with that! I’m gonna live it up and die young!” And there is something about Toshiro Mifune’s character in SEVEN SAMURAI that is half-bandit. He was a born a farmer but left the farm, and he wants to be a samurai but hasn’t the pedigree. He has the instincts of a bandit, but something holds him back from joining an outlaw gang.

SEVEN SAMURAI – Toshiro Mifune

The bandits in SEVEN SAMURAI seem to be a ragtag mix of former samurai and former farmers: perhaps samurai who’d given up hope on entering a clan and farmers who’d given up on the hard life of farming. Or perhaps exiles and outcasts from both communities with no other way of sustaining themselves. (The ensuing battle, in this sense, is between samurai & farmers AND ex-samurai & ex-farmers. One could argue that the bandits are more ‘democratic’ since distinctions of caste seem to have vanished among them whereas samurai and farmers, even as they cooperate, maintain their social differences and hierarchies. Outlawry can be a great equalizer.) The sobering truth is that the peasants and samurai whom we root for could have been, under different circumstances, bandits themselves.

To be sure, there’s the matter of moral character that some people innately possess more of than others do. While people can be driven to steal in order to survive, many will quit if availed of an honest existence(though the rule may not apply to ghastly Negroes. In contrast, some people revel in thievery and all manner of crookedness that come naturally to them. The samurai of Kurosawa’s film seem to have been born with innately superior moral characters. Even as masterless samurai facing hard times, they prefer not to become marauders and parasites. Indeed, we first see the elder samurai volunteering to save a child being held hostage(a scenario much expanded in HIGH AND LOW).
In some ways, the samurai feel, initially at least, that the mission of defending the village is beneath them. It’s like people who were trained to be doctors or lawyers having to take on lowly jobs — the young doctor initially feels this way in RED BEARD when faced with the prospect of treating the poor, and the businessman in HIGH AND LOW initially resists the idea of sacrificing his money for his chauffeur’s son. Even so, samurai are nothing unless they have something to fight for and defend. Besides, like what Old Man Sykes says at the end of THE WILD BUNCH: “Aint like it used to be, but it’ll do.” Samurai are supposed to serve, and the warriors of Kurosawa’s film offer their service toward protecting a village of farmers.
And yet, the situation is rife with contradictions since, being of higher status than the farmers, the samurai are serviced by the farmers as much they serve the farmers. Unlike in a clan in which the samurai would have mere retainers subservient to their lord, the samurai protecting the village become its temporary rulers. It takes time for both sides to adjust to a condition wherein the socially superior samurai are serving the socially inferior farmers who, however, must obey the samurai.

SEVEN SAMURAI – Farmers

Incidentally, the reason why seven men joined the mission had less to do with the moral objective at hand than the qualities possessed by Kambei(Takashi Shimura), the elder samurai. Without him, it’s unlikely that the farmers could have recruited the others or anyone of worth. Kambei’s example illustrates the importance of leadership qualities. He has the intelligence, patience, keenness, control, foresight, wisdom, persuasiveness, and even cunning(as when he fooled the kidnaper-thief to save the child) to inspire and win the trust of others. In obtaining him, the peasants vastly improved their chance of obtaining the others. It is he, more than anything else, that convinces most of the other samurai in joining the cause.

SEVEN SAMURAI – Kambei – Takashi Shimura

Some people have leadership qualities, most don’t. A kind of twisted variation of SEVEN SAMURAI is THE WOLF OF WALL STREET in which Jordan Belfort(Leonard DiCaprio) has the requisite wit, smarts, and verbal brilliance to pull together and whip into shape a bunch of guys to become gurus at the game of financial swindling. Belfort the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing chooses the life of a bandit but under the cover of the law. He steals from the rich to give to the ‘poor’(himself and his cronies) who soon become richer than the rich folks they steal from.

THE WILD BUNCH is also very keen on the importance of leadership. Among the Bunch, Pike Bishop’s intelligence, foresight, and fortitude(balanced with pragmatism) are key to keeping them together. Among the bounty hunters, Deke Thornton is the only one with the skills and knowhow to keep the band together in pursuit of the Bunch. Even though the Bunch are merely masquerading as soldiers when they arrive in the town of Starbuck in the opening of the film, there is something genuinely military-like in Pike Bishop’s command over the organization. Though the Bunch freely roams from town to town to rob and steal, they interact on the basis of strict equality since coordination is key to their success, and it is the smarter and more experienced man who has the wherewithal to ‘lead this bunch or end it right now.’
Thus, a certain contradiction exists at the core of their operation. As outlaws, they are like anarchists and mavericks who do as they wish. But like animals of a predatory pack that must carefully coordinate their attacks in order to succeed, there is a sense of hierarchy within the Bunch. It’s like among wolves, there are dominant members and the lesser ones, and each member, more or less, has to know its rank in the overall hierarchy.
If not for Pike Bishop, it’s dubious that the Bunch would stay together for long, especially as the hierarchy isn’t so certain among the rest. Indeed, the biggest threat to the unity of the Bunch comes when Pike falls while mounting his horse. The Gorch brothers mock him as the injured alpha who may be alpha no more — Deke Thornton is similarly taunted and tested by the bounty hunters in the film — , and it is only because Pike manages to get back on the horse and ride on that order and balance are restored.

Pike Bishop(William Holden) – The Leader of the Pack

As important as hierarchy is to the Bunch, it’s a far greater challenge for Pike to maintain his leadership than it is for an officer in the military. After all, whatever the shape the officer may be in, all soldiers are trained to salute and obey their superiors. There is no such guarantee of authority among outlaws, so when Pike appears vulnerable, he can go from alpha to zeta in a heartbeat. Among outlaws, the leader must constantly prove his superior worth. Unlike a military officer, he cannot take his position for granted or rest on his laurels. And it is because Pike proves his worth as a leader in the train robbery that the Gorch brothers feel great respect for him… and even join him in the mad plan to save Angel from Mapache later on. Mapache, as a military man, need not try nearly as hard as Pike Bishop does to be numero uno. Indeed, he seems to spend much of his time partying and acting the clown. On the other hand, there are moments when we do get a sense of why everyone revolves around him. He may be a boor and lout but he’s not without courage, charisma, and braggadocio that impress the men(and the muchachas bonitas). He’s no ordinary Mexican who’s content to be eating tacos and green chili peppers.

Mapache(Emilio Fernandez), the Big Man of Agua Verde

Anyway, because of the unstable nature of the Bunch and their plans, THE WILD BUNCH could have easily fallen apart and grown confused or weary. Indeed, this very charge was leveled at MAJOR DUNDEE, which, according to many critics, got lost and meandered all over without rhyme or reason, an assessment I can’t agree with. But that was precisely the problem with APOCALYPSE NOW that loses its focus after the great helicopter attack scene. Francis Ford Coppola’s film, up to the great air cavalry charge, is a marvel on the level of THE WILD BUNCH and SEVEN SAMURAI. Everything about it is powerful and provocative. But afterwards, there’s just the long wait for the crew to finally arrive at the summer camp of Colonel Kurtz. There are incidents along the way, some of them well-staged, but they add little to the story, don’t reveal much about the characters, and has no bearing on what happens at the end. Most of the crew members are not very interesting(with the possible exception of the black guy — Chief — who commands the boat). And Willard’s character, conceived essentially as an observer(as our eyes and ears), recedes from the narrative. So, the story goes from one freak-show or ludicrous moment to another before we finally arrive at the Kingdom of Kurtz, only to find it to be a rather silly place(and a dull one too) because Coppola couldn’t figure out how to end the film. In desperation, he finally resorted to mawkish sturm-und-drang in the hope that the audience might mistake obfuscation with profundity. (William Friedkin opted for the same trick with CRUISING, the plot and meaning of which slipped out of his hands. Perhaps, films like APOCALYPSE NOW — which recouped its cost only because it pulled in enough audiences on the strength of its helicopter battle scene — and CRUISING signaled the dead-end at which the world had arrived after all the hopes, dreams, and struggles failed to materialize in the utopia or paradise that so many had hoped for. CRUISING, though vilified at the time, turned out to be prophetic of what became of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. The film’s lack of satisfying conclusion unwittingly paralleled the mood of uncertainty at which the ‘gay’ movement had arrived after so much celebratory excesses from the Stonewall riots to the disco era. As for APOCALYPSE NOW, the sheer ugliness and putridity of its ending reflected what had happened in Jonestown and what was then happening in Cambodia since the Khmer Rouge swept to power in 1975. Both Jim Jones and the Khmer Rouge had their ardent defenders and champions, especially among Western ‘progressives’ and ‘radicals’[even but even among naive liberals]. Jim Jones and Pol Pot represented social experimentation and political liberation purified of the cancerousness and toxicity of modern civilization[especially that of the West], but all they created was horror and hell on earth. A similar calamity befell the mavericks of New Hollywood bestowed with the dream of remaking the film industry/culture in the 1970s. They were hailed as ‘auteurs’ and personal film-makers reinventing American movies, but in the long run, they were about as successful as the Beatles were with their Apple Corp in the late 60s. Though Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were scapegoated as the reasons for the fall of New Hollywood, the fact is that the implosion really owed to ‘auteurs’ indulging in excesses of drugs & egomania, the sheer lack of popularity of their works, and their confusion over artistic freedom. In the early 70s, expanded freedom was sufficient to fire up the imagination. But once the excitement wore off, there remained the question of what was to be done with this freedom, and the simple truth of the matter was lost on most directors. In the case of Michael Cimino, the answer was to expend or waste[depending on whom you ask] the bulk of the resources of a film studio on a giant production of dubious appeal. At one time, destruction of the status quo and explosion of freedoms were thought to be enough, indeed as if the mere change in conditions would naturally, of their own accord, lead to the rise of something better. But freedom proved meaningless and useless without an organization and sense of direction & purpose. New Hollywood films weren’t sufficiently successful to maintain the American film industry, and by the late 70s, it was difficult to discern what the ‘auteurs’ had in mind or wanted to say. They seemed just as clueless as in the first part of the decade but without the sense of excitement that redeemed their earlier works. Their taste of freedom lost its flavor. As for social experiments and political movements that inflamed much of the world, their destructive agendas against existing orders weren’t so much to bring forth a new era of freedom & choice but to replace them with a radical plan of total transformation. Alas, some of the end results were Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia and Jonestown. And with the Boat People fiasco, even the anti-war figures who’d cheered on North Vietnam had lost heart in the romance of revolution. In a way, APOCALYPSE NOW reflected the disillusionment of both the far left and the far right. John Milius, the far right scenarist, envisioned his ideal of manhood in1969, two years after Jean-Luc Godard’s WEEKEND. Milius’ fantasy could be seen as a far-right counterpart to Godard’s far-left version. The ideas of both films are predicated on a Year Zero scenario where civilization & modernity are rejected and a new order is founded upon the basic nature of man. The difference between Godard and Milius is the disagreement on the nature of man. Godard, then a leftist ideologue, adopted the radical Rousseauean line that blamed civilization as the corrupting force upon man. So, get rid of civilization with all its entrenched hierarchies & screeching hypocrisies, and restart humanity on the basis of Maoist principles of equality. In contrast, Milius believed that the nature of man was to fight and gain dominance. So, let mankind return to nature, let the fellers fight for what is essential & true, and the let winners, whose victory have been proven by combat & charisma, take the reins of power[and enjoy most of the girls]. We know what happened to the Khmer Rouge experimentation and to communism in general. Indeed, even China came to admit Mao’s mistakes and moved away from ideological puritanism. And we know what happened to the Milius’s brand of right-wing machismo. Oddly enough, Milius-ism was practiced to full fruition not among American conservatives — who tended to be cautious and conventional — but among blacks, homos, and the new feminists. Because ideological labels in America tend to be color-coded, we often miss the right-wing tendencies in non-white and non-straight communities. For instance, black tribalism, Latino nationalism, Jewish supremacism, and homo aristocratism are often associated with white leftism and Liberalism. But in fact, much of rap culture is kind of far right version of jungle tribalism. It is a warrior culture extolling the hierarchy of who has the baddest fist, loudest guns, and biggest dicks/balls. And this culture turned many black communities into cultural wastelands and disaster zones. Though white Liberals pretended to ‘understand’ rap culture, its true ‘messages’ and tropes had nothing to do with liberal values of reason, skepticism, logic, and equality under the law. Rap culture was an urban gansta version of Law of the Jungle. Of course, some rappers cleverly packaged their expressions as a form of resistance against white ‘racism’ and oppression, but in fact, rappers were even more power-deranged than Adolf Hitler was. Indeed, imagine if rappers were given the power of Nazi Germany. Imagine what they would unleash upon the world. The ‘ideology’ of rappers has been that of Idi Amin the gangster thug who lived only to fight and fuc*. Rappers bitch about the Evil White Man, but suppose whites were to all vanish from the earth. Would rappers, freed of white ‘racism’, finally act decent and work to build up society? No, they’d only be obsessed with their fists, guns, and dicks centered around the Law of the Jungle. Indeed, the entire rap culture & community would have imploded long time ago if not for white people. A community where such a culture prevails cannot get anything done and will end up like Haiti or Detroit[which would be like Haiti if not for infusions of white folks’ tax dollars into it]. But because even black rap communities in America are funded and supported by government dollars and programs made available by white tax payers and since the music industry found means to rake in billions of dollars from marketing such trash, there are famous rappers who make lots of money and convey the impression that rap ‘values’ = success and power. But imagine what would happen to a rap-obsessed community without white tax dollars and industrial infrastructure to bail it out and monetize. Rap-obsessed blacks simply cannot generate enough tax dollars to keep themselves fed, and trashy blacks cannot maintain an industry to make black expressions and talents profitable. Indeed, black Africa is filled with would-be rappers and athletes, but unless they come and settle in the West, their savage talents go to waste because they tend to destroy the very fabric of society. [It could be that the spread of Islam in Africa is the logical result of wild-ass Africa savagery. It’s the Bitchassho-Igrayne-Taliban Syndrome. Though Taliban-ism is seen as the opposite of Bitchass-Ho-ism, they are somewhat related since the excess of the latter can lead to the rise of the former. After all, what do men fight for? Land and ‘pussy’. In a system of Rule of Law, women can show themselves off and expect men to behave. But in a world without Rule of Law where disorder comes to prevail, men will try to grab the women they want, like in SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. And if women show themselves off, they will attract the attention of men who will grab her or fight amongst themselves to own her. This leads to chaos all around. Consider what happens in EXCALIBUR when the Duke of Cornwall shows off his wife to Uther. He foolishly taunts Uther and makes him sexually ravenous. Uther gets mighty horny, and it’s not long before the two sides are fighting again. As Uther’s men drive a ramrod against Cornwall’s castle, Igrayne is seen draped in veil. Suppose Cornwall had been a bit more Taliban-ish. He would have covered up his woman and hid her from Uther, and Uther would have found himself another woman. But because Cornwall acted like a rock star with his woman, he aroused the lusty envy of Uther. So, when slutty women shake their asses in a world of uncertain social order, men are more likely to compete and fight for sex, as is the case in the black community. And in time, society falls apart, and some men begin to realize that all this sluttiness doesn’t serve their interests. They sense it’s better to cover up their women than flaunt them around like Cornwall did with Igrayne before Uther. They begin to see the value of something like Islam that promotes sexual modesty among womenfolk. It’s like if you show off how much money you got, you will only make people feel envious. Consider what happens to the woman in GONE GIRL when her money bag is noticed by a ‘white trash’ couple. Of course, in a stable world of Rule of Law, most men are civilized and orderly enough not to act on their impulses when women shake their butts or when the rich walk around in fancy clothes and jewelry. Rule of Law and norms of civility remind men that they shouldn’t touch a woman no matter how slutty she looks/acts UNLESS she allows it and that they shouldn’t steal anything the rich no matter how obnoxiously the luxuries are flaunted. But when social order breaks down, people act more like barbarians and savages. Thus, if a woman shakes her ass, she attracts wild men who will grab her or fight each for the ‘right’ to grab her. Consider how Russian men acted in Germany during World War II. Consider what Japanese men did in Nanking. Rape and plunder all around. And if some guy shows off his caravan filled with riches in the No Man’s Land, there will be raiders and pirates all around to attack him. The father in SEVEN SAMURAI knows how this works and orders his daughter to cut her hair and pretend to be a boy. So, when social order breaks down, women realize that shaking their ass can be dangerous. They will likely gain the attention of men they don’t want. Also, a man with a woman or a harem finds that it is in his interest to make her/them cover herself/themselves up because if other men catch sight of her/them, they may kill him and take her/them for themselves. Men can be awful horny, just like Beavis with his Stiffy Dynamite Dick Syndrome. In RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, the young woman finds out that marrying one of the brothers doesn’t necessarily shield her from the other brothers. As a young woman, she wants to be noticed and admired for her womanliness, but she learns she can easily attract the wrong kind of attention, and it takes two older men with decency and morals to teach the young ones some manners. Peckinpah understood how sexuality works when social order either breaks down or is absent. Consider films like STRAW DOGS and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. It could be that black African men are taking to Islam because they figure it’s the best way to keep their women. Cover them up and hide them because, if the black ho’s be shaking their tits and asses, they be attracting all sorts of men who be coming to carry them away. Though African Muslims are responsible for lots of sexual violence in Africa, their adoption of Islam is also a means to protect their own womenfolk from the generally wild and savage ways of pagan Negroes who can’t help themselves.] But in the West, even their destructive tendencies of blacks can be made profitable since white folks love to enjoy black aggressiveness in sports and music from a safe distance. In this sense, rap culture is both a huge disaster and a huge success. Its ‘values’ and attitudes have ruined many black and even ‘white trash’ & brown communities, but its popularity as dance-and-sex music has made it almost the Voice of America, if not the world. But blacks were not the only ones who indulged in a kind of far right excess of power and pleasure. Far right ideas can be pro-order or pro-chaos. It can favor the soldier defending the gates of civilizations or the barbarian attacking the gates. The two sides in John Boorman’s ZARDOZ are both right-wing: Hierarchy of ultra-civilization vs hierarchy of ultra-barbarism. Homos, due to their sexual nature, are at odds with right-wing values of most people who naturally find homosexuality to be weird and gross. But homosexuals tend to be right-ish in the sense that they are mad about power and privilege. There is the kind of homos who tend to be aristocratic, control-freakish, and snotty: the Apollonian homos. But there’s the other kind of homos who love to be wild, macho, fisting-up-the-arse, wearing-Nazi-uniforms, using-leather-belts-and-whips, flexing muscles, and etc. And some homos go back and forth between the two modes. Consider Brian Epstein[manager of the Beatles] who was a dandy but also into rough trade. Consider Andrew Sullivan, the intellectual neo-conservative homo social critic, who, according to rumors, like to have black guys ram him in the ass. Consider Michel Foucault who was one of the leading intellectuals of his time but also into S&M and some other funny stuff that certain tooter-fruiters go for. The other practitioners of jungle far-rightism are the New Feminists following in the heels of madonna the pop singer. Feminism that came to the fore in the 1970s stressed equality and uniformity. It was about all women becoming Sisters. Looks and sexiness had to be de-emphasized because beauty is not equally distributed among the ladies — and ugly intellectual Jewish women especially felt resentful about this. If looks and sexiness were favored, womenkind would be very hierarchical. Also, women could not be independent as Sisters since women want to look good to attract men. Also, the pretty ‘bimbos’ might get more respect than the intelligent ‘hags’. Now, feminists of the 1970s didn’t put it in those terms because they didn’t want to seem envious and resentful of better-looking girls. Ugly Jewish hags like Andrea Dworkin, who looked like Andre the Giant in drag, didn’t want to admit they were envious of blonde shikses. They didn’t want to admit that sexiness can be ‘empowering’ to women, or at least to ‘hot’ women with the looks, the bod, the style. So, they attacked sexiness on grounds that it chained women to men. Supposedly, men created the Beauty Myth to make women obsessed with looks and spend all their time and hard-earned money on makeup, clothes, and stuff. [Never mind homo men pretty much the ran and beauty industry.] So, if women looked good and got the attention of men, they weren’t being empowered but conforming to male sexual fantasies and becoming enslaved by men who married and owned them as trophies, possessions, and slaves. Men were supposedly like the creep-husbands in THE STEPFORD WIVES. John Lennon’s song “Woman Is the Nigger of the World” reflected the feminist sentiments of the time. With the help of many ugly Jewish women in the media, this version of leftist feminism was disseminated far and wide, but it never really caught on because it went against nature and even common sense. After all, if a woman looked really good and was admired by men all over and could land a choice husband, where was slavery in that? Would it have been better for her to put a hanky on her head, wear overalls, not use makeup, never develop a sense of style, and look like a slob? Was that really empowerment? It certainly would have been more egalitarian as ugly girls and pretty girls would both have been made ‘drab’ — like women wearing same blue commie suits in Maoist China — , but it could hardly have empowered women, at least as individuals. Under 70s feminism, women could be empowered only as a collective of ‘sisterhood’, and the rules of sisterhood were to be determined by Big Sisters with Big Overalls and Big Hankies. And then came madonna and her theoretic champion Camille Paglia though, to be sure, they had the full support of the entertainment industry that always had problems with feminism bitching about ‘sexism’ as pop culture that wasn’t sexy generally didn’t sell. For a time in the 70s and early 80s, the word ‘sexist’ was tossed around as often as ‘racist’ and ‘homophobic’ are thrown around today. Everything could be construed as ‘sexist’. And the last gasp of old-style feminism was in the early 90s with all the stuff about ‘Year of the Women’, Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings, and Naomi Wolf’s sham book THE BEAUTY MYTH. For awhile, there was hysteria after hysteria about ‘sexual harassment’. But the tide of New Feminism represented by madonna and Paglia couldn’t be rolled back. Also, old feminism was dealt a deathblow by the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal when the very old-style feminists who had howled about ‘sexual harassment’ suddenly defended their Billy Boy and began to howl about ‘Sexual McCarthyism’. Somehow, it was okay for Bill Clinton, the ‘first black president’, to act like a ‘bad ole good ole boy’ in the Oval Office. As feminism turned into a shtick of defending Clinton’s behavior as ‘no big deal’ and ‘nothing to get hung over about’, it lost all respect and credibility. Meanwhile, the New Feminism of madonna and Paglia emphasized the maximum pleasure women could derive from sexiness and sex. And their vision wasn’t so much about beauty and grace but about extreme lascivious desire of the pornographic kind. If old feminism of the 1970s sought to unite alpha females and beta females into a united front of common sisterhood, the new feminism sought favored the wild cunt of alpha females who were obsessed with sexual power and prowess. And this sexual mania was linked to all kinds of other forms of power as power of any kind generally attracts sexual interest. It’s like even the funny looking Rusty Trawler in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S is a player because he’s assumed to be a rich guy. And this sexual law of the jungle was linked to Jungle Fever as white women were seen as the most desirable and black men were seen as the most badass. So, madonna the biggest pop star of the world did a sexual tour with the most famous black stars of the NBA. Now, conventional political categorizations would NOT consider this ‘right-wing’ since the ‘right’ in America is associated with white power, white male interests, and ‘white privilege’. And most people on the white right and nearly everyone on the white far right oppose interracism, especially between black men and white women. But, the logic of new feminism wasn’t much different from the far-right fantasies of John Milius. According to Milius, the superior white man would use his wits and muscle to gain dominance over colored tribes; he would fight the native warriors and if he defeats them all, he would be the king of the jungle and hump all the native ladies and make them have his kids. The new feminism of madonna said a white woman should use her sexual power to become famous and rich, and she should find maximum orgasmic pleasure with the biggest & toughest he-men on the planet, which would be Negroes of West African descent. It is a kind of debased Law of the Jungle[Fever] version of Nietzsche’s Will to Power idea. If indeed the world should be dominated by the most powerful and most desirable, then the most powerful men should take the most desirable women. And if the power of men should be determined by individual skills in combat, then Negroes, the race of Jack Johnsons, will surely whup the whites, the race of Jim Jeffries. According to Milius, the truly brave man challenges the native tribe on its own terms. White man armed with technology won’t fight fair since even an old lady with a gun can bring down an elephant. For a man to truly prove himself, he has to fight with his own wits and muscle, like what Jon Voight does in DELIVERANCE. With guns and technology, the white man was able to control and keep down the Negro. But without the advantage of technology and without the protection of the law, the white man was bound to lose to the stronger and tougher Negro. In a way, jungle-fever-ism has been a natural ‘subconspiracy’ happening between whites and blacks. If a conspiracy is something a bunch of people get together to plot consciously, a ‘subconspiracy’ is when there exists certain natural feelings and tendencies that drive people to act in certain ways even if they consciously repress it or feel it may be wrong. It’s like there’s a ‘subconspiracy’ between Guinevere and Lancelot in EXCALIBUR. Consciously, both know adultery is wrong. Consciously, Guinevere wants to be a faithful wife to Arthur. And Lancelot, as the best friend of Arthur, wants to serve him loyally. The barbarian times of Uther are over and have been replaced by the Age of Chivalry. In the barbaric Age of Uther, nature ran wild. If men wanted land and women, they fought and killed without inhibition. Things were honest but brutal and destructive. In the chivalrous Age of Arthur, men control their barbarian urges in favor of law and honor. But, in the repression of animal nature, the social order becomes founded on dishonesty. Despite their conscious self-control and adherence to social morality, Lancelot is the toughest warrior who is crazy about Guinevere[almost as much as Uther for Igraine], and Guinevere, as the alpha female, wants to be with the toughest man in the kingdom who happens to be Lancelot. So, even though their conscious minds know better, the ‘subconspiracy’ between them draws them closer. Likewise, there’s been a ‘subconspiracy’ of desire between black males and white females in America, and the classic D.W. Griffith film THE BIRTH OF A NATION illustrated its dark dangers though not entirley. According to Griffith, the ghastly Negroes want to sexually conquer white women, but white women have no wish to go with some jive-ass Negro. In fact, it’s the nature of women, even if they won’t admit it, to be excited by the baddest hunk around. Fast forward to the 1970s when the movie MANDINGO came out, and you get the picture. Even so, mainstream culture still felt uneasy with that sort of thing. Most interracial relations were in Blaxploitation flicks, but the genre faded from the screens by the mid-70s. Also, early porn movies generally featured Jews who looked like Gabe Caplan humping shikses. Also, prior to the internet, access to porn was severely limited as only adults could be admitted to X-rated houses or rent ‘adult films’. Also, white kids listened to mostly white Rock with white stars. But then, the rising popularity of rap turned on many white girls onto black culture. And madonna’s behavior and the Spike Lee movie JUNGLE FEVER made interracism mainstream and hip. And then, the rise of the internet and shift to interracism in porn brought the sexual ‘subconspiracy’ between black men and white women out into the open, thereby even paving the way to the presidency of Obama, the product of a black African humping a white ‘mudshark’. And John Boehner’s daughter married some ghastly-looking Negro. In a way, this New Feminism was a form of far-rightism, that of the jungle-will-to-power. It is barbarian or savage form of rightism as opposed to the civilized form of rightism. It is the rightism of the Brutals in ZARDOZ. The rightism of civilization gains and maintains power through organization, discipline, unity, pride, and moral authority. When those elements weaken, the gates are opened to the rightism of savagery or barbarism. And so, the Roman Empire collapsed as the Germanic hordes poured in. And with the collapse of white pride, power, and unity in the West, ghastly Negroes with bigger muscles and penises are conquering white women while pathetic white boys move into ‘cuckold’ mode. As if that’s not bad enough, millions of more black Africans are leaving the Dark Continent with its explosive birthrates to conquer white women in Europe and America. And yet, white males have no pride, confidence, rage, unity, and will left to unite to fight and defend their lands, women, and culture from the race of savage Negroes who look down on white men as ‘white boy pussy-ass faggots’ and hunger for white women. Since white man cannot beat the Negro on a one-on-one individual basis, he can only retain the respect and loyalty of white women by uniting and fighting as a group. It’s like a female wolf will not respect a lone male wolf that gets mangled by a grizzly bear but she will respect a pack of male wolves who work together to bring down a bear. This is why white male unity is very important, but the idiot cult of libertarianism has atomized white males into self-centered fools, and the cult of PC has filled white males with ‘white guilt’ and ‘white shame’ over any notion of white power, pride, and unity.)

Given the lack of a consistent narrative thread in THE WILD BUNCH, it’s a wonder that it holds together so well. In SEVEN SAMURAI the entire story revolves around a village’s need to defend itself from bandits. Since farmers are not a warring people, they recruit samurai to lead and guide them. And fortunately for the farmers, they find a sterling bunch of samurai, not least because their first recruit, Kambei, a man of courage and decency, sets the template for the others who are inspired by his strengths and virtues. Kambei demonstrates the importance of the guiding hand. Some people are good, some people are bad, and some people are somewhere in the middle. But power and leadership aren’t so much determined by goodness or badness but intelligence, talent, acumen, and other qualities. In a world of untalented good people and talented bad people, bad people will become leaders and as such will set a bad example for the rest of society. Many Jews who run this country are undeniably men of talent, but because of their vileness and lowness of integrity & moral character, their example spreads the rot to everyone else. Much of the world is, of course, like this. Most of the elites and oligarchs in nation after nation tend to be bad men of some talent and cunning. Sadly, intelligence is as prone to badness as well as to goodness because, after all, intelligence is about the ability to calculate risks and assess the right course of action for personal success; intelligent people in a rotten world soon learn that it’s smarter to row along than rock the boat if one wants personal success; worse, they aid and abet the system in promoting the bad as the official good to dupe all the dumb suckers into obedience; indeed, consider how the powers-that-be have convinced so many dumb Americans that ‘gay marriage’ is the New Normal. Even when the intelligent are able to beat the system, they often do so not to build a better world but to fleece the world even more. Consider the powerful men of Kurosawa’s BAD SLEEP WELL, which is especially dark because some of the men sucked into the system aren’t innately evil and even have some measure of decency, but their goodness is distorted into selflessly sacrificing themselves for selfish men above them; their virtue of honor and loyalty is made to serve the vice of greed and cynicism.

Jordan Belfort, slimeball Jewish leader & corrupter of men.

Jordan Belfort was certainly a smart guy with immense talent, but what did his example ‘inspire’ in his followers? To lie, cheat, and wallow in excess of greed and vanity. Same goes for Bernie Madoff and so many other Jewish sharks in Wall Street. It goes to show that meritocracy is never enough for a good society. Talent and skills are essentially amoral, and men of immense skill and knowhow can use their abilities to gain great power and abuse it for their own aggrandizement. It’s certainly the case with US foreign policy dominated by Jews. There’s no doubt that many of the Jewish architects of US foreign policy are smart men and women, but they are people of very low moral character who lie and cheat at every turn to serve what is little more than Jewish Supremacism. They are a Vile Bunch, indeed especially vile because they hide behind the cult of Holocaustianity to shield their evil doings from potential critics who are instantly neutralized as ‘anti-Semites’ and ‘Neo-Nazis’ for the simple transgression of having noticed the Jewish Hand. If Jews are indeed morally serious, the lesson of the Holocaust shouldn’t simply be “Jews should not be abused” but also “Jews should not abuse others” and “Jews should not do things that validate the rabid and virulent accusations of the Nazis”. But the more we observe Jewish power, the more Jews seem to be vindicating the points once made by ‘discredited anti-Semites’. In other words, even though Jews keep insisting that all the old ‘antisemitic canards’ have been discredited, so many things that Jews do are accrediting many of the points once made by so-called ‘anti-Semites’. What a surreal world we live in when Jewish actions accredit the points made by ‘discredited anti-Semites’. Though no sane person could endorse much of Adolf Hitler’s insane tirades against Jews, Jewish power & influence of late has been so vile and disgusting that one would have to be insane and/or dishonest to reject all the points made by so-called ‘anti-Semites’ of the past. And even some Jews are beginning to admit that the Jew Unchained is a vile, hideous, and power-mad creature. Yossi Sarid wrote in Haaretz:

“In these very moments, the protocols are being rewritten. Rich Jews are writing them in their own handwriting. They, in their wealth, are confirming with their own signatures what anti-Semites used to slander them with in days gone by: We, the elders of Zion, pull the strings of Congress, and the congressmen are nothing but marionettes who do our will. If they don’t understand our words, they’ll understand our threats. And if in the past, we ran the show from behind the scenes, now we’re doing it openly, from center stage. And if you forget our donations, the wellspring will run dry.”

Because the fullness of talent(backed by will-to-power) rules over lack of talent, there’s always the chance that the bad will rule over the good. It’s like the case in Akira Kurosawa’s BAD SLEEP WELL. Of course, the talented bad will be exposed if it openly acts bad, and so it plays the game of wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing and pretends to be good. (On the other hand, as our social mores or lack thereof become more shameless in their vanity, greed, wantonness, excesses, obscenity, and self-centeredness, they could have a spillover effect on abuses in other sectors in life. A society that isn’t offended by the likes of Kim Kartrashian, Lady Gaga, Lena Dunham, and Larry Kramer is likely to be more tolerant of all the lies and filth in government, Wall Street, and journalism. This is why Edward Snowden has to go into hiding while Sabrina Rubin Erdely wasn’t even fired for the journalistic equivalent of Bernie Madoff-ism. We’re living in the age of GONE-GIRL-ism. We also live in a world where materiality has become divorced from morality. Morality should be based on material truth. If I steal $20 from you, the material fact that I took money from you means that I need to make moral amends toward you, not the other way around. For me to steal from you and then demand that you apologize to me would be ridiculous. Morality would be divorced from materiality. Likewise, marriage, a moral institution, needs to be based on the material truth of biology and how it works. The sexual organs of men and women are meant to be complementary, a material fact. The notion of ‘gay marriage’ disassociates morality from materiality by pretending that a man’s anus is as much a sex organ as a woman’s vagina; it pretends that ‘two daddies’ or ‘two mommies’ can ‘have a baby together’. Why do homos get away with such nonsense? Because morality in our ultra-capitalist society is associated primarily with money. It’s like Jews can do anything they want to Palestinians, but most Americans side with Jews because Jews have the prestige via money-ality.) If the talented bad may gain an advantage over the talented good, it’s because the latter sticks to some degree of scruples and principles whereas the former will pull every dirty trick in the book to win. This is why politics is especially slimy. It attracts talented bad characters who play dirty but pretend to be good. In contrast, talented good people don’t want to play dirty, or at least not too dirty. But their scruples make them vulnerable to the talented bad who are absolutely sociopathic in their determination to go to any lengths and pull any amount of dirty tricks to win. This was why Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon were especially loathsome. They had few qualms about playing as dirty as possible — though Nixon’s defenders rationalize that Nixon had to play dirty because the Establishment pulled every dirty trick to undermine him at every turn(whereas it had treated John F. Kennedy, who apparently could do no wrong, with kid gloves). The Founding Fathers of America weren’t necessarily the most honest bunch of men. Their rationale for rebellion against the Mother Country was mostly exaggerated and dishonest. Nevertheless, a new republic couldn’t have hoped for a better bunch of men in terms of talent, foresight, wisdom, and relative goodness(within the realm of politics). It was the few instances in the history of mankind that men who could be said to be the talented good were at the helm in shaping and defining the future of a nation. Indeed, imagine if the founders had been men like Idi Amin, Mao Zedong, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Che Guevara, Huey Long, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Benjamin Netanyahu, Victoria Nuland, Mugabe, Boris Yeltsin, Donald Trump, Eric Holder, and others. The aforementioned persons may have been of some intelligence and talent, but they were low in character and lacking in anything that could be called sanity, judiciousness, and/or virtue. Che Guevara, for example, had some smarts and was genuinely devoted to the Revolution, but he was a sociopath lunatic. Huey Long initially did care about the people(at least according to ALL THE KING’S MEN, the film of the novel based on him which I haven’t read by the way) but succumbed to demagoguery and egomania. In a way, the rise of Jews, homos, and mulattos as the new elites is very troubling in America because all three groups have troubled or dark personalities. Jews are notorious for their pushiness, arrogance, nastiness, resentfulness, and viciousness. Homos are notorious for their snottiness, bitchiness, hissiness, narcissistic, and Tim-Roth-likeness-in-ROB-ROY. Even people with a little bit of Negro blood tend to be shameless, self-centered, and pathological. Worse, because all three groups hide behind the mantle of ‘victim-hood’ they face no social, moral, or political pressure to stare into the mirror at their own foulness. So, we have the likes of Bill Maher, Chris Hughes, and Eric Holder pushing their weight around, pulling every dirty trick in the book, and spreading lies… but acting like members of ‘oppressed minorities’. The old Wasp elites had big flaws and problems, but they were not averse to looking in the mirror and reforming what needed to be reformed about their own power. Would you rather trust Oliver Barrett Sr. in LOVE STORY or Hyman Roth of THE GODFATHER Part II? In the past when Jews, blacks, and homos were made to feel somewhat culturally or morally deficient, they came under some pressure to be a credit-to-their-own-people. Such pressures weren’t entirely fair, but at the very least, it made those communities self-critical and self-reflective. But ever since straight white gentiles were made to surrender all their moral authority in relation to Jews(due to Holocaust cult), blacks(due to slavery cult and cult of MLK), and homocules(due to fancy-pants-whoopsy-doo-colorfulness-cult), those three groups have been running amok with their power-hunger, arrogance, pushiness, and nastiness. Privilege of ‘victim-hood’, or ‘privictimage’ is what’s really destroying this country.
Of course, there have been plenty of talented bad among gentiles. Consider the Nazi elites. Hitler and some of his cohorts were certainly men of some intelligence, talent, vision, and foresight. And initially, they did some good when they had a sense of limits. But as they amassed ever more power, their bad side eventually revealed itself completely and brought ruin on Europe and the white race. It’s too bad Adolf Hitler wasn’t more like Kemal Ataturk. National Socialism might have been a great success. Today, Jews and homos are the new Hitlers of the world, and they never seem to know where or when to stop. Their lusts are insatiable.

SEVEN SAMURAI – Kambei confronts Kikuchiyo(Mifune)

Anyway, it is a great fortune for the farmers in SEVEN SAMURAI that the first samurai they recruited was Kambei, who then attracts other men of character. Had Kambei been less good, he might have exploited the farmers and recruited a bunch of no-good samurai who might have pressed the farmers for women and favors; and they might have fled when things got tough. But Kambei wins the trust and respect of some very good men. And his example tips even the not-so-good ‘samurai’ played by Toshiro Mifune towards goodness. The problem of moral ambiguity creeps into SEVEN SAMURAI as the Mifune character could have gone either way: good or bad. He has some innate goodness in him but is also impulsive and wild. His individual sense of initiative sometimes fires up his sense of moral outrage, sometimes fuels his wild ego. He sometimes explodes with righteousness, sometimes surrenders to vanity. Sometimes, the good and the bad merge, as when he tugs looted samurai weapons & wares to the samurai and even more so when he goes solo to grab a gun from the enemy. He brought the wares to the samurai for use in battle but is oblivious to how the samurai might be offended by the sight of them(as they were taken from defeated samurai killed by the peasants) or how the peasants might be endangered by the revelation. His main priority was winning approval from the samurai for having availed the stuff to them. And even though he did take another gun from the enemy, he acted more out of self-glory than group interest. His initiative is welcome to the extent that success depends not only on following orders but on inspiration, but it is also dangerous because it is driven by infantilism than inspiration. Without someone of authority to respect and lead him, he could easily have given himself to a life of violence and crime. (It’s like the woodcutter and the commoner in the final scene of RASHOMON. The commoner steals a baby’s clothes without compunction whereas the woodcutter is outraged by the act. But then, the woodcutter is no saint either since he stole the dagger, at least in Kurosawa’s interpretation of the Akutagawa story. In good times, the commoner might not have done something to dastardly — and would likely have condemned such an act in others — , but hard times brought out his true nature. When pushed into poverty, the commoner will do whatever to serve his needs. What’s really telling, however, is the total lack of moral compass within him. He feels no shame whatever in having done what he did. The woodcutter does have an innate goodness, which is why he is shamed when the commoner points out the missing dagger. The woodcutter’s transgression — theft of the dagger from the murdered samurai — was less despicable, but he does feel shame about what he did. [Indeed, his troubled state of mind in the beginning of the film may have less to do with the human condition than the fear of being found out about the dagger — like Jon Landau’s character’s main reason for depression in CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS has less to do with the fact he had a woman killed than he might be found out about it.] In contrast, the commoner feels no shame even about having stripped an abandoned baby of his clothes. He acts like a ghastly Negro in Detroit. This is why the good often lose to the bad. The bad, being shameless, never admit to any wrong on their part and just accuse the good of every little failing. The good, even though better than the bad, take even the criticism of their minor wrongdoings with great shame and sensitivity. This is why a good Wasp will lose to a bad Jew. The bad Jew never admits to any wrong whereas the good Wasp can be sensitive about even his slightest infractions. Jews don’t apologize even for their macro-aggressions whereas wasps get all tongue-tied about their micro-aggressions. There are bad people who are truly bad, but there are good people who, by circumstances, have been made bad. In SEVEN SAMURAI, there are two grubby gamblers who mercilessly taunt the peasants and laugh at their misery. But when the young samurai comes to the peasants’ defense, a dim but sure humanity flickers on in one of them who, in his own crude and gruff way, pleads for the peasants. The seemingly low-life urchin does have something of a heart after all. [In a rough world where kindness is a luxury one cannot afford — as there are too many desperate people who need help while most people are lucky just to scrape enough to get through the day — , goodness is a dirty word, and one is loathe to show any sign of softness that can be taken for weakness or may weaken one’s resolve against a cold-hearted world. In such a world, badness isn’t so much an innate quality as a shield against the badness of the world. Once one’s nature has been hardened against the world in such manner, it is difficult to thaw out one’s goodness if indeed such existed in the first place. Consider the Russian film SECOND CIRCLE by Alexander Sokurov where a young man is left without means to provide a funeral for his father, and then, a woman appears to provide the service, but then rudely and reluctantly as such acts of kindness go against the rules of her world and how she’d hardened herself against it. Something in her moved her to do the right thing but, like Sanjuro in YOJIMBO upon saving a family from gangsters, feels a certain revulsion for having given itself to softness in a world where only hardness counts.] Or consider the young girl in RED BEARD who was raised to be a prostitute and has been beaten to the point where she has little good left in her. But through the patience of the Mifune character — who plays the elder doctor — , the girl’s humanity is gradually restored. There’s something similar in Kenji Mizoguchi’s SANSHO THE BAILIFF. Just when we think the younger brother has been corrupted into a heartless enforcer of slavery, his good side reemerges from the lost depths and leads him to freedom and the resolve to find his mother and bring justice to others who’d been enslaved with him; the sad thing is the people he frees at the end seem lost as they don’t know how to be free, and his local enactment of justice goes only so far in a world where slavery is commonplace; and when he finds his mother, her heart is too broken and frayed for human emotions. [There is no happy deliverance, as with the mother and sister in BEN-HUR. SANSHO THE BALIFF has one of the most depressing ‘happy endings’ because, even though the hero triumphs over the villain and finds what he’s searching for, he still cannot defeat the future and the past. Even as he liberates the slaves, he cannot guarantee their freedom indefinitely as Japan will remain — for centuries into the future — a slave society. And even as he reconnects with his mother, what she lost of her dignity in body and soul cannot be recovered. The woman he finds is not the woman he lost in his youth. Hers is a perennially numb kind of sadness morbidly uniform before sunlight and darkness. Only those capable of happiness know the beauty of sadness. Knowing of light, they know of its opposite, darkness. But knowing only darkness, everything is lost in equal despair.] The world turns us into chameleons. In a good and orderly society, even the bad can pretend to be good and even convince themselves that they are solid respectable citizens. Indeed, the corrupt old man in BAD SLEEP WELL probably thinks of himself that way. Not as a bad person but as someone who simply doing business-as-usual. He plays the role of respectable member of society, even though he’s cunning and corrupt. But there are also good people who must ‘chameleonize’ into badness in a crazy world and, in time, they may even see themselves as bad and cold even though there is genuine goodness in them. In a wild and crazy world, you gotta be mean and tough to survive. In a world of wolves and weasels, you have to kill and steal. And when we first see the Mifune character in SEVEN SAMURAI, he moves like a bandit without a care in the world. He’d grown up rough, and he puts on a tough exterior to survive. But there is genuine goodness in him. Mifune’s character in YOJIMBO is a more extreme case of a good man hiding behind badness. He can be as ruthless and murderous as the next guy. But faced with a moral crisis, he feels compelled to what’s right even at risk to self. In a good world, even the bad pretend to be and even believe themselves to be good. In a bad world, the good play bad and even think themselves to be bad. And sometimes, one isn’t really sure if one is innately good or bad. In HIGH AND LOW, the Mifune character is both a cunning operator and a principled businessman. He believes in honest craftsmanship but isn’t above dirty tricks to gain control of the company. Also, as an entrepreneur committed to winning, he is obsessed about success and money, even above the saving the life of a child, at least initially. There is good in him, but the ruthless laws of competition have taught him to choose business interest above all else. It takes time for the good side to finally emerge from him. In contrast, the kidnapper was clearly born bad, but the moral dynamics is confused because he is poor and studying to be a doctor, a noble profession. His poverty and occupation lend moral cover to his crime as a strike against the ‘greedy’ rich. His medical apprenticeship would suggest he cares about humanity. But, he is really a heartless sociopath. If some people are born evil, can they really be blamed? Maybe not, but then, they can’t be allowed to do as they please either. And so, the ending of HIGH AND LOW isn’t a happy one even though the bad guy has been captured and will be executed. Even if he isn’t a victim of circumstances [despite his poverty], he may well be a product of the blood he inherited, and he didn’t choose that.) In any society, some people are naturally good, some are naturally bad, and some can go either way. When the good rule society, even the bad may come under pressure to act good out of fear of shunning or punishment. When the not-so-good rule society, the bad may feel the temptation to act bad. But when the bad rule society, the bad might run wild and free and act like the Negroes under Idi Amin in Uganda. To be sure, it’s also possible that, paradoxically enough, the rule of the good may encourage the bad whereas the rule of the bad can discourage the bad. If good rulers are overly lenient and generous, the bad might take advantage and act like the lowlife immigrant communities in Sweden. And the same has been the case with Wisconsin and Minnesota. Northern-European white-Americans in such states have been generous with nasty Negroes who’ve never appreciated the kindness of others and just exploited the freedom and welfare to run riot and act jive-ass. In contrast, when a society is ruled with an iron hand by the bad, the bad elements of society might be punished without mercy since evil rulers favor social order above all. This was why the ordinary criminal elements have more to fear in tyrannical communist nations than in nice liberal democratic ones. Organized crime has more chance in a democracy than in a totalitarian state ruled by the likes of Stalin.

Anyway, unlike SEVEN SAMURAI, there is no overarching narrative in THE WILD BUNCH. After the botched robbery of the opening scene, the Bunch find themselves at a loss in terms of future prospects. They decide to play it by ear, and the first thing they do is visit Angel’s village. It turns out it had been raided, and the villagers see the Bunch as something like Robin Hoods, but even as the Bunch enjoy the hospitality of the villagers, they have no plan to take any action on behalf of the community. Indeed, the Bunch ride into a fortress ‘town’ called Agua Verde where Mapache and his soldiers — the very men who raided the village — are stationed. And almost by ‘accident’, they are offered a contract to rob the US military for rifles and ammunition: Angel’s shooting/killing of his ex-lover Teresa that made the German adviser to Mapache notice the special firearms carried by the Bunch. Thereafter, the film shows the Bunch relaxing, romping around, and/or taking a bath, then pulling off a grand heist and riding free of the bounty hunters, and then carefully planning to make sure that they get paid for the loot; but, complications arise because Mapache learned of Angel’s ‘theft’ of the rifles and ammunition. (Actually, the Bunch had agreed to hand him one case of rifles and ammo for the villagers in exchange for his participation in the robbery and forfeiture of his share of the gold. Just as Mapache had planned to pull a fast one on the Bunch, the Bunch had planned to partly renege on the deal, though, to be sure, Mapache was compensated with the gift of the machine gun.) This is when the movie grows somewhat strange. Why should it matter so much to the Bunch that Angel is a captive of Mapache? Sure, Angel is being tormented to death, but throughout the film the Bunch never seemed hung up on going out on a limb to save one of their own. So, why this special attention for Angel? Even Old Man Sykes, who only grinned upon hearing that his grandson died like a man in the first part of the movie, says the Bunch should go back to get Angel. Of course, Occam’s Razor would be that THE WILD BUNCH wanted to end with a bang, and so it concocted some excuse for the Bunch to be outraged by Mapache’s mistreatment of Angel and set them on a course that would lead to the mother of all bloodbaths in cinematic history. And yet, Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah conceived of the ‘excuse’ so artfully and compellingly that the lead-up to the mayhem rings true. Dutch(Ernest Borgnine) especially feels indebted because Angel saved him during the train robbery. Dutch also has more of an innate moral sense than the others. Also, he was there when Angel ‘played his strings right to the end’ and didn’t squeal on the Bunch. As for Pike, Angel may have reminded him of the son he never had with the Mexican woman he’d loved long ago. Also, when Pike told Angel to forget about his dead father(killed by Mapache) and when Angel complied, it was as if Pike took on the role of father figure. Ironically, just as Teresa was killed out of jealousy and righteous rage by Angel, Pike’s lover was shot to death by her enraged husband whose sense of honor was violated by the gringo Pike. Of course, Pike is also haunted by Deke Thornton, whom he abandoned to the lawmen as he made his getaway. Though Pike doesn’t know exactly why Deke Thornton is collaborating with the Railroad and bounty hunters to track him down, he can surely guess as to why, namely that Thornton was tortured into compliance. It’s a rough world, and if an outlaw falls into a hand of a railroad man like Harrigan, he can expect no mercy. The world of law-abiding folks most likely look the other way when it comes to abuse of prisoners since outlaws have plenty of blood on their hands. But it’s not a simple case of goodness aligned with the law and badness aligned with the outlaw. There’s ample space within the law that allows bad men to amass power, wealth, influence, and respectability.

THE WILD BUNCH – Mr. Harrigan(Albert Dekker)

And Harrigan is one of those bad men who work within the law. He may not necessarily be evil, but he’s manipulative and heartless. If bad men can find room in the world of the law, then the world of the outlaw could have men of some good qualities. The Bunch are clearly not good men, but they are not without some admirable qualities. And under different circumstances, they might have found success or some meaningful place in the legitimate world. If Pike is like anyone in the film, it is Harrigan, which may be why they share a mutual animus. Both are master manipulators and leaders of men. And they are hypocritical in their recourse to rules/principles and in their quickness to violate them. Harrigan represents the law that binds him to the respectable folks of the town, but he will bend the law any which way to get what he wants, especially if it’s too his personal satisfaction. Pike appears to have a somewhat more pleasant personality, but it could be because we see him in more varied situations whereas we see Harrigan only in negative relation to Deke Thornton, perhaps the most sympathetic character in the film. As for what Harrigan is like with other kinds of people, it’s anyone’s guess. Maybe he isn’t such a bad sort. Besides, even though Deke Thornton is a likable character, he got in trouble in the first place because he robbed and killed people. And he’s not above insulting the bounty hunters, seeing them as less-than-human, and manipulating their childlike lack of intelligence. He’s sort of a frontier snob.
Though Pike can be likable, even gallant at times, there’s something cold and steely-eyed about him that matches Harrigan’s ruthless drive to get what he wants. When Pike says, “If they move, kill ‘em”, it sends chills down our spine because we know he means it — and Crazy Lee later takes it to heart. At times, we can see something of Hitler in him. (Indeed, DOWNFALL makes for an interesting comparison with THE WILD BUNCH because both films are about ‘bad men’ perversely sticking together to the very end in the name of loyalty, honor, and warrior code.) If Harrigan comes across as somewhat more unpleasant, it’s because he’s a bad man with the “law’s arms around him”, and in this, he is sort of like Mapache who’s a thief playing at general. On the other hand, Harrigan seems to be serious in ways that Mapache is not. In his own way, Harrigan seems committed to building up the West, making sure that trains run on time, and ensuring the rule of law so that wilderness and outlawry will give way to development and social order. He maybe crooked and on the take, but he nevertheless uses his power to create greater order in the West. In contrast, Mapache seems to revel in craziness and loutishness. Harrigan is a bad gentleman but a gentleman nevertheless. Mapache is a barbarian chieftain in a soldier’s uniform. And this could be why Pike Bishop and Harrigan sort of envy one another. In a way, Bishop wants to be someone like Harrigan. Though an outlaw, he wants the law’s arms around himself; he wants to be a real leader of man, a manager of projects. Indeed, he’s the master strategist of the Bunch, and even Dutch, the virtually the second-in-command, generally defer to Pike. Indeed, at one point, Pike says: “I caught up with them. Two or three times. There was a man named Harrigan. He used to have a way of doing things. I made him change his ways. And a hell of a lot of people just can’t stand being wrong.”

It’s as if Pike wasn’t only interested in robbing the railroad enterprises but in demonstrating the superiority of his ways to theirs. It’s like what a business strategist might say to market his ideas. (Pike even seems to take pride in the fact that his ways forced Harrigan to change his. It’s like Pike boating that his ‘business’ skills were so good that it forced Harrigan himself to become a better ‘businessman’. Nothing like competition. As much as Pike wants to beat Harrigan, there’s a side of him that wants to push Harrigan to a higher level of gamesmanship, and to the extent that Harrigan & the railroad did become more formidable as the result of the challenge from men like Pike, Pike can’t help feeling a degree of pride. But there’s also frustration because the new Harrigan who has improved his game under pressure from Pike is now a much tougher nut to crack. It’s sort of like the ‘love/hate’ competition between the two tycoons Ian Straun and Quillan Gornt in NOBLE HOUSE. As much as they hate one another and want to destroy one another, they know they need one another to keep sharp and competitive.) We get the impression that Pike may have nursed bigger ambitions than mere outlawry.
But there could be an element of envy on Harrigan’s part for Pike as well. Harrigan is a big man, an established figure, but he also has to do a lot of pencil pushing and waiting around. He cannot ride around freely like Pike does. He has a noticeable paunch, and he seems less impressive as a specimen of manhood than the tall & lean Pike Bishop and Deke Thornton. Harrigan surely knows how to use a gun — he takes part in the first shootout — , but he usually ‘hires his killings’. It gives him a sense of power, but he must know that he isn’t respected as man of direct action. Outlaws are robbers and killers, but they put their necks on the line like soldiers do. Harrigan, in contrast, is like a commander who gives orders but usually doesn’t risk his neck; he’s like the generals in PATHS OF GLORY.

The passion of Angel. And you thought Tuco had it bad at the hands of Angel Eyes in THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY.

Anyway, it is Angel’s ordeal — The Passion of Angel — that turns the story around and creates yet another plot twist. Earlier in the movie, Pike, an aging outlaw, said “I’d like to make one good score and then back off”, to which Dutch says, “Back off to what?” It is over a decade into the 20th century, and the Old West is fading fast. If much of THE WILD BUNCH does look like the classic West, it’s because most of it unfolds south of the border in Mexico, a nation that lagged United States by at least half a century in development. After the first failed robbery, the main objective of the characters seems to be ‘one good score’, and it comes with the railroad heist. And had there been no complications, perhaps Pike could have gone off with his share of the gold and settled down quietly somewhere either in the US or Mexico. But Angel ends up in the hands of Mapache, and no one is sure what to do or what can be done. Dutch is most eager to do something, but how can a handful of man go up against Mapache and all his men? Perhaps, the Bunch feel a special kind of shame because Angel doesn’t break. Deke Thornton broke and joined the bounty hunters to after Pike, his old partner. And Pike Bishop never got caught because he was so good at running, sometimes leaving his comrades behind(despite his preachments about ‘sticking together’).

“Just five cents a glass. Does anyone think that’s really the price of a drink?”

The Bunch are amused by the firebrand sermon of the Temperance Union, but Pike is a kind of preacher himself when things get rough. He harangues others about how it has to be his way because he knows better than they do. He’s like the Moses of the outlaws, trying to keep the crew together through all the rancor, suspicion, and bad blood. He promises them milk-and-honey if they follow his lead. Likewise, Deke Thornton insists it has to be his way, and his pitch is even more convincing because the bounty hunters are an incompetent ragtag bunch of chicken thieves.
The idea of outlawry seems the polar opposite of moral sanctimony(of, say, the gathering of the Temperance Union), and Dutch snickers when he hears the marching sounds of the Union singing “We Shall Gather at the River”, but in some ways, the outlaw Bunch have to be even more disciplined and mindful at times than law-abiding folks do. Ordinary people can usually take it easy and go through the routines of everyday life. They go to work, return home, and sleep in a warm bed. They take security for granted. In contrast, the Bunch are constantly on the move and don’t know what will happen next. So, in order to stick together, they must be bound by some kind of honor code. Without such, they can easily fall apart and go separate ways or end up killing one another, as nearly happens when Angel rankles the much agitated Gorch brothers and when Tector Gorch(Ben Johnson), in a fit of rage, decides to ‘get rid of’ Old Man Sykes.

Tector tries to get rid of Sykes.

Pike and Angel also get embroiled in bitter argument when the latter says there’s no way he’s gonna rob the guns for Mapache, the man who killed his father and stole his woman. At every turn, it’s important for Pike to win the argument, sway the others, and reassert his authority, thereby retaining the loyalty of the men who see him as the rightful leader and prophet. And yet, his role as preacher-of-the-gang isn’t easy since they are all robbers and killers. Sermons are about choosing the right over the wrong, but the Bunch are committed to wrongful acts. Pike’s sermons are about doing the right thing doing the wrong thing. (This is even more pronounced in THE GODFATHER.) Consider the scene in the Mexican village where Angel is understandably and visibly upset over the death of his father and the loss of his girl. The morally proper thing for Pike to have done is to offer succor & comfort and maybe figure out a way to help Angel avenge his father and maybe recover the girl.

Teresa the whore with her sugar daddy Mapache.

But then, unlike Debbie in THE SEARCHERS who was abducted against her will and came under social/emotional pressure to become part of the Indian tribe, Teresa, a full-grown woman, chose to go off with Mapache, the man who raided the village and killed her lover’s father. So, Angel’s honor killing of her can be said to be more justifiable than Ethan(John Wayne)’s dark obsession to kill Debbie. Teresa is a scandalous figure because she violates the image of the woman as a virtuous victim. In THE BIRTH OF THE NATION, the white women resist the Negroes to the end. One woman even jumps to her death. Thus, the ideal image of the woman as loyal or victimized is preserved. Men naturally prefer the ideal of the loyal woman as the damsel in distress than as the bitchass-ho-temptress. Angel would have been less upset if he’d heard Teresa had been taken by force — like the wife abducted by the bandits in SEVEN SAMURAI. At least, he could believe in her loyalty to the last. He’d feel she’d been taken against her will by lecherous men. If men prefer the ideal of loyalty, women prefer the ideal of victim-hood. They like to see women as helpless creatures forced against their will by beastly male chauvinists who treat women as property. (And yet, this sense of victim-hood usually involves ‘inferior’ males than ‘superior’ males. For example, consider all those novels where the wife is married to some decent bourgeois guy who, however, isn’t the biggest stud in town. He may be nice, but his wife feels ‘oppressed’ because he’s not man enough for her. She wants liberation via the man-of-power who can arouse her and satisfy her. So, she feels more victimized by the man-of-weakness than by the man-of-power. Paradoxically, her liberation of romantic/sexual liberation comes via happy submission to the man-of-power. Feminist politics ideologically targets and challenges the Men of Power, but female ‘biolotics’ seeks fulfilment through surrender to the men-of-power. If sexual pleasure is liberation, women will feel more of it by allowing herself to be conquered by the men-of-power, but then, what kind of liberation is it that comes with total submission? ‘Sexology’ is strange that way. So, when the husband is weak, no matter how nice and decent he may be, the woman may feel ‘oppressed’ by being tied down to him, and she may seek and find liberation via the Man of Power, like Heathcliff of WUTHERING HEIGHTS, the movie as I haven’t read the book. On the other hand, if the woman is abducted by ‘inferior’ man or men, she may feel ‘oppressed’ by him/them and dream of liberation by her husband or lover if indeed he is the ‘superior’ man. Suppose a woman is happily married to a great warrior but is abducted by a gentle race of dwarfs. Now belonging to men who are smaller, weaker, and gentler than her husband and his brawny kinfolk, one might think she would feel less oppressed in the new setting. But as she despises their manhood as unworthy for her surrender, she will likely feel more oppressed and hope that her husband and kinfolk will come rescue her so that she could go back to happily surrendering to superior men. If a woman belonged to Mickey Rooney and was abducted by Clint Eastwood, she would have felt enslaved with Rooney and liberated through Eastwood. But if a woman belonged to Eastwood and was abducted by Rooney, she would have felt liberated with Eastwood and enslaved through Rooney; and she’d dream of being liberated by Eastwood.) Both traditional/proper Christian women and feminists hate the idea of women giving themselves freely to beastly and loutish men. But THE WILD BUNCH features a Mexican woman who freely went off with the oppressors and threw her body at them. And in Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS, a woman is shown to actually enjoy the act of rape by a man who is bigger and manlier than her husband. Pauline Kael called this ‘fascist’, but then, every romance novel must be ‘fascist’ too. In Teresa, there is no fixed loyalty, no ideal of victim-hood. “She went with them because she wished to”, says the village elder.

Teresa(Sonia Amelio) tells Angel(Jaime Sanchez) to get lost.

(Paradoxically, the fact that Teresa was not molested and taken by force is all the more galling to Angel. Had she been physically raped or dragged away by force, Angel would at least know that, even as she was forced to surrender her body, her heart had remained true to Angel. And as long as her heart is with Angel, there’s the hope of getting her back. But if she went with the enemy willingly, it’s a total kind of betrayal. There is no hope. In the past, much of the black-white sexual dynamics was seen in terms of black-beasts-rape-white-women-against-their-will, and even today, there is the problem of black-on-white rape. But what is truly upsetting to white males is that most of the black-white sexual dynamics is really about white women freely abandoning white males in favor of black males. Indeed, even when black males act bad and white males act good, many white women are more turned on by black males since women simply like tougher and more commanding men. While most women like good tough men over bad tough men, they are still more excited by bad tough men than good weak men. Even as they morally excoriate bad tough men, they may still feel sexually excited by them for the same reason that men may be aroused by the temptress nature of the femme fatale even though their moral sense tells them to avoid the hussy ho.) The sexual dynamics/violence between Angel and Teresa was something almost new in American cinema, but Americans may have missed its full impact/implication because the ‘whore’ in question was a Mexican woman, thus somewhat exotic. Maybe STRAW DOGS seemed more disturbing because a regular white woman was seen surrendering herself to the dominant male beast… and enjoying it to the point that she forgets her victim-hood and even forgets about her husband. It is only because the second marauder penetrates her too that she is traumatized and feels victimized. If she’d only been raped by her old flame, she might not have thought badly of it. It’s interesting that Pauline Kael found the scene so very appalling because, in a panel discussion in the early 60s with John Simon and Dwight MacDonald, she didn’t find anything wrong about the attempted rape of the Patricia Neal character by the Paul Newman in HUD. Maybe what bothered her about STRAW DOGS is that the woman is a brainless bimbo who is treated as an object instead of a full-blooded woman like the Patricia Neal character who is a thinking/feeling human being. She is a subject than just an object. But then, why did Kael love LAST TANGO IN PARIS when it also has something of rape scene involving a bimbo? Perhaps, despite being female, Kael intensely identified with Marlon Brando’s character who was then, like her, going through a middle age crisis. Furthermore, LAST TANGO IN PARIS presented the sex and other forms of excess as the agonies and ecstasies, whereas STRAW DOGS presented sex and violence as lecture and experiment. It may have been this didactic quality of STRAW DOGS that put her off to that film. Indeed, what Kael liked least about SEVEN SAMURAI was Kurosawa’s thematic attempt to sum up the film with Kambei’s reflection that the farmers, not the samurai, have won. Kael liked to be shown things, not told things.

Susan George in STRAW DOGS: She likes it! She likes it!

The idea of the beautiful woman rejecting both virtue/loyalty and victim-hood to go with the ‘nihilism’ of power or beauty(of a handsome man like Paris) to fulfill her sexual/romantic desire is a ageless theme. It’s there in the story of the Helen of Troy. Even so, there was something brazenly sado-masochistic about the way Peckinpah presented it in THE WILD BUNCH that wasn’t merely a slap in the face but a kick in the balls. In this sense, films like TAXI DRIVER and HARDCORE owe as much to THE WILD BUNCH as to THE SEARCHERS. John Ford’s movie, like D.W. Griffith’s classic, would have us believe that women, especially white women, do their utmost to resist sexual violation/domination outside the norms of virtue, purity, and/or loyalty; they can only be taken by force. After all, Debbie was abducted as a girl, and she had no choice in the matter. And when Martin comes to rescue her at the end, she wants to be saved even after all those years of upbringing by the Comanches. In contrast, the Jodie Foster character in TAXI DRIVER and the daughter in HARDCORE went off with pimps and pornographers because they wished to. This idea was disturbing to both the Right(due to Christian ideal of sexual purity and/or virtue) and the Left(due to feminist insistence on victim-hood, i.e. women fall into vice because of male oppression and exploitation). THE EXORCIST is especially perverse because it’s hard to tell if the girl is an innocent possessed & abducted by the Devil(as Debbie is by the Red Savages in THE SEARCHERS) or a dirty whore who invites the Devil into her body that is blooming into sexual womanhood. On the surface, she is presented as a victim of the Devil, but we can’t help feeling that the Devil was invited into her because her very nature wanted to be taken.

“Ain’t your woman no more.” Teresa goes with Big Man Mapache.

There is something about the scene between Angel and Teresa in THE WILD BUNCH that changed the very spirit of the movie culture. Though THE WILD BUNCH begins very violently — with the bloodiest gun battle ever filmed —, it was men killing men, the usual stuff of action cinema. The Bo Hopkins character, does blast his shotgun at two young men and a woman, but it happens off-screen and it’s clearly the act of a lunatic. But when Angel pulls out a gun and shoots Teresa, it was a man shooting a unarmed woman in cold fury. And Angel’s action cannot simply be ascribed to psychopathy. There had been women shot by men in movies before. Think of Rita Hayworth in THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI. And think of Faye Dunaway in BONNIE AND CLYDE. But them ladies were armed and dangerous, killers on the loose. In contrast, Teresa, though a ‘whore’, had no means to harm Angel except emotionally. (Good ‘progressive’ people who are offended by the sexual rage of Ethan Allen in THE SEARCHERS and the white men in THE BIRTH OF A NATION are not offended by the sexual rage of the peasant in SEVEN SAMURAI[who feels murderous rage for the loss of his wife to the bandits] or of Angel in THE WILD BUNCH. Maybe it has something to do with race. Angel is a Mexican guy angry with a Mexican woman for going with a Mexican guy. But if he were a white guy angry with a white woman going with a black guy, maybe he would have been condemned as ‘racist’ even though he would still be the wronged party of white Teresa and black Mapache. On the other hand, if he were a non-white guy fuming over the abduction of his woman by evil white folks, that might be deemed okay too. After all, when the woman in BELOVED kills her own baby to spare it the life of slavery, Liberals seem okay with that. A lot of this has to do with race. THE SEARCHERS is still more acceptable than THE BIRTH OF A NATION because Negroes matter more in the white-racial-guilt-complex hierarchy. Indeed, the success of a movie like TAKEN[with Liam Neeson’s character saving his pure white daughter from swarthy Muslims] proves that racial-sexual fantasies of heroic white men rescuing white damsels from non-white hordes are still acceptable IF they toe the PC line. As Muslim men are allowed to be vilified in the Jew-controlled media/entertainment complex, movies like TAKEN are not taboo. It’s a matter of ‘who, whom’. Would there be any controversy about THE SEARCHERS if it were about a white guy trying to take back a white woman from a bad white guy? After all, that is what RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY is about, as two old men try to save a young white women from rough white men. No one bitches about that. But suppose the Hammonds were Negroes or Indians? It’s ridiculous to judge Ethan by the petty political correctness of our age. He lived in a time when white settler folks might be raided, raped, murdered, and mutilated by ‘red savages’, though, to be sure, the Indians had their tragic side of the story. Also, considering what happened to Ethan’s brother, his wife[whom Ethan dearly loved], his young son, and his older daughter, isn’t it understandable that Ethan doesn’t want Debbie’s womb to breed more killers for Scar the Comanche thief? Suppose a barbarian tribe attacked your family, raped and killed your mother, tortured and killed your father, and mutilated and killed your brothers and sisters. Suppose a sister was taken alive and is to be raised to produce babies for the gang that murdered your family. Wouldn’t you be angry at the prospect of her being forced into racial-sexual betrayal not only against her own race but against her own family that was murdered by the very people she’s come to serve? But the insipid and petty PC culture merely condemns Ethan for his ‘racism’ and ‘hatred’. This is very amusing when we consider that Liberals supported US actions against Afghanistan and Alqaeda after 9/11. It was about blood vengeance for the killing of Americans; the emotions were hardly different from Ethan’s. And most Americans looked the other way as US used drones to blow up people all across the Middle East. American ‘progressives’ even ignore what US had done to Libya, Syria, and Russia, nations that did nothing to the US. And of course, US fully supports the blood-racial war of Zionism against Palestinians. But these very same ‘progressives’ sit judgement on Ethan in THE SEARCHERS who is understandably angry because his loved ones had been rubbed out in the worst way anyone can imagine. It’s the way of human nature to care more about close ones. Consider the scene when the posse in THE SEARCHERS learn that the Comanches had stolen some cattle merely to lure the men out so they could attack the unguarded homes. Notice how Jorgensen — the guy who keeps on saying ‘by golly’ and ‘she was a school teacher, you know’ — is most worried about his wife & daughter while Ethan is most worried about his brother’s family. Even within the same race/people, there is an intra-tribalism that feels closest to one’s own kin.) Yet, Angel pulled out his gun and let Teresa have it, and passion of the moment hurls at us with the force of mack truck in a head-on collision with a bus. Even as the music score slams the brakes in full panic mode, the crash can’t be averted. Similar score is used later when the locomotive rolls and collides into a train compartment with horses and men. Some things, once set in motion, are as inevitable and inescapable as asteroids bound to impact Earth one day. (Peckinpah once said of the killing of the farmer in SHANE that it changed everything. It wasn’t a case of two gunslingers shooting it out but a man being murdered in cold blood. The killing of Teresa has a similar kind of brutality. It is like a hog killing, though to be sure, there’s real passion involved.) It says something about human nature, how it is a combination of free will and fate. It’s like what happens at the end of THE WILD BUNCH is both random/free-willed and destined/inevitable, as if there could be no other way or at least they wouldn’t have it any other way(if indeed they are to live or die as men). It’s like what Travis Bickle says in TAXI DRIVER: “Now I see if clearly. My whole life is pointed in one direction. I see that now. There never has been any choice for me.” We want to be free, but freedom means endless choices in a world that doesn’t offer many choices. To be free means that the world cannot tell us what to do. But then, the world doesn’t allow most of us to do most of what we want to do. If everyone could freely become what he or she wants to be, we would all be billionaires, movie stars, famous novelists, popular singers, Nobel Prize winners in medicine, and etc. We are free but also limited by our meager abilities and by the difficulty of our circumstances. So, even as we want to be free, we also want some sign or portent to lead us on the righteous path of what each of us was ‘meant to do’. It’s like the Knights go on the Quest for the Holy Grail in EXCALIBUR. Without something to seek and search, life has no direction, and without direction, life has no meaning.

TAXI DRIVER – Travis Bickle – Todd’s Lonely Man

So, Bickle’s decision to assassinate Palantine has the ring of both sad resignation and righteous fortitude. His destiny has been ‘revealed’, and it is to be a dragon-slayer(and, in the process, perhaps to be killed or imprisoned for life), but he’s finally found a sense of meaning and direction in life. The reason why some immigrants from the Middle East and Africa in the West eventually turn to the Islamic Faith is because of the sheer emptiness of modernity with so much freedoms but so few opportunities and, furthermore, absolutely no sense of purpose of life except to be hassled by petty PC and overfed on trashy pop culture. In a world where God is dead and patriotism has been buried & forgotten, in a world where people’s lives are atomized and filled with junk culture(that is increasingly pornified and debauched — with the likes of Kanye West hailed as the ‘most influential’ figure by Time magazine that also extols Laverne Cox, the black tranny with a blonde wig), what is the meaning of life? Where is one’s life headed? At least in a traditionalist society, one has a sense of ancestors(from whose line one emerged) and of descendants(who will carry on the line of one’s people), but in a decadent pop-culture-centric society, each individual is disconnected from the past and the future. There is only the globo-horizontal NOW that inundates one’s rotten soul with hedonism that creates the false illusion that one is young and hip forever; TV is the plastic surgery of the soul.
There’s also the death of serious culture of canons and classics. If members of a family are well-read and knowledgeable of the classics, they’ll have something in common in the shared appreciation of, say, Shakespeare, Herman Melville, Beethoven, Brahms, Michelangelo, and etc. Grandparents may remember 40s pop culture, parents might remember 60s pop culture, children might remember 80s pop culture, and their children might enjoy pop culture today, but they may all share something in their appreciation of serious culture. Pop culture and fashion come and go, and each generation has its own ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ stuff. But the classics last, and it is the appreciation of the great classics, along with the knowledge of the history of one’s people, that provides common bonds across the generations. But today, many kids go to college and indulge in nothing but pop culture, as if they can’t get enough pop culture from TV, movies, and the internet. Therefore, little unity and understanding are found across the generations, a real pity.

SEVEN SAMURAI – Something to live and die for.

In SEVEN SAMURAI, the samurai fight and risk their lives for some poor stinking village, but it provides them with meaning, with something to live and die for. And perhaps even death with meaning is better than life without meaning. For the peasants, there’s meaning in the land and the seasons for their role in life is to grow food. Also, as farming men and farming women work side by side, the men can be assured of women, and together they have children who carry on the family tradition and the name on the land of their ancestors. Also, as farmers are humble folks, they don’t need much in the way of pride. In contrast, samurai are all about pride. Sure, they have to be humble and obedient before their lords, but a samurai is nothing without his warrior honor. Thus, it is less certain for a samurai in securing meaning in life. If he’s a member of a prominent clan, he could own property and get married and raise children. But if the clan is destroyed, samurai lose their positions. Or the clan, in peacetime, might let go of some of their retainers who are then rendered virtually homeless; they’ve instantly gone from being superior to being lowlier in relation to all other castes. Of course, their status is still higher than those of all non-samurai because even a masterless samurai officially has more prestige than non-samurai. But prestige without place can actually be burdensome as one’s pride gets in the way of pragmatism of adapting to new realities. If samurai lost their status upon losing their station, they would feel free to do whatever necessary to get on with life. But their permanent status fixes their hopes on finding another clan to serve even if such prospects are few and far between.

Peasants of SEVEN SAMURAI

Even when the clans change, farmers still remain on the land and produce food for themselves and their masters. But when a clan falls, all the samurai fall with it. What is striking about the samurai in Kurosawa’s film is that they are all Men without Women. Among the peasants, even the lowly Yohei has a wife — one guy whose wife was abducted by the bandits is boiling over with rage.
Samurai can have a stable life with family and property only if they are secure in pride, and that means having to serve somebody. In the American West with all that land, anyone could stake some territory and be the lord of his domain. In feudal Japan where all the land had long been claimed by the various powerful clans, a samurai could only serve one of the established powers. Thus, a samurai was man of both immense pride and insecurity. His status as a member of the warrior provided him with all sorts of privileges. And yet, unless he could secure a lord to serve, he was like a homeless drifter, indeed even lower than a peasant for he had no certain place in the world. Perhaps, this acute sense of shame among men of honor is one reason why suicide came to be accepted as legitimate in Japan. When a man of immense pride couldn’t live a life of honor, what was there for him to do but remove himself from the world? If he hadn’t been burdened with such pride of caste, he could have just settled for something else in life. But to be born a samurai meant that you were special, a member of the warrior god race. So, it wasn’t easy for a masterless samurai to swallow his pride and be something else. In the film SEPPUKU(aka HARAKIRI) by Masaki Kobayashi, we are shown the psycho-social cost of pride in an uncertain world. Some of this lingers in modern Japan, as shown in quiet desperation of men who lose their jobs in TOKYO SONATA and DEPARTURES, where a classically trained musician loses his job and makes a living handling dead bodies, something deemed lowly and dirty in a nation where cleanliness is next to godliness. (The final scene of DEPARTURES surely takes some cues from the ending of SIXTH SENSE. Stone and the ring). But then, given that everyone dies and must be disposed of, why should there be any shame associated with the business of funerals? The Japanese discrimination against the so-called ‘burakumin’ — people whose ancestry has been linked with the ‘unclean’ skinning and tanning of animal parts — is less ‘racial’ than cultural. Full acceptance of the Burakumin subverts the primacy of purity as a core essence of Japanese spirituality. So, it’s not so much the Burakumin themselves but what they stand for that threatens the Japanese Way. Though handling dead people isn’t the same as handling dead animals, it too carries a stigma due to the nature of what’s involved. When Japanese were mostly peasants, they could just bury their dead family members in the soil on which they lived or cremate the bodies according to Buddhism. In more extreme cases, there were something like the death ritual in THE BALLAD OF NARAYAMA. But today’s Japanese in cities obviously can’t do that, so there is no organic or clean option left for modern people in dealing with the dead. Thus, an industry specializing in the handling of dead people have, and since it all does it is deal with dead people, it may have taken on a stigma not unlike what the Burakumin once had.
Anyway, the reason why the samurai decide to help out the village in SEVEN SAMURAI isn’t only about good deeds. It’s their desire to have something to live for. In playing the role of guardians of the village, they gain a measure of pride even if it’s nothing like membership in a great clan. On the other hand, it is more special because they get to play the role of warrior-lords over the farmers, whereas they would merely be warrior-servants in a clan. So, even as Kambei and the other samurai are eager to defeat the bandits and bring the fight to an end, victory isn’t reassuring to them because they’ll be rendered without a purpose once again. This is perhaps why Yukio Mishima argued that the concept of the Emperor was so absolutely essential to Japan. Not because Mishima believe in any of that stuff about the royal family being descended from the Sun gods but because it was through the Emperor that all Japanese felt united as a racial, cultural, and spiritual family on the sacred island of Japan. That way, whether Japan was at war or at peace, whether Japan was in a state of stability or transformation, there would be a sense of unity and continuity both horizontally through social space and vertically through time. During times of peace, people are liable to get bored and apathetic. Yet, if they feel as part of a holy race related to the Emperor, their lives will continue to have special meaning. And during times of rapid change, when it’s so easy to become lost in the all the tumult & upheaval and forget who you & your people are, the Emperor would remind everyone that he or she is still a member of a special race on the sacred soil of one’s ancestors.

Unlike the samurai in SEVEN SAMURAI, the men of THE WILD BUNCH, being outlaws, don’t have much meaning and direction in life. Like animal predators, they go after one prey after another; there is no overarching meaning to their lives since they’ve abandoned the moral life, and without morality, there can be no higher meaning or purpose. At least the Corleones in THE GODFATHER had the ambition of one day becoming legitimate and respectable members of American society. The Bunch are content to ride around looking for one loot after another. They sort of live paycheck to paycheck or holdup to holdup. Old Man Sykes has been in the game for a long time, but it’s the same game. So, in a way, they are somewhat moved when the people of Angel’s village treat them not as thieves and killers but as Robin-Hood-like ‘freedom fighters’. Pike can be very cold, and even though he understands the plight of the villagers, his mind is still set on money or gold anyway he can get it. And his (anti)sermon to Angel, who is distraught over his murdered father and stolen girl, is “Either you learn to live with it or we leave you here”, whereupon Angel firms up and says, “I go with you, Jefe.”

Perhaps on a subconscious level, the Bunch later become especially sensitive about the fate of Angel because they’d visited his village, the paradisiacal images of which may have lingered in their minds. Furthermore, the village gave them quite a welcome despite its own impoverishment, especially after Mapache’s men had swept through like a plague of locusts. Also, the fact that Angel sacrificed his share of the gold from the train robbery to help out the village and the fact that he didn’t rat on the bunch after being captured by Mapache make his ordeal harder to shake off than what happened with other members of the Bunch who were killed in the opening gun battle. Also, even though Angel is the only Mexican in the Bunch, he’s been square with them. When the Gorches taunted Pike Bishop after the first failed robbery, Angel stood by the Jefe, Pike Bishop.

Lyle and Tector Gorch not happy with ‘sharing up’.

(It is quite a remarkable scene running through the entire gamut of human emotions in all their brazenness, nuances, and contradictions. When Sykes greets the Bunch’s return, Pike shows irritation as if Sykes is just old weight he has to carry around, even an embarrassment to the Bunch. And then, the Gorches bring up the issue of ‘sharing up’, and Pike adamantly insists that it will be as always: equal shares for each member. This insistence on principle has a discordant ring because a minute ago Pike himself seemed annoyed with Sykes. The Gorches say Sykes doesn’t deserve equal shares since all he did was wait around with the horses; and Angel doesn’t deserve it because he is ‘just staring out’. In a way, the Gorches, ruffians that they are, make a legitimate point. And it appears Pike overreacts by taunting the Gorches to take all the loot if they don’t like equal shares. The Gorches were not saying they wanted it all; they just wanted the shares to reflect the risks and input. But Pike reacts angrily for reasons that are personal and ‘political’. On a personal level, he has a sentimental attachment to Sykes. Also, there’s something about the Gorches he simply doesn’t like or trust. They are too rough and stupid, even if they have a legitimate point. And a man of Pike’s intelligence has too much pride to be listening to advice from the likes of Gorches — just like Woltz in THE GODFATHER won’t be ‘made to be look ridiculous’ by the likes of Johnny Fontaine. But it’s also a matter of power. Unless Pike demonstrates that it’s his way or the highway — as with the old man in RESERVOIR DOGS — , others will get the impression that he’s a pushover. Sometimes, the leader has to choose respect over reason even if others may be right. Leadership isn’t merely a matter of being rightness but of recognition. Especially as the Gorches broached the subject in a rough manner, Pike felt no choice but to stand his ground in a test of wills. Also, he likely knows from experience that unequal shares, even if justified, can lead to envy and resentment. Especially as outlaws tend to be dangerous with hair-trigger propensity for violence, it’s best to minimize anything that might stir up dissension. Indeed, human psychology isn’t merely about properties but perceptions. Even as Jews amassed greater fortunes than the Wasps, they still seethe about how their grandfathers weren’t admitted to some Anglo-American Country Club decades ago. Consider the resentment that the Gorches feel at Mapache’s when they are seated at another table while Pike and Dutch have been invited to discuss the plan for the train heist. Anyway, the scene that began on a note of weary annoyance on Pike’s part heats up to a battle of wills between Pike and the Gorches. Gorches decide to back off before Pike’s authority, but then Angel, sitting off by himself, makes noises — ‘chick, chick, chick’ — that taunt Gorches for their cowardice. The Gorches are agitated but overlook the slight as their minds are on the loot. But, it turns out that the sacks have nothing in them but washers. So, the scene goes from suspense and intensity to letdown and exasperation. After all the bloody mayhem of the opening part of the film and after the tense standoff between Pike and the Gorches, all they have to show for is “a dollar’s worth of steel holes”. Now, the Gorches feel they are justified in tearing into Pike. He planned and set up the operation, and some of the members of the Bunch got killed in Starbuck. Gorches, along with Pike, Dutch, and Angel, barely made it out alive. So, Pike has eggs on his face as leader of the Bunch. Pike admits he and the Bunch were set up, and Lyle Gorch demands who ‘they’ are. Just then, Sykes changes the tone by romping around and ridiculing them all, sparing no one: “Oh my, what a bunch! Big tough ones. Here you are with a handful of holes, a thumb up your ass, and a big grin to pass the time of day with.” Yet, Sykes’ rant isn’t as loony as it sounds. While he seems to be putting everyone down, he is distracting the Gorches in order to spare Pike, his younger friend, from more abuse and humiliation. He wild antics imply that the fault isn’t only with Pike but with the Bunch or simply with the absurd way of the world. And once calm returns after Sykes’ tirade, Pike quietly explains that it was likely the Railroad that set them up. Then he mentions a name that has special significance for himself and Sykes. He says Deke Thornton was ‘one of them’. Thus, the setup takes a personal as well as ‘political’ character. Just then, Lyle Gorch upsets the calm once again by hollering why Pike didn’t know about Thornton working with the Railroad. Of course, Pike hasn’t a good answer and is at a disadvantage because he was fooled not only by the Railroad but by his former partner. It is then that, unexpectedly, Angel taunts the Gorches by daring them to take his ‘silver’, whereupon the Gorches try to grab their guns. But Angel’s pistol is drawn on them, and he keeps taunting them. The tension shifts from Pike vs the Gorches to the Gorches vs Angel. But Pike, Sykes, and Dutch know what this is all about. Angel, though seemingly acting like an a**hole, is trying to rein in the Gorches and reinforcing his allegiance to Pike. Pike didn’t ask for this and may not have expected such loyalty from Angel. But Angel senses Pike is the rightful leader, and that’s that; and the Gorches bitch too much. So, as Angel holds down the Gorches, the others slowly draw out their guns and surround the Gorches four to one. Gorches figure it’s best to just let things go, and the tension defuses once again. We don’t know what’s to come next. Argument flares up again but then cracks into laughter as Pike says he should have ‘running whores instead of stealing army horses’. The Gorches, childlike, can’t help laughing at the remark, and everyone joins in a merriment that is both genuine and necessary as things could have gone very wrong in that scene. The scene ends with a shot of young Mexican boy and girl smiling in incomprehension. A nice touch but ironic given that the children could as easily have witnessed bloodletting and death if the tensions had played out differently. The scene presents Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah at their masterly best in staging and executing contradictory emotions with power and poetry.) And when Dutch was nearly killed during the train robbery, Angel saved him. So, his example inspires something among the Bunch that goes beyond reason or calculation. Up until the moment Pike finally decides to go after Angel, he didn’t know he’d do it. Pike is the type who likes to plan things. The one time he got drunk and careless, Deke Thornton was arrested by the lawmen while he himself barely escaped. Another time he got careless — though not with alcohol — , the love of his life(a Mexican woman) was gunned down by her estranged husband who also injured his leg. So, Pike likes to stay one step ahead in the game of fight-or-flight. As risks are intrinsic to the ‘business’ he is in, he’s averse to anything that needlessly messes with the odds. Even when he gets emotional, as with the Gorches, there’s an air of calculation to restore order and authority. So, his final decision to go after Angel goes against character. He tried to drown his sorrow with alcohol and a whore, but he can’t get Angel out of his mind. He feels as miserable on the new day as on the day before. Maybe he wouldn’t have decided to go after Angel if it weren’t for the ruckus in the other room where the Gorches pettily bicker with a whore over payment. It sounds so stupid, the Gorches and the woman squabbling over money. In that instance, Pike’s own life may have felt petty and pointless. As an outlaw, he may be the stuff of romantic lore, riding around and living free and robbing and womanizing. But in the end, his life was all about chasing after nickels and dimes. The bickering between the Gorches and the Mexican prostitute reminds us of the Bunch’s argument over the ‘washers’ after the first robbery. Despite their years and guns, they are like kids fighting over marbles — or like the brothers fighting over a ‘toy rifle’ in Anthony Mann’s WINCHESTER 73. And even when the Bunch finally got the gold from Mapache, it was hustling and haggling over peanuts, like kids trying to get the extra cookie for themselves. Petty crooks, all of them, the Bunch and Mapache and the rest. Bunch might see themselves as free-spirited outlaws, and Mapache and his men might see themselves as Federales or soldiers, but they are chicken thieves, not much different from bounty hunters. They’re just better at it, but the nature of ‘it’ is the same for them all.

“Why not?”

So, in that inspired moment of self-loathing and glimpse of redemption, fueled by hangover and agitation, Pike feels a surge of mad courage to lead the Bunch as a man of honor. And had he not acted on the impulse at that moment, he may have never done it. And once he gets the Gorches on the same wavelength and once Dutch joins along, there is no going back. Thus, what happens at the end of THE WILD BUNCH feels both spontaneous/accidental and fateful/predestined. Pike was inspired by the emotions of a moment arrived at by a convergence of events and confluence of elements(even something as trivial as the panicked chirping of a stringed sparrow, the desperate cries of which may pierce’s Pike knotted conscience about Angel’s plight), and yet, we can’t help feeling that the Bunch’s decision was the only thing that they, as the last barbarians of the West, could have done, at least if they are go out with a bang than a whimper.

Ernest Borgnine as Dutch.

If Pike and the Gorches needed to be inspired by a rush of feeling, Dutch appears to have made up his mind earlier and was just waiting for the others to see the light too, though of heaven or hell one cannot be sure.
Indeed, Dutch could be said to be the only person who wins an argument with Pike in the film. Pike is easily able to outwit, outshout, or out-stare the not-too-bright Gorches. He persuades grief-stricken Angel to ‘learn to live with it’ at the village — though the life of the Bunch is rough and dangerous, Angel finds it more therapeutic than sticking around the village and feeling sorry for himself. And when Angel stubbornly refuses to go along on the train heist, Pike, with the help of Dutch, turns him around by offering one case of rifles and one case of ammunition in exchange for Angel’s share of the gold. Usually whenever the Bunch get into an argument or a jam, it is Pike who usually saves the day or comes out on top. When Mapache sends his men to take the guns from the Bunch without paying, it is Pike, having had the foresight of rigging the wagon with dynamite, who convinces the Mexican ‘officer’ to back down and go tell Mapache to keep up his end of the bargain. Even in the argument with Deke Thornton in the flashback, Pike gets the upperhand by assuring his friend that they’re safe and have nothing to worry about, a grave mistake as Thornton is soon captured while Pike makes the getaway.

But in his shouting match with Dutch, Pike doesn’t come out on top. He won’t back down but neither will Dutch. Not that Dutch is right about Deke Thornton. He doesn’t know the history between Pike & Deke and only thinks of Deke as a turncoat siding with the law to save his own skin. When Dutch yells, “Damn that Deke Thornton”(possibly with some jealousy over the fact that Bishop, whom Dutch admires, still considers Thornton to be his dearest friend), Pike defends Thornton with, “What would you do? He gave his word.” Dutch counters with, “To the railroad!” whereupon Pike glares back and shouts, “It’s his word”, whereupon Dutch gets the last word with, “That’s not what counts. It’s who you give it to.” It’s not so much that Dutch is right and Pike is wrong. In a way, both are right, at least depending on what one knows of Deke Thornton and the situation they’re faced with. It’s true that Thornton betrayed the Bunch, but he got caught only because of Pike’s cocksure arrogance. Though Pike, in saving his own skin, didn’t necessarily betray the rule of the outlaw(who is ultimately about serving himself), his assurance of authority cost his friend dearly. Pike’s guilt regarding Thornton — something Dutch knows nothing about — compels him to defend him. He knows it’s not a simple case of betrayal. As for Dutch who is saddened and moved by Angel who ‘played his strings right to the end’, he can only see Thornton as a traitor who caved under pressure, and he’s especially enraged because Ole Man Sykes was just felled by one of the bounty hunters.
The relationship between Deke Thornton and Pike Bishop(and even Ole Man Sykes) is multi-layered and contradictory. Like the James Coburn character in PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID, Thornton is loaded with a job he doesn’t want to carry out. He doesn’t want to capture or kill his friend Pike. And yet, he fears being sent back to prison. Also, there’s an element of personal resentment if not revenge because it was Pike’s carelessness that got him caught in the first place. So, a part of him wants to strike back at Pike and get even, but another part of him keeps his distance. In the first gun battle, Thornton at one point had a clean shot at Pike but hesitated. When Ole Man Sykes is shot, Thornton manages to persuade the bounty hunters to forget about him and chase after the Bunch. It’s his way of giving Sykes, an old pal, a second chance.

Sam Peckinpah with Edmund O’Brien as Old Man Sykes

When Sykes is shot, Pike could have led the Bunch to take on the bounty hunters, but he decides to ride back to Agua Verde than risk facing Deke Thornton. Pike and Deke are like the two gladiators played by Kirk Douglas and Woody Strode in SPARTACUS. They are forced to fight, but they don’t really want to kill one another. The tortured relation between Pike and Deke was foreshadowed in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and MAJOR DUNDEE, both films where friends-turn-enemies-turn-friends, indeed where one friend redeems himself or his estranged friend through the sacrifice of death.
In a way, the ambiguity and dualism of friend/enemy reflected Peckinpah’s own paranoia and his irascible personality that often had problems telling friends apart from enemies.
One striking feature of Peckinpah’s films is how the core conflict isn’t so much about us vs them as about the dissensions within the ‘us’. The core conflict in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY is really between the two old men even though they are on the same side. The Hammond brothers pose a physical threat, but there’s a ‘spiritual’ conflict between Steve Judd(Joel McCrea) and Gil Westrum(Randolph Scott). And we’re never sure how things will turn out between the Charlton Heston character and Richard Harris character in MAJOR DUNDEE. And in BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, Hogue manages to alienate his friend and his lover, losing them both, and then dying when they return. In STRAW DOGS, the central conflict is as much between the Dustin Hoffman character and his wife as about his struggle against the local thugs.
In THE GETAWAY, Steve McQueen’s character finds it difficult to forgive his wife who’d betrayed him. In BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, a major rift happens between Benny(Warren Oates) and his woman when he demands that she take him to the grave of Alfredo Garcia so he remove his head as trophy. KILLER ELITE is about a friend betraying a friend by choosing professional duty over personal loyalty. Perhaps THE CROSS OF IRON dramatically suffers from the lack of such a tortured dichotomy between friend/enemies. James Coburn’s Steiner is pretty much a stand-alone guy, and none of the side characters played by actors of varying nationalities amount to memorable personalities. Coburn has no one to interact with. There is the grand villain in Maximillian Schell’s Stransky, but he’s off to the side posturing pompously as a Prussian Harrigan with the law’s arms around him. There is no emotional connection or conflict between Steiner and Stransky that matches the emotional tensions and psychological complexities found in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, MAJOR DUNDEE, THE WILD BUNCH, KILLER ELITE, and etc. OSTERMAN WEEKEND, Peckinpah’s last film, is a return to form with its memorable friend/enemy dynamics between Rutger Hauer’s character and Craig T. Nelson’s character.

Anyway, it isn’t easy to pinpoint as to why the Bunch finally decide to go after Angel. For example, when Dutch returns from Agua Verde without Angel — now captive of Mapache — , he argues they must do something. But Lyle Gorch says there’s nothing they can do about it since Mapache has two hundred men and too many guns. Pike agrees with Lyle and sighs, “No way.” And as upset as Dutch is about Angel’s condition, he must know the others are right. The men stand around waiting for Sykes to return with the horses, and if Sykes had made it back, it’s possible that they would have driven off and left Angel behind. But just then, Sykes is ambushed by Thornton’s bounty hunters and hit on the leg. This forces Pike to make a decision. He can take on Thornton and the bounty hunters and try to save Sykes. But he doesn’t want to face or kill Thornton. Out of shame and guilt, he wants to avoid any kind of confrontation with him. Pike cannot overcome the guilt of having fled and leaving Thornton behind to be caught. (To be sure, in that instant, there was nothing Pike could do but save his own skin. But like the character in LORD JIM, he feels the guilt of the ‘coward’. In the West with its codes of warrior honor, such things do matter.) Ironically, in avoiding a confrontation with Thornton, Pike does to Sykes what he’d done to Thornton. He leaves Sykes behind at the mercy of bounty hunters. (On the other hand, maybe Pike meant to help Sykes by riding off, thereby drawing Thornton and the bounty hunters away from Sykes in pursuit of the Bunch.) At that point, Pike could have just taken off on his own, but he knows Thornton and his gang will keep on pursuing him. He’s tired of running, but then, he’s not keen on risking everything to save Angel either. His decision to go to Agua Verde has less to do with trying to save Angel than finding respite from Thornton’s relentless pursuit of him. Pike isn’t afeared of Thornton and the bounty hunters for their skill with guns — if anything, the Bunch are much better gunmen than the bounty hunters who are seen as worthless by Thornton, who wishes to be with the Bunch whom he calls ‘real men’. Rather, Pike is ashamed of the prospect of coming face to face with Thornton because there is something of J’Accuse in Thornton’s haunting shadow. Pike figures that as long he takes the Bunch to Agua Verde, they can have a moment of respite before figuring on what to do next. But in fact, Pike is caught between a rock and a hard place, between Charybdis and Scylla. Not in an life-and-death manner. In a fair firefight, the Bunch have a good chance of defeating the bounty hunters. As for Mapache, he’s happy with the guns, throwing a fiesta, and has no ill-will toward the Bunch. The crisis is really personal and existential, especially in the mind of Pike Bishop; and THE WILD BUNCH is essentially the psycho-drama of Pike Bishop whose inner torments steer the direction of the action. Though Pike rationalizes all his actions to the Bunch and postures as the most intelligent and objective member of the gang, his decisions are as driven by issues of psychology as of strategy. It is no different with his decision to return to Agua Verde. Unless one understands how he feels about Deke Thornton — something only Sykes understands — , one could be mistaken into believing that Pike is only trying to be calculating and rational. It’s like libertarians always pretend like they are all about reason, logic, and objective strategy, but they are, as often as not, driven by personal and psychological issues, much of which is subconscious. It’s like Jewish Liberals and Homocules pretend to be all about ‘equality’, reason, and rule of law, but they cleverly twist those concepts to serve their own interests and agendas. It’s like Ayn Rand couldn’t really be trusted as an objective thinker. Everyone claims to be for objectivity and equal/universal application of the law for everyone, but they find subtle ways to deviate from the golden rule in so many ways. Christians especially became masters at this because of the huge discrepancy between what they preached and what they actually did.

It is finally upon seeing Angel’s battered face and mangled body that Pike begins to feel a change of heart. Especially as Angel has been tortured, Pike could subconsciously be reminded of Thornton’s ordeal at the hands of Harrigan’s men. Pike knows Thornton better than anyone else does, and he must know the only reason Thornton is riding for the Railroad is because he was broken under pressure. (The Bunch’s animosity to the Railroad is also interesting. As white men who ventured westward in the name of progress — against ‘red savages’ — , the Bunch can’t be entirely against the idea of civilization. After all, they use guns, and Pike especially seems fascinated with machines and stuff like automobiles and machine guns. He even knows something about airplanes. He’s kept up with the news as best he could. Then, why this animus against the Railroad? It seems personal than political or social. It’s like many conservatives have nothing against high-tech and media, but they see Silicon Valley and Hollywood as the enemy since the movers of those empires are out to destroy white conservative nationalist America. For Pike, the Railroad is synonymous with men like Harrigan, and during the train heist he takes special delight in sending the locomotive back to slam into the train compartments left behind. In the West, many people appreciated the railroad, but they hated ‘Railroad Men’ who gained tremendous power and used their clout to gain political and economic power over entire regions. Same kind of animosity existed against bankers during the Great Depression, as exemplified in BONNIE AND CLYDE.) Seeing Angel up close all beaten and bloodied, a crisis unfolds in Pike’s heart. In the first battle, some members of the Bunch got shot and left behind. In the heat of the moment, it was every man for himself. So, the lucky ones rode out from Starbuck as fast as possible. There was no time to save anyone who was shot or left behind. Among one of the survivors is a man who got shot in the face. Eventually, he falls off the horse and pleads with Pike that he can ride even though he can’t see. Deep down inside he knows it’s over, but the animal life force within him fears death and wants to ride on. And yet, the unbearable pain must also make him long for death’s release. Out of mercy and cold-blooded necessity, Pike shoots him dead — like what Willard does to the Vietnamese woman in APOCALYPSE NOW. It’s significant that the man’s bloody face is covered by his hand. It makes it easier for Pike and us to see him shot dead. Few things are harder to take than the sight of a dying man’s face. But when Pike sees the bloodied face of Angel at Agua Verde, he can’t just look away. It’s bruised & swollen and feebly stares back at Pike. Angel continues to ‘play his strings right to the end’ by not ratting out the Bunch. Pike cannot even kill him in mercy like he did with the wounded man in the early part of the film. It might not have been so bad if Mapache had just executed Angel. Instead, Mapache keeps Angel alive and toys with him like a cat with a mouse. It’s possibly even worse than what Thornton got in Yuma at the hands of Harrigan. But if Thornton broke, Angel refuses to break and keeps his silence.

The dramatic impact of Dutch and Pike coming around to go after Angel is a testament to the power of direction. Had THE WILD BUNCH been directed by a lesser director, it would have been an entirely different film. Ten different versions of a solid script directed by ten different hacks might be more or less similar, ranging from passable to good, but it takes a great director to transform it into a singular vision. And few directors were as good as Peckinpah with the Uncertainty Principle, which is why his films are racked with so much tension. Until something actually happens, we aren’t certain it will happen. If Hitchcock was the Master of Suspense, Peckinpah was the Master of Intense.
Compare Alfonso Arau’s dreadful direction of the screenplay of MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS with Orson Welles’ version. Same script, wholly different results. Despite the importance of script/writing — so many egomaniacal ‘auteurs’, including Peckinpah, faltered at times by neglecting its full significance — , it is only a suggestion — indeed, not even a blueprint — that must be turned into a statement by the director of vision. Some directors drastically change the original material, as Kubrick did with THE SHINING, but even if the director were to stick with every word of the script, his own vision will shine through the expressive means of cinema. Peckinpah couldn’t touch the scripts of DEADLY COMPANIONS and THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND, but they are no less distinctly his than his other films in which he had a hand in the writing. It’s like a musical performer can play every note of the composition but make it uniquely his by variations in mood, rhythm, intonation, and mood. After all, the director’s primary pen is the camera. Of course, strikingly different great/interesting films can be made from the same basic script/material by talented directors. Consider the three different versions of the BODY SNATCHERS scenario by Don Siegel, Philip Kaufman, and Abel Ferrara. Both L’APPARTEMENT and WICKER PARK are remarkable films. And Kubrick would surely have made interesting versions of BLADE RUNNER, MOTHMAN PROPHECIES, and SOLARIS. It would be foolish to say that a good script could have been made into a great film by only one director. What is difficult to argue with is the role of the great director in the creation of film of visionary power. A good enough director — even a talented hack — can turn a solid script into an excellent film if the material is essentially plot-and-actor-centric. GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS is a fantastic film but essentially an actors’ exercise. It only needed an intelligent director to expertly handle the material and get out of the way so actors could carry the weight. But a script for something like THE WILD BUNCH or BLADE RUNNER call for visionary input on the part of director who must do something more than handle the material; he must give it shape and body.

It’s one thing to read or hear about something but something quite else to see it with one’s eyes. This is why Mel Gibson’s PASSION OF THE CHRIST had such an impact on so many people. It presented the suffering of Jesus into a real bad asswhupping that made them cry and pull their hair. And Jews got so upset that they decided to get even and morally shame the white Christian Right with 12 YEAR A SLAVE, aka Passion of the Negro. As a child, watching Kunta Kinte get whipped for refusing to answer to ‘Toby’ moved me deeply — despite the fact that some half-breed ‘Injun’ in school did the funniest impression of the scene, even making the Negroes in class LOL: “What’s yo’ name, nigga!” “Kunta!” Twack! “What’s yo’ name nigga?” “K-K-Kunta!” Twack!. It’s one thing to hear of Jews getting killed by the Nazis, but when people saw how the mayhem in SCHINDLER’S LIST, they really began to weep for and worship the Jew. In life, we tend to avert our gaze from horrible stuff. Even war journalism overlooks most of the gruesome details of war, not least because US has been involved in so many Wars for Israel in recent years; the US media, being dominated by Jews, don’t want to undermine the Zio-War-Machine. Most Americans don’t want to look at what Israeli bombs have done to the people of Gaza.

They’d rather deal with slogans like ‘Stand with Israel’(from the GOP) and ‘Work for Peace’(from American Liberals). Neither side wants to take a cold hard look at what happens to Palestinians who’ve been dehumanized as ‘less evolved’ ‘Muzzie’ savages who aren’t deserving of the kind of sympathy reserved for Jews, homos, and Negroes(at least the jigro-jivers in the West because, after all, even most Liberals don’t care about all the black Africans who’ve been raped and murdered in black Africa). And there are so many ways we can look the other way. Indeed, we do it all the time through mental repression. As horrible stuff depresses us, we repress horrible memories by fixating on funny stuff, pop culture, hanging with friends, and etc.
And in life and art, we prefer death to be quick and easy. So, we don’t have to worry about all those Indians shot in John Ford movies since they die so neatly. They got shot, fall off the horse, die instantly, and disappear altogether like zapped targets in a video-game. And this goes for most soldiers in war movies and action movies too. And this seems to be the case with the first shootout in THE WILD BUNCH. Those who get shot really get shot and pretty much die on the spot. But then, Peckinpah dwells on the consequences of the violence by showing the bounty hunters T.C. and Coffer hovering over dead bodies like vultures. Dead bodies don’t just vanish; they have to be picked up off the ground and buried.

There’s also the wounded man who falls off the horse and is shot by Pike. After he’s killed, the Bunch, instead of just riding off, gripe over what to do with the body. Gorches, in one of their more sentimental moments, say the body should be buried as it belonged to a ‘good man’. Pike says let the bounty hunters deal with it.

Pike’s ‘mercy killing’ or ‘hog killing’?

A movie that focuses mainly on the story has no interest in someone once he dies since dead men don’t act. Peckinpah, in contrast, was as interested in creating a fully realized universe as in telling a story. And in his world of gritty realism, characters linger as carcasses even after they’re dead. They don’t just fade away. They begin to rot and stink, especially if dug up from the ground as in the macabre BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. It is in this sense that the ending of RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY is significant as a kind of swan song of the classic Western. As the old hero faces death at the end, he wants others to ride away and not see him as a pile of dead flesh and bones. Falling into eternal sleep, he can leave his body behind and gracefully enter his house justified. Peckinpah’s films, more than most, remind us why death is such a dark subject for most people. If upon dying we can just fade away like Jedi Knights in STAR WARS, how nice it’d be. But even after death, our bodies linger and turn ugly and gross as they rot. It shouldn’t matter to us since they’re just lifeless mass of flesh. But we still worry over them, which is why almost everyone cares about what is done with his or her body after he or she is dead. It’s not rational but real enough. Therefore, the ritual of handling dead bodies is important. It’s why the Mexicans in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA are outraged by the idea of grave-robbing. It’s why the ending of THE COUNSELOR, where the body of the man’s wife is dumped into a pile of trash is so disconcerting. People don’t end with death. Their bodies remain in the world. One reason why the man in Abbas Kiarostami’s TASTE OF CHERRY has a difficult time facing death is he can’t take his body with him to the netherworld. In some ways, the physiology of death may be more upsetting to secular folks than to spiritual folks. Religious folks may believe their spirits will live on without the bodies. They have identities beyond the physical. In contrast, secular people fixate their identities with their bodies. And yet, when they die, their bodies remain in the world. Worse, their bodies no longer belong to them but to the elements and other people to do with them as they please. Indeed, look at the sorry sight of what happened to Mussolin’s body after he was killed. Because the dead linger as bodies, and the proper treatment of dead bodies signify what we are in terms of both physical and spiritual health.

BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA – the lingering dead.
Penelope Cruz in THE COUNSELOR: Soon headed for the garbage dump.

Real death is a messy business, certainly more so than in most movies. And there is a wide spectrum of hellishness between life and death, like what Deke Thornton experienced when he was being tortured close to death — or what Willem Dafoe’s Jesus goes through in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. During the agony, Thornton probably wished he were dead, but he was kept alive to feel more pain until he finally broke. Generally, we don’t want to see prolonged suffering in cinema. Quentin Tarantino’s RESERVOIR DOGS derives its power by circumventing the rule of audience preferences/expectations. Tim Roth’s character, who is shot in the stomach and writhing in pain, simply won’t die. And his agony is felt throughout the entire film. Or consider the broken legs in DELIVERANCE and THE DEER HUNTER. Death is a passage to heaven, but pain is hell itself. Despite our fear of death, a quick death is at least merciful. It’s not death per se that bothers us most in cinema. It’s the prolonged horror before death or prolonged horror that won’t deliver death’s release. What is the most horrible scene in SEVEN SAMURAI? It’s when a captured bandit is set upon by angry farmers who torture and lynch him. The samurai are deadly but usually kill with maximum efficiency. Peasants take their time like ants swarming over scorpions in the opening of THE WILD BUNCH.

SEVEN SAMURAI – Kyuzo readying to kill with maximum efficiency.
Ants devouring a scorpion in THE WILD BUNCH.

In YOJIMBO, the lightning swordplay metes out quick death(though not so much to the guy who loses a limb), but things get ugly when Sanjuro(Mifune) is captured and brutalized by a ruffian giant. And Sergio Leone’s movies feature both ‘cool’ fast killings and prolonged torture-fests. Think of the Passion of Blondie(Clint Eastwood) at the hands of Tuco(Eli Wallach) in THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. Think of the Passion of Tuco at the hands of Angel Eyes(Lee Van Cleef). Think of Chaney(Charles Bronson) beating the crap out of the fat guy in ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST. And think of what the gangsters do to Fat Moe in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA. I think maybe Kurosawa felt compelled to make RED BEARD partly as a countermand to many of his earlier action movies that featured death as too swift and/or exciting, thereby insufficiently disturbing. To be sure, there was RASHOMON’s second sword-fight that unraveled with tattered nerves. And death by arrows in THRONE OF BLOOD is harrowing. And when we discover what happened to the protagonist in BAD SLEEP WELL — how he was overpowered, drugged, and framed in a drunken-driving accident — , it’s about as depressing a death we can imagine. And the case of the old man in RECORD OF A LIVING BEING(aka I LIVE IN FEAR) lays bare the neurosis of fear of death that can be palpable even in a world at peace. But Kurosawa became most famous around the world for his action films with samurai thunderously riding horses and using swords to fell other men with brutal force. The one great exception could be said to be IKIRU, a ‘medical drama’ — QUIET DUEL is another one though not about death, even though I suppose a syphilitic man who cannot have a woman and children with her is living a kind of death — that wrestles with the difficulty of death that won’t come suddenly and mercifully. The convicted kidnapper faces the same dilemma in HIGH AND LOW; it’s the waiting to be put to death that eats away at his soul. Like with the convicts in Richard Brook’s IN COLD BLOOD, the worst part is not so much the dying as the waiting before the dying. Even if death were to be quick & relatively merciful, the countdown to the final moment is a torture. Of course, all of us are under a death sentence since no one lives forever. But then, we draw a therapeutic distinction between dying and being killed. Somehow, dying at the age of 35 of some disease seems less terrible than being murdered at the age of 70. The manner matters.
Though Kurosawa dealt with many shades of suffering and death prior to RED BEARD, it is with that film that the difficulty of suffering and death are the central themes, indeed even to the point of being archly didactic. Ironically, one could even argue that the hospital run by the humanitarian elder doctor prolongs suffering by taking care of patients who might have died earlier and quicker. And yet, civilization is about mankind taking care of mankind, and if people are indifferent to the suffering of others in the way that animals are to other animals, humans would be no better than animals. And yet, the burden should ideally be shared, which is why everyone, even the sick, pitches into help and do what he/she can in RED BEARD. Humanism fails under the weight of welfare-ism that allows and even encourages too many people to declare themselves ‘victims’ and demand that others take care of them while they themselves feel zero sense of obligation to the rest of humanity. A fat ‘poor’ American eats more in a single day than an entire family in a week in some parts of the world, but she feels no compunction to share her pig-out meal with others; she just demands more freebies for herself because by the exorbitant standards of American wealth, she is ‘poor’, and that makes her a ‘victim’.
Paradoxically, the world of RED BEARD is, in some ways, bleaker than the violent worlds in films like SEVEN SAMURAI, THE LOWER DEPTHS, THRONE OF BLOOD, and HIDDEN FORTRESS. In a world of constant turmoil and bloodshed, the mind focuses on win or lose, live or die, fight or flight. But in RED BEARD, there’s only life and its myriad ways of suffering as it gradually surrenders to death. When the Mifune character is shot in SEVEN SAMURAI, he heroically surges forward and kills the bandit chieftain before collapsing and dying. It’s sad, but one can say he died like a man and even found redemption. But suppose he’s just a sick person wasting away in a clinic, growing feebler and sicker by the day, with death approaching with unbearable levels of pain, and even when he loses consciousness, his body still goes on breathing until it finally gives out. This is the sort of thing we don’t want to experience in life and don’t want to see in life. And so, naturally, we don’t want to see it in films either. But RED BEARD shows it to us. And perhaps Kurosawa was drawn to the story of KING LEAR as the basis for RAN because the old man isn’t snuffed out with merciful death. Instead, he keeps living on and on as the world collapses all around him. (In KAGEMUSHA, the lord soon dies from the gunshot wound, but his double carries on in state that is neither life nor death.) By the time he finally dies, he’d suffered all manner of emotional and psychological duress. Indeed, the most terrible moment for the old lord was when he couldn’t find a sword with which to kill himself. His curse is remaining alive. Life has its joys but continues even after the last flicker of happiness goes out. Is there any point to a ‘fire’ without flames?
In RED BEARD, there’s some degree of comfort in the shared caring that the personnel and patients feel for one another. But then, suffering comes in many shades, and some are harder to assuage than others. One of the patients seems to go the extra mile to help others, but it could be he’s exposing himself to more stress because he secretly nurses a death wish. Finally, on his deathbed, he confesses his tragic love for a woman whose death has haunted him ever since. Though surrounded by patients overcome with sympathy, his mind had really been on nothing else but the woman. A diabolical variation of such a death wish is the revenge plot of Lady Kaeda in RAN. Her soul died when her clan was destroyed by the Ichimonji clan. Her only wish had been to be reunited with her father and brothers in hell, and she goes about doing it by nudging the feebler-willed minds of her husband and his younger brother toward war and destruction. To destroy the world, one need not bother with the world itself. Just toy with the egos of those with the power, and everything else will follow.

RED BEARD – Facing Death
RAN – Facing Death

Anyway, even Pike, who prides himself on cold professionalism, cannot turn away from what’s been done to Angel. And the emotions that stir inside him are of a different nature than what he’d felt when he berated Tector Gorch about sticking together. Pike’s sticking up for Sykes was more like a business lecture: They are like a company, you see, and unless they watch out for another, they will fall apart. It wasn’t about ‘all for one’ but ‘one for all’. For the Bunch to carry on as a whole, there has to be mutual support and cooperation. Pike wasn’t saying the all the members of the Bunch should risk their lives to save one member. After all, when things got hot in Starbuck in the opening scene, every member of the Bunch scrambled to ride out with the loot as fast as possible. Pike is mainly interested in the survival of the group as a whole, and unless everyone’s into ‘equal shares’ and looking out for each other, the Bunch will fall apart. The Bunch as a whole is more important than any single member. Pike’s standing up for Sykes wasn’t just for him but for good of the Bunch. For the good of the Bunch, the survivors rode out of Starbuck while leaving the fallen behind. For the good of the Bunch, Tector mustn’t kill Sykes because it will demoralize the whole. What is good for the Bunch may change from situation to situation, but the Bunch as a whole comes first.
It’s like the scene in SANDS OF IWO JIMA when John Wayne’s character knows there’s nothing he can do to save a wounded American soldier crying for help. And ‘Cowboy’ in FULL METAL JACKET orders his men not to rescue a fallen soldier because more men will fall to the sniper. When Pike defended Sykes, he was really defending the enterprise than Sykes per se(though there are personal reasons too, as both men have a history together). The Bunch need to operate on the basis of trust. But this can only go so far. Every member also needs to understand that if the Bunch must choose between the whole and the one, the whole must taken precedence. If the Bunch go to save Angel, they could all be wiped out, and what’s the point of that? There’s a useful limit to loyalty and camaraderie. Indeed, what happens in BLACK HAWK DOWN when a bunch of US soldiers try to rescue a single soldier? More US soldiers get drawn in and get captured and/or killed. And what happens in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN? In the name of saving one soldier, a whole bunch of other soldiers end up getting killed.

Battered Angel

Pike is not without scruples, but he is a ‘business-minded’ person, and he’s always calculating risks, rewards, and losses. He knows he has to give a pep talk now and then about the good of the whole, but he also knows the Bunch sometimes must cut others loose. He’s like a C.E.O. who knows the importance of teamwork and group spirit but also knows certain workers have to be let go. And from a rational viewpoint, the sane and smart thing would be to leave Angel behind. They can’t really save him, and in trying to do so, they’ll just get him killed(which is inevitable anyways) and get themselves killed in the bargain. It’s the philosophy of business, something that Harrigan knows all too well too. But when Pike sees the bloodied figure of Angel before him, he finds it difficult to rationalize the situation — as with Michael when he sees his father in the hospital in THE GODFATHER. The moment is too ‘personal’ for ‘business’ considerations. It’s almost like a ‘spiritual’ crisis that can’t be resolved with thirty or even thirty thousands pieces of silver. Pike, being the business-type that he is, tries to bargain with Mapache. He offers half his share of gold to buy Angel back. But Mapache won’t be bought. As horrible as Mapache is, he isn’t simply about nickels and dimes. His own crazy sense of honor says that Angel is not for sale. Angel is the rebellious upstart who killed Mapache’s whore and stole Mapache’s guns. For Mapache to retain the respect of his men, he must mete out his brand of ‘justice’ to Angel in pure Mexican style. Mapache will not sell Angel, not for half or even all of Pike’s gold, not even for all the shares of the gold of the whole Bunch. It’s a demented kind of integrity but integrity just the same that sort of shames Pike’s tendency of seeing everything in terms of nickels and dimes, of bargaining above and under the table.
In a way, it’s oddly fitting that Pike returned to Agua Verde to run from Thornton because it’s Pike’s coming face-to-face with Angel’s sad state that forces his subconscious, if not his conscious self, to comes to terms with what happened to Deke Thornton. Pike had been running from the truth, but staring at the sorry sight of Angel, he can’t hide from himself anymore. He’s been running and hiding from Thornton, but he can no longer hide from his own guilt and shame. Indeed, it is when we can’t hide from ourselves that a crisis erupts within us. It’s like Diane Selywn in MULHOLLAND DR. creates an elaborate myth to hide from herself but is finally unable to run from the truth of what really happened. It’s like how Bernard in MURIEL is ultimately confronted with the fact that he too had taken part in the torture and death of the Algerian girl. For Pike, Angel serves as a kind of an angled mirror that reflnects the accusing face of Thornton. When Diane Selywn can no longer hide within herself from herself, there’s only the gun left to blow her brains out with — like what Guido does at the press conference at the end, though it too turns out to be another layer of fantasy. When Pike can no longer hide from himself, he too must turn to the gun to settle all scores. Not just with Mapache but with himself. And perhaps Deke Thornton understood this aspect of why Pike did what he did at the end. Though Thornton watched the gun battle from afar though a binocular, he might have sensed that, in a strange way, Pike was doing it for him as for whatever other reason. Pike was taking a stand than running, something he failed to do when Thornton got caught. So, when Deke Thornton takes the gun from Pike’s holster, there’s a kind of peace between them.

Pike’s revolver

As Pike is the leader, it’s his decision to go after Angel that inspires the Gorches to do likewise. Dutch himself couldn’t have motivated the others, and he waits outside for the others. The final decision was up to Pike. Nevertheless, if not for Dutch’s prodding and sulking, things might have been otherwise. Due to shame and guilt, Pike could not confront Deke Thornton with guns or reconcile with a handshake. And it wasn’t easy for Pike to see, face to face, the bloody pulp that has become of Angel. So, it becomes important for Pike to look Dutch straight in the eye and win respect as a true man of honor. After all, the leader or the top dog is nothing without the respect of his partners and followers. Without respect, there’s only fear, bribery, and greed to keep the gang altogether. When Pike chooses the value of respect over all other considerations, the Bunch changes from a gang of thieves to an order of knights. It’s like the rebirth of chivalry, which is impossible without the cult of honor and respect.

Indeed, look what happens to the lord in THRONE OF BLOOD once he loses the respect of his men. They continue to follow him only out of fear but then finally turn on him to save themselves. One thing Adolf Hitler did have going for him was that most of his associates continued to respect him and stayed by his side to the very end. And Stalin had the respect of his underlings who stood by him even though all seemed lost with the German invasion. But no one respected Batista of Cuba, and when things got hot, everyone took off to save his own skin.
In KAGEMUSHA, it is of utmost importance to the clan to convince everyone that lord Shingen is alive because he is a much respected figure not only by own his subjects but his enemies. It’s all the more essential because the alternative is rule by Shingen’s unwise and hotheaded son.
In HIGH AND LOW, Mifune’s character is a successful businessman, but unless he does the right thing, he will lose the respect of the public, and his business will suffer. He has to ‘murder’ his business because respect is more important. Even his self-respect is incumbent on the respect of others, not least the good cops who are doing their best. And indeed, it’s their respect for the businessman that inspires them to work extra diligently to capture the criminal.

MAJOR DUNDEE – Not easy to earn and keep respect.

Respect goes a long way, and it’s the anxiety of respect that makes the Heston character in MAJOR DUNDEE to go on a madcap venture to regain some of his. But, he falls into a quagmire where the more he grasps for respect, the more he risks losing it. Also, respect comes in many forms, and paradoxically, the man worthy of respect can lose respect and the man unworthy of respect can command respect. In RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, the former sheriff is worthy of respect. He’s upstanding and courageous, a true man of honor. But his honesty and squareness have left him poor and forgotten. If he didn’t have a stiff spine, he might go around complaining like Rodney Dangerfield. He does things by the book and usually keeps his word, but the real world is run by the wheeling-and-dealing of money, not honor. In this sense, he’s as deluded about reality as the Fundamentalist Christian father(R.G. Armstrong) of the fresh young woman played by Mariette Hartley. The Christian father guy is less likable in personality, but he has an unbending devotion to the way of God. Likewise, the ex-sheriff(Joel McCrea) will not budge, not even an inch, when it comes to his code of honor. He’s a puritan in his own way. He always tries to do the right thing, but can a man be respected without status, money, and power? If self-respect the same thing as communal respect?
Also, can’t respect be bought? James Watson deserves far more respect than a lowlife charlatan like Stephen Jay Gould, but the powers-that-be bestowed the glow of respect on Gould while dumping opprobrium on Watson even though Watson spoke honestly and truthfully. In THE FOUNTAIN, the public have more respect for the likes of Peter Keating than for individuals like Howard Roark. For most people, ‘respect’ comes with a price tag. It’s because the oligarchs of Wall Street, Hollywood, Las Vegas, and etc. poured so much money into the ‘gay agenda’ that a monstrosity like ‘gay marriage’ became ‘respectable’ whereas standing up for true marriage became ‘evil’.
Though Steve Judd of RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY is very much a man of reality, he is a Don Quixote of morality because he goes on believing that honor and morality will allow him to ‘enter his house justified’. But which house? Of reality or fantasy? He is, after all, just a drifter. In contrast, his friend Gil Westrum believes himself to see reality for what it is(he’s gone to the other extreme and has become the Don Quixote of utter cynicism that is as delusional as is idealism). Everyone is on the take. Everyone looks out for himself. Everyone lies and cheats for his share of the pie. In a world of thieves, why not be a thief oneself? In a world that ignores and forgets its heroes, why be heroic and stick one’s neck out for principles that no one really practices? Westrum is correct to the extent that the Judd is a man worthy of respect but a man without respect. The real world doesn’t respect men like him because they have nothing, and as Billy Preston sang, “nothing from nothing leaves nothing, you gotta have something if you wanna be with me.” It’s like the world of DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is more amenable to men like Komarovsky the opportunist and manipulator than to men like Strelnikov(the pure revolutionary) or Zhivago(the romantic poet). In reality, it’s the Komarovskys of the world who get the respect(for their means if not for their character, and it’s the means that decide the power, indeed even the reputation). It’s men like Harrigan who are given the glass key to the city. It’s men like the corrupt rich in BAD SLEEP WELL who win honors as the builders and shakers. In truth, ‘ireality’ beats ‘ideality’. For those with power, wealth, and/or connections who are in the ‘game’, it makes sense to choose the reality of power over the ideals of principle. After all, it doesn’t matter how good a person is. It’s the winning politician who has people kissing the rings on his fingers. Pat Buchanan may be worthy of more respect than George W. Bush and Ted Cruz, but it’s Bush and Cruz who got elected to higher office. It’s the winning businessman who can buy friends and favors. It’s the Hollywood box office kings who get to keep making money while box office failures, no matter how good they are, must struggle to make another picture.
And those with privilege and wealth have too much to lose for them to favor principles over power. It’s like the rich guy inTHE FOUNTAINHEAD can’t take it any more and just folds before the unrelenting force of public opinion driven by others more devious and savvy than even him.

If the opportunistic can buy official respect(or ‘reputation’) with their wealth, the principled possess priceless kind of respect — at least in theory. In the end, that is what Kingo Gondo, the character of HIGH AND LOW, has for himself. He lost his business and is starting all over again. But he has the self-respect of a man who did the right thing. Likewise, Pike Bishop can go with the honey or with honor. But then, even if he goes off with the gold, he must know he can never be a ‘respected’ man like Harrigan. It’s like Dutch’s rebuke when he said he’d like to make one good score and then to back off: “Back off to what?” Pike chose the life of an outlaw. He’s an aging bandit, and the times have changed, and it ain’t what it used to be. He can keep robbing til he drops or turns into someone like Ole Man Sykes. Or he can ‘back off’ to some nothing-of-a-life. But, he will never be a ‘man of respect’ like Harrigan. Then, the only way he can best Harrigan(and Mapache) is to prove to himself that, when push came to shove, he chose honor above all. His only way to ‘enter his house justified’ is to go after Angel. He must save Angel or must die trying to save or avenge him.
“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” It’s what keeps the anti-hero of COOL HAND LUKE doing what he keeps doing. He has nothing in the world but his chilled pride, and he keeps risking everything to retain the respect of his inmates by showing that he never compromises or breaks. Paradoxically, he cares that others are convinced that he doesn’t care.
“I don’t care but I care that you must believe that I don’t care.” This contradictory pride is the only hope he lives for.

EXCALIBUR – Perceval’s Last Hope

Perceval says in EXCALIBUR when he has nothing left but the hope of attaining the Grail: “I cannot give up hope, Lancelot. It’s all I have left.” And it is through Perceval’s gift of the Grail that Arthur regains his senses and rides off to battle and almost certain death. His kingdom isn’t what it was once was and faced with mortal threat from Mordred and his army. All that Arthur has left to is to fight and die as a noble leader. His ‘brother’ Kaye understands this as well; he says Merlin visited him and told him he would fight bravely. They understand that it will be their last battle, one they cannot back away from, one that will be the stuff of future memory.
Of course, future memory is dependent on the storytellers as events don’t tell their own stories. It’s like what Buliwyf says in THE 13TH WARRIOR: “A man might be thought wealthy if someone were to draw the story of his deeds, that they may be remembered.” And there would be no story of the Trojan War if not for men like Homer. There would be no story of King David if not for the Jewish writers of the Torah. And there would no Arthurian legends if not for the authors of the tale. Artists are absolutely crucial in that regard. Narrative art is a form of power that glorifies/sanctifies certain historical events. This is why Jews and Negroes revile D.W. Griffith. His THE BIRTH OF A NATION mythologized the proud and heroic white men who united to save their race, culture, and land from ghastly Negroes whose natural instinct was to whup white boys and take white women.

D.W. Griffith’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION
John Boorman’s EXCALIBUR

John Boorman, who made EXCALIBUR, understands the power of myth, just like Joseph Campbell. Indeed, the opening scene of knights in the dark forest in EXCALIBUR owes something to the powerful imagery of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in THE BIRTH OF THE NATION. While it’s true that the KKK later came to be associated with unsavory people, it’s undeniable that it began as an organization and movement to defend white folks from the newly freed jive-ass Negroes. Also, regardless of whether an organization is good or bad, it is doing good when saving white folks from Negro thugs and savages; it’s like Soviet Communists were bad, but they did good when they fought to save the Russian Motherland from German invaders.
On the other hand, there’s no doubt that the KKK turned ugly and foul, but then such corruption are all-too-common in politics. Consider Neo-Conservatism. Initially, it introduced new ideas to the American conservative movement, and the movement produced its share of first-rate thinkers and strategists. But in time, as Neocons and their fatted-calf sons and daughters gained near-total power in American Conservatism Inc., they’ve used their power to wreak havoc all over the globe, leading to 100,000s, if not millions, of deaths in the Middle East. Indeed, when it comes to piling up dead bodies — even of women and children — , the KKK has nothing on the vile Neocons. The recent Jewish War on Russia is also a Neo-con affair though with the backing of Liberal Zio-globalists. Neocons are now far worse than what became of the KKK. It’s run by sociopathic war-mongers like Victoria Nuland and her hideous cronies. It is funded by lunatics like Sheldon Adelson who says Iran should be nuked even though it has no nukes(while Israel has 200 illegal nukes). And look at the sheer scale of slaughter in Gaza by the Zionist Jews who whoop and holler with joy at the sight of thousands of Palestinian women and children being blown to shreds. So, before Jews bitch about the evil KKK, they should look in the mirror and admit that Jewish-American power has created hell-on-earth all around the world. Indeed, whatever evils the KKK might have committed, they were all within the America, mostly in corners of the South, but even those were usually in retaliation against Negro violence and thuggery.
Anyway, the Arthurian legends and stuff like BEOWULF exist only because ‘artists’ heard and/or read about them, passed them down through oral or written tradition. Without the storytellers, there is no story. Imagine Christianity without the Gospels. This is why the Right, if it is to gain power, must produce the storytellers who provide the stories that lionize their own kind while vilifying the hideous Jews and ghastly Negroes. Negroes have rappers who tell their side of the story. Negroes have white Liberals and Jew funding stuff like 12 YEARS A SLAVE and DJANGO UNCHAINED. They lionize themselves while vilifying white folks. And since those are the only kinds of stories around, even white kids imbibe them and identify with the enemy. It’s like American Indian kids used to watch Westerns and cheer for the white cowboys shooting at and killing the red folks. Since white folks made the Westerns, the narrative glorified whites and degraded the ‘red savages’(though not as much as some folks have charged). Since American Indians didn’t have storytellers to write the novels and make the movies, even their children came under the influence of the White Narrative. But today, whites are not allowed to make stories of their own heroism, honor, and glory — unless it’s something like AMERICAN SNIPER that has white American soldiers fighting and killing ‘muzzies’ who pose no threat to White America.
All stories are about conflict, about us vs them. And many traditional white stories have been about great white folks whupping non-whites or seeing Jews for what they are: a bunch of a**holes. It’s no wonder Jews hate Richard Wagner who understood the Nibelungen-ish ways of Jews. Jews can’t abide by whites gaining race-warrior consciousness. So, unless it’s about white folks hating and killing other white folks — or maybe Muslims or Russians — , the white-centric narrative has been forbidden by the Jewish-controlled media complex.
But Jews and Negroes are allowed to produce all sorts of songs, novels, plays, TV shows, and movies in which they themselves are made noble and wonderful whereas the villains are mostly straight white males. And since white kids — even affluent white kids — grow up absorbing such anti-white diatribes, they’ve become like the American Indian kids who cheered for the US cavalry to rub out the ‘Injuns’ in old Westerns. What a bunch of pathetic idiots, the white race has become.

13TH WARRIOR – Man of Word & Man of Action

Anyway, men of action go together with men of words. Without action, there is nothing to write about. Without words, actions(no matter how grand) will not be remembered. Indeed, if no one had written anything about the Holocaust, who would know about it? An incidence of four murdered girls will be remembered with greater tragic sense than an event where thousands or even millions were killed if the former is told while the latter is not. Indeed, why was it so important for the Poles to remember what happened in Katyn? It was because the official story the USSR, the Polish communists, and even by US & UK(at least during the war and immediate aftermath) denied the truth and blamed it on the Nazi Germans when, in truth, the killings had been perpetuated by the NKVD. And why do so few Americans understand the tragic history of the Palestinians? It’s because they never heard of the story of Nakba and all the terrible things Jewish Zionists did to the Palestinians, an wholly innocent people who had no part in the dirty game of international politics. Recently, Clint Eastwood gained fame(or notoriety) with AMERICAN SNIPER, and it’s a powerful example of how a story of the man-of-action and the skills of a man-of-word/image came together to create a powerful movie(that, by the way, has been attacked in some quarters for inaccuracy or serving as warmongering propaganda). Whatever one thinks of Eastwood’s movie, it illustrates the power of what storytelling can achieve. It shapes the hearts and minds of countless people because it is the stories that inspire and bind us through the ages. When a new elites come to power, they not only tear down the old symbols but suppress or discredit all the sacred stories of the conquered subjects. For as long as a people cling to their own stories and narratives of courage, glory, and resistance, they have a chance of rising once again to ‘wield Excalibur’. This is why Henryk Sienkiewicz invested so much of his time and effort in writing the trilogy — WITH FIRE AND SWORD, THE DELUGE, and PAN MICHAEL(aks FIRE IN THE STEPPE) — in the hope that Poles, then under the Russian and German yoke, would rise once again and reclaim the lost nation of their forefathers. The story that Jews and Negroes hate most is of the Reconstruction years when Northern whites eventually came to understand the problems and fears of Southern whites, and the two sides finally came to bury the hatchet and respect one another. Though the North defeated the South and freed the Negroes, Northern whites came to favor Southern whites over the ghastly Negroes. But in time, Jews used all their dirty tricks and influence to create the bogus image of holy and innocent Negroes in the South being terrorized by evil and brutal white rednecks when, in fact, it was always the white man who lived in fear of the stronger and more aggressive Jafro-thug. And as the White South has been attacked and demeaned endlessly, white Northerners now side with Southern blacks against Southern whites. Jews love it, of course, because Jews love to divide-and-rule over gentiles. (But stupid Southern whites, who should be sympathizing with Palestinians, support Jews who go out of their way to dehumanize Southern whites. Ironically, even as Jews vilify white Southerners for their history of ‘racism’ against blacks, Jews cleverly project repressed white Southern racial ‘prejudices’ at Palestinians as the ‘new niggers’. So, white Southerners are supposed to repress their hatred & fear of real ‘niggers’ and direct their hostility at the ‘new niggers’ in Palestine, all the while praising the Zionists as the ‘new white power’.) And it is in the interest of Jewish supremacists to make one bunch of white folks hate another bunch of white folks. Indeed, there was some of this in the economic theories of Milton Friedman as well. As flawed as the New Deal was, it brought together Northern Whites, Southern Whites, and Western Whites. It also brought together rich whites, middle whites, and poor whites. It also brought together big business with big labor. It created white unity in a form of National Capitalism. But with the rise of neo-liberal or libertarian economics, the new ideal was that the super-smart & super-ambitious whites should care only about themselves, rake in all the dough, and sneer at the rest of the white population. So, rich whites should feel closer to rich Jews and rich non-whites around the world than with the rest of the white population in America. In a way, FDR’s New Deal and Adolf Hitler’s National Socialism were better templates for long-term white unity and power. But as the result of neo-liberal economic politics, what we’ve witnessed in America is the phenomenon of ‘Coming Apart’ that has been the subject of Charles Murray’s latest book.

Pike Bishop back on the horse after the fall.

Anyway, Pike’s final decision on Angel can’t be appreciated apart from Dutch’s feelings about Pike and vice versa. Pike’s self-image has come to rely on Dutch’s perception, even vision, of him. There’s a sense throughout the film that Dutch not only likes Pike but respects him and looks up to him. Consider the scene when Pike falls while mounting his horse, bears the taunting arrows of the Gorches, musters the last ounce of his strength to get on the horse, and rides off ahead of the others. Even the Gorches are rendered silent with reluctant admiration. It is, however, Dutch who watches with something like genuine sentiment, as if he’s honored to be riding with such a man. As Pike’s back was turned while riding away, he couldn’t have noticed Dutch’s reverence for him in that moment. But he couldn’t have been oblivious to all the instances when Dutch was his primary backup, like after Pike executed a ‘mercy killing’ on the fallen comrade. Though the great friendship of Pike life was with Deke Thornton, Dutch has been a most loyal partner, someone he could almost call a friend. Dutch isn’t like Sykes who is half-senile(and a wild rascal) or the Gorches(who can be childish thugs). Dutch is more thoughtful than most, especially for an outlaw, and so Pike comes to rely on him in ways he can’t on others. So, how Dutch sees him has come to influence how he sees himself. Also, Dutch had backed him every step of the way. When Gorches started a row after the first failed robbery, Dutch stood by Pike’s side. Ironically, Dutch, who has come to loathe Deke Thornton and competes with him for Pike’s affection, nudges Pike on the path that may redeem him in relation to Thornton. Dutch prodded Pike for the sake of Angel, but Angel’s troubles at the hands of Mapache parallel Thornton’s troubles at the hands of Harrigan. It’s strange how all the loose ends tie together in ways nobody intended.
There is an innate sense of guilt gnawing away at the hearts of some people. It’s like what Peter feels after denying Jesus three times to save his own skin. Guilt is shame one feels alone. In most cases, people feel shame in relation to how others see them. So, Bill Clinton felt no shame while he was fooling around with all them hussies, strumpets, floozies, tarts, and wenches. Billy Boy only felt shame when his peccadillos became a scandal. Pike cannot deny his sense of guilt regarding Deke Thornton. And he feels shame in the presence of Dutch in regard to Angel. Indeed, the matter with Angel wouldn’t be so thorny but for the fact that Dutch’s sense of outrage puts Pike to shame. Dutch is willing to go all the way, but Pike isn’t. Pike has more sense, but Dutch, a man Pike has come to respect, has guts and honor.

Doomed Soldiers
Dutch being fiendish
Pike and Angel pulling away

Why does Dutch feel so strongly about Angel? The obvious answer is Angel saved him during the train robbery. Dutch may also feel somewhat responsible for Angel’s fate since he came with the suggestion that Angel get a case of rifles and a case of ammunition for taking part in the heist. Furthermore, Dutch seems to be a bit more sympathetic to the plight of Mexican villagers than others of the Bunch are; he even speaks a bit of Spanish. When they first arrive at Agua Verde, Dutch says, “Eh, ‘Generalissimo’, hell! He’s just another bandit grabbin’ all he can for himself… Not so’s you’d know it, Mr. Bishop. We ain’t nothin’ like him! We don’t HANG nobody! I hope, someday, these people here kick him, and the rest of that scum like him, right into their graves.”
In a way, what Dutch says is so much bullshit. After all, he’s an outlaw who goes around robbing and killing, so who is he to judge the General and his henchmen? And yet, it is somewhat different from Michael Corleone bigger BS in THE GODFATHER: “My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.” Michael is blurring the line between the legitimate world and the criminal world. In contrast, Dutch is saying that the Bunch are honest thieves whereas Mapache is even a bigger thief who hides behind the law. The Corleones want to become part of the ruling power structure — it’s like the Kennedy family was once involved in organized crime but eventually went legit — , whereas Dutch is defiantly proud that the Bunch don’t pretend to be anything other than bandits. (Of course, that’s tough consolation to those who were robbed or murdered by them.) And yet, there is a primitive kind of moral logic to Dutch’s yammering. Bunch are like a pack of wolves. They go around looking for prey, and that’s that. They rob and steal what they need to keep going. They have no pretensions otherwise. There is a naturalness to their outlawry. In contrast, the likes of Mapache(and even Harrigan) are like circus owners or zoo-keepers who pretend to tame and control the wild beasts, all the while whipping and abusing animals for their own self-aggrandizement behind the curtain of ‘civilization’. And through most of history, civilization has been about wicked, corrupt, brutal, ruthless, and cunning men using all sorts of dirty tricks of power, laws, arbitrary rules, and superstitions to control others. When Dutch says, “We don’t hang nobody”, he’s saying that the Bunch sometimes kill because it comes with the territory. They either let people live who don’t get in their way or kill them if they get in the way. They don’t pretend to be dispensing law and justice. They act according to need. So, if they must kill, they kill swiftly. They shoot ‘em dead.

“We don’t hang nobody.”

In contrast, civilization has a Theory of Justice, and justice means punishment. If done properly, it’s the essential stuff of harmony, fairness, and goodness. But if misused, it’s just a case of the powerful, corrupt, and cunning invoking ‘justice’ at every turn to pull all sorts of dirty tricks for their own interests. Indeed, look at how Jews and homos now abuse the power of ‘justice’, or ‘Jewstice’. By distorting and perverting the meaning of ‘equality’, they’ve pushed the notion of ‘marriage equality’ and ‘same sex marriage’ or ‘gay marriage’. It’s really homo-supremacist power allied with Jewish supremacist power, but they pretend it’s all about ‘justice’ and ‘equality’ by using force to ensure the ‘freedom’ of homos to swallow the lie that their ‘sexuality’ is of equal value with true sexuality. And if you don’t bend over to their glob-homo agenda, they will destroy your business, your career, your reputation, your popularity(if you’re a celebrity), and etc. They are so vicious with their control of the law that so many Americans have done what Deke Thornton did. They folded and now serve their new masters to go after their own kind. And they ride for the Jewish supremacists and homo supremacists in the PC inquisition to go after those who still have the guts to oppose the ‘gay’ agenda. Or, consider how Jews are now trying to manipulate free speech laws so that certain kinds of speech deemed as ‘group defamation’ or ‘hateful’, therefore to be silenced and forbidden. (By the way, What in the hell is ‘group defamation’? Isn’t any general statement about any group, nation, or people a case of ‘group defamation’? If one says, Germans invaded Poland in 1939, it can be construed as ‘group defamation’ since not all Germans took part in the invasion and not all Germans supported Hitler. If one says Russians raped millions of German women in WWII, it is ‘group defamation’ since for every Russian soldier who did rape, there were others who didn’t.
If one says, Muslim radicals attacked 9/11, it is ‘group defamation’ since not all Muslim radicals took part in the attack and most of them were not affiliated with Alqaeda. The statement “Japan attacked Pearl Harbor” would be ‘group defamation’ since not all Japanese took part, and not all Japanese supported the war effort. Or: “Jews ethnically cleansed the Palestinians.” Another ‘group defamation’ since not all Jews took part and not all Jews supported the Zionist project. Or: “Germans committed the Holocaust.” Obviously ‘group defamation’ since not all Germans took part in the mass killing. Or: “Whites owned slaves in America.” ‘Group defamation’ since most whites did not own slaves in America. What a dumb idea this notion of ‘group defamation’.) Genuine Rule of Law is obviously preferable to the outlawry(and even corrupt rule-of-law may be preferable to outlaw ‘anarchy’ since there’s still some semblance of order and powers-in-numbers).. But as often as not, the Power of the Law has been a matter of corrupt, nasty, vile, and venal master-manipulators using the institutions and industries of the media, government, education, and other instruments of power to maximize their own interests.
And this was especially true in parts of the world outside Northern Euro-sphere in the Old World and the New World. Rule of Law was always more questionable in Mexico and other parts of Latin America than in the United States. Also, corrupt Americans were abler and more productive than corrupt Latin Americans; indeed, many corrupt Americans achieved more than uncorrupt Latin Americans. After all, corruption comes in all shapes and sizes. A society run by corrupt Harrigans is going to operate a lot better than one run by corrupt Mapaches. It’s obvious from THE WILD BUNCH that the ruling elites of Mexico were far worse and more incompetent than the ruling elites of America and Northern Europe. Harrigan’s hands aren’t clean, but he comes across a serious man who gets things done. Mapache and his henchmen seem to think mainly in terms of fiesta and siesta. (People of Angel’s village seem to be hardworking folks, but they lack initiative, inspiration, and individuality. They are stuck in the routine of same old same old. Also, as they aren’t committed so social progress, they tend to be passive and therefore vulnerable to the violence of others. What’s the point of working hard to produce food and stuff if you don’t have the will to organize and defend what you have? Furthermore, Angel and his companeros want guns to fend off the Federales than to fight for a better society. Besides, even if the political order were to change, social problems will remain as usual unless the character of the people is changed, and that isn’t easy to do, especially as some races lack certain personality traits that favor social conscience and progress.) Indeed, it seems like the German advisors are the ones who are the real brains of Mapache’s organization. Had Pike been raised in a good German family, he might have been someone like the German diplomat.

German Advisers to Mapache
“Nein! It must be mounted on a tripod!”

And yet, Peckinpah had a strange attraction to Mexicans and a certain hostility toward Northern-European-dominated America. He was born with wild genes, and even as he respected his serious and hard-working forebears — both his grandfather and father were much-respected judges — , he resented the burden of obligation. He wanted to roam wild and free, and Mexico seemed to keep alive the spirit of the 19th century of ‘anything goes’.
Of course, the risks could be fatal, but as Mexicans were generally corrupt or inept, there were always cracks in the system that any man-with-wits could exploit to his own advantage. So, Peckinpah had a love/hate thing with both America and Mexico. Also, in Mexico, he must felt a sense of power and appreciation he didn’t get from Americans. Just like the villagers greet the Bunch with open arms and admire them as big tall gringos, lots of poor Mexicans whom Peckinpah met treated him with respect, humility, and gratitude, not least a buck went much further south of the border. Paradoxically, the arch-maverick-individualist Peckinpah partly loved Mexico because many humble Mexicans lacked his wild maverick attributes.

Anyway, the Bunch have a cynical outlook on ‘civilization’, seen as a system in which venal men do whatever to get theirs Worse, such men use the arm of the law to feed their own greed. This is true enough todayin places like Detroit and Selma where the local jigro-jiver politicians hold office only to stuff their own pockets as much as possible. (To be sure, when it comes to blacks the blame must go all around. Even if you’re a honest black guy who don’t embezzle funds, the chances are the funds will end up in others’ pockets than be put to proper use. So, you might to tempted to grab it before others do.) And things weren’t much better in Mexico for most of its history, and even today Mexico is notoriously corrupt.
So, when Dutch says, “We don’t hang nobody”, it means the Bunch kill when they must. They don’t pretend that their blood-letting has higher moral purpose. In contrast, when a social order decides to hang someone, it is dispensing ‘justice’ or ‘justly deserved punishment’. Mapache’s state-sanctioned violence has nothing to do with justice. Like Idi Amin, he does as he wishes and only feigns political, military, or legal duty. Mapache isn’t as dark a character as Orson Welles’ corrupt detective in TOUCH OF EVIL. Welles’ character was not above dirty tricks — such as planting evidence — , but one could argue he nevertheless wasn’t utterly cynical about justice. Though an egomaniac who could play dirty as anyone, there’s a part of him that remains committed to getting the criminal. In contrast, Mapache seems to have no interest beyond living it up like a warlord pig king over his dominion. Welles’ detective is an fallen man, but there’s still a flicker of the idealist somewhere in him.

Mexican Face of Corruption: Mapache
American Face of Corruption: Harrigan

The Bunch can be ruthless, but they kill to kill, no ifs and buts about it. In contrast, the ruthless men with the Law’s arms around them capture and toy with others like the children play with ants and scorpions. If Harrigan were an outlaw himself, he might have just killed Deke Thornton. But since he has the Law’s arms around him, he can wring Thornton through the legal process of imprisonment, ‘interrogation’, and parole. And through the process under the sanction of the law, he can torture Thornton and break his will — like how the terrorists are broken in ZERO DARK THIRTY.

TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. – Trapped between the law and the underworld.

(It’s sort of like what Chance does with the blonde woman in TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. With the law on his side, he blackmails her and uses her — even obtains sexual favors from her — as a stool pigeon. Of course, his arch-enemy, the counterfeiter, is also a master-manipulator, indeed a much greater one. But then, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. is about lawmen and gangsters; and gangsters, unlike gunmen of the West, are Organization Men. They are a part of civilization who rely on the system as much as the lawmen do. They are not roaming predators of THE WILD BUNCH who may be romanticized by some[like Peckinpah and Walon Green]as tragic nomads, the last of the breed riding wild and free as the walls of civilization closes in on the frontier from all sides. One crucial difference between the Western outlaw and the gangster is that the former is like vermin whereas the latter is like virus; ‘vermin’, such as raccoons and coyotes, can be eradicated through animal control whereas virus will always remain with us. At any rate, as the myth of the West depended on the clash of the wild and the tame, it could not exist with either the wild or the tame gaining total dominance. Purely as wilderness, it would be the land of ‘red savages’ and coyotes. Purely as civilization, it would be land of farms, asphalt pavements, and shopping malls. The problem for the Western heroes and outlaws was not change per se, because, after all, without the transformation narrative, there would have been no Western Myth in the first place. The problem wasn’t the process but the product; the transformation fundamentally rendered the Western Narrative into a past tense. There could no longer be heroes and villains. There would still be criminals and gangs, but they would be part of civilization than mavericks outside or at the fringes of civilization. As for the lawmen, they would just be bureaucrats and/or militarized mercenaries taking orders from the state than maverick individualists who were as much vigilantes as lawmen. The power of the state can be frustrating because it is both the great ‘enabler’ of power & privilege and the great equalizer of talent. The power of state can favor certain interests over others, and there was a time when the government and the railroad worked hand-in-hand to further the ‘national agenda’ favored by Eastern banks. But as the state favors the pencil-pushing bureaucratic mind, it tends to equalize the worth of alpha men and beta men — and men and women as well, as any women can shuffle paper as well as any man. In the first exchange between Deke Thornton and Harrigan, Thornton could be mistaken as Harrigan’s superior. He is a more commanding figure in height and personality. Angry over the massacre that just took place in the town square, Thornton snarls: “The next time you better plan your massacre more carefully or I’ll start with you!” We can’t help feeling that one-on-one, man-to-man, Thornton would have the edge over Harrigan. But it soon dawns on us that Harrigan has power over Thornton. Not because he is innately superior but because he has the law’s arms around him. The law makes Thornton the ‘bitch’ of Harrigan, indeed not unlike what the blonde woman is to Chance in TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. But then, Chance is no pencil-pusher but the wildest man in the movie, but then he burns out quickly.) And as ordinary folks fear and loathe the outlaws, they generally look the other way when the legal system takes extra-measures to deal with robbers and bandits. It’s like our fear of terrorism made us look the other way as United States violated the Geneva Convention and resorted to various forms of torture — as shown in Kathryn Bigelow’s ZERO DARK THIRTY — to capture and/or kill the terrorist masterminds. There’s a sense in THE WILD BUNCH that torturing and prolonging the pain of others is not something the Bunch would do. They are predator-killers, not sadist-keepers. Of course, the distinction is dubious, and sadistic brutality can be found in all walks of life. Consider the psychopath played by Michael Madsen in RESERVOIR DOGS who bides his time having fun torturing a captive policeman. And the rebels who captured Gaddaffi weren’t part of any state or government. They were just a bunch of ragtag warriors — much like the rebel insurgent villagers in THE WILD BUNCH — , and they sure took their time torturing and beating Gaddaffi before finally putting him to death. (Granted, certain political conflicts tend to arouse hostile passions all around, e.g. ISIS’s horrific use of violence in dispatching enemies.) And there are many home-invaders who take their time to brutalize, maim, and kill their victims. But then, some such criminals, such as the Negroes who carried out the Knoxville Massacre, are total psychopaths who are less interested in loot than in the sheer joy of acting like debauched and deranged lunatics. The Bunch are not political or ideological; they ‘share very few sentiments’ with their government or any other system. And they don’t appear to be sexual degenerates even though one can’t be sure with the Gorches.
Pike and Dutch, the two prominent members of the Bunch, are in the hunt for thrills and the loot; like athletes devoted to the game, they “wouldn’t have it any other way.” It’s the ‘sport’ they’ve chosen, and win-or-lose they mean to play it as long as they can. They know of no other trade, like the nomad thieves in TIME OF THE GYPSIES by Emir Kusturica who owes much to Peckinpah. It’s a living albeit a bloody one. Angel rides along because it’s his ticket out of the village. In a way, his rage against Teresa is hypocritical since she left the village for the same reason he rides with the Bunch. He wants to ‘see the world’, ride free, and enjoy the excitement of life. And he will even go into a town and kill people to get his fun and treasure. Teresa also wants the better things in life, and she is smitten with the magnetism of Mapache who, though seeming rather grubby to us, is like a demigod to Teresa. And if indeed the tough should have the power to grab what they want — which is what the Bunch do in Starbuck — , then why shouldn’t Mapache, the toughest guy in the region, not grab the all the loot and women in ‘his territory’? To be sure, Angel is loyal to the village in the way that Teresa is not, but then the sexual natures of men and women are different. Male sexual nature is to defend the women of the tribe and keep them for men of the tribe and to raid other tribes for their women. Female sexual nature or ‘feminine nationalism’, especially among the alpha females, is to go with whomever happen to be the biggest honchos around. Angel makes big speeches about his village, but it’s in his sexual interest to keep the women of the village for the men of the village. But the women of the village may not necessarily want to be stuck in the village with its ‘loser men’ when there are other more glamorous men, like Mapache who’s like a Rock Star in the region. Mapache is a ‘bad boy’, but since when did Alpha females necessarily dislike ‘bad boys’? So, when Angel sentimentally invokes The Village when he confronts Teresa, it is both sincere and self-serving. Yes, Angel does have a genuine attachment to the village, but it is also a means of moral upmanship to shame Teresa who has forsaken the village for the bigger man who is Mapache.

Angel’s sentimentality for the Village not shared by Teresa.

At any rate, what really eats away at Dutch is the manner in which he left Angel behind when Mapache’s men took hold of him. It wouldn’t have been so galling if Dutch hadn’t been there to witness it. Suppose it had been Old Man Sykes who’d gone with Angel to get the gold. While the notion of Angel falling into Mapache’s claws would have sickened Dutch in any case, it’s the visceral impact of having been there as witness that makes it tougher on Dutch than on the others… that is until Pike and the Gorches see for themselves the state of Angel in Agua Verde. Dutch saw it happen, and he remembers Angel’s expression as he rode off with the gold. It is this feeling of shame and self-loathing that makes Dutch itch for some kind of redemption. His riding off alone is somewhat parallel to Pike’s escape while Thornton was captured by lawmen. In both cases, the actions were utterly understandable. As the lawmen were closing in on Pike and Deke, Pike could either save himself or be captured along with Thornton. He had no chance of saving Thornton. Likewise, there was nothing Dutch could have done about Angel. And Angel knew the game was up. There was nothing he could do to save himself. He could have ratted out the Bunch for having been in on the plot(of diverting some rifles and ammo to the villagers), but even that wouldn’t have saved him. Still, it’s the nature of man, when pushed against the wall, to squeal on his friends. Not necessarily because it might save him but no man wants to take the fall all by himself. A frightened man seeks comfort in collective/shared misery. It’s like a man hanging onto another man from a cliff. If he lets go, he will die. If he clings to the man, both will die; but at least he won’t die alone. People fear failure and death, but what they fear most is failure or death alone. This is something that is well-known in criminal justice. Oftentimes, criminals or suspects squeal if only to take others down with them. (Consider how one of the killers turn on the other in IN COLD BLOOD.) But Angel says nothing. When Dutch responds to Mapache’s accusation about Angel by calling Angel a ‘thief’ and tells Mapache to deal with him as he sees fit, it isn’t necessarily an act of betrayal. It’s just the nature of the game. And Angel understands why Dutch did what he did. Angel took the risk, and he lost. All that is left is for Dutch to save himself, and Angel understands. He doesn’t spill the beans on Pike and Dutch. Of course, it’s possible that Mapache and his cronies suspect that Dutch is lying, but they are willing to let it go. After all, they were compensated with a machine gun and boxes of grenades. Mapache and his henchmen are satisfied with Angel, and Angel knows the score. He knows he’ll have to pay the price. The question is, does he want to pay the price alone or does he want to implicate Dutch also? Though Dutch will hate him for it, there would be comfort in suffering together. But Angel decides to bear the cross alone. He says nothing and merely raises his hand weakly as Dutch rides off on his own.
So, it’s not just the knowledge that Angel is held captive by Mapache that rankle Dutch so. It’s that he was there when it happened, and the image of the moment is seared into his mind. And even though he did the only thing that he could do — pretend ignorance, wash his hands of Angel, and ride off — , he can’t shake off the shame of powerlessness and his all-too-mercenary decision. It’s like the woman in SOPHIE’S CHOICE feels guilty despite the fact that she really didn’t have a choice. In THE WILD BUNCH, we have Dutch’s Choice, and even though it made perfect sense given the circumstances, it eats away at his soul; or perhaps his pangs of conscience reminded him that he has a soul.
We are sometimes faced with a hard choice where the options aren’t between good and bad or even between bad and bad but between the unbearable and the unbearable. It’s like Emperor Hirohito said when Japan declared unconditional surrender in the Pacific War: “endure the unendurable and suffer what is not sufferable”. The idea of Japan, a sacred nation that had never been conquered, being conquered and occupied by Americans was unendurable. Yet, the other choice, of being nuked over and over and being reduced to ashes, was also unendurable. For some Japanese, both choices were so unbearable that they could only find exit through ritual suicide. And such emotions seep into Dutch and then Pike. For Dutch, it was most painful to leave Angel behind. And yet, there was no other way, unless he wished to be killed by Mapache on the spot or be taken prisoner as well. The choice was between the unendurable and the endurable. Though Dutch rides out of Agua Verde with the gold, he feels disgusted with himself. Though he did what was necessary to save his own skin, once he’s back with the Bunch, he argues they should take some kind of action.

The relation of the Bunch(and Peckinpah) to Angel and his village is somewhat contradictory. Peckinpah was in love with the myth of freedom of the Wild West, and he loved Mexico because elements of the Old West still seemed to be alive there in contrast to modern California that was all about cars and surfing. But look at Angel’s village, and it’s a very settled place. It looks as if the village had been there for centuries, indeed as if villagers have ancient roots there. It’s not something that would be called ‘civilization’, but the villagers are a settled people with a sense of lineage and tradition. What they stand for is the opposite of the American Western myth that idealized adventurous men who left civilization behind to explore and stake out new territories. The villagers seem unambitious and unadventurous, content to stay where they are and make tacos and sing & dance. Also, they seem to be pretty well-organized despite the poverty. The women seem hard-at-work with domestic chores. It’s work, work, work without a break but with an organic sense of community. When a pretty young girls plays a game with the Gorch brothers, her mother admonishes her to get to work, and the girl obediently does as told.
There was a conceit during the 1960s when Counterculture types romanticized the American Indians and the less industrialized parts of the world as living in harmony with nature unlike the busybodied materialistic Americans. It’s there even in stuff like THIN RED LINE(directed by boomer Terrence Malick) that contrasts the idyllic existence of island natives with the industrial war machines of US and Japan. And in films like KOYANNISQATSI and BARAKA, the cosmic ways of spirituality, primitivism, and/or nature are contrasted with the breakneck pace of the modern world. But as the actual business of existence is more precarious in primitive or backward societies, it’s not like people can just take it easy like teenagers listening to Rock music and eating pizza in their bedrooms. Indeed, a primitive person may have to struggle all day just to have enough to eat. And of course, one can’t just flush the shit down the toilet or just leave out the garbage for the sanitation trucks to pick up. Like what Kevin Costner’s character says of the Indians in DANCES WITH WOLVES: “By the time I gathered my things, the entire tribe was well on its way. Their efficiency and the speed at which they moved was enough to impress any military commander.” In other words, Indians had no time to ‘play Indians’. As they didn’t have modern amenities and conveniences, everything had to be done by members of the group. Woodstock concert turned into a stinking mess in mere three days because all those youths were ‘playing Indians’ than ‘being Indians’. (Altamont Rock concert imploded in a single day.) Indeed, precisely because Indians had to deal with the harsh conditions of nature all the time, they had to be mindful and alert at all times. Anyone who has gone camping knows this, which is why camping is as stressful as it is recreational. You have to set up and take down everything instead of jumping in the sack, switching on the light, or flushing the toilet. Even having to urinate in the middle of the night can be a chore. Though the people of Angel’s village are not savages, they too lead a precarious existence. As Dutch says, “Won’t find very much around here. That damn Huerta’s scraped it clean.” But Huerta or no Huerta, the villagers are at the mercy of the seasons, and there isn’t much to spare. The fact that they put on a big fiesta for the Bunch despite their scarcities is either a sign of their respect or product of movie logic.

The Bunch stand for frontier freedom, but “it ain’t like it used to be”, and the men “are not getting any younger.”. Sykes is an old coot, and Pike is getting up in his years. Dutch and the Gorches aren’t young men either. Indeed, only Angel could be said to be young. Crazy Lee, another young man, was left behind at Starbuck. Pike has reached a point in his life where a part of him just wants to call it quits, not least because of his injuries. He wants stability, but men like him have no retirement plan. They’ve chosen the life of grasshoppers feeding on ants, and there’s no place in the ants’ world for their tired bones(and rightfully so). In this, they are sort of the like the nomadic troupes in Yasujiro Ozu’s UKIGUSA, Fellini’s LA STRADA, and Ingmar Bergman’s THE CLOWN’S EVENING.
Pike has the anxiety of James Coburn’s character in PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID who’s opted for security over rootless freedom that has lost its luster over the years. PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID is set around thirty years before THE WILD BUNCH, so this feeling of weariness isn’t so much historical as it is personal. Every man, when he comes to a certain age, pines for something he can hold onto. Freedom goes from exciting to wearying. (The young couple in SUMMER WITH MONIKA find out soon enough as their self-exile goes from idyll to struggle.) Everything starts to seem old and ‘been there, done that’. As B.B. King sang, ‘the Thrill is gone’. It’s like what Uther says in EXCALIBUR: “All I know is how to butcher men. From now on, I shall learn to love them. I am weary of battle. I shall stay by his(baby Arthur) side.” Or consider what old Noodles says in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA: “I haven’t had a gun in my hand for many, many years. My eyes aren’t too good, even with my glasses. My hands shake… It’s true, I have killed people, Mr. Bailey. Sometimes to defend myself. Sometimes for money. And many people used to come to us. Business partners, rivals… lovers. Some of the jobs we took, and some we didn’t. Yours is one we would never touch.”
Even a tough fellow like the ‘mountain man’ in DERSU UZALA is desperate for security when his eyes fail him. Some men want to be free to roam around as he pleases. But comes a time when the wider world seems no longer fresh and exciting, when man becomes ever more acutely aware of his decline. Even though there’s so much more to see and discover, his soul has been worn out by weariness that is no longer excited by the new. What he really wants is shelter from the storm. The world that was once inviting now seems threatening. It’s there in the story of THE ODYSSEY. And in Yasujiro Ozu’s UKIGUSA and Ingmar Bergman’s THE CLOWN’S EVENING(aka SAWDUST AND TINSEL): traveling performers facing middle age crisis and hoping to settle down with women they’d left behind. There’s the Burt Lancaster figure in THE SWIMMER who wants both freedom and family but loses both. Pike faces a similar crisis in THE WILD BUNCH. His pride rests on being the leader of the Bunch riding wild and free. But with each passing year, he finds it more difficult, wearier, and more pointless. (Also, others have come to rely on him, and sometimes he feels as if under obligation to keep going for their sake.)

And he can’t help thinking of the time when he did have a chance of a settling down with a woman he loved. So, there’s something about Angel’s village — dream of permanence — that strikes a chord in him. It is neither wild like the frontier nor hectic like America towns & cities(that are always changing). It’s a place where time stands still, as if it’s the same place it was a hundred or two hundred years ago. It has the feeling of the village in the final segment of Akira Kurosawa’s DREAMS or the farm community in Hayao Miyazaki’s MY NEIGHBOR TOTORO.
It’s not easy for an egotistical person, who’d chosen freedom on the road over loyalty to home, to suddenly turn around and beg for security. In THE CLOWN’S EVENING, the estranged wife has built up a business and become more independent(ironic since she settled into permanent residence; having a steady home and occupation, she is free with her time when not working, whereas her circus master husband, though free to move from place to place, is always occupied managing the dreary logistics of the operation); she no longer wants her husband back who went off on his own to roam freely. (GONE GIRL is a weirdo twist on this theme where the woman crawls back to her husband but for totally wacky reasons in a wicked way.)

Pike longs for security but has no place to go. We sense he has no one to turn to outside the Bunch. The one woman who could have been his wife was killed years ago. Also, as the Bunch look to him as their leader, so he can’t just abandon them and go off on his own even if he wanted to.

CROSS OF IRON: James Coburn as Steiner the Natural, albeit reluctant, Leader of Men

Pike is kind of like Steiner in CROSS OF IRON, a leader of men whom others rely on — indeed without whom, they would be utterly lost. As the war is being lost by the Germans and chaos reigns everywhere, the only thing left is for the men to stick together and follow Steiner through thick and thin. So, it feels like betrayal when Steiner decides to go off on his own to confront Stransky. As much as Steiner feels for his comrades, he resents the fact of others depending on him as the very idea of institution/organization revolts him.
Pike relishes the role of leader more than Steiner does, but even he’s conflicted about his need to lead and the burden of leading. As leader he has the authority but also has to bear most of the blame too when things go wrong. Whatever the Bunch must do, everyone looks to him for the answers, and so it’s his gamble for the lion’s share of the credit or the blame. When the first robbery goes wrong, the Gorches rip into him. Others remain more loyal, but they must be disappointed too. But when the train robbery goes well, it is Tector himself — the man who’d taunted Pike when he fell mounting his horse — who, as a gesture of respect and appreciation, offers the first sip of whiskey to Pike.

At Angel’s village, Pike feels at ease, and perhaps part of him wants to settle there. But when Angel gnarls with anger about his murdered father and Teresa, it is Pike who, as leader, leans on him to forget about the village: “Either you learn to live with it, or we leave you here.” Pike tells Angel, the very son of the village, to forget about his community while he himself feels a growing attachment to it. He’s a conflicted man, torn between what he has to do and what he wants to do. But then, even what he wants to do isn’t a sure thing. He’s weary of wandering and robbing but no good at anything else. Could he really be content with settling down? Pike’s psychology is in the dual-mode of fight and flight. On the one hand, he tries to bury the past that keeps haunting him, but he also says(to Dutch) that not a single day has gone by without thoughts of getting even with the husband who killed the woman he was in love with. (It’s hard to say who was betraying whom in this equation. If the woman was married, she was betraying her husband, and Pike was messing around with another man’s wife. But if the husband was a bad character who’d left his wife, he interfered in the true love between a man and a woman.) Even between Harrigan and Pike, it’s a cat-and-mouse game. As the Railroad grows more powerful and effective in dealing with outlaws, Pike is more fearful and keeps his distance. And yet, the growing challenge whets his appetite for a big score even more. And his personal animus against Harrigan makes him want to pursue and strike at the Railroad(as his Moby Dick) over and over. Yet, Pike isn’t like Captain Ahab who really wants to kill the great whale once and for all. After all, if the Railroad were to vanish, the Bunch would have one less prey to feed on, though to be sure, the Bunch vs the Railroad is more like predators feeding on the Predator, like a pack of wolves stealing a kill from a grizzly bear. Pike’s hatred of the Railroad has no valid moral justification. Of course, the Railroad has every right to defend itself from robbers and bandits, just like Pike defends the interests of the Bunch when Mapache’s men try to grab the rifles and ammo without payment. Just as Pike takes precaution to defend his loot, why wouldn’t Harrigan and the Railroad do the same with properties of the railroad? Among outlaws, right & wrong is more about ego and self-interest than any ‘higher principle’. Pike may feel himself and the Bunch more justified because they are individual operators whereas the Railroad is a faceless industry and Mapache serves a corrupt institution. A maverick-anarchist viewpoint may revel in the romantic cult of the free-willed outlaw, and THE WILD BUNCH is a testament to the compelling power of art, but it’s still worthless as any kind of moral philosophy.

And for a man of Pike’s character, settling down may offer security but not necessarily comfort. He may be tired of roaming around but wouldn’t know what to do once he stops. He’s weary of the horseback but too restless for the bed. It’s like the James Coburn character in PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID found security(with home and wife) and even a respectable job as sheriff but often looks for excuses to ride around and drink whiskey and sleep with whores and kill people. Old habits die hard even when one has tired of them. Indeed, even when Pike did have a chance of settling down with a lovely Mexican woman, we see in the flashback that he was far from an ideal lover. Pike doesn’t spell out the details to Dutch, but we see the woman slap him as he enters because he’s late, very late, and didn’t keep his word. Maybe he was too busy whoring around or doing whatever to come on time and commit to her. And something of Peckinpah’s own nature was surely projected onto the character as he had a tendency to swing dramatically between domestic life and nomadic ventures. Peckinpah was he was a man of extremes. At one extreme, he liked the traditional idea of a loyal woman/wife who waits for him and cooks for him. As America was becoming more modern and the women more demanding, Peckinpah was charmed by the more docile and feminine ways of Mexican women. They were more into the way of “stand by your hombre”. Such women appreciated a man for what he was worth. But she was also a bit dull and clinging; she’d expect the man to stick around the house and settle down and give up being wild and free. The domestic wife could be an anchor but also a ball-and-chain around one’s ankle. So, the other kind of woman that appealed to Peckinpah was the whore who catered to men who came and went as they pleased. But then, such women were not to be trusted for they go where the money/power is and have no real loyalties. This is why the women in THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, STRAW DOGS, THE GETAWAY, and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA are the stuff of much neurosis in the male characters. Hildy in THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOUGE is a whore who becomes a love partner of Hogue. Amy in STRAW DOGS is David Sumner’s wife, but she has the personality of a wench. In THE GETAWAY, the wife really does love her man and is devoted to him but whored herself out to get him out of jail, and it takes awhile for Doc McCoy to come around to reconciling with her as a partner not only in crime but in bed. Isela Vega’s character in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA is both a strumpet who easily gives herself to any man and a genuine lover of Benny. Some women were born to be wives, some women were born to be hussies, and some women are a bit of both, and it’s the third kind that foment the (im)potent kind of neurosis in the men of Peckinpah’s films. Indeed, Angel gets so crazy about Teresa because she’s both ‘my woman’ and a strumpet who goes with Mapache. And yet, one can’t help feeling that Angel was attracted to her in the first place for her temptress-whore qualities. Indeed, she might have been attracted to him earlier because he was the alpha male of the village who went on raids and brought back money and loot. But once she encounters a bigger man with more power and more loot, she switches her loyalty to him. It’s like a sports groupie will fuc* whomever happens to be the star athlete at the moment. In that sense, both her attraction to Angel and her attraction to Mapache were of the same kind. She’s the kind of whore who goes with the top dog. And as much as Angel hates to admit it, he probably liked her that very reason. When she was his woman, she made him feel like the top dog of the village. But then, the mastiff Mapache came along and carried away the bitches in heat.

Mapache, the man who hogs the Muchachas Bonitas.

It could be that Martin Scorsese’s THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST owed as much to the films of Sam Peckinpah(especially BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, and indeed both films seem as though made by drunkards or cokeheads) as to the original source material of Nikos Kazantzakis’ novel and surely Pier Paolo Pasolini’s THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MATTHEW. It is in Scorsese’s film that the subject of the sexuality and whore is much more prominent than in other film versions of Jesus. It’s the sort of film Beavis n Butthead would readily understand. Though Jesus confronts all sorts of grave problems of politics and morality, one of his biggest issues is with women and sexuality. Sexuality is one of the most powerful natural drives of humans — indeed of all life-forms that multiply through intercourse — , and it could also be said to interconnected with everything else. After all, regardless of whether the Jews are under Roman occupation or not, the problem of sex is always present. There’s the problem of women as whore-temptress, the agent of corruption of man. The Torah is filled with such archetypes who lead men astray. Think of Delilah the Philistine shikse tart. Sometimes, men desire even married women as ‘whores’ to possess and lead themselves astray. King David did this with Bathsheba. Though she’s a married woman, David arranged things so that her husband would be killed in battle and she would fall into his lap. So, whether Jews are on top or on the bottom, the problem of sex has been with them always(as with any other tribe). And this is no less true with Jesus in Scorsese’s film. While social issues come and go with the winds of politics, the sexual issue always remains in the hearts and balls of men. To be sure, sexuality intersects with politics/society. As Jewish men in THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST are under Roman rule, they don’t have the full respect of their own womenfolk. Even their official leaders are whores of Roman might. And in the multi-cultural Roman Empire, it means certain Jewish women are tempted to be strumpets giving themselves to all kinds of men. In one scene in the film, Jesus watched Mary Magdalene get humped by men of all races, even by ghastly Negroes. It’s like Travis Bickle in TAXI DRIVER confronted with all sorts of sexual neurosis. Consider his strange relation with Iris the 12 yr old ‘strumnymphet’. A part of him wants to have her too, but another part of him wants to set itself apart from other men who just see her as a piece of meat. He wants to save her body, even her soul. If men give into their sexual drives and stick it into any woman who spreads her legs, then all men are equally animals.

TAXI DRIVER – Strumpet Iris and Travis Bickle
THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST – Whore Magdalene and Jesus.

Some might say there’s nothing wrong with that, but a moral culture, especially such as that of the Jews, had difficulty accepting the kind of ‘debauchery’ where sex wasn’t governed by strict moral laws, cultural purpose(centered around the family), and spiritual guidance. A prophet must be a prophylactic against unguided sex. Men want whores, but whores are degrading and reduce humanity into horny animals without values or self-restraint. Also, the moralists fear that unloosed sexuality will lead to sensual wantonness that leads to a cynical and contemptuous view of life. If indeed it’s okay for men and women to act with sexual abandon in public places, how are they any different from shameless apes at the zoo that hump one another in front of visitors? If white folks acted like that, how would they be any different from the savage jigger-jiverish Negroes who, for the most part, have been incapable of developing much of anything that could be called a Great Civilization? How could a race of people who act like gorillas and baboons build civilization? Just like uncontrolled eating or gluttony leads to obesity and sickness of the body, moralists believe that uncontrolled sexuality or ‘sluttony’ leads to gross and piggish impulses hardly different from those of animals. Gluttony leads to obesity, ‘sluttony’ leads to obscenity. Obviously people need to eat to go on living, and people need to have sex to produce life that will carry on, but eating and sex without self-control and restraint lead to wantonness of the body and soul. And yet, by nature, humans want to pig out and hump as much as possible because humans are hairless apes.

EYES WIDE SHUT – Alice Harford’s Gonad-Annihilating Confession.

(And yet, the strangely tragic and beautiful thing about humans is that they have a mytho-god-complex. It’s evident not only in the Jesus character of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST but in Alice[Nicole Kidman] in EYES WIDE SHUT. There’s an aspect of sexuality that goes beyond survival. If indeed evolution is all about survival and security, why was Alice willing to sacrifice everything for just one night with the naval officer? Was it just a matter of lust, the kind Uther felt when he saw Igrayne? But then, was Uther driven merely by lust or something else? After all, he was willing to risk everything for just one night with her. Would any man or woman really give up everything just for sexual pleasure? Uther could have had any bunch of pretty girls. To Alice, the naval officer wasn’t just some handsome stud. He was like the image of a pagan god, a figure above and beyond man. And it is for this reason that her confession/revelation leaves Bill[Tom Cruise] feeling like Joseph after he’s been ‘cuckolded’, possibly by a higher deity. It’s not just sexual anxiety/jealousy but spiritual anxiety/jealousy because her consciousness has been touched by the ‘divine’ if via sensuality, but then, isn’t spirituality a form of sublimated sensuality, as the virtuous woman discovers of herself and freaks out in Luis Bunuel’s NAZARIN? And consider how the sensual narcissism of the young woman in Satyajit Ray’s DEVI transforms into a spiritual narcissism. If evolution is about favoring the odds of survival and security and if all humans are the products of evolution, why do humans feel drives and emotions that undermine survival and security? Why was Alice willing to sacrifice everything — her husband, her child, her security in life — for one night with a god-man? And why is beauty is important when any woman can have sex with any man and produce children? Chimps and gorillas don’t care about such stuff. When they feel horny, they just stick it into anything. Same with warthogs and dogs. Among mammals, the only thing that matters among the males is power, and females just give into whatever has the power. Among humans, however, power isn’t everything. It’s like Vicky married Jake LaMotta in RAGING BULL because he’s a big-time boxer, but she finds Tony Janiro more handsome and couldn’t help making a remark to that effect. Jake is tough physically but feels insecure in the looks department, and Vicky’s admiration, even adulation, of Janiro’s beauty eats away at him. It’s like how wolf-boy Jacob feels about Edward Cullen in TWILIGHT. Jacob is more muscled but Edward has the beauty that takes women’s breath away. Jacob is masculinity as animal power, whereas Edward is masculinity as godlike power. Brute strength can be quantified but beauty cannot. It has an ethereal quality that is beyond understanding and control. Jacob is a good-looking guy but not beautiful. He can’t draw Bella into trance like Edward can. He can make her look at his muscles and get sort of excited, but it’s Edward has the power of trance over her. Edward does to her what Alain Delon did to lots of women in the 60s and 70s. She falls under his spell. She wants to enter the realm of the vampire gods. The psychology of time is strange that way. Though Alice Harford says she’s willing to sacrifice everything for just one day with the naval officer, there would be more eternity in that one day than in her entire lifetime. In psychological time, one day with the naval officer is a taste of eternity. It’s like David’s one day with ‘mommy’ is worth more than all of time in A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Eternity is less about time per se than a sense that dissolves all sense of time; it is about time out of time; a moment of time out of time is more eternal than all the time in the world. To Alice, the naval officer was like the stargate of infinite beauty. Bill, her husband, sort of senses this, but his limited imagination fixates on the sexual dimensions of her confession. And yet, subconsciously, he undergoes a ‘spiritual’ crisis. After all, if all he’s seeking is to ‘get even’ with his wife by looking for sex with a woman, he could have done it with the prostitute he picked up in the street. Instead, he’s drawn to an orgy not so much for its sexual content but for its ‘spiritual’ dimensions. It takes place in a Valhalla-like mansion where rich and powerful folks live like gods. It’s like sneaking into the Mt. Olympus, which is also why Jack Torrance is so drawn to the Overlook Hotel in THE SHINING and why Ryan O’Neal’s character is so impressed with the world of the rich in BARRY LYNDON. The world of wealth and privilege is inhabited by mortal men but adorned with art, beauty, magnificence, and such stuff that create the impression of divinity. In such a world, one feels as a god oneself. Bill in EYES WIDE SHUT feels especially insecure because he’s both the physical and aesthetic inferior of the naval officer. Though he doesn’t recall his presence, Alice does all too vividly and she says he was tall and handsome. [The fact that the officer’s presence hadn’t registered on him at all even though it took possession of his wife’s soul fills Bill with a sense of paranoia. If he was oblivious to something that profound that was happening between the officer and his wife — even if only ‘psychically’ — , what else is he missing about the world around him? Maybe Jake LaMotta of RAGING BULL isn’t so off the mark after all. Maybe his anxieties about Vicky are true. Art generally deals with insecurity, whereas entertainment dishes out invincibility, but then fantasies of invincibility are appealing precisely because most men feel so insecure in reality. In real life, even the toughest guy can be knifed or gunned down, but in the realm of fantasy some dork, like Peter Parker of SPIDER MAN, can gain superhero powers and kick everyone’s butt. The Rambo of fantasy is nearly invulnerable, but David Sumner of STRAW DOGS has to watch his every step to remain alive. M. Night Shymalan pulled an almost impossible feat in creating a super-hero story that is more about insecurity than invincibility in his masterpiece UNBREAKABLE.] Bill is a good-looking guy — he is, after all, played by Tom Cruise — , but he can’t hold a candle to the naval officer. Also, he isn’t tall. Jacob at least knew he had muscle power over Edward, and Edward knew he has beauty power over Jacob, but the naval officer is advantaged in both departments over Bill. Alice’s swooning over the naval officer seems to be at odds with her needs of survival and security. But then, human nature developed under conditions different from the cultures and civilizations that came later in the story of man. Culture and civilization stress that men and women should choose commitment and obligation, but most of human existence through pre-history was about the toughest guy getting the best/most girls. Also, as tribes often defeated other tribes, the women of one tribe could end up as the women of another tribe; it’s like Debbie becomes the sexual property of the Comanches in THE SEARCHERS. Since evolution for most of human history depended so much on the raw power of masculine strength, women naturally came to be most turned on by men of power. So, in that sense, Alice’s hots for the naval officer is understandable. But she seems to have been as turned on by his beauty as by his manliness. And the role of beauty is more difficult to assess in terms of evolution, especially as pertaining to men. Men prefer pretty women, and women prefer strong men. So, why should looks matter in men? But looks do matter, and lots of women prefer men of beauty over men of brutishness. Bella prefers beautiful Edward over brawny Jacob. If women were given a choice between Paul Newman and the ‘Jaws’ villain in 007 movies, most would go with Newman. Of course, women want beauty and power combined, and Edward is lucky to have both because his vampirism makes him fast and strong. Anyway, mystery is, in and of itself, a kind of power because what we don’t understand fascinates us. Beauty is a mystery. It’s why a piece of poem holds greater power than a telephone book. Telephone book has more words and its bulk can hurt someone if dropped on his head, but there’s no mystery to its ‘power’. But what is about a few lines of poetry that can completely transfix the reader? Same with a song. A hundred people with all sorts of instruments can make a lot of noise, and there’s a certain ‘power’ in loud noise, but there’s more mystery in a beautiful melody — a mystery that can’t be quantified in terms of volume. It’s like the power of a good joke. There’s more mystery to sly wit than in the spectacle of a thousand people slipping on bananas and throwing pies at one another.
Beauty is mysterious. We don’t know why certain slight variations in facial structures create such powerful effect on us. All faces are fundamentally similar with two eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and etc. But some people look so much more beautiful, and this beauty may even seem divine. Why? Simply because of slight variations in the eyes, cheeks, lips, etc. It seems ridiculous, but the effect is true enough, and people are fascinated because they don’t understand its power. This could be one reason why there’s such a fetish for all things homosexual in our times. As our culture has become ever more extreme in its narcissism, the aestheticism of homosexual men may strike a chord with lots of people. In past times, only aristocrats could afford to be into such fetishistic narcissism, but mass media and pop culture have democratized narcissism for every person, even for poor saps in Third World nations. Is it surprising that even Brazil and South Africa, two nations still burdened with massive poverty, have opted for ‘gay marriage’? They are soaked in junky pop culture heavily saturated by the influence of ultra-narcissistic homos and their ilk. Mystery enthralls us. It’s like the apes go nuts in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY when they come upon the Monolith because they’d never seen such a perfect object. It overwhelms them with a sense of mystery, and mystery is the ultimate power since power that isn’t understood is more awesome than power that is understood. When primitive folks saw a white man firing a gun, they thought he was a god. It was why so many primitive folks hastily submitted to white imperialists in the Americas and Africa. The natives of South America thought white folks were divine beings. And black Africans thought white imperialists with guns had magical powers. As such, white folks were even worshiped as gods. Of course, this god-worship has become reversed in our times as so many white boys and girls are now worshipful of the black soul, as that of the mountain-sized Negro who wuvs a wittle white mouse in GREEN MILE. Perhaps, there is a kind of evolutionary advantage to the god-fetish. After all, having the god-fetish means that you are curious and aspire to something higher. In 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the tribe of apes that is ‘blessed’ by the Monolith and develops a sense of fascination begins to see the world with new eyes; its members sense new possibilities and make weapons and whup other tribes. Suppose there are two tribes of mankind. One tribe is uninspired and just sticks with the same old same old. But another tribe has members who are dreamy and can be inspired by new visions. One might argue that such trait in the second tribe is counterproductive since it makes the members fixate on the fantastic than on the real. It’s like Alice’s desire almost tempts her to give up her meal ticket of security with husband and child. But unless a tribe has individuals who can imagine and strive for something more than the same-old-same-old, there won’t be any breakthrough. It’s like what Howard Roark of THE FOUNTAINHEAD says of the visionary individual who is misunderstood and mocked by his peers but comes up with something profoundly new and fresh that can change the course of history. Now, some tart like Alice Harford swooning over a handsome naval officer may seem irrelevant to the progress of man, but the fact remains that Alice has the power to dream of something more, and this obsession may be related in nature to obsessions in the arts, science, technology, military, and etc. It’s often been said that the West made great progress and surpassed other societies and civilizations because of the rise of rationality and science, but why did Western man feel this obsessive and visionary need to use the tools of science, math, and technology to keep pushing ahead to find more and more and more, until he finally arrived at something like nuclear power and the super-computer? How did Western man end up with the power of the gods to destroy as well as to build? In this sense, Alice’s confession seems to be both at odds and in confluence with evolutionary theory. If we apply a very limited theory of evolution as being all about simple survival and security, then Alice’s desire to sacrifice her security for one night with the naval officer throws a monkey wrench into evolutionary theory. But if we expand the theory to argue that evolution favors those traits that allow for breakthroughs that lead to the attainment of greater power, then Alice’s power to dream[of higher love] can be linked to the apes power to dream[of better weapons] in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. Instead of just seeing bones as mere bones, apes were able to ‘envision’ them as weapons and tools. They were able to ‘dream’ a bone into a stick. There’s more than one way of seeing everything. It’s like what Kubrick said of the story of Icarus when he received the D.W. Griffith award. It could be taken as a warning not to challenge the sun or as a challenge to build a better contraption to conquer heaven. Without such power to dream, there can be no new reality. It’s like in THE FOUNTAINHEAD the movie. When Howard Roark[Gary Cooper] first sees Dominique Francon[Patricia Neal] at the quarry, we have the classic archetypal image of the hero looking up at the unattainable goddess. She is high above, he is below. But in the end, Roark the man has conquered heaven, and it is the goddess who ascends to him in one of the most rapturous and mind-blowing scenes in cinema, especially to Max Steiner’s music. Though most fantasies don’t come true, unless one has the power to dream, no dream can be realized. Indeed, consider Jews and Episcopalians. Both are equal, more or less, in IQ, but why did Jews gain dominance in America? They had more people like Ayn Rand and Stanley Kubrick with the obsessive power to dream. While the dream isn’t enough, neither is intelligence enough. China has lots of smart people, but not enough dreamers; they tend to be drones. The Jewish dream of taking over America would have seemed crazy to most people in the early part of the 20th century, but Jews dreamed such dream and they made it come true. It’s like Hyman Roth ‘always made money for his partners’ because he was always dreaming of the bigger pie, all the cake. It’s like homos reached great heights because they kept dreaming their tutti-fruity dream of buttfuc*ing the moon in the sky. Their dream turned out to be a nightmare for good moral folks, but such is the power of dreams. In contrast, conservatives don’t know how to dream. They just stay awake with their limited known reality, and when they grow bored with their limited vision, they fall under the spell of others with the power to dream. Thus, American Conservatives, instead of dreaming their own dream of power, are under the hypnosis of the Jewish sorcerer and serve the dreams of Jews. Those who don’t dream their own dreams follow the dreams of others.) And as our society grows more shameless, we see more people who eat too much & grow big in size and more people who fuc* too much & are unable to develop the kinds of emotions and values that can lead to lasting relationships and commitments. People have much less sense of how the sex organs are related to reproduction and how mouths are related to the entire digestive systems. Pleasures of the pud and pooter used to be associated with the full process of childbearing, i.e. the pooter was the hole that led to the womb and the mouth was the hole that led to the stomach and digestive tract. But in our orgasmo-consumer society, the sex organs and mouths are considered independently of their connections to other organs and their deeper functions. It’s like puds & pooters exist only for orgasmic pleasure and mouths exist only for savoring flavors. But things were different for most of history. According to Jewish moral law, there were many laws about the ways to eat right and have sex right. There were laws about the proper way of marriage, proper and improper ways of sex, proper way to be husbands, proper ways to be wives, proper way to be parents, proper way to be children, and etc. Though such laws could regulate human behavior, they couldn’t alter human nature that was, is, and will always be problematic and ‘sinful’. But even if every Jew were to live in perfect accordance with God’s Laws as written in the Torah, it wouldn’t resolve the moral/spiritual crisis of mankind, at least according to Martin Scoresese’s film. After all, the temptation that Jesus nearly falls for is NOT of the ‘boing’ variety. He resisted the temptation of Mary Magdalene the whore. He watched her being banged by other men but didn’t join in. (Ironically, the whore and the saint have one thing in common in that they must serve men of all races and colors. In this sense, one could argue that a saint is a spiritual whore. The whore stands for universal temptation, and the saint stands for universal redemption. Recently, Christianity has been taken over by whores posing as saints who sold the House of Christ to the forces of Mammon in Wall Street, Hollywood, Las Vegas, Silicon Valley, Washington D.C, and etc. Now, we have the universal corruption of Mammon as the universal salvation of the human race. Just line up at ‘gay pride’ parades and wave the ‘gay rainbow flag’.) The temptation that nearly gets Jesus in the film is being married to Mary Magdalene(and upon her death, her sister) and raising a proper family. And yet, for Jesus, even that is a betrayal as he must be the savior of all men. If he has a family, then he will primarily be attached to his own children, to his own kin. He would be like the Jews, and he wouldn’t be able to rise above Jew-hood. Even if he were to have kids with a non-Jewish woman, he would come to favor his own kids over the rest of mankind. So, for higher morality, even the traditional Jewish morality of having a wife and raising a family would be sinful for Jesus. Sin is relative in this sense.
What’s most unnerving about THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST is that the Devil tempts Jesus not with the obvious evil but with something that most cultures through the ages— indeed the Torah itself — consider as an absolute good: spouse, family, and children. In other words, the Devil tempts Jesus with the very laws of God, his holy father. Therefore, for Jesus to rise to a higher spirituality, he must paradoxically reject not only the Devil but his father. According to the Torah, God ordered every Jewish man to grow up, get a wife, and produce kids. Thus, when the Devil tempts Jesus with the prospect of wife and family, he[in the guise of a cherubic girl with an English accent] is putting Jesus in a bind. If Jesus rejects the Devil’s offer, he is also disobeying the way of God who told Jewish men to be fruitful(not to be confused with fruity)and multiply. And yet, for a new branch of religion to be birthed, the prophet has to disobey his god but then in the name of serving him better. It’s like the Japanese story of the 47 Ronin who must disobey the edict of the Shogun to serve the Shogun ever better as the Shogun represents the higher code of Bushido. Likewise, paradoxically Jesus must disobey the way of God in order to better serve the higher purpose of God. It’s the timeless but rare archetype of the rebel/maverick as the most loyal servant.

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST

Dutch’s feelings about Angel are as much a visceral as an ethical issue. Sure, there is the matter of honor-among-thieves about sticking together. But even more powerful is the visceral impact of having been privy to the farewell when Angel was abandoned to the wolves. Dutch simply cannot heal the scar of the moment, just like Pike could never rid himself of the memory of his lover’s death. Issues you mull in your head, but images are seared into your soul. Dutch was there when he rode away from Angel; he was mugged by ‘viscerality’.
It’s like Peter’s betrayal of Jesus weighs heavily on his soul because of their intimacy as master and follower. And Judas felt likewise, which is why he killed himself out of guilt and shame. Dutch did what he had to make it out alive, and Angel understood why. If the situation had been reversed, Angel might have done much the same to save his own skin while leaving Dutch behind. But the ‘understanding’ makes Dutch hate himself even more. He did the ‘right’ thing in terms of saving his own skin and riding off with the gold, but he has to live with the fact that Angel ‘played his string right out to the end’ while he himself acted only mercenarily. It doesn’t matter that Angel knew the rules of the game and probably even forgives Dutch. If anything, Angel’s grace and cool under pressure makes Dutch all the more ashamed. If Angel has panicked and freaked out and tried to implicate the Bunch and if Dutch had made it out alive under those circumstances, he might not have felt so guilt-ridden. It is precisely because Angel ‘played his string right to the end’ so as to allow clear passage for Dutch that Dutch is overcome with powerful feelings for Angel. Besides, even the diversion of a case of rifles and case of ammunition was for the good of the village, not for Angel’s own aggrandizement. Dutch’s last words(to Mapache) before he rode off was “He’s a thief. You take care of him.” But in some ways, Angel is the only one who isn’t a thief in this matter. Mapache wanted the guns stolen from the ‘gringos’ to arm his men. And the Bunch stole the guns for gold. But Angel joined in the robbery only so that the villagers could have guns to defend themselves with. He got nothing for himself from the bargain, not even a piece of gold which he gave up in exchange for the guns and ammo.

Angel’s amigos come to pick up the rifles and ammos.

Dutch could rankled also because he’d felt so powerless before Mapache and his men. There was no way he could bargain or do anything. All he could do was tuck his tail between his legs, profess ignorance, castigate Angel, and ride off like a chicken on a horse. In that instance, he must have more ineffectual than even the lowliest soldier or whore of Agua Verde. Pike shares that sense of powerlessness when he sees the Angel battered, bloodied, and dragged on a rope by Mapache riding around in his car. It’s especially humiliating because, after Mapache rebuffs Pike’s offer to buy Angel back, Herrera(one of Mapache’s henchman) says: “El General said, he was happy with the guns. Why don’t you go and get a drink? Enjoy yourself. There are women everywhere. Muchas bonitas. Don’t be foolish and change his mood. At that moment, Pike is overcome with fearful silence. Mapache may be drunk and childish(along with other Mexicans), but he has all the power, whereas Pike and Dutch must just take it and slink away impotently. America is many times more powerful than Mexico, but the Bunch, who ‘share very little sentiment with their government’, are just a pack of powerless gringos wilting before Mapache who, at least in Agua Verde, has the power of a god. Even the illusion of independent will is denied them. Earlier in the film, upon agreeing on the train heist, Pike tried to take Angel with him, but Mapache offered him someone else in exchange for Angel, who was then being held captive by Mapache’s men. But Pike stood his ground, and Mapache, though El General, backed down with the words, “All right. It’s not important to me. You take him.” At that moment, Pike felt a sense of pride, especially as the Bunch stuck together and backed him up, if only through body signals. It was if his will was stronger than even that of Mapache and all his henchmen. But now, as Mapache glares at Pike threateningly and then drives off with half-dead Angel in tow, Pike’s powerlessness is palpable. Even though Angel is the prisoner while he himself is free, Pike also feels trapped and roped up.

Troubled Pike

One the prominent themes of Peckinpah is the nature of powerlessness. Because of the high levels of violence and bloodshed, one might think Peckinpah’s films are all about machismo and power. In fact, as in the films of Stanley Kubrick, the lasting impression revolves around the sense of powerlessness. (With Kubrick, it tends to be more cerebral than emotional. And more unpredictable. Kubrick, who was obsessed with chess, well understood that there was always someone who plays better. And in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, man is no match for the Hal computer, the master-commander-servant of logic. Still, one constant in chess is the rules of chess. No matter how good or how bad, all players must stick with the strict rules of the game. But the real world doesn’t work so elegantly. Sure, there are laws, rules, regulations, contracts, and agreements among the various parties and players. But the game is as often played outside as within the rules. Even in a social order committed to Rule of Law, there are so many ways rules can be bent or sidestepped. Reality is like a game of chess where the rules apply 50% of the time. If rules are totally neglected, there’s only madness and chaos. But if rules are followed always by everyone, the ambitious and cunning can’t get everything they want. So, they get creative with the rules. But even then, there are ‘dumb’ things that no one can predict or control, like the horseshoe that flatten’s an assassin’s tire in THE KILLING. Or Lee Harvey Oswald with his crazy idea of killing JFK.) Indeed, one reason for the constant bickering among the characters is the nagging sense of powerlessness and desperation. When the world closes in and puts the squeeze on a bunch of men, they turn on each other, just like scared rats inside a cage. So, whenever something goes wrong, members of the Bunch take out their frustrations on each other. And Thornton and the bounty hunters do much the same. Among the bounty hunters, T.C. and Coffer alternate between amity and enmity.

L.Q. Jones as T.C.
Strother Martin as Coffer

“It’s covered, you two-bit redneck peckerwood!” The main conflicts in RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and MAJOR DUNDEE are mostly between ‘friends’. THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE begins with two men turning on a friend who then spends years waiting to get revenge. In STRAW DOGS, distrust builds between David Sumner(Dustin Hoffman) and his wife Amy(Susan George) who’s lost respect for her weakling husband; indeed the violence has aroused such a primal submission to raw power that she can’t warm up to her husband even after he has triumphed over all the invaders. In the heat of the fight, Amy’s heart and pooter have emotionally crossed over to her old flame. And among the town thugs, there’s rivalry for alpha dog position between the two toughest guys.
If anything, the intense level of blood-letting in some of Peckinpah’s films makes the violence seem all the more frustrating than ‘empowering’. In the opening gun fury of THE WILD BUNCH, the members of the Bunch who make it out alive owe their survival more to luck than prowess. It was the melee caused by the Temperance Union getting caught in the crossfire that improved the chance of the getaway. The intensity of violence also makes for heightened anxiety. Consider the scene when a wheel of the wagon loaded with the cargo of stolen rifles and ammo breaks through a wooden plank. It is nerve-racking as bullets swish past and as the bridge is about to blow up at any minute. (In a way, what happens to Deke Thornton on the bridge is reminiscent of the time he was left behind while Pike made the getaway. Again as then, Thornton is blind-sided and falls into trouble while Pike rides away. Perhaps, that’s why Pike’s sense of victory over Thornton-on-the-bridge is short-lived when Sykes reminds him that Thornton will be on his trail soon enough once again. Pike once again got the better of Thornton, but he didn’t deserve to.)

Also, the use of slo-motion not only magnifies the violence but adds viscosity, as if to suggest the paralyzing impact of being hit that neutralizes one’s control of mind and muscle. Ultra-violence has been used, especially in the 1980s action movies of Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, to heighten the sense of power, mastery, and tremendousness. In some of these films, the heroes are almost infallible, indeed like 007 on steroids and PCP. But there are no super-tough or infallible characters in Peckinpah’s films. It’s no wonder Peckinpah declined the offer to make SUPERMAN. He wasn’t interested in invincibility or comic violence. Even as Peckinpah intensified violence in his films, his (anti)heroes were, if anything, even more human and vulnerable than than the heroes of classic Westerns and action films. If anything, the violence often highlighted the prospect that the leading characters could die as bloodily as the other fellers felled earlier. The violence has a way of making the viewers more nervously aware of the violence of the world. It’s difficult to watch STRAW DOGS without pondering its relevance to the reality we inhabit. The first DEATH WISH movie was just cheap and sensationalistic. STRAW DOGS is truly bruising.

There’s no character in Peckinpah’s films who comes anywhere near the stature of John Wayne who, simply by standing firm, could command the respect of those around him. It takes more doing for the (anti)heroes of Peckinpah’s films to gain and hold the respect of others. It’s a constant struggle for Pike to keep the crew together, as is the case with Heston’s character in MAJOR DUNDEE. John Wayne in John Ford movies usually takes his authority for granted. (Wayne’s characters in movies like RED RIVER, THE SEARCHERS, and THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE undergo a special kind of crisis when up against challenges that cannot be met with gun or fists. In RED RIVER, his arch-rival is none other than a young man he’s raised like a son. He can’t just rub him out like the others. In THE SEARCHERS, Wayne’s character has no problems fighting Indians and other men in his way, but he can’t make up his mind about Debbie, who’s almost like a daughter to him. In THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, Wayne’s character stands up to the villain Valance but is completely at a loss upon realizing that the woman he loves is really in love with James Stewart’s character. Tough guy has it easier in a tough world than in a gentle world in which he becomes like a bull in a china shop. Valance as the bad tough guy bull doesn’t mind smashing all the china, but the good tough guy does mind, which makes it difficult for him in non-tough situations.) In contrast, the characters of Peckinpah films are more like Will Kane(Gary Cooper) of HIGH NOON who’s faced with all manner of uncertainties. Of course, Peckinpah didn’t introduce the element of anxiety into the Western. It can be found in any number of Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher Westerns. Or Howard Hawks’ RED RIVER, one of the most dark and disturbing Westerns. There is also THE BIG COUNTRY by William Wyler, a Western packed with misgivings and misunderstandings. Peckinpah did, however, ratchet it up to whole new level where any real triumph or resolution, in conflict and meaning, remains out of reach to the very end. At the end of HIGH NOON, the good guy does win, proves his point, and rides away justified. But there are no real good guys in Peckinpah films, and nothing is resolved in any objective sense. Whatever meaning the final act of the Bunch might have, it’s purely subjective to each member of the Bunch and everyone else. For Thornton, it’s all about Pike; perhaps he senses Pike’s last stand was partly an act of atonement toward him. For the bounty hunters, it’s all just a picnic and easy money. For some Mexicans, the massacre will be remembered as ‘loco gringos’ gone wild. For people of Angel’s village, the Bunch will be remembered as heroes who took on Mapache. The conflict of meanings continues. Besides, who really won when both Mapache & his men and the Bunch are all dead? (The lack of resolution is even more palpable in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, which is like a drunken version of POINT BLANK. Like Boorman’s film, there are moments in Peckinpah’s lurid film when we are not sure if we’re watching reality or a dream. Did Benny really dig himself out of Garcia’s grave and go on a revenge rampage? Or was it all just a dream of a dying man? The strange feature of Franz Kafka stories is that the barrier between subjectivity and objectivity breaks down. In most classic storytelling, the characters are clearly etched as archetypes or individuals. And the storyteller either narrates strictly in the first person mode or third-person mode. In the first person mode the teller clearly indicates that the story is seen through his or her eyes, and a clear distinction is maintained between the storyteller’s experience of reality and those of his characters who are assumed to have their own personal/private individualities impermeable to others, including the storyteller. In the third person narrative, the storyteller renders himself or herself invisible. His or her role becomes omnipotent or semi-omnipotent. He or she has the power to enter the minds of various characters. Nevertheless, a clear distinction is maintained between the storyteller and the characters and among the characters. The storyteller is NOT any of the characters, and each character is a distinct individual separate from others. But in the stories of Kafka, even though mostly told in the third person narrative, there’s an inkling of the story teller and the main character trespassing into each other’s territories. The main character, instead of being an individual distinct unto himself, appears to morph and warp according to the neurosis of the storyteller, and the mind of the storyteller seems inhabited by his characters crawling around like insects. The world feels at times like the mental attic of the storyteller than a plausible world unto itself. And all the other characters seem to be reflections, projections, extensions, and contradictions of the main character who, in turn, is all those things in relation to the storyteller. In truth, all stories are the mental projections of storytellers. No matter how realistically and convincingly presented, the fictional world and all the characters constitute a puppet play in the mind of the storyteller. In classic storytelling, the teller and listener/reader made belief with the illusion of stories of individual characters in distinctly plausible world. But the walls of illusion erode in the stories of Kafka, rendering them dream-like. Dreams take place entirely in a single person’s mind but create the impression that the dreamer is in a real world with distinct individuals; and yet, there are intimations that this ‘real’ works according to a strange logic of space, time, objects, and personalities. There’s a haunting sense that one’s mind permeates everything/everyone all around and vice versa. Likewise, there is no distinct barrier among the storyteller, the main character, the side characters, and the world they inhabit in the stories of Kafka. And of course, David Lynch, at his best, is the master at this sort of thing, especially in MULHOLLAND DR., in which the first 4/5th of the film seems real yet unreal, until it is revealed in the final segment that it was all Kafkaing inside in the mind of Diane Selwyn. There’s something like that in BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, not least because it’s difficult to tell which parts were conceived and/or directed sober or drunk.)

There is something womb-like about all genres. The characters, plot, emotions, values, style, and outcomes are shielded and guaranteed by the conventions of the formula. It’s like everything is happening inside a certain bubble, a well-defined universe(no matter how violent or crazy it may be, as in most horror movies). In contrast, a rawness pervades the films of Peckinpah. They “have more sand than most.” It’s there even in DEADLY COMPANIONS and RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY(especially in the scenes with the Hammond Brothers). It’s unmistakable in MAJOR DUNDEE. It’s like the Western has been pushed out of the womb, its nerves exposed to the elements. Some critics consider MAJOR DUNDEE a stillborn baby, but it’d clearly broken out of protective genre sack of the Western. And with THE WILD BUNCH, we can hear the wailing of the baby from full exposure to reality. In some ways, THE WILD BUNCH is to the Western what 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is to science-fiction. It is Western reborn than revised. Most striking isn’t what it owes to earlier Westerns — though the debt is considerable — but how it is so utterly different from them in key ways, indeed as if Peckinpah invented(than reinvented) the Western on his own terms than extended an existing tradition according to its own logic. THE WILD BUNCH de-genre-ified the Western, and it is in this regard that Peckinpah’s vision is in stark contrast to that of Sergio Leone who, though revolutionary and visionary, built upon earlier genres to formulate a new genre, what came to be known as the ‘Spaghetti Western’. THE WILD BUNCH, like Kubrick’s sci-fi epic, is almost a standalone work; there’s been nothing quite like it before or since. There’s really no other Western that is comparable in scope, power, and imagination. Even Walter Hill’s highly impressive THE LONG RIDERS comes nowhere near. Though THE WILD BUNCH isn’t a very plausible film(especially in the final shootout), it cuts and scrapes itself against authenticity and verisimilitude seen in almost no other Western. Though at times the Bunch verge on looming larger-than-life, they slide and tumble once again into the full brunt of life. When one of the riders from the first robbery falls off the horse and holds his shattered & blinded face(from shotgun blast), it goes way beyond what guns can do.
Countless movies have demonstrated that guns kill and maim, and a fair amount of movies have shown the long-term effect of violence; this is especially true of ‘anti-war’ films such as COMING HOME and BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY. The human mind prefers dichotomies, i.e. we can deal with guns killing people in the heat of violence, and we can deal with people coping with long-term effect of violence away from violence, but we feel uneasy with the harrowing effect of violence in the field of violence. It’s like in sports, we love the fury of violence during play, but if someone gets hurt, the game comes to a standstill until the injured is carried away to safety, and only then, the play resumes; we don’t want to watch a game where the injured are left on the field writhing in pain while other players are stepping all over them; the scene with the man with bloodied face in THE WILD BUNCH gets under our skin because it violates the dichotomy we are used to. It would have been more convenient if the man had escaped uninjured like the other members of the Bunch or if he’d been shot dead and left behind like some others in Starbuck. THE WILD BUNCH violates such expectations by having a horribly injured rider tag along for some distance until he has to be finally dealt with, underscoring the inconvenience of reality and how it plays by no rules. “I can’t see but I can ride”, a man at war with himself in body and soul, torn between will to live and surrender to death, what with one part of him pushing him to get back on the horse and another part of him pulling him down to the ground to give up. Later, Pike’s body is similarly at war when he falls off his horse. Part of him says get back up and reassert his authority as leader, another part of him says it’s all over and he might as well give it up. Indignation vs resignation theme pervades much of PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID as well. James Coburn, upon kicking Poe — in the 2005 Turner Version — , says, “What you want and what you get are two different things.” Or as some characters say in THE WILD BUNCH, “It’s not what you meant to do, it’s what you did I don’t like” and “Ain’t like it used to be, but it will do.” THE WILD BUNCH is a Western of discontentment and discrepancies. Though countless Westerns have unhappy peoples and unhappy situations, the characters seem naturally a part of the world they inhabit. They may be unhappy with things in the world, but they are in tune with the world. It’s a genre-defined world where conflicts and incidences are limited in relevance to plot and theme. Bad things happen but in accordance to the needs of the story. In contrast, there’s much in THE WILD BUNCH that seem incongruous to the general development of the story, as if the world refuses to comply with the narrative. There are so many ‘accidents’ along the way, more monkey wrenches, more aches and pains, more disruptions of incidents that seem, on the surface, unrelated to the story. There’s such plethora of details upon details, the odds and ends of life. Indeed, consider the sheer ‘accidentalism’ that eventually led to the mayhem at the end. Angel’s fit of jealousy led to him killing Teresa, German officers saw his pistol, the Bunch were presented with an offer, they promise Angel some guns, Teresa’s mother ratted out Angel(to avenger her daughter), Angel becomes captured, and the Bunch end up trying to save him. So many things happen as if tumbling into one another by accident — like when Sykes falls off the horse and causes an avalanche of toppling horses and horsemen. And there are incidents created by impulse, like when Tector Gorch takes a stick of dynamite and tosses it at Sykes who’s trying to relieve himself. It has nothing to do with the plot but adds yet another compelling sense of reality’s incongruent obliviousness to the narrative; the bumps and creases of Peckinpah’s vision refuse to be smoothed/ironed out by the narrative. Of course, this feature could simply come across as banal, trite, or pointless, and indeed, there were plenty of New Hollywood films of the early 1970s made on the mistaken assumption that anything that contravened plot conventions is automatically art and truth. So, monstrosities like Dennis Hopper’s THE LAST MOVIE resulted from such sensibility. But in the hands of a master of Sam Peckinpah, the discordance of reality imbued the narrative with extra servings of rugged authenticity. After all, despite the accidental & random feel of THE WILD BUNCH, it’s actually a meticulously plotted and orchestrated work. This is reflected in Jerry Fielding’s score that sounds hit-or-miss but is bull’s eye with every note. Or, consider the action scene from the train heist to the bridge explosion, especially alongside Fielding’s score that amazingly syncopates just about every known convention of Western music: Hollywood, folkloric, and military. It is one of the most wild, hectic, maniacal, and dizzying scenes ever filmed, but all its little bits and pieces work together with the precision of a Swiss watch. Fury and finesse fuse into one.

Train Heist – Pike Bishop
Train Heist – Lyle Gorch

The hellishness of violence also came through in BONNIE AND CLYDE when Gene Hackman’s character got wounded & died in the most gruesome manner and when his wife got shot in the eye; the film lingered with the horror later replicated in George Romero’s THE NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD — the grueling cruelty of death that won’t come right away. (The reverberation of death is felt when Teresa’s body is carried in a funeral procession through the halls occupied by Mapache and his men. The dead ‘whore’ is given a saint’s funeral, but then, Mapache and his men are exasperated by the whole thing. Usually, when people get killed in movies, they fade from view. Peckinpah, more than most, lingered on the agony before death and the inconvenience of death, if only for the simple but powerful reason the dead don’t disappear by themselves. It’s like what Pat Garrett says of Ollinger’s body lying on the street: “Won’t some of you people get him up off the ground and into it?” There’s something of ANTIGONE in the anxiety about the proper treatment of the dead. For the bounty hunters, the dead bodies of the Bunch are mere trophies. But Sykes and friends stop them and presumably gave the Bunch a proper burial, something denied to the guy with the bloody face who rode out of Starbuck. After the final gun battle, the camera lingers over all the dead soldiers that attract vultures, scavengers, and the aggrieved alike. BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA’s central theme revolves around the issue of treating a dead body — with respect or as a piece of trophy.) Generally, action movies prefer quick deaths. When someone gets shot, they disappear like hit targets in a video game. The reason for this is obvious. Killing is cool and death is ideally clean & convenient. It is when the injured or wounded doesn’t die that we become burdened with the crisis of agony. This is why John Boorman’s DELIVERANCE is so grueling to watch. It’s not so much the live-or-die duel between the protagonists and hillbilly sodomites but the fact that the Burt Reynolds character, the alpha male leader, has a busted leg, has been rendered helpless & at the mercy of others, cannot be abandoned, and has to be taken to safety. When Pike shoots the wounded man who falls off the horse, we are relieved despite the chilling brutality of the act because we don’t want to be burdened with a man disfigured, incapacitated, and in unendurable pain. But after he is shot, the Bunch don’t just ride away but remain for a moment and ‘discuss’ what should be done about the body. Pike, who later postures as the principled leader, argues the dead man should just be left behind. And Dutch, the other more conscientious member of the Bunch, backs up Pike. Uncharacteristically, it’s the Gorches who say the dead man deserves to be buried. Uncharacteristic perhaps but believable in the context of how right-and-wrong is often a matter of personal attachments and anxieties. Maybe, the Gorches knew the man a bit better. Or perhaps the sight of Pike, the leader of the Bunch, ruthlessly dispensing with a member of the gang makes the Gorches wonder about what Pike would have done to them had one of them been badly wounded. Also, as the Gorches are brothers, the matter would have been more complicated if one of them had been injured and had to be mercy-killed by Pike. Would one of the Gorches allow Pike to kill the other?

Pike’s chronic pain from his leg injury also reiterate the hard business of living before dying. There’s a sense of all the wear-and-tear between life and death. Though he seems to move normally most of the time, he has a slight limp, and we can feel his pain every time he has to sit or stand. And when Pike rubs his thigh over hot steam in the Mexican bath at Agua Verde, we can’t help but be reminded of our aches and pains. Most movie characters hardly seem to suffer from backaches, toothaches, migraines, and etc. This is also why a Western like THE SHOOTIST(with John Wayne and directed by Don Siegel) stands out. It’s the rare Western that had a gunslinger dying of anal cancer. And there’s an added element of unease in HIGH NOON because Gary Cooper was suffering from serious back pain during the shooting. That palpable sense of pain became part of his performance.

Powerful sense of reality requires something more than graphic violence or gore. After all, ineffective gore and/or violence merely irritates, annoys, and disgusts(and ultimately just bores)
I finally got around to watching a few scenes from I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and ‘yuck’ was all I felt. It is the master director like John Boorman or Sam Peckinpah who understands the shifting balances of poetry and brutality required in order for violence to have real impact. Even the most prosaic or grim representation of reality requires sophistication of aesthetics. Consider the ugly brutalist poetry but poetry nonetheless of THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE and LOS OLIVDADOS. Consider how Peckinpah sets up the tension when Pike mercy-kills the wounded man. We see the man fall off his horse along a slope and reassure Pike that he can still ride even though he can’t see. We sense his desperation, his powerful life-force clinging on. But we also see a bloody pulp, a doomed man. We sense the contrast between the brightness of day and darkness enveloping the blinded man. He surmises Pike is near and pleads with him. But Pike remains silent as if he, as judge and jury, has already sentenced the doomed man. And deep down inside, the man knows it; he can’t expect the Bunch to slow down for his sake; and a blind bandit is as good as useless, like a legless runner. He’s like a wounded member of a wolf pack or lion pride. There’s nothing the others can do for him. Predators have no use for a wounded member. The man finally admits this and asks Pike to shoot him — indeed, as most likely, Pike would have finished him off even if he begged for life. If anything, his request redeems him as a man who died of free will instead of as a pitiful creature put down like a wounded beast. His resignation allows an honorable death than a mere ‘hog killing’. Nevertheless, there’s an element of shock because, even before we notice it, Pike has his pistol out and pulls the trigger just as the man utters his last word, sounding a deafening blast that shakes and clears the air. The abruptness is both rude and gracious; the man has been put out of his misery. We sort of knew it was coming but not exactly when or how. (William Friedkin did a variation in TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. when Willem Dafoe’s character closes in with his shotgun on the downed federal agent.) Once it’s over and Pike turns to face the others, we are left with the sudden contrast of silence after a moment filled with desperation and fright. The calm feels unsettling and deceptive. The extremity of the gun blast reverberated with the declarative power to change the world. But as soon as the ring of gunfire fades, perfect silence is restored as if everything is as it’s always been. We sense the vanity and futility of everything. Every act of violence, every agony, every howl, and every last-ditch response does nothing to change anything. It’s like the final scene of THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE where, soon after Hogue’s death and the departure of his friends, the desert goes on as if no one had been there.

Robert Ryan and Sam Peckinpah on the Set.

Anyway, nothing is more horrible than horror itself, nothing is sadder than even the biggest horror being just a ripple in a pond that fades except as memory, but then, memory is fragile and live only as long as those who bother to remember. There is official/collective memory, but it has to be maintained through a vast and complicated network of powerful institutions. Once the machinery of officialdom grinds to a halt, collective memory is bound to fade and be forgotten forever. Because some civilizations grow so powerful and because their official memories are passed down for so long, people may come under the illusion that their sacred memories are self-sustaining regardless of effort of the people. It’s like a society can have a lot of people, thus creating the illusions that it will carry on even if people don’t have kids since there seems to be people and children all around. People get to thinking, “I don’t need to have children since someone else will have them.” So, even though they produce no kids and their line ends with them, they live with the impression that society will continue with the children of other people. But of course, if everyone thought that way, society will come to an end with the last living generation growing old and dying. (Why are so many people averse to thinking that women are meant to be mothers — and men fathers? If women have vaginas and wombs, those organs must exist for a reason. People have eyes to see with. People have ears to hear with. People have noses to smell with. People have anuses to take a dump with. People have mouths to eat with and communicate with. People have legs to walk with. So, the meaning of life is ‘function follows form’. Our various organs have been formed to serve certain functions. So, if we have eyes, we are meant to see. If men have penises, they are meant to pee with and ejaculate semen with. If women have vaginas and wombs, they are for childbearing. If having lungs means that men and women are meant to breathe, then having penises/testicles and vaginas/wombs must mean that men are meant to be fathers and women are meant to be mothers. After all, every man and every women were created through the bodily functions of their parents and were born as sons and daughters. To be a son or a daughter is to be a creation of a mother and a father and eventually to procreate as a mother or father to create new life. No one created himself or herself or leapt out of a book or a TV set. He or she was created through his or her parents. Also, even though society tells us to see ourselves as ‘individuals’, every individual is a part of a continuum: his or her being is a genetic extension of his/her parents, and his/her children will be a continuum of himself/herself after he/she dies. This sense of continuum has been undermined in our culture that stresses the ‘individuum’ that cares only for hedonistic pleasures hooked to electronica. Of course, individuals can choose not to use their sex organs, but then they will die-for-good upon their death. It is only through having children that one lives on through one’s children, just as oneself is a continuation of one’s parents and grandparents. It is the self-centered individual who thinks he or she is entirely an independent entity, as if he or she created himself or herself and as if he or she is gone forever with his or her death. But those with more generous understanding acknowledge that every individual is a continuation of his parents and that he or she lives on through his or her children. Understanding that truth, individuals can choose to die-for-good or live on via the creation of children. People lack a proper appreciation of sex organs because we live in the Age of Individualism whereby the meaning of life is measured in terms of self-actualization within the lifetime. To live within a lifetime, sex organs are not necessary. All other organs are necessary of course. If people refuse to use their lungs, livers, hearts, pancreases, bladders, and etc. they will surely die very soon, even instantly. Indeed, people don’t even have control over those organs; no one can stop one’s heart from beating or order one’s liver to stop working. To be sure, men and women don’t have control over their sex organs either. Regardless of what men want, their balls will continue to produce sperm. And regardless of what women want, eggs will be released and there will be menstrual cycles. Also, even if sex organs are not used, men and women’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior are always driven and influenced by sexual drives. But people can choose not to use sex organs, just like people can choose not to eat or drink. But if people don’t eat or drink, they won’t live long. But people can live out their lives even if they don’t use their sex organs to produce kids. And it doesn’t bother a lot of people that they won’t have kids since they only conceptualize life in individual terms. There was a time when people thought of life as a continuum, and therefore, the failure to have kids was seen as a death sentence because the meaning of one’s life was complete only as part of being a continuum. It was through one’s children that one lived on even after death. Instead of regarding one’s children as merely separate individuals, one appreciated them as continuation of the self even after one’s departure from the Earth. [Such feelings were more powerful in the past since children learned most from their parents, often carried on with the same occupations & properties, and lived in a world that was hardly different from that of their parents and ancestors. But today, every generation is so different from others in fast changing world. In the New World, there is so much race and ethnic mixing that it’s hard to keep up one’s sense of ancestry. Also, as children are shaped so much by public education and popular culture, they come to identify more with pop stars, celebrities, and intellectuals than with their own parents who leave it up to institutions and industries to mold the hearts and minds of their children. And their sense of history is shaped less by family history and ethnic memory but by official history disseminated by schools and education that, in the West, are dominated by hideous Jews and vile homos.] Also, as there was less entertainment back then, it was through the family that people found fun and meaning through conversation and social gatherings. But as so many individuals can find ‘meaning’ and pleasure through mass entertainment, they don’t need the company of others anymore. But this is really a Culture of Death as all the fun razzle-dazzle that looks and feels like life are just an illusion — it’s like artificial light that attracts moths that mistake it for the light of day. It is because of the prevailing sense of ‘individuum’ that so many people fail to appreciate the functions of sex organs. They are just seen as ‘sex toys’ that came for free. As mere pleasure organs, they’ve been divorced from their true meaning, which is why even a homocule’s anus is considered an equivalent to a true sex organ. Furthermore, ours is a narcissistic age and even a post- or even anti-humanist one, and therefore, many people don’t want to have kids because they think childbearing will harm their looks or because they believe they aren’t attractive enough to pass down their genes. Sexual organs are not something people buy as ‘sex toys’. People are born equipped with them because their very existence owes to such organs of their parents. So, it says something about the craziness of our society where people, especially women, get upset when they are told women are meant to be mothers. To an extent, it’s understandable since traditionally women were denied many roles and positions apart from her bio-cultural role. Even so, the radicalism of feminism has done greater harm by negating the very truth and basis of life. Furthermore, feminists exaggerate like the lunatics they are. After all, no society ever forced women to only have babies. After all, women can only have kids every nine months, so even a woman who wants to do nothing but have babies cannot have babies day in and day out. She has to fill her time by doing lots of stuff during her pregnancy. Thus, women’s lives were never so simple as those feminists have made out.)
Similarly, some civilizations seem so powerful and their official memories so pervasive that they hold with the impression that their greatness is shall be everlasting by decree of the gods of the universe themselves. Think of the Ancient Egyptian civilization that lasted over the millennia. It must have seemed to Egyptians that their sacred order and memory would never fade away. But they were eventually forgotten, and Ancient Egypt was buried and lost in the sand when the new invaders forbade/neglected the official memory of the Ancient Egyptians and replaced it with a New Narrative and New Official Memory. Of course, in time, the architecture and artifacts of Ancient Egypt were rediscovered, and scholars have been hard at work to understand them. Nevertheless, Ancient Egypt now exists only as a museum piece, not as a living sacred & official memory of a people. The lesson is no matter how awesome, tremendous, and everlasting something may seem, it is really just an illusion of power that has no innate power to perpetuate itself. It’s like watching a movie. It looks so grand and spectacular, but movies don’t run themselves; they have to be preserved and projected by people. When people stop showing the pictures, the movies are forgotten and lost; it’s like most Americans never saw THE BIRTH OF A NATION since it’s hardly projected anymore, but most Americans heard of or saw TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD or DJANGO UNCHAINED because they are revived or shown nonstop everywhere. No matter how awesome a movie may seem on the big screen, it can be turned off with the flick of the switch. Who controls the programming and the switch is what really determines history, culture, and power.
Likewise, if a civilization fails in its elaborate mechanisms of maintenance and continuance, all that had been — no matter how great, tragic, triumphant, and inspiring — might as well as not even have happened. There will be nothing in the air, rocks, sand, trees, and sky that will remind us of what had been. And no one will know of anything unless they’ve been told, and they will soon forget unless it is drummed into their heads over and over and over. It seems obvious enough, but something in our psyche resists this truth because the implications are lonely and terrifying. It is why the last-man-on-earth scenario is so depressing. It’s not just the loneliness of being the last one in the present but the knowledge that with one’s death, everything that had ever been will be completely forgotten and remembered by no one. There’s nothing outside mankind that maintains any kind of memory through the thread of time. Sure, the moon is pockmarked with records of being bombarded by meteors, but it is just a fact, not a knowledge. By creating gods and God, we can fool ourselves that even if humans forget and die out, the mind of the universe will remember us; we can make believe that the universe(controlled by gods or God) may keep our spirts in heaven or fill the universe with new creatures, one that may even come to know of us who’d existed earlier. One of the central crises of the man who wants to kill himself in Abbas Kiarostami’s TASTE OF CHERRY is the need for someone to remember him. As depressing as death can be, more terrifying — even for someone seeking death — is that the world will go on as if one had never existed. Because each of us can conceive of eternity despite my or your short existence on the planet, there is a natural tendency to conflate the world with the self. Simpler organisms only know of the ever-changing present, and higher animals have some degree of past and maybe future. Humans live only for several decades — a mere blip in time — but can cosmologically conceive, spiritually or scientifically, the eternity of past and future. Same goes for spatial imagination. A gerbil in a closed box might think of the box as all of space that exists, whereas humans, even in a closed room, can imagine the infinitude of space that stretch in all directions outside the room. If a human who lives for 70 yrs can only conceive of time within those 70 yrs, his sense of time would be fundamentally different from ours. Each of our lives is short, but each of us can conceive of billions of years stretching into the past and future. And yet, it’s just a trick of the mind because our experience of time cannot go beyond what is apportioned to each of us. (It’s possible that some races are naturally more time-imaginative. It could be the Negro is, by nature, more fixed on here-and-now, whereas other races are consciously and emotionally more attuned to the stretch of time. This could be why Negroes be so crazy about instant-gratification. Their emotions be fixed on here-and-now, and so their minds be thinking more in terms of “I’s gots to have me some fried chicken now and shit.”) Terrence Malick’s THE TREE OF LIFE seems very mindful of how even a flicker of lifetime can touch on immensities of time and space. Furthermore, even though the universe is vast and billions of years old whereas a human life is measured only in decades, the knowledge of the universe exists only in the minds of humans. So, the birth and death of each person is like the birth and death of the universe. It gives each of us the impression that ‘I’ matter since the universe seems to have come into being with ‘me’. And even as we know that the universe will go on after we die, there’s a part of us that feels the universe will die with us because even our most objective estimations of reality are processed through our subjectivity. Individual memory is lonely and fragile. It completely disappears with the passing of the person. So, there’s the need for official memory, but even official memory is less about democratized collective memory than selective memory to idolize and/or legitimize a narrative amenable to certain interests or agendas. So, we don’t need to know of most Jews who died in the Holocaust. We don’t know their faces and their names. But we know Anne Frank. And we don’t know of all the individual white folks who moved westward to farm the land and build cities. We only know of some offered up as representative of the whole. As often as not, the most famous or beloved representatives of collective memory are fictional than real. Consider how a lot of Russians know of the 19th century through the novel WAR AND PEACE. And for many Americans, the image of the Antebellum South came from Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND. And for some Americans, the most powerful image of World War II may be from SAVING PRIVATE RYAN or THE SANDS OF IWO JIMA and the most powerful image of the Vietnam War may be from PLATOON. There was once a time when proud Anglo-Americans selectively chose, edited, and promoted certain individuals and narratives as representative of the American Experience. Think of Davy Crockett. “Remember the Alamo”. Robert E. Lee. Charles Lindbergh. Anglo-Americans in their prime emphasized the kind of individuals who would do their people proud while suppressing the kind who weren’t such a credit to their race. And Anglo-American-dominated vision of the nation seemed so dominant and overwhelming that surely many white Americans thought it would last forever simply of its own self-sustaining momentum, like a boulder rolling down a slope(when, in fact, historical memory is more like a never-ending task of rolling a boulder up a slope). It’s so easy to fall for a fallacy. A people may do great things and create a great narrative that apparently possesses the self-sustaining drive to not only perpetuate itself but to assure the greatness of the people for all time. But all narratives, great and small, are only sustained by the powers-that-be. And unless the powers-that-be keep reminding the people with steady doses of the official narrative, the people will forget and not give a damn as your average person is a dodo who mostly only cares about idle pleasures and trendy narcissism. So, when the Jews became the new powers-that-be, they gradually and step-by-step replaced the old heroes with new ones. In some cases, the old heroes were redefined as villains while the villains were rehabilitated as saints. So, the great white men who were once glorified as the heroes of the West were re-branded as ‘genocidal murderers’. And Charles Lindbergh who had primarily been admired for his aerial feat came to be remembered mostly for his ‘antisemitism’. In contrast, all sorts of non-white individuals have been promoted to the top of the canon. And those individuals who’d once been regarded with suspicion or vitriol have been reinterpreted and elevated into sainthood. As ‘good’ and ‘bad ‘in politics is always relative and at the mercy of ideological and/or tribal biases, anyone can be seen as a hero or a villain. In Jew-run America, all decent whites are now compelled to despise Robert E. Lee while praising Nelson Mandela to high heaven.
The final part of Steven Spielberg’s A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE evokes the fragility of memory. Mankind has been extinct for thousands of years, and there is nothing in the world to suggest its past presence or significance. If mankind still matters as a theme, it’s only because elastic robots have an interest in the origins of their own kind. Otherwise, time-and-space is utterly oblivious as to whether mankind had ever existed or not, whether it did ‘good’ or ‘bad’, whether it had existed for a little while or a long time. It’s like whether a pebble or boulder has been dropped into a pond, the pond reverts to itself as soon as the ripples fade. Whether there was no Holocaust, one Holocaust, two Holocausts, hundred Holocausts, or a million Holocausts, it means nothing to time-and-space that simple is. One might say the entire history of life has been a never-ending Holocaust as life is about life devouring life. Imagine if pigs or cows had the means to record and preach their holocausts.

The fragility of memory can gleaned in way THE WILD BUNCH begins. Peckinpah’s Western isn’t so much a culmination of the genre as an ‘authenticist’ recovery of legends lost to the official/popular narrative. The key here is authenticity of legend than authenticity of history. THE WILD BUNCH doesn’t pretend to be historically accurate. Rather, it presents the legends raw and unfiltered. In the time of the Wild West, all kinds of stories, mixes of facts and fiction, and tall tales & rumors were passed around orally and in print. Most were trivial and forgotten, of no significance to anyone but the storyteller. It’s like the old man Pete Maxwell who mutter something to himself while Billy goes off to make love to a woman in PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID. Earlier in the film, Billy recounts a story of some old man who got killed in a duel over a pair of boots before he and his gun down a several men who’d been stalking him. They tell stories of violence and act out violence that will be turned into stories. The talk and the walk go hand-in-hand in the West. Also, storytelling is as much a matter of the teller as of the story. Some people have a knack of turning even a simple story into a lively tale while others kill a perfectly good story or keep what they know to themselves. In the Wild West, the telling and the killing existed side by side. Consider the scene in PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID where Billy sits down to a meal with a family that runs a trading post. Alamosa Bill is there as deputy, which means a gun duel is inevitable between him and Billy. Before the two men get down to it, the patriarch of the place recounts how his oldest son was killed recently. Billy sincerely offers condolences, but shortly thereafter, he shoots down Alamosa Bill in front of the entire family. In our world where people rarely get killed by guns, an account of someone shot dead is an anomaly and has little bearing on the present or immediate future. But in the world of PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID, past tense of violence is mere prelude to more violence in the present and near future. Billy has a way of talking that makes others listen. There’s something about his stature, style, and voice that commands attention, indeed even when he says little.
Legends arise from a mix of facts and fantasy, which is why the Dark Ages of Greece and Britain were so crucial to the rise of Hellenic myths and Arthurian legends. History clears the air, whereas legend thrive on mist. Though the American Wild West was short-lived, there was a Dark Age aspect to it because of the murkiness of all that had happened among the pioneers, mavericks, and outlaws away from the purview of proper record-keeping and historiography. Legends take on a life of their own regardless of the truth. Ideally, a journalist or historian is one who ferrets out the facts and truth, indeed even if it kills a good story. In contrast, legends work according to whatever enlivens the story, even if facts be damned. Of course, much of early Western journalism and historiography favored legend over fact, but in time the rise of professionalism elevated fact over legend. (Strangely enough, Judeo-Homo-controlled Political Correctness has revived back legend-over-fact, as its cult of hysteria feeds on a vision of a bogeyman-infested world of neo-Nazi freaks who go around raping innocent girls in college fraternities. This is a disturbing development because the professional institutions themselves seem to support, enable, and even encourage the corruption of truth. The unreliability of Western legends was understandable given the nature of oral history and storytelling. They were to be taken with a grain of salt as their main value was to kill the time. No one claimed them to be the truth and nothing but the truth, help me God. In contrast, institutions such as colleges, journalism schools, and media outlets exist to verify and uphold facts & truth over rumors, lies, fantasies, and propaganda. But when the very professional institutions and industries trusted to uphold the highest standards of truth allow the likes of Sabrina Rubin Erderly to get away with blatant fraud, then what is truth and who can be trusted? If even the highest institutions push the agenda over the truth, then all standards have been lost. It’s like true justice is just about finished in America when Supreme Court bends the Constitution to serve the narrow interests of Jews and homos. Fish rots from the head, and the very mind of America has grown syphilitic with the Jewish virus. US was ultimately able to deal with the power of organized crime because the Federal Government was sufficiently independent of the influences of Crime Inc. This cannot be said of Mexico were drug cartels have their claws into the very heart of government and military. But Organized Jewry now have their tentacles all over the Fed, the State Department, all the intelligence services, academia, and courts. Individuals not unlike Jordan Belfort and Victoria Nuland are everywhere in elite institutions and industries, and they sneer at the notion ofhigher principles or laws and only care for self interest or the power of the Tribe. Who can we turn to for justice even or especially when the highest echelons of power have been taken over by Jewish Supremacists and homo agents, people who are dementedly neurotic and pathological in their insatiable greed, lust, and hatred?)

In time, a slick genre developed around the Wild West idealized in paintings/portraits, popular fiction, and of course Hollywood movies. To suit public tastes and not to offend the general morals of society, the West was cleaned up and the conflicts were formulated into stories of good guys and bad guys. But the original accounts and tales were raunchier, crazier, and not for sensitive ears. THE WILD BUNCH, in this sense, is like Bob Dylan & the Band’s THE BASEMENT TAPES, an exercise in recapturing the spirited pungency of old-time folk-music before they were streamlined into political tools, academic ethnography, and bohemian posturing. Though BASEMENT TAPES was inconceivable without the folk movement that had inspired Dylan, it was also a rejection of established folk standards as it dug and panned for ‘real’ lost music. (This ‘archaeology’ was as psychological as historical and cultural. Though Dylan and Robbie Robertson & others tirelessly researched traditional music, they also rummaged through the junkyard of their own psyches for creative flotsam and occasional treasures. It was a kind of prankster Platonism. If Plato believed in the mind as the pantheon of perfect forms, Dylan, perhaps channeling Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, approached the mind as a playground of infinite imperfection. Dylan felt he didn’t have to know the thing academically, intellectually, and factually to get to its essence. Music scholars knew more about the facts and details about folk music history but purely as a conscious endeavor. In contrast, the artist connects with the music’s essence and is able to explore its latent counterpart within his own soul. Through creative intuition, he is able to tap into the music’s core in ways that no academic or scholar — like Mr. Jones of “The Ballad of a Thin Man” — ever could. Indeed, American folk music was created in that very manner. Unlearned poor whites and blacks caught bits & pieces of melodies & tunes and, thus intrigued, dug into their own hearts, souls, and balls for inspiration. This is why so many academic music majors achieve little that is original. They learn a lot about music but it’s all conscious. In contrast, some of the most profoundly influential musical figures in the 20th century knew far less but used whatever they came across to tap into their creative juices. If art is all about influence, then artists could only imitate what they see and learn of others. No matter how much he or she gains in knowledge, he or she will only reflect what he or she taken in from others since the conscious mind can analyze and replicate but cannot organically create. But if he or she has a connection to his/her own creative balls/womb, even a sampling of, say a piece of music or a painting, will causes the juices to start flowing. So much of the ‘stuff’ is within us, and it’s only waiting to be fertilized. It’s like, even though much of ancient pagan barbarian culture was lost, its magic was re-imagined by 19th century Romantics while venturing through the forests and mountains of Germany. Even if a lost culture and expression cannot be recovered in exactitude in its originality and form, their essence can be rediscovered within the creative wells of those who dowse with the very stuff that had inspired by ancients. Though art is partly a representation/reflection of external reality, it is also the expression of internal creativity. The surrounding reality may change drastically over time, but our souls remain more or less the same. Thus, even though the ancient Greek and barbarian Germanic worlds are no more, it still holds that merely by examining a handful of artifacts and pondering the nature & landscape of those times, we might find within ourselves the images and words that fired up inspiration then. Many historical films failed because they simply tried to replicate the past with emphasis on external details without delving into the soul of the times. So, while much of the details in Carroll Reed’s AGONY AND THE ECSTASY may be accurate, the film doesn’t feel true. In contrast, Andrei Tarkovsky tapped into the soul of Medieval Russia by finding it within himself. ANDREI RUBLEV convinces not only with its rich details but its moody depths, something Tarkovsky could only discover through his own sensibility. Tarkovsky was able to use the camera as the soulful eye of Lost Russia because he imagined and found the spiritualist world-view of those times within himself. Likewise, Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH isn’t merely an awesome feat of physical revivification the West but a plunge into an authentically imagined world-view of the people there and then. Romanticism taught people to ease themselves from consciousness & transcendence and fall into the organic depths of passion and creativity, a zone where the modern is united with the primal.)

On some level, THE WILD BUNCH owes a good deal to the tradition of the classic Hollywood Western. But it is also a wholesale rejection, a clearing away of all the furniture, tossing out the rug and carpet, removal of floorboards, and excavation into the ground below for the authentic archaeology of Western legends. Consider how the stark b/w stills(like crude photos in old newspapers) alternate with color images in motion. It has the effect somewhat like the use of b/w stills in Chris Marker’s LA JETEE. There’s a hint of time travel, as if we’re being slipped into an actual time and place of the Western past. And the cinematography is so acutely aware of varying tones of light and shadow — consider the interplay of sunlight and shades under the canopy(upon which shadows of tree branches sway)where members of the Temperance Union are gathered or the blue sky and frosty clouds that silhouette Pike riding away alone — that it feels as we are actually there. It doesn’t look like a movie.

It’s in striking contrast to the kinds of color — patina of nostalgia — used in most Westerns. Things look crisp and crackling in THE WILD BUNCH. And precisely because the past has been revived with such exacting detail, the effect is all the more jarring; it’s as if ‘then’ is rudely intruding into the ‘now’; the cushion of temporal distance has been removed, thus undermining our smug complacency that the violence belongs to a world that is no more and can’t touch us.
It’s like what the voice-over narrator says of time travelers in LA JETEE: “This was the aim of the experiments: to send emissaries into Time, to summon the Past and Future to the aid of the Present. But the human mind balked at the idea. To wake up in another age meant to be born again as an adult. The shock would be too great.”

Chris Marker’s LA JETEE: the shock of time travel

And indeed there is an element of shock in the way THE WILD BUNCH begins. Because of the obvious shock of violence upon its release, the subtler shock of temporal displacement has gone underappreciated. From the very opening of the film, something doesn’t feel right because the Wild West, a period the audience had grown accustomed to in terms of Hollywood nostalgia and myth-making, flares into view like the real thing. The very first image is like one of those crude b/w sketch photos of old newspapers. It flicks into moving color, subverting the distance between ‘then’ and ‘now’. The film feels even more dislocating as it’s set in the first year of World War I, a period generally disassociated from the Wild West(essentially a 19th century phenomenon). It’s like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA feels somewhat surreal because it’s like middle-ages-meets-modernity in politics and psychology, what with the British, the most advanced people on earth, allying with medievalist tribal Arabs against the Turks who are somewhere in between. And yet, it makes sense since the pace of change and development varied region-to-region across America and even more between US and Mexico. (There is this sense of temporal dislocation too in the beginning of BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA. Also in STRAW DOGS as the culture of a small English town seems either mired in tradition or resistant to modernity. And yet, what is most freakish is how the young townsmen come across as both archly reactionary and snidely cynical. They seem to be into both kinship loyalty and nihilistic youth sensibility. They are rebel reactionaries, a perverse blend of modernity and medievalism. But then, Dustin Hoffman’s character himself turns into a fusion of intellect and instinct. He becomes like the IDF in a Six Day War against the Arabs, and indeed, what is more modern-and-medieval than Israel, the neo-fascist state?) And of course, even today, there is no ‘temporal uniformity’ across America. NY and San Francisco seem to be in the firmly in the 21st century whereas there are still communities in America that looks and feels like it’s in the 1950s. The Bunch are essentially men of the latter half of 19th century who find themselves confronted with the forces of the early 20th century; and when they ride to some places in Mexico, it could be the 18th or even the 17th century, a place where time stands still. Just by riding from place to place, it’s like they’re traveling through different time periods. (It’s interesting how we associate time with society & culture, indeed as if a certain level of social, economic, and/or technological development should define a certain time period. So, if we say the ‘20th century’, we think of the most advanced parts of the West that came to dominate the world in that period. But what about parts of the world that remained culturally and socially pre-modern in the 20th century. They no less existed in the same time frame of the 20th Century, so why aren’t their socio-economic realities considered as integral to the meaning of ‘20th century’? If Americans drive cars and Arabs ride camels in the 20th century, why are cars symbolic of the century but camels aren’t when, in fact, camels are no less ubiquitous in Arabia than cars are in America? It’s as if the most powerful, most dynamic, and the richest peoples/nations can lay claim to the very meaning of a time period even though there are plenty of other people who live by different modes of existence. Perhaps, this mattered less when the world changed very slowly if at all. In a world where one century is hardly different the earlier one in science, technology, and economics, it makes no sense to associate social reality with time since the features of one period are much the same as those of another. But in a fast changing world, a century can be notably different from the earlier one. As the West began to outpace the rest in terms of change, defining social reality in relation to time began to make sense. It wouldn’t have made much sense to speak of 12th century China and 13th century China. Sure, there would have been different rulers and different crises, but the world of the Chinese would have been more or less the same. Since not much changed except rulers through most of human history, time was often marked dynastically than numerically. And Japanese used to speak of periods in terms of who was Emperor. And Europeans traditionally also associated time periods with who was king or queen. But in the modern era, the mere mention of the ‘1950s’ or ‘1960s’ stirs up images of profound social-economic-technological differences. Where things don’t change much, marking history by numerical time isn’t very useful. Where things change fast, numbers begin to take on meaning. Since West began to outpace the rest of the world, it came to dominate the designation of time itself. But there’s probably an element of ‘Eurocentrism’ as well. After all, there were times when the Arabs, Hindus, and Chinese had been more advanced than the West in science and technology; but when we think of the time between the Fall of Rome and the rise of the Middle Ages, we think of the Dark Ages than of the more illustrious civilization of the Orient in that time period.) For some people, a particular a time period is defined by dramatic change. For others, it is defined by stability or stasis. Indeed, compare West Germany and East Germany during the Cold War. West Germany changed and developed a lot faster than East Germany. And the contrasts were even starker between South Korea and North Korea. One of the reasons for the misunderstanding among various regions in America is that people in different regions experience different ‘historical times’. Places like New York and San Francisco seem to think that they are ahead of(or ‘more evolved’ than) everyone else in time, especially because they believe Barn