This is part 1 of the blog post. For part 2, click here.
All day our hunter
Goes around the isles.
He curses his bad fortune.
No luck him beguiles.
What is there to do?
How can he perform his job?
Never forgets our hunter
That beast’s no easy drop
There went our hunter
To a warm seaside.
Where fishes abounded
On days quiet and bright
There, by the seaside
– Song from DERSU UZALA
What follows are some thoughts on Akira Kurosawa’s DERSU UZALA(1975), a Soviet-Japan co-production based on the memoirs of the Russian explorer Vladimir Arsenyev(or Arseniev). As I’m no expert on the wild life and cultures of the far eastern region of Siberia, my main concern is Kurosawa’s treatment of subject and themes — and their relation to his other works — than on the particularities of actual story, especially as I haven’t read Arsenyev’s book.
The following is also in response to Donald Richie’s appraisal of the work in his classic book THE FILMS OF AKIRA KUROSAWA, still the best single volume on Japan’s most famous film director. Though a must-read, its huffy dismissal of the film as evidence of Kurosawa’s decline as an artist seems unwarranted. Even so, I can sort of understand Richie’s negative reaction as Kurosawa’s career between RED BEARD and KAGEMUSHA is considered by most film scholars as his lean years. Though DERSU UZALA did considerably well in some nations and won its share of awards — including the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film — , it’s generally been ignored by Kurosawa scholars whose narrative has Kurosawa regaining his status as a great director with KAGEMUSHA or RAN. Until re-viewing the film recently, I tended to agree with the general consensus that it’s one of Kurosawa’s weaker films — though I always had a certain fondness for it. Partly, I was influenced by other critics, and the film’s slowness also might have been a factor. But, movies change as we change. Movies that beheld us long ago may lose its charm or seem trite and shallow. Or, we may find new appreciation of a film with the knowledge that comes from life and experience. As Roger Ebert said of LA DOLCE VITA, its personal relevance shifted along with the changing perspectives of his life. Fellini’s film offered a vision of life that he’d wished to emulate, came to live, and finally survived.
Because we project our thoughts, dreams, hangups, and convictions onto the page, canvas, or screen as much as it projects its ideas and imagery onto us, we almost never encounter the same movie or book when we revisit it. Similarly, we can revisit the same place, but we find ourselves in a different place. As the cliche goes, “You can’t go home again.” Paradoxically, revisiting the ‘same thing’ can make us aware of the changes in the course of our lives. If our lives are concerned only with new things, the constancy of change becomes the norm, leaving us with no means to measure how much and in what way we have changed. It is only be revisiting the ‘same old photos’ from the past that we realize where we’d been and what we are now. Though books, art, music, and movies aren’t personal memorabilia, they serve as the mirror or storage of dreams at certain stages of our lives; thus, even the songs of others become ‘our’ songs. A song could define a moment right after high school and serve as a kind of personal anthem. The song could be associated with a heartfelt farewell to youth — from childhood to highschool — and the beginning of the next stage in life. As youth slips away, the meaning of the song changes. It’s no longer the spirited wind behind your back but a reminder of all the broken promises of youth. If some things are best appreciated in youth, some things gain greater meaning later in life. And there is also the matter of one’s biography, temperament, and personal experiences. A person who has lost a dear one might react to a tragic romantic story differently than someone who had no such experience. A person who’d been ‘mugged by reality’ may find himself or herself feeling differently about a certain movie or music that he or she may have liked in the past. Of course, this is no less true of the artist himself. Why did Kurosawa decide on the project of DERSU UZALA? Was it to express a certain gloom he felt in the early 70s? Would Kurosawa have directed a significantly different film — in tone and meaning — if not for the bitter experiences following RED BEARD? To what extent was Kurosawa interested in the subject for subject’s sake, and was it meant as a personal allegory of his own problems as an artist? These are some of the questions we’ll be exploring below.
My interest in DERSU UZALA was recently revived during a recent nature trip. One of the favorite activities of my youth was venturing into the wilderness with my friends and hiking through rugged terrain. Even on occasions when we wandered off the trail and got lost(or nearly), we could always rely on one another. But over the years, it’s become more difficult to persuade friends to go on these trips. Some of them are too busy with family, some have achy joints, some have grown fat, and most don’t have the feeling for nature that I still do. They might agree to go on a trip but mostly to sit around a campfire and take it easy than to do anything strenuous. And so, last year and this year, I found myself going on these trips alone. (My insistence that no one bring high-tech gadgets like iPads, laptop computers, videogames, and etc. — and that cell phones be used ONLY for emergencies — was also a factor.)
On my trip in October, I took with me the Donald Richie book on Kurosawa for nighttime reading. It was an updated version covering the full span of Kurosawa’s career. An earlier edition that covered his films up to DERSU UZALA was probably my first introduction to Kurosawa, at least in book form. So, long before I got to see many of his films, I learned a thing or two about them from Richie’s book — which Dwight Macdonald hailed as “A masterpiece of scholarship… I don’t know any other study of a director’s work that approaches its scope and intelligence.”
So, it was a delight to read the book again, especially as it also included chapters on films since DERSU UZALA, especially KAGEMUSHA and RAN. I hadn’t read the book in many years, and most of the local libraries don’t even carry it — even though it’s considered the definitive book on an important director, but then classic literature on cinema has been vanishing from library bookshelves, what with volumes by Dwight Macdonald, Vernon Young, John Simon, Andrew Sarris, and other film critics and scholars being replaced by stuff like THE PHILOSOPHY OF MATRIX, ILLUSTRATED STAR WARS, THE MAKING OF AVATAR, and etc. (So, I had to order a copy from Amazon.) For whatever reason, I’ve been revisiting Kurosawa’s films again, re-watching the classics and reassessing the films I may have under-valued. And I instinctively felt a Kurosawa book would make an ideal companion for a nature trip since perhaps no other director harnessed the forces of nature as powerfully. Even in films with urban settings like ONE WONDERFUL SUNDAY, the power of nature intervenes in man’s search for meaning. My instincts proved correct, especially in relation to DERSU UZALA. Though I hadn’t seen it for many years, as I trekked through the ridges, valleys, and slopes, the images of the film came flooding into my mind. Though the desolate far eastern Siberia and a national park in Tennessee are worlds apart, Kurosawa captured the essence of what it means to take leave of creature comforts and venture into the haphazard world of nature. (Paradoxically, while we rely on the constancy and routine of civilized order, what we find in our culture are thrills, violence, and suspense. In contrast, while we confront chaotic randomness in the wild, what we find in nature is the great wall of silence, immutableness, and obstinacy.)
Oddly enough, DERSU UZALA has something in common with Sam Peckinpah’s KILLER ELITE. Though Kurosawa’s film isn’t cynical like Peckinpah’s, a sense of resignation hangs over both. This was also true of Peckinpah’s earlier PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, but they were at least fueled by ambition or passion. With PAT GARRETT, Peckinpah was after an art film Western, a testament of everything he believed in as a Westerner and artist. And ALFREDO GARCIA was made in a fit of rage as a manifesto of total artistic freedom; it was to be the Great American Film, especially after the PAT GARRETT debacle that resulted in mutual recriminations between Peckinpah and the studio. But if anything, ALFREDO GARCIA was an ever bigger disaster critically and financially — though it had its share of defenders in Britain — , and Peckinpah’s star seemed fallen for good. “I don’t care what you meant to do, it’s what you did I don’t like.” And most film scholars would agree that the subsequent films — KILLER ELITE, CROSS OF IRON, CONVOY, and OSTERMAN WEEKEND — , whatever their merits, can’t hold a candle to Peckinpah’s earlier films. I think CONVOY is pretty thin — though good as light entertainment — and CROSS OF IRON is a mess — though still one of the best war films of the 70s — , but I think KILLER ELITE and OSTERMAN WEEKEND(a funny kind of spy thriller without spies) — both espionage/conspiracy thrillers — have been misjudged and overlooked. (STRAW DOGS, though not a conspiracy film, also brilliantly conveyed the psychology of paranoia, but then, maybe it came naturally to Peckinpah who was often accused of being paranoid. Indeed, there is an element of paranoia even in his westerns, what with their multiple layers of betrayal and intrigue. The opening scene of THE WILD BUNCH is one of the most paranoia-laden scenes in cinema, with the intrigue of the bunch counter-crossed by the intrigue of the law. And in PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID, you can’t trust anyone, not even your friend, not even yourself.) Pauline Kael’s review of THE KILLER ELITE is one of her best pieces, but it was decidedly a minority opinion. And even most Peckinpah fans dismiss OSTERMAN WEEKEND as a sad and pitiful end of a great film career, a view with which I must take exception. Though I’d hardly rank it as among Peckinpah’s best, it is a most effectively paranoid and claustrophobic film, deserving comparison with the paranoid classics of the 70s. I would rank it up there with PARALLAX VIEW and NIGHT MOVES and above Coppola’s CONVERSATION, which, I think, has been vastly overrated. With KILLER ELITE and OSTERMAN WEEKEND, Peckinpah managed being artful without being arty whereas CONVERSATION is packed with film school self-consciousness. And given the steroid-injected espionage thrillers of late, OSTERMAN WEEKEND seems downright ‘intellectual’ in comparison. The strange thing about THE KILLER ELITE is it is so (comfortably)numbly paranoid, which sets it apart from other paranoid movies of the 70s. There’s no sense of shock in THE KILLER ELITE, as if even surprises aren’t surprising and betrayals are the very essence of business. It’s like the movie is sedated on tranquilizers. It’s like cynicism is a drug we need to control the pain of the disease that is the world. But it’s not even cynical in a hip way. The mode of the main character is less rebellion than resignation. When he finally comes face to face with the friend who betrayed him and hears the truth, he neither wants to play the game nor get his revenge. He only wants to walk away. Later when he takes revenge on a top-level executive, he just goes through the motion without the emotion. Even the scene where a bomb is discovered under the car is done in deadpan manner, as if no one should be surprised to find such thing. Even the revenge is pointless in a world where betrayal is the main business of business; and idealism seems stupid when the ‘freedom fighter’ that James Caan’s character is hired to protect sounds like some zen cartoon character. The movie is even cynical of genre formulations, and is indeed a mix-and-match of spy thriller, martial arts film, buddy movie, and parody. It’s like Peckinpah was just going through the motions(of what the studio wanted of him) without the enthusiasm; he was Pat Garrett hired to do a job. Peckinpah had revved up the engine with THE GETAWAY, his previous genre-formula movie, but THE KILLER ELITE has the feel of a movie made by a director with only one eye open, as if he just got out of bed and can’t wait to lie back down. It was as if Peckinpah was saying that he’s a ‘good whore’, pledging to use his professional eye while keeping his artistic eye shut, but the artistic side of Peckinpah could only feign sleep and indeed personalized the film’s thrust and meaning. Peckinpah played his own spy games with the movie, pretending to be a hired hand while hotwiring the entire film with his angst about Hollywood. But Peckinpah was the sort of man who could never do anything halfway. Once he got involved in something, he had to make it his. Since he couldn’t do it actively in THE KILLER ELITE, he did it ‘passively’ by sucking out all the thrill and suspense from the film. (Peckinpah had one of the most troubled and interesting relations with Hollywood. On the one hand, New Hollywood valued his personality and vision in what seemed like a new era of American cinema that suddenly discovered the ‘auteur’. Many producers wanted to put their names on a film that was as powerful as THE WILD BUNCH. But working with Peckinpah also meant dealing with an egotistical drunkard and wild man — it was like dealing with Randall McMurphy in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST — , and it could mean great financial risk and bruised egos. Thus, the marriage of Peckinpah and Hollywood was one of the craziest in movie history. Hollywood had the money and muscle, but Peckinpah had balls and machismo. Peckinpah regarded himself as a maverick and personal artist but wished to work with professionals in a film industry whose main objective was power and profits. Hollywood wanted safe investments and control over its filmmakers and stars but also wanted to attract the most talented filmmakers who often happened to be rebels and non-conformists.)
Anyway, I bring up THE KILLER ELITE because it was the movie Peckinpah directed after coming to the realization that things would not go his way, indeed possibly never again. His two most personal films — PAT GARRETT and ALFREDO GARCIA — had been resounding failures with both critics and the audience. Peckinpah had paid his dues climbing the ladder in television — mostly writing and directing Westerns — and made his mark with RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY. Regarded as one of the top talents of his generation, he worked next on a big production, MAJOR DUNDEE, but endless problems with the production made Peckinpah persona non grata in Hollywood, unable to direct another feature film until he was approached for THE WILD BUNCH, his triumph and signature achievement. Though far from universally acclaimed, its numerous champions — among them many of the most respected critics — hailed it as one of the most important films of the decade. It is one of the handful of films that could be said to have fundamentally altered the course of cinema, and it surely inspired a whole new generation of filmmakers — though not necessarily for the good. Peckinpah was riding high and his subsequent films prior to PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID — BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE, STRAW DOGS, JUNIOR BONNER, and THE GETAWAY — were either critical or commercial successes, or both. The huge success of THE GETAWAY earned Peckinpah the chance to work on a more personal project, and it was PAT GARRETT, an idea he’d been pursuing since the late 50s when he worked on the original screenplay for ONE-EYED JACKS, from which he was fired by Marlon Brando, its star who also became its director. (Incidentally, Stanley Kauffmann called THE WILD BUNCH the best Western since ONE-EYED JACKS.) The failure of PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID was a big blow to Peckinpah, and ALFREDO GARCIA, a kind of a semi-independent production, was meant to be a revenge against both Hollywood and the critics. He would make a film exactly the way he wanted and prove to the world what he was really capable of. Well, fat chance as ALFREDO GARCIA made Peckinpah something of a joke. It had its defenders in America, especially Roger Ebert who called it a ‘neglected masterpiece’, but it was overwhelmingly dismissed as self-parody of a has-been drunken ham. (Personally, I think it’s a great concept executed poorly.) With his bubble bust, Peckinpah knew that his claim to fame as The Great American Director was over. He needed work, and so he settled on KILLER ELITE, an appealing idea at the time for it combined elements of post-Watergate conspiracy thriller and martial arts movie — then at the height of its popularity thanks to Bruce Lee’s ENTER THE DRAGON. Hollywood figured it would give Peckinpah another chance since he was still the most famous action director in the world. And Peckinpah, licking his wounds, put on the act of a ‘good whore’ who does as he’s told. But Peckinpah being Peckinpah, he slyly personalized THE KILLER ELITE into a bittersweet invective against the world. It was dramatically flat and emotionally disengaged. It’s a world without surprises, where stabbing someone in the back is routine, either as a prank between friends or deadly game between allies. There had always been an element of fatalism in Peckinpah’s works, but THE KILLER ELITE was the first film that resigned to it totally. At least the men in THE WILD BUNCH fought excitedly to the end. At least David Sumner(Dustin Hoffman) in STRAW DOGS discovered his manhood in the thick of violence. At least there is an elegiac quality to PAT GARRETT & BILLY THE KID. At least BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA is fueled by rage and vengeance. In contrast, there is nothing to get worked up over in THE KILLER ELITE. When James Caan’s character asks his friend(played by Robert Duvall) why he betrayed him, the latter says it was just how the game is played. It’s not even cynicism or nihilism with an edge or philosophy behind it. It’s just business and one works for the highest bidder; it’s the fool who trusts anyone, especially oneself. If you don’t wanna be the fool, then you play to win, and that means you have to be ready to step on anyone; but if that’s how one wins, what’s the point of winning? As THE KILLER ELITE is a genre movie without complexly drawn characters, it doesn’t delve into the psychological whys of people’s motives and motions. Thus, a sense of detachment pervades throughout the movie. One might note a quality of zen in the detachment, but it’s too cynical for that; what can be gained with zen in a world of yen? Everyone is resigned to the fact of betrayal, and it is the fool who trusts or believes in anything. And so, we don’t feel any particular sympathy for the ‘good guys’(the Asian political clan on the lam) since they are either naive suckers or ruthless power grabbers themselves — in the manner of The Who’s “We Won’t Get Fooled Again”.
KILLER ELITE just barely broke even at the box office. For the audience, it was like ENTER THE DRAGON or THE GETAWAY with a flat tire. The three leads — James Caan, Bo Hopkins, and Burt Young(indeed the very idea of Young as action star is rather comical) — just seem to be going through the motions, like journeymen boxers without conviction or benchwarmers finishing up the game when it’s already lost. Though the final battle scene is brilliantly staged and edited, the absence of emotions make it all seem like a dance rehearsal. And hooded ninjas attacking men with guns, James Caan’s character with a gimpy knee/elbow knocking out professional killers with his walking cane, and Burt Young’s portly character effortlessly pistol-whipping martial arts experts armed with samurai swords seem like straight-faced surrealism.
THE KILLER ELITE was one of those movies that was too personal & eccentric for the mass audience and too trivial & formulaic to win over the ‘art house’ crowd. That the bloodletting was toned-down to earn a PG rating made the action scenes seem even more disconnected, like violence without the intensity, like a flat-lined orgasm; it’s volcanic as laconic; it was like action movie as conceptual art. And even the nature of the combat, where unarmed Asians in ninja suits partnered with American goons with automatic rifles square off against the ‘good guys’ made up of a father-and-daughter team that does kung fu and their protectors led by James Caan’s character who alternate back-and-forth firepower and fist-power, made little sense even within the context of the genre. So fittingly, during a lull in the fighting, the Caan and his friends break into laughter, as if they know it’s all just a game.
THE KILLER ELITE was Peckinpah’s of surrender to the world — his acceptance of the crash-and-burning of his artistic ambition and resignation to the power of the marketplace — , but even as Peckinpah’s sold his hands to the studio, he wouldn’t surrender his heart. It’s like Cool Hand Luke was willing to dig the hole but not surrender his soul to the ‘Man’. Peckinpah couldn’t win through active resistance — not only because of studio intransigence but critical hostility and audience rejection — , so he settled for passive resistance. He would join the team but do things only in a half-assed way. However, the element of resistance was in being full-assed about being half-assed.
Like a slave resigned to fate but emanating an odor of unease from every pore of his body, Peckinpah lay still as the dead man at his own funeral with THE KILLER ELITE, just like Randall McMurphy after the lobotomy, but not without getting his revenge by stinking up the joint with his willful decay. It’s like Alfredo Garcia, though dead, gets his vengeance on everyone by silently spreading the stink of his rotting head everywhere it goes.
The slave rebellion of New American Cinema sputtered by the middle of the decade, and the slaves were surrendering one by one. Peckinpah and other mavericks of the early 70s had failed in their auteurist putsch to change Hollywood and the movie audience with their daring — some would say ‘self-indulgent’ — films of the first half of the 70s, and most they could hope for was to keep on working. And 1975 was especially a bellwether year for American cinema as wunderkind Steven Spielberg unleashed JAWS, which would soon become the highest grossing movie ever and change the very nature of the movie business.
(Ironically, the biggest threat to the New American Cinema came less from old studio executives than from the younger wunderkinds like Spielberg, Lucas, Landis, Kasdan, and Zemeckis who became like a new breed of filmmakers that might be called ‘execauteurs’. Unlike maverick ‘auteurs’ like Robert Altman, Peckinpah, Arthur Penn, Roman Polanski, John Cassavetes, Bob Rafelson, and Dennis Hopper who saw themselves as pure-blooded artists at odds with blood-sucking Hollywood studio suits, the younger breed of filmmakers sought the role of both director and producer, both ‘artist’ and executive. Lucas sought to own and control the STAR WARS franchise. Spielberg planned on creating his own studio. Lucas produced and Spielberg directed INDIANA JONES movies; it wasn’t always easy to tell who did the writing, producing, and directing on these projects. Lucas was as creatively engaged in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and Spielberg was as involved in the money side of the venture. The romantic image of the ‘artist’ was the heroic and uncompromising figure at odds with the businessman, a man so committed to his vision that he was willing to sacrifice sanity and even life for it. The Faustian pact for an artist was to trade one’s soul for the vision, not for the fortune. So, jazz performers played the music but were preyed upon by business sharks. This martyrdom was part of the mystic of artistic purity. Artist-martyrs were artyrs or martists. And for the first decade of his career, Bob Dylan followed this model, fully invested in his music while leaving the business end to his manager Albert Grossman — who, as it turned out, ripped off Dylan of lots of dough. Beatles also pretty much left the business side of their career to the money-men until they realized that they were being bled dry. The idealism of the Apple Corp. was a big money-loser, and indeed the late boomers who came of age in the 60s didn’t make the mistakes of the starry-eyed romantics of the 60s who seemed to have bought the nonsense about ‘all you need is love’ and other lazy and slack ways of thinking — even though many late boomers such as Steve Jobs claimed to have been profoundly inspired by the Beatles and 60s icons. John Lennon ‘imagined’ a world without possessions while Steve Jobs thought differently and built the biggest business empire in the world. Beatles’ Apple had its computers stolen by the Hell’s Angels, and Steve Jobs’ Apple sold computers to people around the world. But then, it’s also true that John Lennon never really practiced what he preached, and the main reality of 60s popular culture was that it was indeed popular culture, i.e. dominated by the marketplace of consumer tastes and demands. From 1963 to 1970, Beatles were on the top of the world because people wanted to buy their music, not because people wanted to hear their message. Their message followed their popularity, not the other way around.
The romantic notion of the pure artist who doesn’t give a damn about money infected many of the late 60s and early 70s filmmaker. Sure, they enjoyed money and wanted success, but they were primarily obsessed with their status as ‘auteurs’ and artists. In rock music, artists like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison paid the ultimate price for their total commitment to art. Some rockers survived, like Keith Richards, but just look at his face. It’s both horrible — worn out and ravaged by drugs — and beautiful — proof of utter commitment to creativity even at the cost of one’s health, sanity, or life. But not everyone of the boomer generation was willing to go that far or in that direction. Just like there were wild flaming gays and cautious/responsible gays — who, with better chance of survival and success, eventually took over gay culture and movement — , there were wild and crazy boomers and cautious and careful boomers. Though Lucas, Spielberg, and the rest of the gang were eccentric in their own ways, they tended to be social geeks who were afraid to take the romantic plunge into drugs, sex, rock n roll, and counterculture. They wanted to do their own thing, but their idea of ‘creativity’ tended to be more pop-oriented and crowd-pleasing. Their main inspirations were comic books, TV, Disney, and old classic films. In foreign cinema, their favorite was Akira Kurosawa, considered the ‘most Western’ and ‘most American’ of international directors — Europeans included, which may explain why Europeans have been less keen on Kurosawa than Americans have been. They didn’t want to burn out and were indeed afraid to burn out as wildman or crazy artists as Peckinpah, Cassavetes, and others were wont to do. And instead of seeing themselves as the enemy of business, they wanted to control the business. In a way, the bridge between the ideal of the ‘pure auteur’ and the model of the ‘execauteur’ was Francis Ford Coppola. With his own Zoetrope studio, Coppola had a plan of devising a new production system whereby auteurs could be their own businessmen and control their own material. Coppola, unlike Peckinpah and Altman, sought to succeed as both director and executive, and with the great success of THE GODFATHER, it seemed as though his dream would be realized. But in the end, Coppola failed for his business model ultimately favored the ‘auteur’. His model barely survived with APOCALYPSE NOW but crashed and burned with ONE FROM THE HEART and RUMBLE FISH. In the end, if one wanted to succeed as both director and executive, one had to favor entertainment over art, something Lucas and Spielberg instinctively understood.)
DERSU UZALA, released in the same year as KILLER ELITE, was also a transitional work for Kurosawa, both a farewell to the artist he’d been and a foray into uncertain/uncharted territory. Though older than Peckinpah by 15 yrs, Kurosawa had aged better than the American who’d ravaged his health with excess alcohol and drugs in the late 60s and 70s. At the very least, both men had immense egos and had put their (international)reputations on the line to remain relevant in the fast-changing — both fashion-wise and economically — world of cinema. Kurosawa rode high in the early 60s with YOJIMBO and HIGH AND LOW, and then won his greatest acclaim in Japan with RED BEARD. Though the reception for RED BEARD outside Japan was mixed, its huge success in Japan was sweet victory for a man who’d previously been excoriated by his countrymen for reformulating American genres with a dash of Japanese ‘exoticism’ for the export market. In their eyes, Kurosawa was less a Japanese artist than an international manufacturer of goods: like Japanese auto companies imported raw materials and foreign technologies to assemble consumer goods to be sold abroad, it was as if Kurosawa imported Hollywood staples to be remade into global products stamped with label of ‘Japanese’ that didn’t ring true with the Japanese themselves. The validity of Japanese criticism of Kurosawa’s ‘pandering’ to the West is probably impossible to prove one way or the other. There is no doubt that Kurosawa was very conscious of his standing abroad, and he freely admitted that much of his creative inspiration came from the West. On the other hand, despite all the criticism, Kurosawa was probably the most commercially successful Japanese director in Japan in the 1950s and early 1960s, and he probably had as many defenders as critics in Japan. SEVEN SAMURAI was the biggest box office hit in Japan until it was topped by YOJIMBO — in the past twenty years, Japanese box office has been dominated by the works of Hayao Miyazaki, whose works at least up to MONONOKE HIME owe something to Kurosawa. Perhaps, Kurosawa’s main problem with his critics was not so much his ‘western-ness’ as his success with western audiences — as well as with domestic audiences. Success breeds envy and distrust. Success also often becomes conflated with selling-out or grandiosity, of which David Lean was increasingly accused — not entirely unwarranted — beginning with BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. And the mega-success of DR. ZHIVAGO confirmed the suspicion
of many critics that Lean was really nothing more than a superb craftsman of middle-brow kitsch mistaken for art by people who wouldn’t know the real thing if it stared them in the face. Critics everywhere have a tendency to define themselves against the masses, i.e. the critics appreciate something that the masses do not, and, as a result, many of the most successful movies have been disdained by critics while many films admired by critics go neglected by the masses — not always to the critics’ dismay since it confirms their own intellectual and aesthetic superiority over the mass audience. I mean, would ‘radical’ critics be happy if everyone suddenly began to dig Godard? Thus, there’s a problem when a filmmaker or any artist happens to be successful with both critics and audiences. Something just doesn’t seem right, or the artist seems to be having too much of a good thing, and there arises a certain level of skepticism and/or hostility among the critics, leading to backlashes and revisions. In the case of RED BEARD, its star probably rose higher among Japanese critics precisely because it generally failed to make an impression abroad, thus validating the impression among Japanese critics that Kurosawa finally made a truly Japanese film since what is uniquely Japanese must be inaccessible or inscrutable to the non-Japanese.
With the domestic success of RED BEARD, Kurosawa finally felt he emotionally and culturally came home and gained the acceptance of Japanese critics and audience as the ‘most Japanese’ of artists.
But then, life oftentimes sets up the most dangerous traps just when everything seems to be going right. The highpoint of Kurosawa’s career — at least in his eyes — would lead him down the dangerous path in yrs to come. Recall how George Foreman was riding high in the early 70s, indeed considered unbeatable by sports experts, but then there was that disaster in Zaire, from which Foreman never seemed to recover — at least until he mounted an almost unbelievable comeback more than a decade later.
Of course, being a master storyteller, Kurosawa knew all about the strange twists of fate.
HIGH AND LOW begins with a man on the top of the world carefully preparing to outmaneuver his rivals and gain control over the company, only to have everything unravel before his eyes when a kidnapper disrupts his life from out of left field.
The series of misfortunes that befell Kurosawa after RED BEARD turned out to be more than he could handle. Some were beyond his control. With the rise of TV culture, Japanese movie audiences were shrinking rapidly, and studios were less willing to expend big budgets on the kind of projects Kurosawa preferred. Though Kurosawa had his successes and failures, more often than, his gambles had paid off. The studio that produced RASHOMON had planned to dump, but the film became a worldwide sensation and put Japanese cinema on the map. Kurosawa had gone way over-budget and over-schedule on SEVEN SAMURAI, but it became the biggest hit in Japan at the time. Later, Kurosawa had hits with HIDDEN FORTRESS and YOJIMBO, another box-office smash(and Kurosawa made even more money by suing Sergio Leone over A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS). And films like IKIRU and THRONE OF BLOOD won international renown. And though studio grumbled about Kurosawa’s spending two years to make RED BEARD, its great success in Japan yet again vindicated Kurosawa. So, Kurosawa got used to taking chances and making demands. Whatever the challenges or risks, he was proven right time and time again. But his fiasco with TORA TORA TORA left him very bitter. (The project was probably not a wise choice for any number of reasons. Kurosawa was used to having total artistic freedom, something Hollywood was not willing to give him. Also, he was to direct only the Japanese side of the story while the American side would be handled entirely by someone else. Kurosawa hoped it would be a giant like David Lean, but it turned out to be a no-name director. Also, Kurosawa probably had very conflicted feelings about the material. While he appreciated life in a democratic Japan following the end of militarism, he surely had bitter feelings about Japan’s defeat, massive destruction at the hands of Americans, and the humiliation of the Occupation. And even though he knew Japan had been wrong to attack Pearl Harbor, the samurai-warrior side of him surely thrilled in Japan’s magnificent surprise attack. Judging by memos from the film set, Kuorsawa acted extremely erratic and difficult. Donald Richie surmises that Kurosawa was acting crazy on purpose to be fired from the project, but it’s possible that his behavior was the result of his conflicted emotions. There he was, the emperor of Japanese cinema, working as a hireling for Hollywood. There he was, making a movie about Japan’s great and stunning attack on America, all the while knowing that the war came to a horrible end for Japan. Also, while Kurosawa’s authority and status were assured and understood among the Japanese in the making of his Japanese films, it’s possible that Kurosawa felt somewhat insecure under the watchful eyes of American executives and minders on the set, and this made him more imperious than usual. It wasn’t enough for him to have control over the crew but to show the Americans that he was indeed the shogun that no one messed around with. Thus, he may have overplayed the role of ‘emperor’.)
There was also a financial scandal when a young business associate in whom Kurosawa placed his trust turned out to be a crook. (In DERSU UZALA, the main character is defrauded of his earnings by a trader.) With Japanese film studios going out of business or being stripped bare to make TV shows, Kurosawa took a gamble by forming his own film company with three other famous directors. The company was called the Club of Four Knights, and the ‘knights’ were Kurosawa, Masaki Kobayashi(HARAKIRI and HUMAN CONDITION), Kon Ichikawa(FIRES ON THE PLAIN, TOKYO OLYMPIAD, THE KEY), and Keisuke Kinoshita(TWENTY FOUR EYES). In a way, it was like the independent company Liberty Films formed by William Wyler, Frank Capra, George Stevens, and Samuel Briskin in the 1940s.
As the most famous and world-renowned of the four, Kurosawa made the first(and as it would turn out, the only)film for the company, DODES’KADEN, and its utter failure with both critics and audiences was a crushing blow. Kurosawa placed his bets on the success of DODES’KADEN, but its failure was worse than a loss. It was as if all doors were closed to him, and he would never have a chance to make another film. And besides in a shame/honor culture such as Japan, it must have been deeply painful for Kurosawa to have sunk the entire ship(of the newfound company) with its first effort. Kurosawa didn’t merely lose a hand but the entire pot. It was like he lost Battleship Yamato.
The Japanese film industry was only a shell of its former self and had no means or interest to finance Kurosawa’s future projects. Under new conditions, one had to work small or hash out cheapie genre movies. Kon Ichikawa managed to keep working by taking on all manner of projects, but he’d always been an adaptable and versatile director, so different from Kurosawa and Kobayashi who preferred to think and work big. But DODES’KADEN was especially upsetting because Kurosawa had swallowed his pride and worked with relatively small funding to secures success for the newfound company. Alas, the film was an odd combination of playing-too-safe and experimenting-too-boldly. Kurosawa was rehashing many of the old themes of his humanist films of the 40s and 50s. He also recycled the overt didacticism of RED BEARD. But the sense of urgency was gone as Japan in the late 60s wasn’t in the terrible shape it was in following the end of WWII. (Indeed, part of RED BEARD’s appeal may have been that it served as a kind of closure to the first phase of the post-war period. All Japanese had shared in hard times, and everyone had to make do with less, and RED BEARD is about shared sacrifice. Japanese perhaps saw that film as a kind of monument to what they’d gone through as a people. But monuments are built to commemorate the past, not to shape the future. Kurosawa, it seems, got the wrong message and mistakenly thought Japanese people wanted to see more films like it. It was less a dawn than a twilight of postwar humanist ideals. Japanese people embraced RED BEARD not so much for its relevance as for its nostalgia.)
As such, the poverty of DODES’KADEN seemed more conceptual than real — more like characters in a doll house than people in the real world. Fellini returned to his roots in the same vein with AMARCORD few yrs later after the inflated excesses of JULIET OF THE SPIRITS, SATYRICON, and ROMA, but for some reason, Fellini’s stale rehashing of his old formula was almost universally praised.
If in some ways, DODES’KADEN was too much of a replay(without the urgency) of what Kurosawa had done earlier, in other ways it was too eager to be new and different. (It was also too serious/studied and too cute/whimsical at the same time.) As Kurosawa’s first color film, it splattered slum town sets with all sorts of garish paint, resulting in something like kindergarten art school avant-garde-ism. While the subject of poverty was all too real and the characters all too down to earth, the expressive mode was experimentalism that seemed utterly out of place. (Someone like Luis Bunuel could pull off that sort of thing because he didn’t know the meaning of ‘innocence’, ‘sentimentality’, and ‘earnestness’. Bunuel, for all his social leftism, had a very devious and perverse view of human nature, so he could ferret out the strangest things from the simplest happenstance, unwrap the whore from the virgin, reveal the pervert in the saint. He could make a powerful film about poverty but also delight in the decrepit deformity of the human body and soul. Though not overtly religious, Kurosawa was a man of genuine faith in human values, so his avant-garde-ism lacked Bunuel’s razor edge. Bunuel’s experimentalism cut through the skin and bones whereas Kurosawa’s was merely cosmetic.) There was also a dispiriting element in the overall tone of DODESKADEN. If the earlier films featured people struggling for a better and more meaningful life, the later films increasingly associated success with greed/corruption and implied that one should just ‘live a long life eating rice gruel’, as the hero of YOJIMBO says. The young doctor who rebels against the social order in HIGH AND LOW turns out to be even worse(and more greedy) than the rich. Perhaps, this was Kurosawa’s reaction to the ‘loss of soul’ in the rapid economic rise of Japan in the late 50s and 60s. Kurosawa, increasingly seeing the world in terms of masters and students, couldn’t have been pleased by the nihilistic/consumerist culture of the younger generation of the Japanese. He’d grown up with a fascination with the West, but his interest had been with art, ideas, and values from abroad, and he’d blend the best of the West with the East. In contrast, the new generation of the Japanese in the 60s seemed like they didn’t care for much but money-for-money-sake, fashion-for-fashion-for-sake, thrill-for-thrill-sake, and etc. (And even the Japanese Left became increasingly thrill-oriented, making trouble just for the spectacle and joy of making trouble.) Kurosawa’s anti-wealth bias could be seen as ‘leftist’, but it was just as easily conservative. In feudal Japan, certain samurai scholars argued that the lower orders should remain in their place instead of trying to gain or advance beyond their stations. The samurai-led order was supposedly the best of all possible worlds, and so, everyone should bow down to the existing system. Kurosawa was of a samurai lineage. There were merchant scholars who’d challenged such notions — though diplomatically and gently as overt disrespect for the samurai caste could end up getting their heads chopped off — and argued that every caste/class was important and precious in its own way and should do their best to advance their fortunes and interests. The samurai order having faded away when Kurosawa was born, the only way its ‘prejudices’ could be kept alive was through militarism or, oddly enough, something like humanism. It could have been that Kurosawa was drawn to the Christian humanism of Dostoevsky because of its cult of stoicism. The ideal samurai way was to lead a simple and spartan life, to serve the social order than to serve oneself. Stocism was also a key component of most peasants who toiled year round to grow enough food to survive. SEVEN SAMURAI is a paean to stoic samurai and toiling peasants. Its least savory character is a peasant named Manzo who has the heart of merchant and seeks to horde and own more than others. (His possessiveness even extends to his daughter whom he disguises as a boy so that samurai won’t get her. On the other hand, we never see Manzo’s wife, so maybe his attachment to his daughter is understandable; she’s become like his surrogate wife than merely a daughter to raise and give away to another man.) Sympathizing with the poor can be said to be ‘leftist’, but true leftism calls for the poor to unite and fight to overthrow the order. But Dostoevsky’s ‘conservative’ sympathy for the poor was premised on the notion that the poor should be stoic in their saintly acceptance of life’s miseries. Dostoevsky’s most saintly character is Mishkin in THE IDIOT who, upon inheriting a big fortune, has no use for it. He is financially and emotionally giving as opposed to possessive, which is the case with everyone else. (There is an echo of Mishkin in the character of Dersu Uzala.) For this reason, some film scholars have accused Kurosawa of being a reactionary. Though “live a long life eating rice gruel” sounds like a condemnation of greed and an extolment of the common man, it could also be interpreted as “if you are of the lower order, just stay there and don’t think of climbing out.” And indeed, there is a feeling of contentment and harmony in many of the lives of the poor in DODES’KADEN. Though sad stories are intermixed with funny/happy ones, the overall message of the movie seems to be, “accept life for what it is and find happiness/meaning in small things.”
Just as Peckinpah found it ever more difficult to get backing for his personal projects, Kurosawa found it nearly impossible to work in Japan. So, after a considerable hiatus, he was able to make a film for the Soviet Union. Unlike Peckinpah, Kurosawa’s place in the cinematic pantheon was secure at the time, and despite lean years following RED BEARD there was still great prestige to his name, especially as a new generation of directors often cited him as their ‘master’. So, it’s understandable why the USSR approached Kurosawa. It would be mutually beneficial to both sides. Soviet Union, too often considered a repressive cultural backwater by the West, would be associated with a great artist, and Kurosawa, unable to make movies in his own country, would gain renown as an international director. And given that Kurosawa’s collaborative efforts — RUNAWAY TRAIN and TORA! TORA! TORA! — with the US had crashed and burned, his directing a film for the USSR might even have had propaganda value for the USSR, i.e. crass capitalist America shut its door on a great artist whereas soulful and socialist Russia rolls out its red carpet to him. (As it turned out, the long shooting schedule, high costs, and mounting tensions ensured that USSR would not collaborate with Kurosawa again, and oddly enough, Kurosawa would be ‘rescued’ in the coming decade by Americans Coppola and Lucas.)
Paradoxically, Kurosawa was riding high hanging low. His great period had been in the 50s and early 60s, and most film critics/scholars thought he was past his prime after RED BEARD. And Japanese movie industry and audience tastes had changed so much that Kurosawa was considered old-fashioned. In the 70s, Kurosawa was like an exiled king. He lost his domain but still retained the title of ‘master’. So, it was an honor for the USSR to fete Kurosawa, and it was a chance for Kurosawa to play emperor of world cinema yet again. But as the B.B. King song said, the thrill was gone. Though Kurosawa was working again, he was a shadow of his former self(though the shadow added nuances missing in his earlier films), and this very theme would be explored in his next film KAGEMUSHA. Kurosawa’s warrior phase had ended with DODES’KADEN, which, for all its static slowness, featured Kurosawa fighting the good fight and trying to make his mark as a filmmaker who still mattered. By the time he directed DERSU UZALA, Kurosawa was working in the veteran(of a lost war) mode, as was the case with Peckinpah with THE KILLER ELITE. There is a sense in both films that the fight has been lost and the most one can do is carry on in the shadow of better days. So, the characters in THE KILLER ELITE trust nobody and believe in nothing, but they do what they do because it’s the only thing they know how to do. In a way, THE KILLER ELITE presented ‘whoring out’ as a kind of personal philosophy: If you’re a whore and know you’re a whore and have no pretenses about what you are or what you must do to survive, it’s a kind of a integrity in a world without integrity. A true warrior fights for ideals, for things that really matter. A veteran of a lost war hangs around. He’s done and seen too much to believe in anything or anyone, including himself. But since his entire life had been in the fight, he can’t just walk away — even if he knows it’s meaningless. There is this sense in KAGEMUSHA, a sense of impending doom after the lord dies. The clan maintains its aura of invincibility by propping up a shadow puppet to fool the rivals — and most of its clan members — that the great lord is still alive, but it’s all a charade. But even if something may have no meaning, it is human nature to want to be part of something, to cling to some kind of meaning, to have something to live for and die for. The thief at the end of KAGEMUSHA cannot walk away from the battlefield after the clan he’d served has been wiped out. By his meaningless gesture of dying for the vanquished clan(to which he’d never really belonged), he finds his own meaning.
The Kurosawa who directed DERSU UZALA was, in a way, a dead man come back to life. After the debacle of DODES’KADEN, Kurosawa attempted suicide and miraculously survived. A man so devoted to filmmaking couldn’t conceive of living without it, just like some Japanese during WWII couldn’t conceive of living without sacred Japan ruled by the Emperor. (Though Peckinpah never attempted suicide, BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, his most autobiographical film, could be seen as a death wish film.) Just like a boxer who’s been KO’d rarely makes a full comeback, the Kurosawa that worked on DERSU UZALA was not the fighter he’d once been. Like an aging boxer who relies more on his experience and reputation than spirit and strength, Kurosawa was looking to survive the rounds than to regain the title.
And yet, in some ways, DERSU UZALA was a profound new start. It was the first film he made outside Japan. He had to work with crew members who spoke a different language. The film was shot in 70 mm using heavy and elaborate equipment. The subject of the story were Russians and indigenous peoples of far eastern Siberia, something Kurosawa knew little about. (Though Kurosawa was well-read in Russian literature, he couldn’t have known the nuances of Russian culture — and his limitations showed in his ludicrous version of Dostoevsky’s THE IDIOT in the early 50s — and the ways of nomadic tribesmen of the Siberian tundra.) Thus, in terms of production and logistics, story and subject, location and crew, and etc., this was the boldest venture in Kurosawa’s career — and one wonders how he might have approached the material had he directed it in the 50s or early 60s when he was full of fighting spirit.
Kurosawa embarked this most challenging venture in the autumn of his career, and indeed, it is fitting that the film begins in autumn when leaves are turning red and yellow and chilly winds are stirring through the forest. It is also about the autumn of a hunter’s life as he begins to lose the skills and senses that have allowed him to survive in the harsh environment. One might say the film is something of a downer, indeed the first in the Downer Trilogy that would later include KAGEMUSHA and RAN. Kurosawa had made depressing films before — RECORD OF A LIVING BEING(aka I Live in Fear), THRONE OF BLOOD, and BAD SLEEP WELL — , but there was an intensity keeping lit the flame of life; the mode was tragic than elegiac, individualistic than cosmic; man could be lost in the world but the world was not necessarily lost to man.
In contrast, there is a pall that descends over the entire story of DERSU UZALA, and there is a bleak sense of resignation in the doom and destruction of KAGEMUSHA and RAN. They don’t just seem to say that life is full of tragedies but that world itself is a vast unfathomable mystery, with happiness and meaning being mere respites from the blackness. Though Kurosawa was never overtly religious in his films, his earlier films seemed to be imbued with samurai-shinto spirit and something like Christian humanism. In contrast, DERSU UZALA, KAGEMUSHA, and RAN seemed to be informed by something closer to Buddhism. The Takeda clan that seemed so invincible vanishes in a single day. Its emblems of wind, fire, and forest that signified its power scatter and fade into the air. Takeda clan was known for being “Swift as the wind… Quiet as a forest… Fierce as fire…”, but in the end, they blow away like the wind, burn out like a fire, and turn silent like a forest. The sheer effort and difficulty involved in building something gives the impression of its invincibility. Thus, the symbol representing the lord in KAGEMUSHA is the mountain. But in fact, there is no mountain-ness in any power structure created by man. What took years, even centuries, to build can vanish almost instantly. What seemed like a mountain was but a tower that could be knocked down or a hill that would wash away in a mudslide. Romans spent centuries building their empire, and with all their monumental architecture and sculptures, it seemed as though Rome would be the eternal city, invincible and impervious. But just because it was difficult to build something doesn’t mean it’s equally difficult to destroy it. It may takes hours to build a giant snowman, but it takes only a few minutes to lay it low. A boxer who trained for a full year for the fight can be knocked out in the first round. An airplane that took many years to build can be brought down with a faulty engine.
Perhaps, this is why so many white Americans are blind to the fact of what has happened to their nation. In the two hundred years of American history from 1776 to 1976, Americans worked hard with grit, determination, and spirit to build a great nation, and indeed, America became the most powerful, richest, and seemingly invincible nation on Earth. And economically and militarily, it will likely remain that way in years to come. And since white Americans had been at the center of the creation of this great republic, they thought their power would remain fixed and permanent. But within a few decades, the white Anglo-American elites were gone, white pride and power have grown extinct, and the white majority will be a thing of the past. Jews own the nation, blacks kick white boys’ butts and take white women, Third World immigrants are flooding in, and etc. Sure, whites are still the dominant group in America economically, politically, and etc, but they are not serving white interests but anti-white interests and continue to dig their own graves. Similarly, Europe is still ruled and dominated by Europeans, but the modus operandi of the elites and most of the electorate is to self-destruct. Maybe for all these white people, self-destruction or racial suicide doesn’t seem so frightening since it sounds more like a conceit than an actuality. It’s like the elitists in ZARDOZ — film by John Boorman — have no idea of the true horror involved in the fall of civilization. As ‘Eternals’, they’d grown so used to the idea of their permanence that the idea of their demise seemed like just another game. But when it finally comes, they are defenseless and terrified. Similarly, most Europeans have been secure in their white homeland for so long that the prospect of their civilization falling to Third World non-white mobs sounds more like a hip idea than a real danger. Even if some whites welcome the downfall as atonement for white ‘historical evil’, they are able to indulge in such fantasies because it seems so fantastic. It’s much easier to fantasize virtuous self-sacrificial scenarios if their full consequences seem distant or hypothetical, and this is certainly true of European elites who live in their own cloistered privileged world that isn’t much different from the enclosed world of the Eternals in ZARDOZ.
Generally, two kinds of whites go for liberalism. There are the affluent whites who adopt it as a badge of privilege. It makes them feel holier-than-thou and more intelligent and compassionate. If such whites adopt liberalism because they don’t have to deal with the actual problems of ‘diversity’, another kind of whites adopt ‘liberalism’ out of defeat. Having been abandoned by the white elites, they have no choice but to live with growing numbers of Negroes and ‘people of color’. Resistance becomes futile since most black guys can whup white guys. Besides, if white guys were to unite to fight the Negro, the white elites will denounce them as ‘racist’ and throw them in jail. (When whites in London united to fend off black rioters, the British police clamped down on them.) So, many such down-and-out whites have no choice but to surrender to Negro domination. A kind of Stockholm Syndrome mind-set takes place. Especially with more white girls going with Negroes, the white guy can either fume impotently or accept the new order as ‘cool, hip, badass, and progressive’ by putting on the ‘whigga’ act. If angry white guys could pool their racial rage collectively and fight against the Negro threat — as most whites both in the South and North had done until the 1960s — , then it makes sense to reject liberalism and fight for one’s race. But if white guys are not allowed to unite and fight for white power, they can only fume wimpily while the world is changing all around them. (The white masses, no matter how angry, will not take action for the group interests unless there’s an effective white leadership, but nearly all of white leadership has been bought by Jewish Supremacists. Rule of history is the masses never lead themselves no matter how bad things get.) So, a “if you can’t beat em, join em” mentality comes into play. There was a time when most white working class guys would never have voted for some Negro as president, but in 2012 many did because they saw no point in white power since even the GOP was into MLK worship. With both parties howling “racism is evil, racism is evil”, a lot of working class white guys have figured the racial theme is gone forever for whites in national politics. Since both parties tell whites to bow down before MLK — and get all weepy and go boo hoo hoo — and since Mitt Romney would rather defend bailing out Wall Street than bailing out American auto companies, the white working class has no choice but to go with the Negro who offers more freebies.
People are drawn to emblems and symbols that mythologize their lives. Such things lend a sense of grandeur and permanence to lives that come and go. And so, in many battles of the past, the flag-bearer was seen as playing a central role. Though in material terms, he was carrying a piece of cloth on a stick, the flag symbolized the collective will, power, and destiny of his side. So, if he got shot, another person would take flag and carry on. The flag displayed the sacred symbol of the people, signifying its origins, values, ideals, and/or dreams. For the soldiers — many of them surely to fall in battle — , the flag assured that they were not dying in vain for the symbol would live on and be carried by future soldiers. Thus, one of the most iconic images of WWII is the raising of the American Flag on Iwo Jima and the installing of the Soviet flag in Berlin. Because of the magical power of symbols, the victorious side often makes a grand gesture of utterly destroying the symbols of the losing side. The Soviets didn’t merely hoist their flag on German soil but trashed Nazi flags before Stalin and the generals in Red Square. And the Allies didn’t merely take down the Nazi symbol from the Nuremberg Stadium but blew it to smithereens to send a message that Nazism hadn’t just been defeated here and now but forever. This is also why the Nazis were hellbent on removing every vestige of Jewishness in Germany. Nazis not only destroyed synagogues — just like communists in Russia and Spain destroyed countless churches — , they even dug up Jewish graves, an act meant to symbolize the uprooting of the claws of Jewish influence from the European soil.
Human communities create symbols to unite the people not only socially but temporally. The American flag, for instance, not only unites all living Americans but Americans past, present, and future. Thus, symbols are meant to last forever, but of course, nothing lasts forever. So, when a new order comes into being and makes its own claim of permanence, it tends to displace earlier symbols of ‘permanence’. Paradoxically, the removal of the old symbols of permanence — of the vanquished side — betrays the impermanence of the victorious side as well, for if the previous symbol of permanence didn’t last forever, what is to assure the permanence of the new one? Every order makes a claim of being the new 1000 Yr Reich, but few ever last that long.
Social orders can fall by foreign conquest, as when the Byzantine Greeks fell to the Ottoman Turks. The Turks destroyed much of Christian symbolism but in some cases, they converted what had been Christian churches into Islamic mosques.
Sometimes, the social order implodes from within, though often under the pressure from the outside. Two such examples are the fall of Tokugawa Japan in the 19th century as the result of foreign pressures and the fall of the Soviet Union as it couldn’t keep up with the West in the Cold War. Neither feudal Japan nor communist Russia were conquered, but the entire social structure underwent drastic changes from within, not least to better deal with foreign pressures and challenges.
The most insidious kind of change or revolution is when the symbols remain the same but the content and structure of power change radically, and this is precisely what happened in the America when Jews gained elite power from the 1960s to the 2000s. Since Jews, at only 2% of the population, couldn’t conquer America from the outside, they wiggled into the command centers — of the academia, media, law, finance, government, etc. — from the inside, built bridges and networks among the command centers, and changed the entire meaning of what it means to be American culturally, politically, demographically, sexually, legally, and ideologically. Thus, Jews haven’t torn down the American flag but wrapped it around the mulatto punk Obama. And Jews haven’t banned Christianity but associated it with sanctuary for illegal aliens, ‘gay marriage’, and statist policies favoring their allies. And instead of tearing down Ronald Reagan, Jews have associated Reaganism with Obama-ism. Thus, Reagan, who’d become the most important symbol of conservative triumph in the post-war period, has been turned into a pro-mulatto symbol. (Jews would have us believe that they push back because they’ve always been pushed around by other peoples, but Jews are a pushy people who’ve always been pushing and then pushing some more. Jews push even those who treat them nice. If you’re a white guy and invite a Jew to your house for dinner, he will push you to serve him more food, push you to give him cash, push you to have him hump your wife, push you to have him hump your daughter, push you to hand over the keys to the house to him, and finally tell you to leave the house while he takes ownership. If at any point of the way you push back and say no, you will be denounced as an ‘anti-Semite’.)
If some Jewish radicals tended to be contentious and off-putting, other Jews like Saul Alinsky figured that the most effective way of undermining America was not attacking it head on but to wrap its sacred symbols around anti-American agendas and values. Of course, Alinsky wasn’t the pioneer of this idea. During the Spanish Civil War, American communist volunteers didn’t call themselves the Karl Marx Brigade or Vladimir Lenin Brigade but the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. And Jewish communists in the 1950s who had nothing but contempt for the American system wrapped themselves with the US Constitution and pretended to be diehard supporters of the First Amendment to protect themselves from the so-called ‘Red Scare’, and, of course, they had the full backing of the liberal Jewish media. (According to Jews, warning the American people of the communist threat was ‘hysteria’ and ‘paranoia’, but there was nothing wrong with the anti-Nazi and anti-Japanese hysteria during WWII that had Americans believe that US coastline was surrounded by German submarines and that American farmlands were about to be invaded by ‘Japs’ — even though such hysteria has serious consequences for over 100,000 Japanese in America. And Jews find no hysteria in the antics of ADL and $PLC that see Nazis and KKK everywhere. Furthermore, Jews fan the hysteria about ‘war on women’ and would have every white woman believe that the GOP is planning to pass a Christian version of Sharia law against her and her sisters. And crazy Jews who fanned the anti-Iranian flames in the media and academia still have their jobs and status. Though Iran has no nukes, it’s okay to be hysterical about Iran blowing up the world. Though Israel has over 300 illegal nukes, if you dare mention this fact and point out Jewish hypocrisy, YOU are a ‘hysterical anti-Semite’. Jews can do anything and get away with it. Though a cabal of Jews passed atomic secrets — the most carefully guarded secrets in America — to Stalin the mass-killer and though FDR and Truman’s administrations were teeming with communist spies and sympathizers, most Jews think HUAC was a far greater evil than Jewish radicals who were hellbent on undermining the American system. This is the nature of the Jew. Utterly self-righteous, self-centered, and self-interested. This is why Jews have been hated and distrusted wherever they went, and this is why white folks have no future UNLESS they wake up to the true nature of the Jewish character and power.) So, in the American historical imagination, a bunch of communist agitators, subversives, and agents of the 40s and 50s have come to be remembered as more patriotically American than the anti-communists who ‘hounded’ them. Using this logic, one could argue that KKK is more pro-American than the liberals who hound them since KKK champions free speech against political correctness. In truth, while the Constitution allows anti-American speech and sentiments, the mere fact of defending free speech doesn’t make one pro-American. A radical Muslim who wants to blow up America may be for free speech, if only to defend his own, but that doesn’t make him pro-American. Similarly, just because radical Jews in the 1950s invoked the US Constitution for legal protection doesn’t make them patriotic. They were merely hiding behind American laws to undermine the American order and system.
What happened between the 1960s and 2000s is a Silent Revolution, and it is all the more frightening that this radical change happened without firing a shot. Jews, being the masters of psychology, figured out that the TV is mightier than the pen and sword. It’s so messy and bloody to defeat millions of bodies in war. It’s much easier and effective to conquer millions of souls through the control of the media, imagery, terminology, etc. As Steven Spielberg knows, if you control the movies, you control the collective dreams of the people. So, a show like WILL & DISGRACE increased the support for ‘gay marriage’ in a few yrs from less than 50% to over 50%. Instead of holding a gun to people and forcing them to do things, the trick is to manipulate them so that they believe they’ve arrived at their own conclusions. Manipulate people feel certain emotions through music, TV, and movies. Make them feel happy, sad, angry, guilty, and etc. in relation to certain kinds of images. This sort of thing is nothing new, but the SCIENCE of manipulation has risen to such heights that there is now almost no difference between entertainment and advertising. Even things that purport to spill the beans on the vast factory machine of deception and manipulation use the very same methods to offer what amounts to counter-myths. Instead of truth vs advertising, we have advertising vs advertising. So-called radicals like Oliver Stone and Michael Moore are no more to be trusted than the controllers of the mainstream media — and indeed, Stone and Moore have now become safe insiders pretending to be outsiders. Similarly in the art world, a ‘bad boy’ artist can use his ‘bad boy’-ness as a brand and rake in literally millions of dollars. He purports to mock the art world of hype and commerce, but his critique itself becomes a celebration, and he too is appropriated — often happily and willingly — by the system. The cultural changes since the 60s didn’t just dissolve the barriers between high brow art, middle brow art, and low brow art but dissolved the barriers between the establishment, the critics/scholars, and the artists. So, if a so-called ‘radical’ artist battered(or knocked) at the door of the establishment from the outside, he’d be let inside and be battering at the door from the inside while still pretending to be battering it from the outside. It’s all like a Monty Python skit.
And, look at America today: Mulatto boy Obama as the gay black messiah as president. And enough white Americans are brainwashed enough to vote for him again and re-elect him in 2012. And even whites who didn’t vote for him will say something trite like, “but it’s wonderful thing because it means ‘we’ve come a long way’”, meaning that America has been so ‘evil and racist’ in the past that we should feel happy to be so ‘tolerant’ and ‘enlightened’ as to have some black guy as president. In other words, surrendering to Jews/Negroes/gays and national/racial suicide are enlightenment. I suppose European nations too will have come a long way when they all have black presidents. And boy, we just can’t wait for the Vatican to be taken over by Africans and Asians! It sure will have come a ‘long way’. Just look at Elena Kagan and Sotomayor. Boy, we sure have come a ‘long way’. Consider white Republican senators who voted for the fat hideous Jewess and the ‘wise Latina’. Consider the fact that white people re-elected Obama even after he came out for ‘gay marriage’ and appointed anti-white and anti-constitutional justices like Sotomayor and Kagan. A radical revolution has taken place. White Americans have been utterly destroyed and overthrown, but so many of them don’t know it yet because the symbols remain the same. Obama is in the White House, he is surrounded by American flags, and people still cook out on Fourth of July. Of course, Jews have been able to get away with this because they gained control over the media, and it’s been aided and abetted by the bland wimpiness of white liberals(without the backbone of racial pride and survival) and by the bland mediocrity of white conservatives whose idea of intellectual debate has centered around moronic issues like School Prayer, Pro-Life nonsense, and the utter meaninglessness of Christian Zionism. Though white conservatives attack white liberals, they actually have much in common. They compete in the game of who is the bigger ass-kisser of Jews and who is the bigger fan of MLK the two-faced jigger-jiving punk.
If the hideous and venal Jews have appropriated certain American symbols to their own advantage, certain symbols must be stamped out, and this is why targeting the symbolism of the Confederate Flag is so important. Only part of the reason has to do with slavery and Jim Crow. What Jews don’t like about the Stars-and-Bars is it signifies white resistance PLUS the white enshrining of their resistance. It’s not enough that whites lost the war in the South. What Jews can’t stand in the notion that southern whites have memorialized their tragic history, thus keeping lit the torch of white pride, consciousness, and tragedy(and victim-hood, but of course, only Jews, blacks, and gays are allowed to hog victim-hood). The South lost militarily but not spiritually, and in the end, the spirit can be more powerful than the gun, and this is why Jews are so eager to crush the spirit of white defiance. Jews want to ‘de-Nazify’ the South(even as Zionists in Israel continue to advance their heinous policy of enslaving the Palestinians). Generally, all sides have sacred memories linked to wars. So, even if their side lost or was on the ‘wrong side of history’(even in victory), there is a sense that their sacrifice and deaths should be remembered and honored. But, this has been denied to the Germans in relation to WWII, and by association, all German wars. Germans are not even to honor their war dead. They are only to hate their history and regard their soldiers of past wars as nothing but mass killers. Now, one can understand why Jews — and many Europeans — would feel this way about Germany and WWII. Nazi Germany was pathologically aggressive and committed unimaginable horrors. And Hitler’s vision of conquest of the East was so ghastly that it’s near impossible for any decent person to feel much sympathy for German Wehrmacht of WWII. Nevertheless, most people who fought wars never had a choice. Your average German who served in the Wehrmacht served for the same reason any American served in the US military. They were called to duty, and it was expected of them to serve the nation. When Bush ordered American soldiers into Iraq, they did as told. Even ones who thought Bush was an idiot and criminal followed orders just the same. In every society, soldiers are not taught to think but to follow orders. So, the military, especially the common soldier, cannot be blamed for fighting in wars. If Hitler had ordered his men not to fight, they wouldn’t have fought. When German soldiers were ordered to greet Soviet troops as comrades in the invasion of Poland, German soldiers did just that. When Hitler told his men to invade Russia, they did that too. But the same dynamic was at work in Japan, Russia, France, Britain, United States, China, Greece, Italy, and just about any nation. Soldiers are like attack dogs. They do as they’re told. And it’s no different in the US. If we really expect soldiers to act morally, they should be allowed to decide as individuals whether they want to fight or not in any given war. But that option isn’t allowed even in the United States. If Obama orders American troops to invade Syria tomorrow, they’ll do it, no questions asked. (And if soldiers stood up to Obama, liberal and even conservative media will attack them as ‘traitors’.) Especially in a nation ruled by civilian authority — and Nazi Germany was no different in that regard — , the military has no say in policy. It takes orders from the civilian authority. Suppose Obama ordered a war, but American military commanders and soldiers refused to obey in their conviction that the war is unjust, illegal, or unconstitutional. Liberals would howl with fury that the military is refusing to obey civilian authority. If the military must obey civilian authority, then the German military had no choice, at least under the law, but to follow Hitler’s orders. While there’s no whitewashing the fact that many German soldiers committed unspeakable horrors, the fact remains that they did as ordered, and in that sense, weren’t any different from American military men who also did as told without individual conscience or moral choice. When commanders ordered Americans to carpet-bomb Dresden to smithereens, American bombers carried out the orders without question. When the US Air Force was sent to bomb and burn Tokyo down to the ground, who among the American military brought up the moral issue? The thing is soldiers must do as they’re told, and so, at the very least, we cannot blame most German soldiers for having fought in WWII. And so, even though Hitler was a scumbag and the Nazi elite was made up of some of the most unsavory characters to gain power in Europe, most German soldiers simply did as they were ordered. They did their duty as soldiers, and at least on that count, their tragedy should be memorialized, if only as a historical lesson. Also, even among the bad guys, there are men of great courage, honor, sacrifice, and nobility — and even among the good guys there are plenty of sickos, sadists, and psychopaths in war. And the fact that so many young men lost their lives horribly is something that future generations should remember. Vietnam War was a tragic defeat for the US, but the Vietnam Memorial has meant a great deal to Americans because the men who died were simply serving their country.
But Jews don’t care about any of that when it comes to white people, especially those deemed to be enemies and/or rivals of Jews. So, Jews want Germans to spit on the grave of every German soldier who served in WWII. Paradoxically, Jews hate the Nazis with such virulence because, in some way, they are so much like the Nazis, and Nazis hated the Jews so much because they(the Nazis) were, in some ways, like the Jews. In a way, Hitler understood this. Both the ‘Aryans’ and ‘Semites’ were competing in the ruthless racial war of survival and supremacy. According to Hitler, the ‘Aryans’ were the race of the bright shining beauty whereas the ‘Semites’ were the race of dark crooked ugliness. ‘Aryans’ were like lions and tigers. ‘Semites’ were like rats. But what they had in common was the ruthless commitment to totality, survival, and domination. According to Hitler, the ‘Aryans’, as the noble race, fought straight and fair. The ‘Semites’, as the cunning race, fought deviously through subversion and contamination. The great appeal of Hitler was he was the ‘Jewish Aryan’. He would fight for the noble ‘Aryan’ race whose virtues were honesty and courage, but he, the mutant Jew-like ‘Aryan’, would out-Jew the Jew. Having risen from the gutter and imbued with a pathological set of genes, Hitler sensed that he was infected with filth both inside and outside. Though he worshiped ‘Aryan’-ism, something about him was ugly, unpleasant, and repellent — almost like the physical and personality qualities of a Jew. Since he lacked the sterling qualities of the ideal ‘Aryan’, he gave his life to serving as the great champion of ‘Aryanism’. Thus, his ugliness would be redeemed. He the ugly man would do ugly things against the ugly world to clear the way for beautiful ‘Aryanism’. The paradoxical thing about Hitler was he was both the biggest master and the biggest dog of Nazi Germany. He was the biggest master as the great Fuhrer whose every word became the law of the land. But he’d grown up with a burning inferiority complex, with such a huge chip on his shoulder, that he saw his entire life as a sort of personal redemption by risking everything to create the perfect utopia for the ‘Aryan’ kind. Like a dog eager to please his master, Hitler could never sit still and take it easy. He could have stopped in 1939 after taking Sudetenland and won respect as a leading statesman of Europe, but he had to serve his vision of ‘Aryanism’ to the end. Though he was the leader of the nation, he felt himself to be a servant to the historical will and destiny of ‘Aryanism’. Thus, the real master was the ideal of ‘Aryan’ beauty and nobility, and he was to be the agent of bring it to fruition. Therefore, he felt compelled to risk everything to accomplish this mission. He was master over his people but a running dog of history. There is something similar in the character of Ethan in THE SEARCHERS. He’s a rather unpleasant and rough character. He’s something of an exile even among whites. He’s too gruff and strong-willed to get along with people; he even has problems with his own brother. Paradoxically, precisely because he can’t fit into white society and feels as an outsider, he wants to prove his worth by being its main defender against the forces that threaten its well-being. And so, he fought for the South in the Civil War because the freeing of the slaves can lead to wild Negroes running around like savages and raping white women. So, he’s especially bitter about the Indians who are at war with white settlers. Just like Hitler the ugly ‘Aryan’ was like an ‘Jewish Aryan’ who played down-and-dirty just like the Jews against the Jews, Ethan is like an Indian-white man who takes the fight to the Indians on their own terms. And there is some of this in TAXI DRIVER, whose character Travis Bickle is a warrior for purity in a world of filth. Because he’s such an oddball weirdo himself, he cannot be one of the pure, the normal, and the decent. Even though he hates filth, he feels in his element only when surrounded by filth. Since he cannot be clean himself, he chooses to be the filthy warrior for cleanness against the forces of filth. In the original screenplay by Paul Schrader, all the pimps were blacks — true to social reality — , and so the story was really about a white guy saving a white girl from a bunch of ‘niggers’. But ironies abound because Bickle is a creature of filth himself, even if he’s ashamed of it. And the girl he saves is not some white angel abducted by ‘niggers’ but a girl who ran from her dreary grandparents to find a life of ‘freedom’ in the city — like Diane Selwyn in MULHOLLAND DR.
Anyway, when something has been around and/or has been powerful for so long, there is a tendency to believe that it’s indestructible and forever. Egyptian civilization lasted for so long that Egyptians probably never thought it would go away. But it went away and remains only as a memory in tombs and museums. Tremendous amount of planning and effort went into the building of the Titanic but it sunk to the bottom of the sea in a single day. The battleship Yamato, the pride of Japan and the symbol of its military might, was sunk in less than an hour. Tokugawa dynasty, which held near-total control over Japan for 250 yrs, vanished within a decade. All the hard work that went into the creation of powerful clans in KAGEMUSHA and RAN are lost in a single day. So difficult to build, so easy to demolish. As Merlin says to Uther in EXCALIBUR: “Years to build and moments to ruin!”
Great effort, agony, sacrifice, ruthlessness, and clear thinking go into building something grand, but the inheritors of the order may take the power for granted. Since they didn’t work hard to build up the power but were born into it, they take for granted and act as though it’ll be around forever — or that its loss will be no big deal. But even those who built up the power can lose sight of what entailed the creation of such power. After all, it is the old lord in RAN who rests on his laurels and lowers his guard against the dangers all around him.
But, the decline may not come only from dissipation but puritanism. No worldly power was ever built on purity of principles. Rather, intelligent power-seekers creatively used principles as a means to gain power. Principles are Will-to-Power by other means — and Jews have always understood this and have never forgotten it. (Given that Jews have traditionally been a nomadic people — ‘rootless Wandering Jews’ of legend — making their living as middlemen minorities in gentile lands, they should naturally have assimilated and faded into the larger gentile communities as so many minority groups have done throughout history. Generally, a people tend to survive in geographic isolation — like Thai people of Siam — or as the majority population over a vast territory — like Russians or Chinese. If a people exist as a nomadic minority in foreign lands, they are bound to ultimately meld into the bigger and more powerful cultures they encounter. So, how did Jews achieve the almost impossible feat of being a nomadic & minority people that survived as a distinct people that outlasted all other cultures? Part of the reason owed to the Jewish conception of spirituality. If Jews only had a set of gods to call their own, they would have been tempted to adopt the gods of other peoples who were more numerous and powerful. If Jews worship a bunch of gods and if another people worship a bunch of gods, and if the latter happen to be more powerful than the Jews, Jews would be tempted to worship the other people’s gods to win the favors/blessings of more powerful gods. Religion is many things, but it is primarily a theory of power. People worship God/gods because He/they are supposed to be powerful or perfect, at least hell a lot more powerful and perfect than mankind. Though some gods are less powerful than others, all gods are more powerful than man. I mean whoever heard of worshiping a god weaker than man? What would-be mountain-climber would want to climb a molehill? The interesting thing about the story of Jesus is He was said to have been the All-Powerful God who made Himself less powerful than man to die for man’s sins. Very strange story. It was a kind of gambit played by God. By turning Himself into the figure of Man and getting whupped real bad by mankind, God demonstrated His humble side and loving forgiveness toward humanity. He was willing to feel and share the agony of mankind. Instead of just remaining above mankind and acting holier-than-thou, God-as-Jesus felt the full brunt of what it means to be human in a dangerous and evil world. If in the story of Job, God beat up on a good man real bad, in the story of Jesus, God makes Himself into a figure like Job. It’s like in SUPERMAN II where the hero relinquishes his power for the love of a woman and gets whupped real bad by some blue-collar truck-driver-dude. But as with the lion in the CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, God’s willing to be whupped was also meant as a veiled threat. By getting whupped and dying at the hands of man, God was saying something like, “I could have whupped you at any time, but out of the goodness of my heart, I let you whup me. Since I was so nice, you better be good little boys and girls from now on and do as I say because I won’t be so nice the second time.” Thus, Christianity filled mankind with guilt as well as fear in relation to God. Jews only felt fear, but Christians would feel fear and guilt — and try to force Jews to feel the guilt too as the ‘killer of Christ’. On the one hand, there was the sad and helpless figure of Jesus who got whupped real bad by nasty mankind. But it turns out that He was the Son of God and had the power to destroy mankind if He’d so wished. In a way, Jews have become the Jewsus figure after WWII. They too play on the carrot and stick of both guilt and fear. On the one hand, there is the image of helpless, innocent, and saintly Jews getting whupped real bad by Nazis and other anti-Semites. But there is also the figure of Jews as the inventor of the atomic bomb, the owners of media, dominant intellectual forces in the academia, the puppeteers of politicians, and etc. Jewish power can whup our ass, and every gentile knows this in the West. So, we are made to feel both pity for and fear of the Jews. This is why the Holocaust cult should be called Holocaustianity. Anyway, why did Jews survive as a distinct people for so long even though they were for so long a nomadic minority people? Was it intelligence? But intelligence and talent aren’t sufficient as explanations. After all, plenty of intelligent Greek scholars and artists melted into the larger society of Western Europe. Jewish survival had to do with the Jewish conception of their religion. Jews protected themselves from other cultures by creating a deity that was the one and only God, a figure that could not be turned into an idol. Jews didn’t merely worship one God but went so far as to say that all other gods are false and non-existent. Thus, Jews had no choice but to worship their own God and only their God since all other gods were said to be bogus; thus, the threat of Jews worshiping other gods was greatly reduced. Since in those days, religion = culture, Jewish resistance against other gods also meant resistance to other cultures. Also, since Jews rejected idolatry, all representations of other gods were deemed Satanic, evil, and anti-God. A Roman might look at a Greek sculpture of a Greek god and be enthralled and inspired. Thus, there was melding of gods among pagan folks; many Roman gods were fused with Greek gods. And gods taken from Persian culture were remolded into Greek deities. But there could be none of that with the Jews since Jews believed their God was the one and only God, and this God could be accessed only through the sacred texts of the Jews. Thus, the home of the Jewish God was in the hearts and minds of Jews. It was Jewish spiritual arrogance and contempt that protected the Jews from the dangers of assimilation and loss of identity. But there was a danger of assimilation in the notion of the one and only God. If indeed there was only one God and no other, it meant that all of mankind should know of and worship this one and only God. And if all of mankind began to worship this one and only God, then Jews would come under pressure to worship alongside the rest of mankind this one and only God. Even if Jewish in origin, if indeed this God was the one and only God, there was no reason for Him to be only for Jews; He should be the God of all mankind. As if Jews foresaw the danger of this reasoning — later to be manifested through the coming of Christianity and Islam — , Jews created the myth of the special Covenant between God and the Jews. God would favor the Jews as the Chosen People, and Jews would show their loyalty to the Covenant by lopping off the foreskins of the males. It was as if the one and only God revealed His godhead to the Jews, and so, the least Jews could do was reveal their pud-heads to God. Thus, by universalizing their God as the one and only God, Jews protected themselves from the temptations of pagan gods and idols; and by particularizing their special relationship with the universal God, Jews erected a wall between Jews and those who came to accept the one and only God as ‘Jehovah’ or ‘Allah’. Since the Covenant between God and Jews was pud-centric, Judaism also became a blood religion. Ideally, one couldn’t convert to Judaism — though such did happen from time to time — but had to be born as a Jew. Thus, if Christianity and Islam were religions of the heart, Judaism was a religion of the pud and poon. But unlike wildass Negroes who let their puds and poons — and booties — control their minds, the Jewish mind wrestled with the power of the pud and poon, and in this sense, Sigmund Freud was carrying on the long Jewish tradition. Freud’s theories were really a modern retelling of the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. Humans naturally seek pleasure, but social order isn’t possible without taboos. The seduction of pleasure can lead us astray. Yet, without the allure and incentive of pleasure — and sexual pleasure is among the most powerful — , there can’t be happiness in life. Thus, if Negroes just wanna swing their dongs around, Jews like to THINK about why they swing their dongs around. And Jews want all of us to see them as the center of everything. According to Jews, each non-Jewish people had once been like deluded Geo-centrists before the time of Galileo; they thought they were the center of the world, e.g. Chinese with their concept of the ‘Middle Kingdom’. As such, each gentile people tended to see the Jewish minority as a pesky alien asteroid that entered and even violated their zone of power/influence. Thus, Jews had to revolve around whatever goy nation they were in. But in the Galileoean sense, Jews — via their control of the media, academia, finance, and historical narrative following WWII — reconfigured our understanding so that every gentile nation — at least in the West — came to see Jews as being at the center of the world, history, culture, morality, etc. Thus, Americans must live for and serve Jews, Germans must live for and serve Jews, Canadians must live for and serve Jews, Swedes must live for and serve Jews, Palestinians must live for and serve Jews, and etc. Every goy nation is but a planet revolving around the Jewish Sun. We must see Jews as the center of spirituality, morality, culture, intellectualism, human achievement, path to redemption, and etc. Instead of Jews as a minority asteroid revolving around the core of gentile power in gentile nations, all gentile nations must now revolve around Jewish global power and agenda. If Jews say we must have ‘gay marriage’, we better listen because Jews tell us so. Since most Jews are liberal and anti-white, you’d think American conservatism would combat and challenge Jewish power, but not so. Indeed, American conservatives are even bigger ass-kissers of Jewish power than white liberals are. It’s all very disgusting. And if you reject Judeo-centrism and insist on serving the interests of your own people above that of Jews, you are attacked as an ‘antisemitic’ gentile-centrist who dare not accept the eternal/universal truth of Juden-Uber-Alles. Anyway, returning to the subject of beauty and its dangers, all cultures have anxieties about pleasure. Consider the dichotomy of Apollo, the god of order, and Bacchus, the god of partying, in Greek mythology. And consider the distrust of beauty and its temptations in Kurosawa’s films. While Kurosawa’s films are not without beauty, the main themes are power, meaning, morality, and justice. The hero of YOJIMBO is a ragtag masterless samurai. At the end, he tells a young lad, “live a long life eating rice gruel”, a life of spartan honesty and simplicity. In STRAY DOG, a young woman is led astray by pretty consumer products like a Western dress. In SEVEN SAMURAI, a peasant named Manzo loses his sense of perspective because he’s so protective of his purty daughter. Kurosawa preferred the beauty of nature for it was ‘honest’ and could never be decadent. It was raw and true even when dark and gloomy. Nature was about power, and power was reality. As for mankind, its main purpose was to be moral and to use power responsibly. Man couldn’t be natural like animals, but if man became too refined and cultured — and obsessed with beautiful things — , he could lose sight of things. The elder doctor in RED BEARD doesn’t care for riches that might surround him with comfort and beauty. He thinks such things will only distract man from his true calling of upholding moral values. And it is all the sumptuous beauty and grandeur that fools the old lord in RAN that the world is at peace. Beauty entices but also blinds. Kurosawa admired Dersu because his needs are simple, basic, and ‘true’. Dersu isn’t a man to waste anything — even an empty bottle. He’s thrifty and appreciative of things; he lets nothing go to waste. In the postwar boom, many people all around the world came to take things for granted — even in poor nations. Thus, people have lost sight of the true value of things. Also, in our addiction to pleasure and beauty — albeit a debased form — , we have lost sight of what is truly meaningful. In a way, the rise of gay power-politics is a perfect symbol of the decadence of our times. Gay politics wasn’t driven by the needs of the people but pushed onto the masses by the greed of the rich and privileged. Gays cater to the rich, powerful, and privileged. All the rich ladies who get their hair done by gay men wanna be cozy with fancy-pants gays. Many of the so-called ‘progressives’ are part of the new privileged class. They should really be called ‘privigresses’. If the incestuous than the gays were successful at catering to the rich and powerful, the hot agenda today would be ‘same family marriage’ and fighting ‘incestophobia’. Anyway, it’s not like Kurosawa didn’t appreciate beauty. There is much beauty in his films. What worried him was the amoral temptation of beauty, and in this regard, he was different from the gay fascist Yukio Mishima for whom beauty was everything and the very essence of Japanese culture. Though Kenji Mizoguchi was more enthralled with beauty than Kurosawa was, he too as worried about its dark side. In UGETSU, a pottery maker forgets about his plain-faced wife and son when he falls into the embrace of a beautiful noblewoman who happens to be a life-sucking ghost. And obsession with beauty leads Scotty to strange regions of the heart in VERTIGO. The allure and danger of the cult of beauty in Japanese culture were explored in Nagisa Oshima’s MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE and GOHATTO — aka Taboo. In both films, beauty is something that both softens and sharpens the blade of bushido, the code of the samurai. The samurai ideal was to be tough and hardy, to lead spartan lives devoted to serving the master and being willing to die at any moment. The element of beauty added a certain poetry and refinement to bushido. Thus, samurai were not merely brutish warrior-thugs but warrior-poets; they developed a subtle side. But beauty is elitist in ruthlessly favoring the pretty over the ugly. The art of beauty cuts away at ‘imperfection’ to arrive at the perfect gem. Beauty has a ‘decadent’ quality in distracting the warrior’s mind from the serious business of warfare and death. It feminizes the warrior. Yet, beauty also entails perfection, thus inspiring the warrior to kill with greater precision and grace, to turn mayhem into an art and perfect science. It’s not surprising that the most feminine of animals, the cat, is also the most deadly. A burly bear is a messy fighter but the graceful cat strikes with alarming precision, even elegance. It’s no wonder a cougar can destroy a bear twice its size. This is why the fruity aristocrat played by Tim Roth in ROB ROY handily whups the bigger and messier manly fighters. And this is why the feline Sugar Ray Leonard destroyed the much bigger Donnie Lalonde; Leonard even beat the muscle-man-boxer Marvin Hagler. And in the second fight with Roberto Duran, Leonard had figured out his opponent’s Tasmanian Devil style and fought around than against it. The gay samurai in GOHATTO embodies the tension in Japanese samurai culture between the masculine principle and the feminine principle. And we can see this in Japanese cuisine as well. The master sushi chefs of Japan are like something between samurai and cosmetic ladies. They cut with ruthless finesse. In MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE, the beauty fetish of Captain Yonoi — played by Ryuichi Sakamoto — both humanizes and dehumanizes him. Unlike other men in the Japanese military, Yonoi has a certain grace and elegance; he’s not a ruffian bully. But his cult of beauty also makes him inhumanly intolerant of what he deems as ugly and inferior. Modern Japan sought to samurai-ize the whole population in the military, but most Japanese recruited from farming or working class families knew little about the samurai way; they couldn’t shed their bumpkin ways, not least because they were brutalized by their officers who also rose from the lower ranks of society. Yonoi is from a samurai background and feels a certain disdain for most Japanese soldiers serving under him. He considers himself a member of the superior breed and believes he found his counterpart in the blonde aristocratic-looking Jack Celliers. His gay love for Celliers sort of softens Yonoi, but his sentiments are not universal but elitist. But it is through Cellier’s rejection of Yonoi’s gayboy elitism and Cellier’s embrace of the common man that Yonoi comes to appreciate the deeper sense of humanity, the stuff about the brotherhood of man. Though Yonoi loved Celliers as a superior man — indeed superior to even Yonoi — , Cellier’s embrace of the common man makes Yonoi have a kind of change of heart. Of course, MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE is a very Christian story, and in a way it sums up the manner by which the figure of Jesus won over converts around the world. Christianity has long used sensuality to lead us toward spirituality. In the gospels and through Christian art and music, Jesus has been presented as a beautiful figure. Even His death has been depicted with a certain brutal and stark beauty. This aesthetic aspect of Christianity impressed many people and won over many converts. But the message of Jesus was that we should reject the pleasures of the flesh, embrace the sickly and poor, and favor the eternal soul over the temporal body. Jesus was no fan of beauty, which He regarded as vanity, illusion, deception. Jesus wasn’t wowed by fancy houses and dresses of rich folks. He judged people by their souls than for their looks or riches. But the power of beauty was such that much of Christian expression was aestheticized into beautiful music, paintings, sculpture, and the like. Consider the golden Crucifix. In a way, the rise of Protestantism was about the anxiety of beauty. Catholicism became so obsessed with the cult of beauty that it became less interested in Jesus the Savior than Jesus the fashion model. And Christian music of Latin Europe was so soothing and uplifting that spirituality became secondary to sensuality. To Protestant reformers, the Catholic Church had become decadent with its cult of beauty over the primacy of spirituality and morality. And in a way, what happened with the Catholic Europe is also happening with America. The new ‘progressive’ class is very rich and fancy-pants. They love money, are vain and narcissistic, and utterly decadent. They’ve essentially aestheticized progressivism into fanciful displays of cult of personality — MLK, Obama, Magic Negro, etc — , colorful gay parades with rainbow colors, SWPL status symbolisms, consumption of hipster luxury goods that means you are ‘one of the special privileged-progressive crowd’, and other vain gestures. It has turned into a spectacle with little meaning. Indeed, white liberals finally elected a black president not by accepting someone from the real black community but by creating an ideal Magic Negro in their own image. In other words, never mind the real reality of the black community and its intractable problems. As long as white liberals have constructed their own Catholicist cathedral of grand gestures — such as a mountain-sized Magic Negro weeping and wuving a wittle white mouse in GREEN MILE — , they feel saved and redeemed and holier-than-thou.)
Anglo-Americans invoked and, to some extent, lived up to their principles on the road to power, but they didn’t lose sight of the truth that principles must serve power and not the other way around. The fall of Anglo-America is a strange case for it resulted less from dissipation of will-to-power than from the intensification of wish-for-principles among inheritors of power. Wasps didn’t so much grow bored and lazy as grow angry and obsessed with the wrongs of their ancestors. Of course, the moral record of Anglo-Americans was no worse — if anything, it was much better — than that of any other people, but Anglo-American idealism came to trump Anglo-American realism, and this made Anglo-Americans vulnerable to assault from the Jewish community that remained utterly realist in its assessment and practice of power. Jewish history is filled with Jewish cruelty, oppression, exploitation, slavery, radicalism, subversion, and etc. that they perpetrated on other peoples, but Jews only talk about their ‘good’ side while dumping on (white)gentiles the blame for all the evils in the world. And though Jews initially used the Holocaust card to win sympathy, now they wield it like a club to spread fear and silence anyone who’d dare to criticize or challenge Jewish power. Some people say Jews are hypocritical, but what may be hypocritical in principle may be consistent in terms of power. Many counter-Jewish voices remark how Jews are for nationalism in Zionist Israel but push open borders for US and EU, i.e. Jewish nationalism for Israel but demographic internationalism for the West. Hypocritical in principle, yes. But in the service of Jewish power, there is great consistency for nationalism serves Jewish power where they are the majority, whereas liberalism favors Jewish power where they are the minority. If someone wears a coat in freezing winter but doesn’t do so in steaming summer, is he a hypocrite? Should he wear a coat all year round? You see how that would be stupid. Coat keeps you warm in winter but burns you up in summer. If one’s purpose is to keep oneself healthy, one will wear a coat in winter but take it off in summer. Similarly, if one wants power, one must adapt to different situations and work according to different contexts; it would be stupid to wear the same coat of principled consistency everywhere and at all times. This is the great failing of libertarianism that tries to be so logically principled about everything. No, all people must think in terms of their power and posterity, and principles must serve those ends. This isn’t to say one should be utterly opportunistic and cynical about principles but merely to say every principle has its useful limit, and what works in one context may not work in another. And what worked at one time may not work in another time. A certain tactic in football may work in one game, but if the other teams have figured out an effective defense against it, it won’t be as effective or not effective at all in later games. This is why the GOP’s fixation on tax cuts is no longer useful. It may have been useful in the early 80s when tax rates for the rich were exorbitant and when the wealth inequalities between richest Americans and poorest Americans weren’t so large. Also, it made sense for the GOP to pander to the superrich when most of the superrich favored the GOP. But in a world where the great majority of the superrich favor Democrats who’ve grown richer and richer over the yrs, who the hell cares about tax cuts for the rich? Anyway, what we need to understand is that Jews don’t wear the same coat all the time. They wear it in winter but take it off in summer. Jews act consistent in relation to power, not to principle. And the same goes for blacks and Hispanics. Blacks called for equality under the law in the 50s and early 60s, but they’ve been calling for preferential treatment ever since ‘affirmative action’ is to their advantage. And Hispanics say American laws should be ‘fair’ to them, but this really means the Constitution should be violated to serve narrow Hispanic interests. And gays would undermine the entire meaning of marriage just to satisfy their perverse vanity. ‘Marriage equality’ sounds very nice, but is fecal penetration between gay men the biological and moral equivalent of real sex and real marriage? Against such radical will-to-power, the wish-for-principles is useless, and white people better wake up fast. What white people must especially do is focus on how Jews are playing loose with principles to amass greater power and privilege for themselves. Jews are the main enemy of white people. Whites must think in terms of J.A.T.E speech, JATE meaning “Jews Are The Enemy”. Unless whites go after Jews, nothing is possible. All this focus on Hispanics, blacks, Muslims, and gays is a waste of time, especially if conservatives keep sucking up to Jews. If whites focus on their non-Jewish enemies, Jews will play the game of ‘make gentile fight gentile’. Jews will act like the character in YOJIMBO who pits one side against the other while he himself watches amused from above. Jewish power is the real power in American ‘liberalism’, and it’s about time whites called out on Jewish power. And it’s time to tell the neocons to fuc* off. The fact is we kept our end of the bargain with the neocons — we totally supported Israel and the Zionist agenda and muted any criticism of Jews in mainstream American conservatism — while neocons delivered NOTHING in return. The understanding/deal between American conservatives and neocons was that the former would persuade conservatives to support Israel and the latter would work to bring Jews to the GOP. American conservatism became the most avid supporter of Israel — all the ‘Arabists’ were purged from the Republican Party — whereas neocons failed miserably in persuading fellow Jews to join the GOP. If anything, Jews have played the most crucial role in making mulatto boy Obama president, in spreading interracist porn, in pushing for non-white immigration and amnesty, in spreading gay propaganda, and anti-white racial hysteria. When Nazis came to power, they dug up all the Jewish graves and erased Jewish history in German lands. Today, Jews are gleefully rubbing their hands and looking forward to uprooting white history from America. Jews are waiting for your grandparents and parents to die so they can spit and piss on their graves — and encourage blacks, browns, yellows, and castrated whites to do likewise. According to movie reviews, Steven Spielberg and Tony Kushner’s LINCOLN begins with the images of black soldiers stomping Confederate soldiers’ faces into the mud. The Jew feels toward you how the Nazis felt toward the Jews. And given the way Jews act and feel toward the very people — white Americans, especially Anglo-Americans — who’d done most to create the conditions for success and freedom for Jews, it must be acknowledged that much of what Hitler said about Jews was indeed correct. Hitler’s method of dealing with Jews was wrong, but Jews are indeed a hideous, heinous, and foul people who should never ever be trusted, especially with the keys to your house. Jews have the mentality of contemptuous slavers and exploiters, and therefore, for all their ‘liberal’ facade, they are ruthlessly and cunningly working 24/7 to gain total power for themselves.
Anyway, “years to build and moments to ruin”, like Merlin said to Uther. Kurosawa came to realize this truth in the course of his career. He’d been riding so high, with box-office hits — and even grudging critical respect — at home and worldwide fame abroad. He was the ‘emperor’ or ‘tenno’ of Japanese cinema, and his films were even remade into Hollywood and Italian films. Famous filmmakers around the world praised Kurosawa as an inspiration. Kurosawa in the 1960s, especially with the tremendous acclaim for RED BEARD at home, probably couldn’t foresee the burnt-out wasteland that lay before him. And so, the Kurosawa that finally got another chance to direct a major production was a much changed artist. And fittingly, Kurosawa literally worked in ‘exile’ in Siberia than in Japan where he’d made all his earlier films.
While I’d love to see the 70mm version of DERSU UZALA with ‘six track stereophonic sound’ with which it was recorded — I did see a 35 mm version on a fairly large screen at a college showing around 10 yrs ago — , its power comes through the TV screen for Kurosawa didn’t go for the kind of pictorialism that David Lean, James Cameron, and Terrence Malick had a fondness for. While we are taken into the heart of nature, DERSU UZALA isn’t a slideshow of visual wonders. The awesomeness of nature registers more in terms of power than beauty. The film maintains a middle position between the characters and nature, avoiding both overt intimacy and overblown grandeur. I don’t much care for Malick of THIN RED LINE, THE NEW WORLD, and TREE OF LIFE, but I do love Lean, so I’ll have to qualify my criticism. While pictorialism is always problematic — in emphasizing beauty or prettiness with little or strained relevance to the story or characters — , when carried off with master craftsmanship it’s hard to resist. David Lean’s later epics were perhaps overly beautiful to behold — world according to art photography, the kind found in coffee table books — , but they were still done with a degree of restraint, proportion, and taste. Malick’s pictorialism, on the other hand, is utterly out of control; it pretends to impart spiritual essences and wisdom about humanity, history, philosophy, spirituality, and, the entire meaning of the cosmos. For Malick, beautiful images aren’t merely the backdrop but the very stuff of the New Age spirituality he’s been peddling lately. No film in recent yrs made me laugh so hard and feel so much pain as TREE OF LIFE, surely the most pompous crap ever made. A picture may be too pretty, but pretty pictures are still nice but a pretty picture pretending to be a profound vision is unbearable. I love DOCTOR ZHIVAGO though I’m well aware of all its problems. Like Coppola’s THE GODFATHER movies, it’s probably not a work of art — if by ‘art’, we mean a committed search for truth — , but it pushes all the right buttons, and in this regard, it’s no wonder Spielberg came to appreciate Lean so highly. Lean understood the business he was in but invested his films with a degree of intelligence, artistry, and complexity that was rare in Hollywood. Such middle-brow blend of entertainment and art was an old formula since the advent of cinema, but Lean did it better than just about anyone else, and his great triumph was LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. But as the cultural sensibility was changing rapidly in the 60s, critics caught up with him on DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and piled on him as an overblown middle-brow reactionary. Nevertheless, the audiences made it one of the biggest hits of all time. But by the time Lean directed RYAN’S DAUGHTER, both the critics and audiences had left him, and Lean, like Kurosawa, would fall into a deep funk, not directing another movie until PASSAGE TO INDIA in the 80s. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is brimming with pictorialism from beginning to end, but it works because of the dream-vision of Russian history and landscape as grand and mysterious; and to Lean’s credit, he balanced the epic with the poetic. Also, even though based on a Russian novel written by a Soviet Jew, the sensibility is closer to English drama and landscape paintings, the restraint and precision of which served to counterbalance the overwrought tragic romanticism of the material. There is so much happening in every scene that the prettiness provides an element of clarity to the story — though at the expense of emotional richness and dramatic complexity; the sprawling material is neatly framed. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO also have poetic souls as leads, and that partly justifies the prettiness, i.e. the world seen through visionary eyes. But the pictorialism of RYAN’S DAUGHTER fails because the story and subject aren’t sufficiently grand enough to merit such a large and colorful canvas. There is a tremendous scene where townsfolk unload guns and ammo from a rocky shore during a storm, but the spectacle seems out of proportion to what’s actually happening. (But, I love RYAN’S DAUGHTER too. Even when wrongheaded, Lean was a master.)
There is another way of depicting nature, awesomeness, magnificence; and it is to be found in films like AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD, DERSU UZALA, SIBERIADE(by Andrei Konchalovsky), and FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE(by Jan Troell). Their depiction of nature has none of the shiny packaging, postcard aesthetics, or ‘professional photography’(so prevalent in nature documentaries on PBS). It’s a punishing than polished kind of beauty, the force of which presses on our bones as glimmers in our eyes. Whatever problems DERSU UZALA has, pictorialism isn’t one of them, and on this account, Donald Riche is very wrong. If anything, Kurosawa went out of his way to prevent his film from becoming a series of tableaux of ravishing pictures. The world depicted is as one lived in and struggled against by its robust but bone-weary characters.
What the films of Lean and Spielberg lack is the earthen texture of a work like SIBERIADE or THE EMIGRANTS. In a way, the logic behind Lean and (Robert) Bolt’s DOCTOR ZHIVAGO isn’t all that different from that of Gilbert and Sullivan’s MIKADO. The composer and the librettist of the Victorian era musical neither knew nor cared about the real Japan. What caught their fancy was how ‘Japaniserie’ could be used as a winning formula with middle class English audiences. And what they didn’t know, they imagined and projected onto their imaginary Japan. Though the musical may have grown out of favor in our more ‘sensitive’ age, the appeal of kitsch like MISS SAIGON and LES MISERABLES isn’t much different. And this is also true of most Hollywood movies about other cultures/nations; they aren’t about depicting foreign peoples/places as they really are but as how ‘we’ would like to imagine them to be. Thus, there is a World Fair or Epcot Center quality to DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. For Russians who know Russia, little in it rings true — especially the winter mansion with onion domes(!) — , not least because British manners and diction are so contrary to the Russian character and ‘soul’, but if one approaches it less as a movie about Russia than as an Anglo-Hollywood fantasy of Russia, it works beautifully, rather like Sergio Leone’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST/AMERICA. (But then, who watches THE GODFATHER movies to learn about the real mafia? It also works on the level of immigrant epic fantasy.) The ‘truths’ to be found in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, and THE GODFATHER movies tend to be archetypal and psycho-mythological; they say little or nothing about real people and the real world in which real people live. They’re films where even ugliness and brutality have been carefully aestheticized or stylized. At every moment in the movie, Julie Christie looks like she came out of the dressing room with new makeup, and Omar Sharif, even in his emaciated and sickly state, looks tragically handsome. Even the scene of men sweeping night-soil out of the train compartment is adjoined to some great scenery. Everything seems choreographed, framed, and lit just perfectly; and so, even the chaotic, the random, and the happenstance operate within a well-ordered and meaningful movie universe where the frames run on time. It works flawlessly on that level. It’s like we’re inside a tour-bus(or tour train), and we can rest assured that we’ll see all the highlights and the tour will be smooth and stick to schedule. We never get a sense of walking out of the bus/train and really mixing with the reality outside the bus/train on its own terms. The scene where Zhivago almost misses the train after being held by Strelnikov sums up the essence of the movie. Even when Zhivago is abducted by Red soldiers and forced to serve as military medic, the film never deviates from the conventions and aesthetics of epic romance genre. The popularity of TITANIC also owed to its mode of the theme-park ride, though to be sure, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is immeasurably a greater work.
In contrast, in films like SIBERIADE and FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE, we step out of the comfort zone of the tour bus/train/cruise-ship and venture into the unknown territory of chaotic nature and/or haphazard history: Not so much as history lessons but as depictions of the minutiae of struggle/existence in unfamiliar worlds and through unique visions. With DOCTOR ZHIVAGO and TITANIC, we watch a world that has been created for us to our liking; we are served and catered to than challenged; even tragedy is a pop melody — Somewhere My Love or My Heart Will Go On. Not so in SIBERIADE, FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE, MARKETA LAZAROVA(directed by Frantisek Vlacil), and HERE’S YOUR LIFE(another Jan Troell masterpiece) that, instead of recreating a world on the big screen on the basis of populist appeal, situate us in worlds where we must adjust OUR assumptions, expectations, and preconceptions to see, hear, and understand the world anew.
Thus, considerations such as beauty, romance, and wonder aren’t so much projected or imposed on the material as constituted from the bits and pieces of everything, the elements that comprise the totality of life. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is a silver-lining or gilding what it assumes to be Russian culture and history, but the Midas Touch doesn’t get at the real substance. The world of SIBERIADE is one where the gems and jewels are found mixed in the mud and blood of Russian history. And the characters look as though roughened by whims of nature, turmoil, and simple toil than as though prepped in the dressing room for the umpteenth time. Perhaps, one reason for the general lack of pictorialism in Soviet cinema had to do with the relatively backward equipment. Even a production as lavish as WAR AND PEACE by Sergei Bondarchuk doesn’t look very good in terms of picture quality. This suggests a case of failed pictorialism than an aversion to it. But perhaps, another reason is the Russian acceptance of the ‘messiness’ of reality as the norm. Protestant Anglos and Germans(and Zen Japanese) developed a very fastidious, orderly, and antiseptic — even sterile — ideal for dealing with reality whereas Russians, due to barbaric laziness or earthy ‘soulfulness’ or both, tended to be less ‘anal’ about such matters. Tarkovsky complained that 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY looked too clean and sterile, and his own science fiction films SOLARIS and STALKER were cluttered with natural elements and/or human debris. ‘Nature’ wasn’t just birds and trees; it could be sweat, wrinkles, stubbled chins, ruffled hair. And in ANDREI RUBLEV, much of the beauty is ‘hidden’ or embedded in the damp and dirty world. The artist, then, isn’t so much a creator of something new as an archaeologist of hidden treasures all around us. He makes us see with new eyes that transform the mundane into the miraculous. AGONY AND THE ECSTASY(directed by Carol Reed and starring Charlton Heston) and ANDREI RUBLEV came out around the same time, and both are about artists struggling to realize their visions in a hostile and uncomprehending environments, but Tarkovsky’s film is the greater work for it doesn’t merely depict an artist at work but embodies his spirit struggling from darkness toward light.
DERSU UZALA isn’t a work on the level of ANDREI RUBLEV and SIBERIADE. I would rate it somewhat higher than AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD(by Werner Herzog) — though certain moments in AGUIRRE rank as among the greatest in cinema — but well below Jan Troell’s masterpiece THE FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE, perhaps the greatest nature exploration film.
DERSU UZALA is one of Kurosawa’s works that most critics/scholars have preferred to forget — or forgive as something Kurosawa did for lack of alternatives. Though it won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film, Donald Richie’s harsh assessment of the film has set the critical tone. Film scholars generally see it more as a personalized work than a personal work, i.e. Kurosawa had no real rapport with the material and imposed his old themes of nature, master/student relations, and human condition onto it; instead of having genuine curiosity for a foreign land and culture, Kurosawa used Siberia as a giant canvas on which to paint his pet-truisms about the meaning of life. Thus, one could argue that the Siberian tundra served for Kurosawa what the ocean planet served for the characters in SOLARIS — men falling back on old assumptions and personal preconceptions in the face of the unknown. Of course, such is a universal tendency and not limited to humans. (Indeed, it takes a special kind of will, talent, and knack to transcend one’s own culture and personal hangups and approach/understand the ‘other’ on its own terms. The director of BABEL and BIUTIFUL goes about it with earnest empathy, with mixed success. AGUIRRE and FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE derive their power from the realization that the ‘other world’ doesn’t exist to confirm our fantasies and dreams, thus violating not only the ambitions of the explorers but the expectations of the audience. Generally, there have been three kinds of accounts — fictional or nonfictional — about ‘other’ lands and peoples. One is the El Dorado model where the exotic world/culture/peoples are hoped for as the source of great wonders, riches, and dreams-come-true. It can means boundless riches in gold, bare/big-breasted women of tropical islands, or great opportunities in a new world of freedom. Another is the Hell on Earth model that assumes that the ‘other world’ is filled with monsters, savages, degenerates, and all kinds of terror. The idea of the Dark Continent held this kind of fascination. Third is the Edenic model, and it idealizes the ‘other world’ as a kind of pristine paradise where man and nature had been in harmonic unity… that is until the evil white man came and destroyed everything. As different as they are, all three models have one thing in common: they are projections of Western fantasies — material, political, spiritual, or moral — onto the so-called ‘Other’. In this sense, movies like DANCES WITH WOLVES and AVATAR are hardly different from MAN WHO WOULD BE KING and classic westerns about Cowboys and Indians. They are less interested in the reality or the real mystery of other worlds, peoples, and cultures than in molding it to suit our own obsessions whether such be self-aggrandizing or self-denigrating. In contrast, the world that the Spanish Conquistadores encounter in AGUIRRE THE WRATH OF GOD is impervious to the dreams, hopes, and prejudices of the Europeans. The rivers, mountains, and the natives will not magically bend to the will of the white man and the Christian God. Not that this ‘other’ world is necessarily hostile to Europeans or unconquerable. The fact is it is what it is and will not lend itself freely or voluntarily to whichever side in the conflict. Nature takes no sides, not even that of the natives. A movie like AVATAR would have us believe there is some kind of nature spirit or higher power that will drive back the imperialist invaders, and the Japanese felt the same way during WWII when they prayed for their nature gods to protect their sacred land from US bombers. Ideas such as Manifest Destiny, even if historically realized, are also the fantasies of man. They are all examples of mankind’s projections of its hopes and dreams onto the ‘other’. If Jews and Western Man — and Muslims — have had one advantage through history, it was because they banked their hopes on a force outside nature. Nature, as awesome as it is, can be tamed and conquered — even predicted with improving technologies in stargazing and detecting weather patterns. If a people believe that the gods reside in a certain mountain but if the gods are not found there, there goes the faith in the gods. Or, if a people believe that they will be protected from invaders by the gods of nature but they’re invaded just the same, so much for the power and/or goodness of the nature gods. But the idea of God and destiny independent of nature can liberate man from the tyranny of the environment. No longer chained to the worship of nature, he can take it upon himself to be the master over nature and remake it according to his dreams and ambitions. To the American Indians, nature was sacred, and so, the loss of nature meant loss of everything that held moral and spiritual meaning to them — though it seems they found new spiritual meaning in owning casinos — , whereas for the white man, nature was something to conquer, remold, and turn into something more useful to man. For Christian man to be moral, he had to live in a moral community, and only man can be moral with other men, and so, the pagan spiritualization of nature was anathema to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thinking. Buddhism was also hostile to nature but in passive than aggressive way. If Jews, Christians, and Muslims struggled against nature to create a world of moral man, Buddhists sought to abolish nature — and the rest of material reality — through meditation that carried the soul away from the illusion that was all of ‘reality’.) Paradoxically, the further we venture into foreign/strange territory, the more we cling to familiar things. People — and higher animals — are curious creatures and want to discover the unknown, but upon entering the world of the unknown, fright and anxiety are mixed with fascination and wonderment. So, we cling to our passports in foreign nations and seek out places where people speak English. If something goes wrong, we wanna contact the US Embassy as fast as possible. Not surprisingly, one of the first things erected by white man in new territories was the Church. No matter how crude or primitive, a Church was a place they could enter and pray in to feel ‘at home’. (For the same reason, many people take their portable TVs or computers on camping trips.) And so, some of the most fanatical Muslims are to be found in the West. They left behind the poverty and oppression of Muslim nations but, feeling alienated and confused in the decadent West, they erect new Mosques and worship fervently the very God they’d left behind in their native homeland. And this paradox is particularly true of the Jews, the most nomadic/restless people as well as the most historically and tribally conscious. Jews moved all around the world, but in every case, only half-assimilated and insisted on maintaining their particularist separateness socially, economically, politically, or historiconsciously. This seeming contradiction has a certain logic to it. Jews were very proud of their culture and origins but also restless and venturesome, if only to seek new business opportunities. Thus, Jews spread out all over the world, but in doing so, they often felt away-from-home — and through much of their history, they had no specific place to call home — , and so, Jews created a spiritual practice of the home-within-the-mind rooted in the idea of the covenant between God and Jews. Thus, as long as Jews maintained their sense of Jewishness and kept alive a Jewish community apart from goy society, they were ‘at home’. Thus, Jews were able to be ‘at home away from home’, and perhaps such mind-set made it more likely for guys like Einstein to think about stuff like the Theory of Relativity. If most peoples had a fixed sense of home, Jews had gotten used to seeing ‘home’ as a relative thing depending on one’s position in relation to other things. In a way, the problem of ‘home-ness’ became more neurotic in the Jewish mind with the rise of Jewish Enlightenment and assimilation-ist pressures. Though Jews had been discriminated by Christians in earlier times, this fact allowed them to, at the very least, maintain a cohesive and ‘organic’ Jewish community where everyone shared in the powerful sense of Jewishness. Though Jews were a wandering/nomadic people, they still felt at home with their Jewish identity and in the Jewish community wherever it may be. But with modernization, Jews really found themselves in a nowhere-land between Jewishness and non-Jewishness. Liberalization and assimilation promised Jews a full place in the gentile order where they would be equal with others. But it wasn’t easy for Jews to simply abandon what had defined them for thousands of years. Also, despite official promises, even assimilated Jews found their paths blocked, subtly or not-so-subtly, by gentile societies. And the rapid rise of Jewish wealth and power unnerved many gentiles, especially if they happened to have a superiority complex like the Germans or inferiority complex like the Poles. Germans were awful proud of themselves as a people and wanted to be a great power. That a handful of Jews could gain so much power, influence, and control in Germany was deeply offensive. As for Poles, they’d developed a serious inferiority complex as a people who’d been pushed around by Germans, Austrians, and Russians, and so, they were especially sensitive about Jewish wealth and power in Poland; it was bad enough that Poles were pushed around by great powers that surrounded Poland that was barely allowed to exist on the map, and so, it was doubly humiliating to be bested by the Jews of Poland. The Dutch were relatively okay with Jews since Dutch weren’t much affected by superiority or inferiority complex. The Dutch knew that their dream of being a great power had long passed, but they were still content with their independence and achievements. So, they were more laid about successful Jews in their midst; they were less likely to see Jews as a threat to their national destiny or pride.
Anyway, it was the modern Jew who intensely felt both free and imprisoned for he’d finally been liberated from the shackles of Jewish tradition but also found himself surrounded by a goy world that seemed at once welcoming and hostile. The modern Jew, especially in cities, had unprecedented freedoms and even means — as many Jews were richer than gentiles — , but he or she couldn’t get over the sense that others looked upon him or her as the Jew, as the ‘other’. And one gets this strange sense in Kafka’s THE TRIAL and THE CASTLE. Kafka’s works couldn’t have been written by a pre-modern Jew or a post-modern Jew(in a world where Jews own all and rule as our absolute masters). They could only have been written by a freed Jew in a world that was far from totally free for his ilk Modernization created a new home for Jews — as legal citizens of modern nation-states — , but it was a home where Jews had to disappear and lose their Jewishness or where they were allowed into the lobby but not given the keys to the innermost rooms. Jews found a new home in the gentile world but didn’t feel at home. This is why Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s THE SHINING is really his version of THE TRIAL or THE CASTLE. (The problem of the modern Jew was conveyed through what might be called the ‘anxiety of subjectivity’ in Kafka’s novels. There are many narrative modes in fiction, the two most prominent being the omnipotent narrative and the subjective ‘I’ narrative. The omnipotent narrator has the power of god and can read every mind and know everything about everyone, and as such, there is authoritative confidence in his voice. In contrast, the subjective first-person narrator is confined, even trapped, in his narrow wall of knowledge and experience. He or she cannot know more than what he or she knows; the most he or she can is to imagine or suspect the realities outside his or her own limited subjectivity. Even so, there is an element of confidence in the subjective voice because of the clear wall between itself and the world. It’s the confidence of autonomy and privacy; one can at least be sure of one’s own existence and reality. The strange thing about Kafka’s novels is they tend to be quasi-subjective, with almost all the action closely following the main character. Though THE TRIAL and THE CASTLE are not first-person narratives, they present the world as seen, felt, and lived through by the character K. And yet, K cannot rely on the primacy of his autonomy and privacy. It’s as if the forces outside him are not only physically closing in on him but trespassing into his inner-most realm. THE TRIAL begins with the character waking up in his bedroom only to find strangers hovering over him. Adjacent rooms and corridors at his workplace take him to strange rooms and hallways that then return him to familiar places. Reality and unreality become confused, as do fiction and non-fiction, as do objectivity and subjectivity. Kafka is K, Kafka is writing about K, K is leading Kafka, K is Kafka. It’s like the films of Charlie Kaufman, perhaps the most Kafkaesque of contemporary filmmakers, where the real and unreal keep looping into one another, forming a knot that ever tightens and loosens simultaneously. The narrator of THE TRIAL and THE CASTLE is independent of K but assigned only to K, but then, the intimate confidence of subjectivity is undermined by K’s hapless defenses against the forces that enter in and out of his private realm, material and psychological. And in THE CASTLE, K thinks he’s his own man doing his job, but every step he takes could be a possible transgression against the norm that dare not reveal or explain itself. In 1984, Winston Smith discovers he’d been spied on and manipulated from the beginning, but he at least knew that it was the political system that was oppressing him. Thus, there is a certain locus of where the problem originated and how it is perpetrated. Such certainty, no matter how dark and disturbing, is missing in Kafka because the dilemma is as much the neuroticism of K as the threatening confusion of the world around him. Consciously or unconsciously, Kubrick appears to have been fascinated by the ‘anxiety of subjectivity’. He generally preferred to make films that stick very closely to a main character, almost to the point where it’s watching a first-person narrative. LOLITA sticks very close to Humbert Humbert. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE is almost entirely about Alex. BARRY LYNDON is almost all Barry. THE SHINING has several important characters, but the dominant character is Jack Torrance. More than 90% of EYES WIDE SHUT follows Bill Harford around. The films are so intimately close to a single character that they are almost like first person narratives — and some of them even have first-person narration. Yet, like in Kafka’s works, there’s a sense of a hidden power or force that is playing tricks and games on the character. Thus, the camera isn’t so much the eyes and ears of the main character — or his faithful sidekick toady — but a Quiltylike agent slyly tailing the protagonist and imparting secrets about him to hidden forces or powers, and vice versa. Thus, the effect is both subjective and omnipotent. The camera is extremely close to the characters but also coldly distant, both microscopic and telescopic. Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE thinks he’s the master of his destiny, and the camera initially seems to play along; but then, it gradually switches to impersonally watching Alex on his path to destruction, like the eye of Hal in 2001 coldly gazes at the astronauts who think they command the ship. The effect is different from Scorese’s MEAN STREETS where the camera becomes the very heart and soul of Charlie.) Kubrick didn’t care much for King’s ghost-story hocus pocus. Rather, he used King’s outline to work out his own brand of Kafkaesque journey through the psychic corridors of power. Notice how the character in THE SHINING is in the hotel but not really in-in it. Jews eventually came to realize that the only way they can feel safe in the gentile world was to completely own it. They mustn’t merely be a people seeking justice and entry but must be the very people with the keys to the courts and castle. They must have the power to judge us and decide who is and isn’t allowed in — indeed not just to judge us but to mold and shape our hearts and minds through their control of media, entertainment, and education. Thus, Jews control the media and decide who gets to work in journalism and who doesn’t. Jews run the elite universities and decide who gets in and who doesn’t. Jews run Hollywood and decides who is blacklisted and who isn’t. The whole Jewish bitching about the Hollywood blacklisting is just a lot of hooey. Jews have always blacklisted people — especially ‘anti-Semites’ — in Hollywood, so their real beef with HUAC and Joe McCarthy wasn’t about blacklisting per se but about being told whom to blacklist; Jews want the power of blacklisting firmly in their own hands and no one else’s. Though the government was wrong to pressure a private industry on whom it can hire or fire, the real reason why Jews were angry with anti-communists was that they dared to dictate to Jews whom to blacklist or not blacklist. Hollywood Jews had been practicing their own form of blacklisting since the earliest days. After all, if Hollywood wasn’t interested in ideology and open to all talents, how come no one in Hollywood welcomed Leni Riefenstahl when she visited America? Walt Disney was the only one who did. Hollywood Jews shunned her because she was a NAZI filmmaker. And Hollywood Jews did everything in their power to keep out any talent with pro-German or pro-Nazi views. Hollywood was not a free creative zone open to all kinds of talent. Jews decided who could and couldn’t work in Hollywood, and leftist/liberal Jews had always supported that kind of blacklisting. Jews wanted all the power to decide who gets to work or not in the media. This power was challenged by HUAC and McCarthy when they pressured Hollywood to blacklist pro-communist artists(like Hollywood had routinely had blacklisted pro-Nazi artists). It was not a case of powerless Hollywood Jews being pressured by powerful evil anti-communists but a case of powerful Hollywood Jews having their power challenged, and the truth of the matter is Jews don’t like anyone to challenge their power in any shape or form. Jews like to challenge and undermine the power/authority of others(especially white gentiles), but if you turn the tables on them, they grow spiteful, mean, and nasty. Just like Marx judged the world but couldn’t tolerate anyone judging him — and just like Freud criticized everyone but couldn’t accept any criticism of him — , Jews want all the power. So, the real story of the Hollywood Blacklist was not a case of all-powerful right-wing government versus helpless liberal Jewish Hollywood but of extremely powerful Jewish Hollywood getting all rabid and virulent over the fact that its near-absolute control of popular culture was challenged by anti-communists who (rightly)suspected that many powerful Jews in America had radical/subversive tendencies. Jews want all the power but sneakily disguise their powerlust in the name of struggling for freedom, equality, and justice for the powerless. Noam Chomsky is an infinitely arrogant and contemptuous individual with a god-complex who is upset with the world because he doesn’t have total control over it. How does he rationalize his intellectual, political, and self-aggrandizing powerlust? By pretending to be the lone courageous voice crying out for social justice against the powerful. Indeed, this very logic is embedded in the Holocaust logic or Hologic that Jews have used so masterfully go gain near-total control over society.
Hologic tells us that even the emancipated/assimilated Jew couldn’t find a true home in the modern West due to suspicion, resentment, paranoia, and irrational fears on the part of the gentile populations. Hologic says the modern Jew found his true place in the death camps during WWII when gentiles finally revealed what they really had in store for the Jew: Death and destruction. Just as the fate of Joseph K was to be executed/murdered — law, justice, and trial were all charades — , it was as if the historical fate of Jews in Europe was to be led to slaughter in the death camps. So, all that stuff about enlightenment, emancipation, assimilation, and etc. had all been false promises. The only real home that the gentiles had in store for the Jews was the Nazi death camp, especially since so many people collaborated with Nazi occupiers to send Jews to the East to be slaughtered.
Via the Holocaust cult, the Jewish message to the West is, “This is the home you really meant for us: The Death Camp.” Though no Jew wants ever again wants to be placed in such a ‘home’, every Jew now inhabits it ‘spiritually’ and psycho-spatially. It reminds every Jew to never forget, to never let go of the pain, never abandon the anger and vengeful feelings, never stop feeling sorry for oneself, never trust non-Jews, and never take anything for granted. As for gentiles, the image of the Jewish ‘home’ in the West as the hellish Nazi death camps has filled them with collective shame, guilt, and pity. According to Hologic, it was bad enough that Jews had been forced to live in ghettos over many centuries, but it was indeed a dirty trick to promise them equality and justice on the basis of assimilation, only to drive them from their homes and herd them into the New Home of death and destruction in places like Auschwitz.
Overcome with guilt, Europeans and white Americans have decided not only to offer better terms to Jews to make up for past wrongs but to offer Jews the key to the innermost sanctums of power in the Castle. Thus, paradoxically, the Jewish entry into the heavenly home of absolute power came through the hellish corridor of absolute terror. And Jews aided the Negro to pull the same trick. Chains of slavery could be forged into the keys to political power of white redemption. So, white America was willing to hand over the keys of power to Obama, a mulatto hand-picked by Jews. Jews love Obama because his presidency is the total double-victory of Jewish Holocaustianity and Negro slave mythology or Chris-chain-ity. Of course, this couldn’t have been possible without the psychological control that Jews gained over white goyim. Even with their vast wealth, Jews couldn’t have pulled off their grand scheme if they hadn’t figured out how to push the buttons of white psychology. Jews understood that Christianity was both the biggest weapon and the biggest weakness of the Western gentile order; it was both Thor’s Hammer and Achilles’ Heel. It was a great weapon in the form of Christian pride, unity, and faith. Through Christianity, white folks felt proud as the believers of the King of all kings, warriors of the Son of God, the spreaders of His Faith to all mankind, and the righteous moral heirs of Jesus and His followers who’d been persecuted and oppressed so terribly by heathens and the like. This side of Christianity gave the white man the confidence, courage, and moral justification to conquer the non-white world, enslave Negroes(ostensibly to civilize them), and keep a suspicious eye on Jews(as the moneychangers in the Temple and the killers of Christ). The right-wing culture of Christian Pride has been much like Islam. It was robust, unapologetic, aggressive, and adamant in its rightness. But unlike Islam, there was another side to Christianity rooted in shame, doubt, and self-loathing. This ‘left-wing’ side of Christianity called for never-ending atonement and confession of one’s sins, meekness and humility, and so on. Jews knew that both sides of Christianity had taken deep root in the Western psyche for over a thousand years. Jews figured that the way to gain power over white gentiles was to undermine Christian Pride and encourage Christian Shame. Thus, if whites felt any kind of pride via Christian identity, they were deemed bigoted, arrogant, and evil. But if whites felt great shame via Christian morality, they were deemed decent and conscientious. Jews perfected the science of psyChristianity or psychristology. Jews understood that even secular whites are psycho-structurally embedded with psychristological attitudes and thinking. Thus, though Ken Burns is not a believer, he’s desperate to be such a goody goody white boy confessing his white sins to Negroes and begging for their forgiveness. He looks and acts like a castrated choir boy who wants to sing a sweet song to the glory of the Negro. Paradoxically, bland dweeby white boys like him are most attracted to Negro soulfulness and spirituality: Being so white bread and dull, the very idea that he’s with the Brothas and Sistaz makes him feel hip, cool, and radical.
Now, back to Kurosawa’s film. Though DERSU UZALA hasn’t been revived or re-viewed as often other Kurosawa films that include RASHOMON, SEVEN SAMURAI, IKIRU, TRHONE OF BLOOD, HIDDEN FORTRESS, YOJIMBO, and HIGH AND LOW, it may have been a key influence on the most popular movie franchise ever: STAR WARS. Some have surmised that Yoda may have been inspired by the character of Dersu. There are also images in DERSU UZALA that are similar to those in the STAR WARS series. Compare the shot of the sun and the moon in the same frame in DERSU and the image of two suns in STAR WARS.
And the scene where Dersu saves the Arseniev from the snow storm is kinda like Han Solo saving Luke in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. And there’s something of Dersu’s body type and gait in the Ewoks of THE RETURN OF THE JEDI. But of course, George Lucas drew from many influences, as had Kurosawa before him.
What now follows is a reading of the film based on the notion that ‘form is content’. There has long been a tendency to separate form and content, not unlike the manner in which the body and the soul have been approached as separate entities by philosophers and theologians. But just as the energy — thoughts, emotions, energy, etc. — of a person can no longer be understood apart from the bodily processes, a work is art is no more and no less than what is availed through its form, i.e. the only way we can access the ‘content’ of a work is by observing and pondering its form. Of course, if we know the other works and the biography of the artist, we may understand the form of a particular work in a broader context, but any work has to be understood and judged by what we can see and hear of its form. A work may not obviously state or reveal everything — due to uncertainty, confusion, irony, ambiguity, nuance, and/or perverse will of the artist — , but even our speculations about the meaning of its expressive form must rely on our observation of the form, of what is availed to our senses. In art, content can only express itself through form even if the form may be murky, deceptive, and/or contradictory.
We must also avoid the fallacy of confusing content with intent. There is a tendency among some people to define content as ‘what the artist means’ and to define form as ‘the methods, techniques, and styles the artist uses to convey his meanings’. But intent isn’t content. The actual content can only be judged by the form by which it is conveyed. So, if a painter’s intent is to illustrate a beautiful woman or landscape but the result is ugly and putrid, we don’t say the ‘content is beautiful but the form is ugly’. Most we can say is that the artist’s intention was to paint something beautiful but the content of the work as conveyed by its form is ugly.
Of course, it’s not as simple as that since people have different responses to the same work. What may appear beautiful to one person may look ugly to another. What may seem profoundly moving to one person could be sentimental hogwash to someone else. A good illustration of this problem is the strong disagreements as to the merits of Peter Jackson’s THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy. I could barely stand it though I’ll concede the non-stop monster-bash war-craft of RETURN OF THE KING had a certain cheesy grandeur to it. But many people think it’s a great epic.
The problem wasn’t simply Jackson’s reprogramming of Tolkien’s epic into a prolonged video game but a visual sensibility that happens to be so generic, derivative, and bombastic. I think a lot of people were impressed by the sheer size and volume of the production and thus blind to the deficiencies. The logic behind Peter-Jackson-ism isn’t much different from kitschy Nazi monumentalism or Stalinist aesthetics. Especially in our Supersize-Me culture, a lot of people are impressed by scale alone. In the pre-democratic age, grandeur and scale existed in the form of pomp and circumstances of the monarchy and the elites, and today, it comes in the form of hyper-hyping of movie stars, music idols, and techo-generated fantasy for the masses. Thus, even no-talents in music can have their voices dubbed and redubbed and magnified with all sorts of synthesizer aura into the voices of gods and angels, and their bodily motions can, via all sorts of editing and visual tricks, made to look like the dance of celestial bodies in heaven — or jungle heaven, as much of the music follows the hippity hoppity beat.
If a people as ‘intelligent and advanced’ as Germans fell for Nazism and if a people as ‘intellectual and serious’ as the Jews fell for Soviet propaganda, then it isn’t difficult to understand why our current culture is so mega-effect-driven. The advantage that capitalism has over Nazism and communism is its uncanny ability to fashionably repackage the same thing over and over under different guises, thereby fooling the masses that they are getting something new. Though communist and Nazi kitsch/hype wasn’t all that different from capitalist kitsch/hype, both communism and Nazism steadfastly held to the sacredness of certain idols and images. Thus, no god could be greater than Marx and Lenin in the USSR, and the official aesthetics in Nazi Germany revolved around Hitlerism and ‘Aryan-ism’. So, whatever thrill-content such things may have offered for awhile, they were bound to become repetitious and boring once people were overfed the same kinds of movies, posters, marches, rallies, music, and etc. Both communism and Nazism were grasping for official timeless truths, and as such, tended to be suspicious of the cult of fashion and celebrity. Fashions imply that nothing is forever and that what thrills us today will be forgotten or even disdained tomorrow; and celebrity-hood implies that there is no single god of modernity such as Hitler or Stalin; anyone can become a star or star-lin or the fuhrer-flavor of the month. 60s hippies loathed the idea of being like 50s greasers, and 70s disco freaks loathed the idea of being like 60s hippies; and 80s new wavers laughed and mocked the disco craze of the 70s, and etc. The paradox of capitalism is it’s so resilient precisely because it’s so disposable. As the decades wore on, Russians were getting tired of the same old kitschy cliches of Soviet ‘art’; and had Nazi Germany survived and lasted as long as Soviet communism did, I suspect most Germans would have gotten sick of mass rallies and giant ‘Aryan’ statues too. By trying to preserve the sacred symbols and icons of their society/culture, Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were fated to become ‘old’ and ‘tired’, especially in the modern age when people are hungry for new stimulations. Capitalism proved to be resilient because its cultural core is profane than sacred. It’s premised not on building sacred idols to preserve forever but creating fashionable idols for today that will be gone tomorrow. Capitalism is iconographic and iconoclastic at the same time. The process is so fast and furious — yet also smooth and polished — that people become blind to the fact that much of what passes for ‘new’ is really recycled stuff or lacking in substance. To keep us blind to the lack of substance, capitalist culture of fashion focuses our eyes and sensations on the superficial and ephemeral. It’s like people read stories about celebrities because something always seems to be happening with them, to them, and around them. Never mind that most celebrities are dumb or vapid; the fact is they are scandal-and-glamour magnets, and that makes them ‘news’. And the same thing goes for movies. There isn’t much difference between Peter Jackson and Michael Bay. They are both effect-centric and effect-driven hacks. A lot of people failed to notice the utter emptiness of LOTR movies because the endless stream of effects. It was so busy dazzling, razzling, sizzling, skizzling, wowing, and shwowing one’s senses that one mistook cheap roller-coaster thrills as the stuff of epic adventure. The Mr. Show skit of the trailer for ‘Coupon: The Movie’ gives a pretty good account of how movies are conceived and marketed in our effect-driven age:
If the filmmaker has a vision and knows what he’s doing, effect-centrism can be impressive, like the action scenes in ATTACK OF THE CLONES and INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL. And Spielberg’s ADVENTURES OF TINTIN is a remarkable piece of work, seamless and graceful in its choreographic dance of action. Spielberg knows how to juggle than just throw pots and pans. But a director of Spielberg’s caliber is a rarity, so Hollywood mostly hires hacks like Michael Bay, Peter Jackson, Zack Snyder, and others to beat us over the head with stuff like 300 and superhero movies. But, they keep people coming to the theaters because there’s always the promise of new gods and idols to replace the old ones. Indeed, even old stars are remade, reformulated, rebooted, and resold as new. Why else has Mudonna lasted for so long? Just how is it that Britney Spears is on top of the charts again? The hype machine builds them, destroys them, rebuilds them, and etc. And this sordid story is hyped as the stuff of tragedy, redemption, and triumph. Who needs the Second Coming of Jesus when we have the second, third, and fourth coming of celebrities?
Technology and hipsterism are especially important in this equation because they have the power to repackage and reformulate old things. So, if Superman movies of the 80s are old hat, revamp them with new technology into Superman movies of the 90s and then of the 2000s. Spiderman movie of the 90s already too old? Do it again in 3D, then 4D, then 5D, and etc.
Since so many people have been ‘effected’, all they care for is the new effect regardless of substance. To be ‘effected’ is to be addicted. Just like some people need to have the TV on even when they don’t watch it, some people need to see new releases of movies just to get their weekly dose of the vibe. It’s like junkies going to their dealers to get another hit. To an addict, it’s not a matter of joy or happiness. It’s a matter of need. ‘Effected’ people feel the same way. When most people go to see new Hollywood releases, they know the movie will likely suck, but they go anyway because they need another hit of the effect; they feel empty without it. The intensity of the saturated sound effects, editing effects, strong colors, and sensory overload offers the high that people crave on a routine basis. Indeed, a lot of movies are not so much written as cooked-in-the-lab. Traditionally, the ‘formula’ meant the basics of genre plot, necessary visual components, and actors/actresses best suited for the story. As such, there was a good deal of emphasis on story, dialogue, and acting. Classic Hollywood formula owed much to novels and theater, which is why Hollywood hired many first-rate writers to come and work. But then, a new sensibility was building in cinema with the rise of personalities like Orson Welles, Akira Kurosawa, Fellini, and Kubrick. Movies, instead of serving as visual vehicles for storytelling and acting, became aware of the power and magic of its own language independent of the other arts. CITIZEN KANE was based on a fine screenplay and had great acting, but Welles’ prowess as a director emphasized what cinema could do as cinema, i.e. what cinema could do that other arts could not. Kurosawa had long mesmerizing scenes without dialogue in RASHOMON. SEVEN SAMURAI revolutionized action cinema, and THRONE OF BLOOD relied more on the power of images than on words — though based on Shakespeare’s MACBETH, it dispensed with much of the dialogue. Fellini’s 8 ½ implied that the man of words, the writer/intellectual, was a drag on cinematic imagination, i.e. cinema should follow the muse and leave inhibiting thoughts behind. The final scene is a musical tour-de-force of Fellini’s own genius, a promise of cinema freed from the conventions of other arts. (Some would argue that ‘art cinema’ was finally rediscovering the ‘pure cinema’ of the Silent Era when movies, less bound by dialogue and acting, had the freedom to explore its own possibilities, and indeed, silent films like Murnau’s SUNRISE and FAUST and Dreyer’s near-silent VAMPYR affect us more powerfully than most of the word-centric movies of the 30s and 40s. Murnau and Dreyer weren’t filming but dreaming stories.) Initially, cinema’s search for ‘independence’ was a good thing, and it produced films such as Mizoguchi’s THE LOYAL 47 RONIN and UGETSU, Andrei Tarkovsky’s ANDREI RUBLEV and STALKER, and the masterworks of Robert Bresson and Michelangelo Antonioni. But there was always the danger of getting lost with one’s imagination, as if movies could expand boundlessly or experiment freely without much concern for ‘conventions’ such as plot, character, and dialogue. As many of Fellini’s post-8 ½ films demonstrated all too well — as well as Tarkovsky’s final two films — , it generally wasn’t a good idea to “follow one’s bliss”. Story, plot, and characters do matter. Eventually, the biggest perversion of the ideal of cinema as an artform in its own right came from Hollywood beginning in the late 70s when it discovered that the secret to success wasn’t how the material was written and acted into a film but how it was mixed and processed into a drug. Hollywood went from a film farm to a film pharmacy. Especially coming on the heels of pop music revolution of the 60s — and the impact of TV commercials — , industry leaders begin to see the audience less as consumers of stories-with-characters than junkies looking for the next sensational fix. Hollywood always had its eye on the what the mass audience wanted, but storytelling had been central in the past, accounting for great successes like GONE WITH THE WIND, WIZARD OF OZ, TEN COMMANDMENTS, BEN-HUR, WEST SIDE STORY, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, THE GODFATHER, all heavy on storytelling, dialogue, and characters. But just as lyrics came to matter less and less in the success of rock songs, the growing consensus was that the story/plot and characters mattered less than how the movies blow the minds of the audience. JAWS, STAR WARS, and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS had reasonably well-conceived stories, but the real secret to their success lay in the thrills and effects, and so, they eventually paved the way for stuff like IRON MAN and TRANSFORMER movies where it’s hard to say who is who, what is what. In movies like 300 and LOTR trilogy, all one really members are the never-ending volcanic eruptions of effects. MATRIX 3 was almost all action and effects from beginning to end — though it must be admitted that it has some of the most spectacular moments in action cinema. (The rise of CGI also made it possible to pack films with more special effects. Prior to computer-technology, special effects were painstaking difficult to do; therefore, filmmakers had no choice but to provide story, characters, and dialogue as filler between the relatively few special effects scenes. When Lucas made his first STAR WARS movie, special effects were indeed special. But with CGI, a film can be packed with non-stop special effects from beginning to end, and that is often what we have. Thus, there is less need for non-thrill elements to serve even as filler between the thrill-scenes.) Hollywood now functions as a pharmacy. It’s the biggest drug-peddler in the world. Not surprisingly, many directors come from TV commercials and music videos. TV ads have to hook the viewer in a few seconds, and music videos must jolt us, and those considerations are now primary in most Hollywood movies. Even words have become effect-centric. There are lots of clever writers working in Hollywood, but words are not used as means of communication and/or meaning among characters but as zingers to make us laugh every other minute. So, most of Tarantino movies sound like non-stop gags. Pixar movies are full of witty banter, but it’s like everyone talks in constant-joke mode like in TV sitcoms. If the rule among professors became ‘publish or perish’, the rule among Hollywood writers became ‘effect or defect’. Unless your words stir up some kind of hot-button response — laughter, fear, inspiration, etc — , it’s no good. But what worked for Bugs Bunny cartoons and THREE’S COMPANY can be too much(or too little) for a 2 hr movie. PULP FICTION might have been funny as a 15 minute short, but it’s tiresome over two and half hours. The non-stop gaggery is more gagalogue than dialogue.
One of the central paradoxes of American culture is the amount of intelligence that goes into the creation of stupidity. The masses are stupid, and stupidity is fun/popular/accessible, but stupid done stupid is just stupid whereas stupid done smart is fun. (In a way, the core formula of comedy could be the combination of stupidity and smartness. It’s the incongruity or paradox that makes us laugh, makes us aware of the irony of life and the false assumptions about reality. Why is it funny when a wig falls off the head of a bald man? We are made aware of the discrepancy between the vanity and reality. Or take the nerdy scientist: Though intelligent, his narrow focus on his intellectual pursuit makes him blind to — stupid about — everything else. And violating taboos can be funny because taboos are taken so earnestly and seriously by the people. For something to be funny, there has to be a discrepancy between what it claims and what it exposed to be. Thus, pagan gods and idols were vulnerable to mockery since the idea of powerful deities in the likeness of mortal man or animals or combination thereof — as was the case with Greek and Egyptian gods — was contradictory, i.e. if gods were so powerful, why do they look so much like mortal creatures of the world? In this light, it’s not surprising that Jews came up with one of the most abstract concepts of spirituality. The Jewish God transcended all known categories. Indeed, He couldn’t even be visualized, and His name couldn’t be uttered. Thus, He wasn’t an easy figure to mock. And since no idols existed of Him, they couldn’t be smashed and made fun of. Jews, a people naturally given to comedy, mockery, and satire, had to conceive a God that was impervious to the slings of wit, and that may explain why the Jewish God became such an abstract figure whose true essence always eluded the poke of jokesters. It wasn’t long before Greeks and Romans were cracking jokes about their own gods, culminating in Ovid’s METAMORPHOSIS, but Jews clung to their God for thousands of years.) This, of course, is nothing new as the history of comedy has often featured smart people acting goofy and dumb — Marx Brothers for instance. It may well be the special combination of stupidity and smartness that creates the spark of comedy. Smart people being smart isn’t funny, and dumb people being dumb isn’t funny. But dumbness touched by smartness or smartness tripped by dumbness is funny. Anyway, even though master comedians of the past were smart people, we have in today’s America the ‘best and the brightest’ — graduates of Ivy League schools — working to create the worst and the foulest. Pop culture can’t get any cruder and uglier than FAMILY GUY and what passes for most of stand-up comedy — and most filth on TV and movies — , but many of them have been written, produced, and/or directed by people with the best credentials. Also, in the past, jokesters and comics relied on experience and intuition. They knew they had a knack for making people laugh and wrote jokes or acted out comedy routines. And due to the weight of social taboos and community values, comedians had to be crafty and clever to circumvent them. (And in the 50s and 60s, smashing taboos could be daring and gutsy, whereas today anyone can say the F-word a million times, even on Cable TV.) Today, comedians are more into the science than the art of comedy. They go to top schools to learn, almost like chemists, what is and what isn’t funny. And due to the permissiveness of our society, they can push comedy far into extremely lewd and pornographic areas. In the 1970s, the raciest TV show on prime time may have been THREE’S COMPANY that relied mainly on innuendos. Today, there’s stuff like FAMILY GUY where the foulness is an open sewage. Even so, the ultra-vulgarity isn’t without wit and certain brilliance as many of the writers working in today’s industry come from elite schools. Perhaps, all such writers have dreams of something better — the dream of becoming the next Tennessee Williams or Eugene O’Neill — , but they can’t resist the money and know very well that ‘high culture’ is dead in America. Or, maybe even the ‘best and the brightest’ have been corrupted from cradle by junk culture. (For the interest of creativity, it doesn’t help that most people attending film and drama schools come from ‘privileged’ and uneventful middle class backgrounds and, as such, have no grounding in life experiences. Most of them didn’t get burned by life as so many did in the years past that forced boys to grow into men and girls to grow into women. So, a lot of today’s young people in arts, culture, and film schools may be smart and talented, but they have a tenuous link to life and reality. Imagine if Sam Peckinpah and John Cassavetes had been raised in the 80s or 90s playing videogames and hanging out in the malls of American suburbs. They might have turned out be rather boring. And though there’s much to be said about urban renewal, the yuppification of city life has taken the edge out of city life. Cities have lost their redmeat ethnic character in their search for tofu and sushi. Though Tarantino is a turd, one cannot deny his passion and will to make a difference in the film world, and this may owe to having grown up in a truly ‘fuc*ed up’ family environment. He wasn’t so coddled like many of his peers.) So, we have the best educated contributing to the creation of culture that appeals to the lowest common denominator, the ‘worst’ created by the ‘best’. The rewards of manipulating stupidity, ignorance, and irrational emotions are simply too great and irresistible. Ideally, smart people should use their talents to raise the consciousness of the masses, elevate the culture for/of the masses, and alert the people against the machination of manipulation by the powers-that-be. They should use intelligence to spread intelligence, use reason to promote reason, use understanding to improve people’s understanding. But such effort is arduous and unrewarding. (Besides, many writers in Hollywood and the media are Jews, and most Jews, liberal or neocon, are not gonna rock the boat of Jewish elite power. While Jewish writers may resent the power of Jewish producers and executives, what they hate most is white people and white power. So, even relatively lowly Jews prefer to ally with powerful Jews to keep the power in Jewish hands because the vacuum caused by the fall of Jewish power will likely be filled by white power.) What if most people wanna be stupid and wanna be manipulated like children, dogs, or lab rats? And what if manipulating people in such a manner pays off great dividends? If the ‘best and brightest’ tried to become the new Robert Bresson or new William Faulkner, how far would they go and what would be their reward?
Besides, intelligence, erudition, and wit are not sufficient for one to become a great artist. If so, every first-rate scholar or intellectual would be a great artist, but in fact, most aren’t. Sydney Pollack was probably just as intelligent as Stanley Kubrick, but he was nowhere near the filmmaker Kubrick was. Furthermore, it’s natural for artists to want to be appreciated. As things stand today, even if critics praised a certain artist, he isn’t likely to find much success or win notice outside the critics’ circle. In a Zeitgeist so thoroughly dominated by Pop sensibility, even a genuinely talented artist is likely be relegated to irrelevance; and artists fear being ignored more than being misunderstood or attacked. (There are two more strikes against the devotion to art.  The death of the romantic ideal of the artist. When art was like the new religion of the West at a time when religion and tradition were losing their grip, there arose the tragically romantic notion of the ‘starving artist’. So, even an unappreciated genius had consolation in the knowledge that he was utterly devoted to his art. And before the rise of mass electronic media, an artist could still feel oneness with the world around him. The world was the stars, moon, sea, townsfolk, and tradition as well as change. Thus, someone like Gauguin could go off to some island and paint naked ladies. Or Strindberg could write something as lonely and desolate as BY THE OPEN SEA. Before the rise of electronic media, the world was everything around you, and this world had a certain constancy. But two things happened that undermined artistic pride and confidence. One was the gradual dissolution of the romantic ideal of the artist. Once regarded as a lone genius who was misunderstood by the world around him, the artist increasingly came to be understood in terms of his relation to the market, social power, and relevance. Thus, the artist was not the rare visionary standing apart from the world but an agent and negotiator of social, political, and economic forces. For Marxism, this meant that art-for-art’s-sake was bad and that artists should serve the people and the revolution. For capitalists, it meant art-for-auction’s-sake, and this explains the rise of Andy Warhol and the success of Jeff Koons. So, the artist either served the people or the market; he no longer served the romantic ideal of art as the new religion of man. The romantic ideal of the artist persisted to the 70s in one form of another — a number of Rock artists were willing to push creativity as far it would go, even risking their sanity and life — , but it’s hard to find any commitment to such notion now; if celebrities continue to O.D. and the like, it’s simply for excess-for-excess-sake; it’s not like Charlie Parker who went crazy and died young because of his total devotion to music. Also, the rise of electronic media made artists increasingly aware of the world via non-stop viewing/listening of movies, TV, radio, and the internet. Thus, artists lost the sense of autonomy and individuality. Prior to the rise of electronic media, artists might read newspapers and journals, but they also spent much of their time in relation to the real world. The real world tends to be slower, steadier, more constant. As for stars in the sky and nature, there was an element of eternity. The media informed artists of the changes and fashions, but reality and nature attuned artists to a life of continuity and constancy, of equilibrium. But with the rise of movie culture, radio, TV, and internet, people became increasingly aware of changes hyped and promoted by the media. Media became the world, so if you weren’t part of the changes hyped by the media, you didn’t feel alive in the world. And if the reality around you didn’t conform to the media hype/fashion, it all seemed evil and wrong. The reason why the 60s generation was so restless was because their view of the world came almost exclusively from radio, movies, and TV. They were so bombarded with images of change, change, and change that they thought everything in the world must conform to that change, change, change. Artists like Van Gogh and Gauguin didn’t have radio, TV, movies, or the internet. They had their art and the real world around them. They didn’t feel a need to be ‘relevant’ 24/7 with whatever was being hyped in the media. They lived not for the never-ending-moment but for the gradual organic development of their vision. But all artists today wanna be part of the ‘conversation’, part of the ‘discourse’, part of the ‘happening’.  The other thing that ruined art is what might be called ‘praise inflation’, which is like grade inflation. Paradoxically, over-praise of creativity undermined the value of creativity. If in the past, too many great artists went unappreciated by snobs, philistines, and/or repressives, there has been too much praise of the ‘different’ and ‘avant-garde’ since the end of WWII. So, some no-talent painter can draw some crap, and a bunch of critics will come out of the woodwork and praise it to high heaven. Take the paintings of Mark Rothko. They are like soiled diapers of a poo-baby, but critics say he was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Or take the films of Chantal Akerman and Hou Hsiao-Hsien. They are boring as hell, but critics praise them to high stinking heaven. It’s almost as if critics and scholars are afraid of being considered square and reactionary, as if they feel obligated to understand and appreciate whatever is deemed ‘radical’ or ‘subversive’. But when every second-rate ‘auteur’ is hailed as a great artist, what value does the praise have? In time, everyone feels hoodwinked, and no one really cares.) There are surely many excellent artists, but look at the sort of people who are ‘celebrated’ by the Art World. There are excellent filmmakers around the world, but most film critics would rather write about superhero blockbuster movies; they wanna be relevant and that means being ‘part of the conversation’. So, the ‘smart and sensible’ thing is to use intelligence to manipulate and profit from the unintelligence of the masses. And politics work the same way. Even elite experts of psychology work for advertising and politicians to offer more effective ways of manipulating and hoodwinking the masses. Freud may be the father of modern psychology, but its spiritual father might as well be P.T. Barnum of the “there’s a sucker born every minute” fame. If psychology was originally intended to make people understand their true nature and come face to face with their own demons, it is now used as an tool of mind control by the Jewish-powers-that-be. Today, a graduate in psychology is more likely to sell his expertise to institutions of mass mind-control and emotional-manipulation than to commit to a life of curing people. Psychology went from trail-to-truth to detour-of-deception. The very liberals who decried the mind-control machinations of ‘irrational’ fascism are now the biggest practitioners of Dr. Goebbels’ science.
Our culture today is a strange combination of libertine-ism and control-ism. It’s wilder and more pornographic than ever but also more packaged and formulated. The mode of new culture might be called ‘permula’, or permissive formula. When the old cultural formula had been restrained by ‘moral standards’, formula became synonymous with censorship and conformity, whereas personal art/expression became synonymous with freedom and originality. And so, it was personal artists and expression-ists who led the charge in exploring new possibilities and freedoms in film and music. (Though pop music was big business in the 1960s, the top acts — Beatles, Dylan, Stones, Brian Wilson, etc. — were so ahead of the curve that the industry could only play catch-up. Just when the industry was hoping to bottle the new sound into a surefire formula, the leading rock artists would come up with a new sound. Thus, though Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Led Zeppelin, and others were very much part of pop culture, they led it, shaped it, and did their own thing, and the industry could only follow.) Eventually, personal art/expression failed with the public when the rock stars and filmmakers ‘took themselves too seriously’. Audiences were willing to join the ride in EASY RIDER but unwilling to follow Dennis Hopper into the dark jungle in THE LAST MOVIE. Audiences were willing to watch Popeye Doyle chase down the bad guys in THE FRENCH CONNECTION and watch good priests battle a demon-possessed pea-soup puking girl in THE EXORCIST, but they were not willing to watch William Friedkin’s almost experimental remake of WAGES OF FEAR, THE SORCERER. Audiences were willing to crack up to M*A*S*H — a kind of proto-ANIMAL HOUSE movie — , but they didn’t care to see stuff like MCCABE AND MRS. MILLER. Rock fans loved Lennon’s personal songs like “Strawberry Fields Forever” where muse and memory melded into one, but they didn’t care much for Lennon’s private angst in songs like “Mother”. Personal filmmaking seemed to get ever more esoteric in the 70s, and most rock fans simply couldn’t get into punk and other ‘radical’ styles of music. Permissiveness, which had opened up new expressions in film and music, seemed wasted on ‘personal art’ that increasingly lost its appeal with the audience. It was then that the industry began to perfect a way to appropriate permissiveness and use it to create a new formula. The old formula had been based on expressive restrictions, e.g. blood couldn’t splatter all over the place in movie gunfights. It took bold ‘auteurs’ like Arthur Penn and Sam Peckinpah to push movies in a new direction. It violated the formula and indicated the rise of personal expression as the new mode of filmmaking. But as personal filmmaking faded, what was left was the freedom to present more sex, gore, violence, foul language, and etc. So, the trick was to find the most effective way to package all these elements of permissive expression into a new formula with maximum mass appeal — indeed an almost addictive effect. And in music, much the same happened, which is why so much of the image and rhythm of pop music culture look and sound so recycled. If old formula was the same old same old, the new formula or permula is the same new same new. Though it’s not new, it feels ‘new’ since it has appropriated the cachet of libertine permissiveness. This is how Mudonna kept her career alive. Her music got boring and worthless, but she kept repackaging herself as slut, superslut, superskankslut, superduperskankslut, and ho. All these carefully orchestrated and made-up ‘controversies’ — controlled by Jews and gays who run the media — were meant to make Mudonna seem ‘ahead of her time’ and ‘daring’. And of course, journalists followed along, but then, this too is to be expected since journalism, like psychology, has moved away FROM the ‘naive’ notion of digging up and telling the truth for a hopefully intelligent and rational public TO the devious intent of spinning lies and twisting truths to hoodwink and manipulate a hopelessly ‘irrational’ public. Even though Jews and liberals dominate the ‘science’ of manipulation, conservatives cannot proclaim innocence since their line had long been, “Rationality and intelligence are overrated, and we should trust the ‘common sense’ of the people.” Conservatives became so allergic to intelligence and intellectualism that they came up with people like Dan Quayle, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin. Their posterboy became Joe the Plumber. Since conservative ideal was for people to be sheeplike and go along with the dominant/mainstream culture, it offered no counter-force or alternatives to be employed against the institutionalized power of the new liberal elites. Conservative elites got so used to manipulating the conservative masses with symbolic sounds and images — and convincing them not to think about or critique the world around them — that there is almost no culture of independent thought on the American mainstream right. Since conservative masses only know how to go along, it’s only natural that most of them almost invariably and eventually go along with whatever the elites push. So, conservatives eventually came around to mindlessly worshiping MLK, and it won’t be long before the majority of conservatives sign onto ‘gay marriage’. This thing called ‘common sense’ is generally what most people believe to be true without thinking because it’s been drummed into them by the powers-that-be. Of course, developments since the 80s have also shown that there isn’t much independent thinking on the mainstream American left either. Right or left, most people are sheep or running/barking dogs and easily led by the powers-that-be that have control over sounds, images, and words with which they so easily push emotional buttons on everyone. How else can we explain the astronomical rise of Oprah the windbag and the presidency of Obama the phony? But as long as the GOP puts dummies like George W. Bush and fakers like Mitt Romney in leadership positions, American conservatism doesn’t have much of a case either. Many people have noted that it’s hard to tell what is what anymore, and it’s like we’re living in a post-real world. Indeed, why do we need the satirical weekly The Onion when the image of Obama as gay black Jesus has genuine moral/spiritual appeal to millions of people? What are we to say about millions of people who used to pee in their pants when Oprah handed out free gifts — and we are not talking of little children but middle class people with college degrees? What are we to say when Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize on the hope that he may do a good job? What are we to make of the GOP that kisses Jewish ass while Jews kick conservatism in the ass? What in the hell is ‘gay marriage’ that biologically and morally equates fecal penetration between fruitcakes with real sex and real values? What is real news and what is entertainment? What is mainstream culture and what is porn? Can we tell the difference anymore when Disney now markets slut-wear to 12 yr olds? Why are ‘reality TV shows’ so unreal? ‘Reality’ isn’t reality, especially on TV. ‘Reality’ too has become a brand, and so, those who appear on ‘Reality TV shows’ feel compelled to act ‘real’ than real. Since to be ‘real’ on TV means to act loud, crazy, and retarded, people on ‘reality TV’ feel compelled to act like the clowns on JERSEY SHORE. Being real isn’t real. You have to be ‘real’ to be real, and it’s getting harder to tell TV reality apart from real reality as people ape the ‘reality’ on TV. And this is made all the weirder with the internet where every moment of one’s life — where one’s at, what one’s eating, what one’s thinking, what one’s listening — is uploaded onto social network sites that serve as a platform of reality apart from reality.
In this story a farmer’s horse runs away. The farmer’s neighbors come to sympathize with him over his loss and bad luck. “This is a great misfortune!” they exclaim. The farmer calmly responds, “We will see.” The next day the farmer’s horse comes back and brings with it six wild horses. The neighbors come to visit again and gleefully observe, “What good fortune has befallen you”. The farmer calmly responds, “We will see.” The following day the farmer’s son starts to train the horses for riding, but is thrown and breaks his leg. Once again the neighbors come over, this time to offer their sympathy for the farmer’s bad luck. And once again his reply is “We will see.” The next day army officers come and take all the young men as recruits to the war, but because the farmer’s son has a broken leg, they don’t take him. So the neighbors come over to rejoice how well everything has turned out. The farmer smiles, considers his fortunes, and once again replies, “As always – we can only wait and see.”
The point of the story is not only that life has highs and lows, or blessings and curses, but that blessings can be hidden curses and curses can be hidden blessings, the implication of which is that everything is both a blessing and a curse. As reality exists through time and there’s never an ‘end of history’, we never really know how one thing will lead to another thing. As Zhou En-lai said of the significance of the French Revolution, “It’s too early to tell”, though to be sure, I suspect he was just being evasive as it wasn’t part of his nature to speak openly about everything, which is precisely how he managed to survive through the turmoils of Maoism. This is something every conservative should know. During the 40s, it seemed as though the liberal tide was unstoppable, but the Korean War brought Eisenhower to power. Truman left office with abysmal approval numbers but would eventually be regarded as a very good president. The 1950s seemed like a solid decade for conservatives, but the failure of McCarthyism would give a huge moral advantage to liberals, and 1959 saw a communist regime come to power in Cuba, overthrowing the regime of America’s closest ally in Latin America. With Kennedy’s assassination and landslide victory of LBJ, it seemed as though liberal juggernaut was on the roll again and nothing could stop it. But ‘enlightened’ liberal policies led to all manner of social and cultural problems, what with race riots and growing tensions. Who would have thought in 1964 that Nixon would win in 1968? Conservatives thought they’d regained the power, but Nixon turned out to be a huge blow to conservatives. The very skills — cunning, secrecy, and deviousness — that made him would soon unmake him(and he would become like the second McCarthy-like figure in American politics). Also, not only were his policies even more liberal than LBJ’s but he opened relations with Red China. Watergate became the mother of all political scandals, and again, it seemed as if conservatism was over. But Carter’s troubles in the 70s brought Reagan to power, and 80s seemed like the Reagan decade. With the economic boom, Republicans won again in 1988, and with the Cold War having ended under Reagan’s watch, it seemed as if leftism was defeated forever and conservatism ruled the day. But Bush proved to be the Carter of the GOP, and the smooth operator Bill Clinton altered the political dynamic by wedding social liberalism with pro-business New Democrat policies. With Clinton as president and both houses controlled by Democrats, it seemed as though Republicans were finished for good. But Clinton’s overreaching gave Congress to the GOP in a long long while. When George W. Bush became president with both houses controlled by the GOP, it seemed like conservatism made a great comeback. But George W. Bush and short-sighted Republicans cut taxes on the super-rich and then embarked on a disastrous war that destroyed the GOP. Indeed, looking back, it would have been better for Democrats to have lost the election in 1976, leaving Ford to mess up things through 1980, at which time a Democrat could have come into office and presided over the end of the Cold War. And it would have been better for the GOP to have lost in 2004, whereupon Kerry would have gotten the blame for the Iraq mess and the economic implosion, paving the way for a Republican presidency. (In the arena of ideas, Democrats could never permanently defeat the Republicans because of their naivete and over-reaching. Democrats would make great promises and, with the backing of the media, bring the American public onboard, but the policies would soon cause distress and turn Americans toward the Republicans. So, Trumanism led to Eisenhowerism, Johnsonism led to Nixonism, Carterism led to Reaganism, Clintonism led to Gingrich-and-Bush-II-ism, and etc. So, liberals were not assured of permanent ideological victory. Therefore, they resorted to two strategies that would ensure permanent liberal rule in yrs to come. One was the cult of MLK and other was demographic change. By deifying MLK into a spiritual than ideological figure, ALL Americans — of both parties — had to get down on their knees and worship him. Thus, it became more difficult for the GOP to play the race card, something that had been crucial to GOP victories under Nixon, Reagan, and Bush I. Indeed, the main problem with liberal policies in the 60s was the unleashing of Negro violence; the lack of such problem was why Europe and Canada became more social-democratic. The Negro problem was natural since blacks are stronger, more aggressive, and less intelligent; and GOP relied on the race card to win over lots of white ethnics, white Southerners, and white middle class and working class, even the white poor. But as MLK cult became a national religion, even the GOP was talking hogwash about the Magic Negro and was afraid to ‘go there’. The second path to permanent Democratic victory was demographics. If a large segment of the white population had a tendency ideologically shift between left and right, blacks and browns have long been dependably Democratic no matter what. So, Democrats can run Detroit into the ground, and Negroes will still vote Democratic. Thus, MLK worship and non-white tribal solidarity ensured the victory of the Democratic Party, which is really the victory of the Jew-Gay power as American liberalism is dominated by Jews and gays whose agenda is to control and manipulate the much larger gentile and/or straight population. It’s like ANC rule is permanent in South Africa since blacks will always vote for ANC no matter what.) There are no happy endings in reality because there are no endings. Who would have thought that the Roman Empire at its peak planted the seeds of its destruction? Who would have thought that Communist China and Communist Vietnam would eventually move to market policies and Soviet Union would crumble in the 1980s? In 1975, it seemed as though the East was rising and the West was retreating. And we all heard of unstoppable Japan in the 1980s.
Generally, we like fairytales; we like movies that culminate in some great happy ending. As Kurosawa made movies for the masses, he made his share of movies with ‘happy endings’. But even his films with the happiest endings tend to be bittersweet, fading with a discordant coda. Even the victories tend to be of personal than universal nature. The old man stricken with cancer finds his measure of peace in IKIRU, but the bureaucratic culture continues as usual. The samurai win in SEVEN SAMURAI but the victory isn’t really theirs.
The ‘good guys’ of HIDDEN FORTRESS make their escape, but an uncertain future awaits them. The hero of YOJIMBO prevails over the bad guys, but the town is now a wasteland; the patient had to be killed to be saved. Just when everything seems to be going right, there’s a sense that everything will go wrong again. In the first part of KAGEMUSHA, the wistful playing of the flute from the besieged castle is taken as a sign of the castle’s impending fall, the final flicker of the fire of resistance, but it unwittingly lures and mortally wounds the lord of the seemingly indomitable clan. The fates of the clans are reversed in an instant; the flicker of despair turns into the flicker of hope for the enemy.
Given that many of Kurosawa’s earlier films tackled with the issues of post-war poverty and social distress, one would assume Kurosawa was thrilled by Japan’s rapid recovery, but the modern Japan of DREAMS is one of industrial pollution and destruction of nature. The great blessing of postwar recovery had metastasized into an ever-expanding octopus of steel and concrete that spewed harmful chemicals into the air and streams. All his life, Kurosawa was keenly aware of the swinging fortunes of Japan. As a child, he surely heard of the long reign of the Tokugawa system and its sudden decline and fall. Tokugawa dynasty had thought that it created the perfect system, but it closed Japan from the world, leaving it woefully unprepared to meet the challenges posed by the West, the economies and technologies of which had grown by leaps and bounds by the time their ships menaced the coasts of Japan. The fall of the old order seemed liked the end of Japan to many patriots, but the new order catapulted Japan into one of the great powers within several decades, and Japanese thought they had won their place in the sun. Japan eyed rest of Asia as a big prize, and the creation of a Japan-dominated Asian sphere seemed ever realizable, especially as China was divided among warlords and weakened by Western imperialists. And when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Southeast Asia, it seemed as though nothing could stand in its way. And yet, the seeds of Japan’s destruction had been sown on the soil of its great victories. Japan was allied with Germany that would eventually lose the war. Chinese seemed like easy prey, but Japan found itself in a vast quagmire. And US awakened from its slumber and smashed Japan. During and after the war, many Japanese probably thought their nation was finished. Not only were its major cities flattened by bombs old and new, but the economy was in shambles. Japan lost all of its empire. Who knew what the Americans had in store for the Japanese? The Emperor was reduced to General MacArthur’s Tokyo Shoeshine Boy.
Most Japanese in 1945 surely didn’t think Japan would become a major economic power. The most they could hope for was to beg for mercy from the Americans and be allowed to survive. And yet, the Americans, who’d rained hellfire from the skies, didn’t turn out to be bad guys. The new system instituted by Americans offered greater freedoms and rights for most Japanese. Like Chinese in Hong Kong and Singapore under British rule, Japanese gained in personal and individual freedom — and political rights — what they lost in national sovereignty. Though Kurosawa was no fan of militarism, he’d been proud of Japan’s rise as a great power and was horror-struck by its ignominious defeat and surrender. And though he saw the advantages of the fall of the militarist regime and democratization enforced by the Americans, he had doubts about a power that had senselessly killed so many civilians in the war. If Japan’s ruthless policy in the invasion of Asia was proof of its evil, how better could the Americans be when they too had no qualms about killing as many people to achieve their ends? But Americans turned out to be rather decent conquerors and did much to restore Japan’s role in the world economy. And it’s doubtful that Kurosawa would have had the kind of artistic freedom that made him world famous under a Japan still under military rule. And the horrors of the war and its socio-economic consequences were powerful material for many of Kurosawa’s films. Again, the great curse turned out to be a great blessing. In the film NIXON by Oliver Stone, Nixon says his career was built on the tragic deaths of others. The death of his older brother, a traumatic thing for the family, allowed Nixon to go to college, and later, the death of Kennedy and the implosion of the Democrats under LBJ, paved the way for Nixon’s triumph in 1968. And when Nixon won reelection by a landslide, it seemed as though history was on his side, only to lay a trap for the biggest political scandal in American history. It was a career of great ups and downs, of sudden shifts in fortunes. Japan since the late 1960s has been a stable and even boring nation, but the same couldn’t be said of the first six decades of Japan in the 20th century. They were times when anything — everything good and everything bad — seemed possible. A time when it was common for family members to die of diseases and social ills, by wars and violence. A time when war threatened everywhere — by actions of Japan or other great powers. A time when it seemed like Japan could own half the world(by creating the Greater Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere) or lose everything, even itself in the immolation of defeat. Kurosawa’s own life mirrored some of these dramatic highs and lows. There was bound to be a great cultural divide between his father and himself; and the death of his much beloved older brother left a scar on his psyche. And surely, Kurosawa lost friends and relatives in the war, especially as he lived in Tokyo, a city that was bombed nearly flat by Americans. And yet, it was the Americans whose aid, protection, and markets allowed Japan to build a Tokyo that was more magnificent that any that had been imagined possible. This sense of uncertainty of the future, fate, or destiny marks many of Kurosawa’s films.
Being too uncertain and being too certain of the future are both roads to psychic hell. In THRONE OF BLOOD, Washizu(Toshiro Mifune) is driven as much by paranoia as by ambition. He craves power but also prizes his secure place under his lord. But his wife fuels his ambitions and anxieties, and he comes to see enemies all around him; he feels that unless he finishes them off first, they’ll finish him. In a way, he’s being both obedient and rebellious to the prophecy as told him by a forest witch. Events turn out as the witch had portended, but Washizu has no idea which specific actions will lead to the fulfilment of the prophecy. He’s so anxiety-ridden that he’s not sure if he’s acting to realize the prophecy or avoid its pitfalls. Thus paradoxically, he’s at once utterly reckless and frightfully wary. The prophecy portended wildly unlikely events — the death of his lord, his rise to power, the rise to power of the son of his friend — but didn’t fill in the details of exactly how it would be fulfilled. Haunted by the prophecy, Washizu is compelled to make the prophecy come true, but lacking clear instructions, he has to improvise to make them come true. But the prophecy also portends that good fortune for him will also mean good fortune for his friend’s son, i.e. the heir to the throne will be someone other than his own son inside his wife’s womb. So, Washizu scrambles to both realize and rebel against the prophecy.
If Washizu is ever uncertain of the events in the fulfilment of the prophecy, the old father in RECORD OF A LIVING BEING(aka I LIVE IN FEAR) is totally certain that the world will blow up in a nuclear holocaust and devises a surefire plan of saving his family from the apocalypse: to move them all to Brazil and start a new life as farmers. In a way, Washizu and Kiichi(the crazy father of RECORD OF A LIVING BEING also played by Mifune) have something in common. They are both haunted by a prophecy. But if Washizu has his doubts — and if not for the prodding of his devious wife, would have acted differently — , Kiichi has no doubts about the future. He’s 100% sure that there is only one way to save himself and the family. The extreme uncertainty principle in THRONE OF BLOOD and extreme certainty principle in RECORD OF A LIVING BEING both drive men crazy. As the Burt Young character in ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA says, “Life is funnier than shit.” The story he tells in the movie, notwithstanding the fact that Kurosawa tended to be sexually prudish, could almost be a summary of the dynamic of ‘fate vs fortune’ in a Kurosawa film:
Life is stranger than shit, that’s all. It’s a pisser. No big story. I got this insurance agent, this Jew kid named David. He conned me into every policy in the world. Every policy, name it, dogs, house, wife, life, anything. I’m drinking with the boys one night. He comes in with his wife, a brunette with a nice ass who works for a jeweler. And he’s still on the hustle, this guy. So I wink at the guys, I say, “Look… the most serious policy, you don’t have me covered for.” He goes, “What’s that, Joe?” “Cock insurance. You make me a policy that when it don’t work, I get a payment. I’ll write out a check now.” He thinks, and he says, “I don’t know if the actuality gauges govern this… but we can make a policy. But you gotta guarantee you’re in good health now.” I says, “Look, leave her with me. Come back and see if it stands up. If it stands up, you know I’m in good health.” The jerk leaves her. I screw her. Not only that, she likes it. And she tells me when her boss, the jeweler is shipping stones to Holland, where he keeps his stash – in a drawer in the safe – everything! Can’t ask for more, right? Except, one better. I never paid the first premium on the new cock policy.
While twists and turns are the feature of just about every storytelling, Kurosawa went an extra step and intuited the seeds of destruction sown in the fields of fortune and vice versa(as in the story of the farmer and the horse), and this was especially true in HIDDEN FORTRESS — which might have been an influence on THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY. In HIDDEN FORTRESS, the recurrence of misfortune-into-fortune and vice versa weave through the entire fabric of the plot. Just when some grave misfortune befalls the protagonists, its flip-side provides an avenue for escape. Sometimes, the protagonists plan ahead and use deception — even ‘negative psychology’ — like chess players, but sometimes they are overtaken by events beyond wildest expectations, but then, the apparent doom unleashes the very surge that washes them onto safer shores. And all these happenings interlink with one another until the key moment arrives when chance shall again decide what happens next. If the two commoners with no higher motive than petty greed think only in terms of pure chance — as in rolling the dice — , the princess and her protector must think in terms of cumulative chance — as in the game of billiards — where every decision opens up new possibilities(foreseen and unforseen) but all of which are interconnected with earlier events. This conflicted sense of certainty vs uncertainty — of one’s own heart as well as of the world beyond one’s control — informs many of Kurosawa’s films. In HIGH AND LOW, the kidnaping triggers off a chain reaction of mental/emotional crises in its lead character Kingo Gondo(Mifune). What began as a conflict between himself(backed by the law) against the criminal turns into an inner-conflict within himself. It’s as if one side of him holds the other side hostage, as if he has to release himself from his own ‘psychological kidnaping’ to do the right thing and aid the law in saving the child.
HIDDEN FORTRESS is one of Kurosawa’s lighter movies — an action adventure that was one of the inspirations for STAR WARS — , but it may be the most complexly plotted and conceptualized thesis on the nature of the conflict between order and chaos. “Life is funnier than shit”, and we can never be sure if the balance will tip one way or the other, turning blood into wine or wine into blood. To be sure, Kurosawa’s emphasis on the physical tends to crowd out the nuances of the theme, and one wonders if the ideal director for HIDDEN FORTRESS would have been someone like Kon Ichikawa, a director possessed of a nimbler touch of absurd. Despite the complexity of the plot and the interconnectedness of events, Kurosawa foregrounds the main characters and the action like a sports photographer zooming in on the athletes, whereas Ichikawa, more like a sports commentator, might have had a keener appreciation of the overall pattern of the story and its fuller implications. Ichikawa’s films rarely had dominant characters in the way of Kurosawa’s films. Rather, in films as varied as BURMESE HARP, ENJO, THE KEY(aka Odd Obsession), REVENGE OF A KABUKI ACTOR, MAKIOKA SISTERS, and his 1994 version of 47 RONIN, the characters are somewhat secondary to the overall design — which is perhaps why his films never caught on with American audiences; they don’t have dominant heroes. Kurosawa, in a film like THRONE OF BLOOD, focused on the insect caught in the spider web. A formalist like Kubrick, Tati, or Ophuls(at his most extreme, as in LOLA MONTEZ) tended to focus on the web holding the insect. Ichikawa was too playful and versatile to ever develop a single approach or vision. Formalists present the web as being impervious, as if made of steel cables, but Ichikawa handled it like silk, as if soft flexibility, as opposed to hard brittleness, makes the spiderweb so fatal to its captives. But then, it could snap off at any time too, as power, no matter how apparently durable, is never indestructible. In a way, Ichikawa’s movie PHOENIX, aka FIREBIRD was his stab at action-comedy-epic in the vein of HIDDEN FORTRESS, and though wildly uneven, no stone was left unturned in toying with it from as many angles as possible. Kurosawa conceived of something crazy but handled it straight. It was with YOJIMBO that Kurosawa’s conception and execution were more in sync — some of the scenes in YOJIMBO could almost have been directed by the irrepressibly inventive and brilliant Ichikawa. As involved as Kurosawa was in the expressive potential of cinema, his films were first and foremost centered around themes crucial to his ‘vision of the world’. Thus, Kurosawa couldn’t just work on any film. His films had to be personal statements about the ‘human condition’ — an outlook shared by Masaki Kobayashi. If the peculiarities of Kurosawa’s personality and his samurai background made for a certain judgmentalism, Ichikawa’s merchant background and personality primed him to assess value differently. Ichikawa used the camera like a jeweler’s eye. A thing could have value for beauty or brilliance alone. Kurosawa could never really find worth in beauty that went against or was isolated from considerations of truth or morality, whereas Ichikawa delighted even in perversity and decadence if possessed of beauty, wit, or some special quality.
Though Ichikawa made his share of humanist films in the 50s — the most famous being THE HARP OF BURMA — , he soon displayed a new style that better suited his natural sensibility. With ENJO(adaptation of THE TEMPLE OF THE GOLDEN PAVILION) and FIRES ON THE PLAIN, Ichikawa conceived of a new film language and/or storytelling no less remarkable than those developing in Europe contemporaneously. If Kobayashi with THE HUMAN CONDITION and Kurosawa with BAD SLEEP WELL provided moral/social critiques of modern Japanese history/society, it was more difficult to ascertain the ‘message’ or ‘statement’ of Ichikawa’s post-humanist films. FIRES ON THE PLAIN has been called an anti-war film, and it’s certainly one of the most harrowing films about war, but there is little evidence of sermonizing or summing up why and what went wrong. The sense of malaise is more pervasive for being evasive; instead of materializing into a lesson to wrap our ethical fingers around, its essence hovers in the air. Furthermore, plenty of anti-war films prior to FIRES ON THE PLAIN had depicted the horror of war, but it was hell seen through the eyes of heaven. HUMAN CONDITION is about as depressing as a movie can get, but the hero is a good man, and the camera, as the hero’s companion, watches and judges the unjust world justly. What we see is immoral but how we see is moral; what we see is insane but how we see is sane. FIRES ON THE PLAIN offers no such comfort. We watch the hungry soldiers go mad, and the camera eye goes mad with them. It’s not a vision of hell as a moral lesson but hell made mundane, insanity made the norm. There is no sense of moral compass. The concept of community dissolves as the war goes badly, and every soldier seeks his own survival; but then, the sense of individuality disintegrates from the sheer exhaustion and demoralization, and soldiers turn into the living dead Of course, in its own way, FIRES ON THE PLAIN is a profoundly moral film, but not in the way of offering an easy moral perspective(as a security blanket), as in SCHINDLER’S LIST or SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, where, even in the darkest moments, we never lose sense of the good and sane. FIRES ON THE PLAIN presents an extreme reality where certitudes of good and evil fade from the eyes, hearts, and stomachs of men. The final image of the Japanese soldier being gunned down in the open fields even dissolves the barrier between life and death. The soldier, driven mad by hunger and duress, trudges toward enemy gunfire as if the compass of self-preservation has been broken. Can he no longer tell apart friend from foe? Does he welcome death to be put out of his misery? Lost and dazed, is he desperate for any human contact, even if it means to be killed by other humans? Ichikawa’s expression wasn’t nihilistic, i.e. there is no good and evil, but rather to point out that social, moral, and even spiritual categories that we take for granted in an orderly world can lose their meaning in the face of extremes. For a similar reason, a film like KAPO by Gillo Pontecorvo is immeasurably more powerful and interesting than SCHINDLER’S LIST where Jews, no matter how terrorized, retain their wonderfulness as saintly victims. In KAPO, a nice Jewish girl, driven to horror and despair, turns into the dehumanized creature that the Nazis accused her kind of being. What we think of as moral absolutes can, under duress, vanish from even the best of us. Innocence is corrupted so easily. In a way, there is no greater horror, i.e. that even the ‘good’ can become ‘bad’, for it means we can not only be easily defeated in body but in spirit. It’s the lack of understanding of such paradox that makes Jews and blacks blind to their own evil and insanity. Jews and blacks, like any other people, can be driven toward blind rage and evil. The forces driving them can be external — African savagery, white bigotry, antisemitism, etc. — or they can be internal — black aggressiveness and jigger-jiverishness, Jewish deviousness and contemptuousness, etc. — , but there is no eternal moral absolute of Jewish goodness or black goodness. The utter failure to face up to such truth makes the likes of Spielberg blind to the horrors committed by Zionists against Palestinians. As long as Spielberg is concerned, good Jews were murdered by evil Nazis, and the good Jews who survived the Holocaust are now defending themselves against nasty Arabs. It doesn’t occur to Spielberg that good Jews may have been driven mad and evil by the Holocaust or that Jews had long been evil and crazy in their own way for thousands of years. According to Spielberg, Jews were always good and will always be good. And according to the ideology of black rage, blacks were always good and driven to rage only by white evil, but even black rage is righteous rage with roots in absolute goodness. So, even though Negroes are loving DJANGO UNCHAINED for its sheer bloodlust, they are pretending to appreciate it from a ‘moral’ angle.
HARP OF BURMA and SCHINDLER’S LIST are what might be called parental films. Even though(or especially because) presented with the worst kind of horror, we feel the protective presence of the filmmakers are our parental guides; they hold our hands and assure us of the goodness of man prevailing over the evil we are shown on the screen. FIRES ON THE PLAIN and KAPO are orphanic films; we are thrust, almost abandoned, like orphans in a world of horrors, and we are forced to make sense of it in our own way. This was also the difference between the early neo-realist films of Rossellinni/DeSica and the later post-realist films of Pasolini beginning with ACCATONE. Though Scorsese credited Fellini’s I VITELLONI as a key inspiration for MEAN STREETS, the heart of Scorsese’s breakthrough film has more in common with Pasolini’s first film. ACCATONE, like FIRES ON THE PLAIN, makes us feel like orphans or stray dogs; we must fend for our own emotions and find our own. Sermonizing and/or emotionally holding our hands can be dramatically effective but can also narrow the range of styles. Unloosed from such conventions, the artist is open to a wider set of permutations of expressive possibilities, e.g. Kubrick with FULL METAL JACKET and Ichikawa with FIRES ON THE PLAIN. But if Ichikawa’s seminal war film and ENJO were morbidly somber and humorless — for understandable reasons given the material — , Ichikawa found yet more brilliant and inventive use of his style in black comedies like THE KEY(aka ODD OBSESSION), TEN DARK WOMEN, and REVENGE OF A KABUKI ACTOR. Flair and whimsy, as well as the sardonic humor of dark comedy, that came naturally to Ichikawa, was something Kurosawa generally lacked. Kurosawa could do wonderful and even brilliant things, but they had to be grounded in meaning, morality, passion, dynamic action, or vision of life. Kurosawa could make wonderful splashes with rocks hurled into the water. Ichikawa could skip stones. Orson Welles had both skills; he preferred to direct ‘important’ films, but he loved the sheer dazzle of filmmaking-for-filmmaking’s-sake, and so, even his lesser films like THE STRANGER, MR. ARKADIN, and THE TRIAL are impressive a cinematic circus acts. Kurosawa, despite his immense ego, served the material, whereas Welles made the material serve him. It was the difference between handling a lion and taming one.
Kurosawa approached cinema as a kind of museum. He sought to craft things of importance and value that would pass the test of time; he didn’t make films just to make films or to make a living. Ichikawa was less ambitious in quite that way; he approached cinema as a kind of hobby/collectible store or novelty shop. Things didn’t have to be important or serious to have value. There was value enough in originality and ingenuity; and it was for posterity to decide what should or shouldn’t last. Therefore, Ichikawa was more adaptable to changes in the Japanese film industry. If Kurosawa made only two films between 1966 and 1979, Ichikawa made sixteen films — 12 feature films and 4 documentaries. Though many of the films were dismissed as shallow entertainment, Ichikawa worked for the sheer joy of working. The value wasn’t entirely in the what but in the how. Even with inferior ingredients, one could be creative with the recipe. In the 80s, Ichikawa got another chance to work on a great project, and his version MAKIOKA SISTERS is, in my view, one of the greatest films ever. But like so many of his other films, MAKIOKA SISTERS is most memorable in the way it shows than what it shows or what it ‘has to say’. There is something faintly absurd about the privileged sisters in their cloistered world of cosmetics and kimonos. Beauty may be shallow, but it creates the illusion of depth; but then, what exactly is reality or illusion in the culture of man(and woman)? Ickikawa made a perfect match for a novel by Junichiro Tanizaki whose main obsession was with the facets of feminine beauty — as the beauty of the male warrior was the main obsession of the homosexual Yukio Mishima. Neither Ichikawa nor Tanizaki were moralists. Though steeped in Japanese cultural tradition, they were modernists and gentle nihilists who preferred beauty to duty, aesthetics to ethics. A story didn’t have to be about good and evil, fret about having meaning or no meaning. In contrast, Kurosawa felt compelled to end his most ‘nihilistic’ film YOJIMBO on a moral note: “live a long life eating rice gruel.” Not surprisingly, Oscar Wilde, Edgar Allan Poe, and the French Decadents had an influence on Tanizaki, and Ichikawa’s sense of style and flair also seems to be partly drawn from French influence. But one would be hard-pressed to find anything Frenchy about Kurosawa, and that may account for the French preference for Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu, Nagisa Oshima, and even Mikio Naruse over Kurosawa. Kurosawa’s main foreign influence came from the Russians and Americans, both a very moralistic people. Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, whose works had a deep impact on Kurosawa, were sermonizing artists, and American culture was closely associated with social reforms, moral righteousness, and religiosity, all of which can be found in the movies of John Ford and Frank Capra. I can’t imagine Kurosawa directing something like AN ACTOR’S REVENGE or MAKIOKA SISTERS, films where tone and mood are more essential than theme and morals.
Anyway, Kurosawa’s life and career — along with Japan’s — were of extreme highs and lows, and Kurosawa sometimes fell into his own trap; his international renown and the great success at home with RED BEARD would prove to be his undoing. His reputation got him hired for TORA! TORA! TORA!, an experience that drove him half-mad. And the unanimous national acceptance/approval that came with RED BEARD encouraged him to repeat the same formula with DODES’KADEN, both a critical and commercial failure. And yet, Kurosawa’s downfall would serve as the very basis for his comeback. Just when he thought he’d lost everything, a new generation of filmmakers in America looked to him as their master. It’s like George Bailey discovers he’s not all alone in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. To vari-phrase Clarence’s advice to George, “No man who has students is a failure.” Coppola and Lucas, as the new great stars of Hollywood with their success with THE GODFATHER movies and STAR WARS, decided to help their ‘master’ who’d fallen on hard times to once again realize his dream. They were to Kurosawa what Perceval was to Arthur in EXCALIBUR — Perceval revives Arthur who then revives Merlin. Such a reversal of (mis)fortune was something Kurosawa couldn’t have foreseen in the early 70s. As it turned out, Kurosawa’s film instincts had finally paid off. He’d said in interviews that the intended audience of his films were young Japanese — and, as it turned out, young Americans with cinematic aspirations also fell under his spell. (Francis Ford Coppola included two Kurosawa films — BAD SLEEP WELL, a clear influence on THE GODFATHER, and YOJIMBO — on his Sight & Sound list of 10 Greatest Films of All Time.)
When Lucas and Coppola approached Kurosawa in the late 70s, it must have been like the moment when Richard Gere — who’s supposed to be half-Japanese in the movie — visits the old grannie in RHAPSODY IN AUGUST. Though conscious of his international reputation, Kurosawa surely had no idea that his films had meant so much to younger generation of filmmakers around the world, indeed so much that they were willing to go out on a limb to help an aging director — considered ‘washed out’ — to make another film. Had it not been for KAGEMUSHA, it’s doubtful that Kurosawa would have been able to make RAN. Very likely, if not for Coppola and Lucas, Kurosawa’s final film — at least final major film — would likely have been DERSU UZALA. Kurosawa said his life is his movies and vice versa, and given the twists and turns of fortunes in both his movies and life, Kurosawa’s comment was even truer than as he intended. What makes his films so compelling is the tension between the unreliability of reality and the centrality of morality, and on those terms, RASHOMON suitably set the tone for the rest of his life and career in film. Though the ‘sentimental moralizing’ of RASHOMON can be considered a failing — and betrayal of the true meaning of Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s short stories — , Kurosawa at his core simply couldn’t give himself over to a nihilistic or relativistic view of humanity and the world. As such, the moralizing elements of RASHOMON weren’t so much dramatic padding as a sincere effort to make sense of a world that makes no sense. The message wasn’t that good prevails over evil, but that we must cling to the good even against all evidence of the wickedness of the world, a rather tall order, but then, what is life without hope and what is hope without the trial of faith? In a way, Kurosawa instinctively understood that nihilism could be just as comforting as moralism. The commoner who steals the baby’s clothes, having accepted the world as amoral, has no qualms about his deed. Though Kurosawa wasn’t a Christian and didn’t believe in God — as far as I know — , he searched for ‘god’, a kind of faith in some higher truth. The difference between Frank Capra and Kurosawa is the difference between populism and personalism. While there are plenty of foolish people in Capra’s films, there’s also a sense that most people are good-at-heart and if they only tried to understand one another, the world would be a better place. Though Capra was one of the biggest influences on Kurosawa, Kurosawa had a darker view of reality. Capra’s movies say there’s faith to be found if we just look into the hearts of most people. Kurosawa’s films say we must seek some kind of faith in mankind even if it’s a fool’s errand — if only to save our own souls. What the main character of THE IDIOT and Watanabe(the old dying man in IKIRU) come to share is a faith in man against all evidence.
Kurosawa’s eyes could see the world and humanity for what they were — none too pretty — , but his heart couldn’t follow along into the abyss of despair(especially as despair into nihilism led to numbness, which then morphed into a blissful embrace of amorality), and this explains his attachment to the works of Dostoevsky that depicted a dark and corrupt world without losing faith in man’s spiritual redemption. Thus, the world of Dostoevsky is filled with bad people and all manner of horror, but its ‘heroes’ are presented as troubled sinners than happy nihilists. The concept of the ‘sinner’ is premised on the notion of good and evil, matters not merely of the world but of the soul. In a world where to win one must sin, sinners do immoral, questionable, and even terrible things, but as long as the concept of ‘soul’ is preserved, every person possesses something that can be reclaimed and redeemed from the fallen world. For Dosteoevsky, nothing was more dangerous than the notion of nihilism. Not so much because it implied you could DO whatever but because it inferred the absence of the soul. Instead of the soul, there was only the will, the will-to-power, thereby suggesting that the only thing that mattered in the world was having stronger will than others and living by one’s own rules, the validity of which was determined by power. Thus, the character of Raskolnikov in CRIME AND PUNISHMENT kills the old lady not so much out of need than out of a ‘Napoleonic’ will to think and act beyond the morality of common humanity(though, to be sure, it is a compensatory act of somebody who is a nobody, just like Travis Bickles settles for the pimp since his nerve had failed him in bagging the big shark in the form of Palantine) . Even more terrifying for Dostoevsky was the potential of this amoral will(to power) becoming associated with a moral crusade to save the world. Raskolnikov, though a murderer, has one saving grace in that he has no grandiose moral excuse for what he did. He did it to test his amoral hypothesis of the will-to-power. In contrast, the characters in THE DEVILS are also driven by the will-to-power, but they concoct moral rationalizations to justify what is really a radical power-lust. In this sense, one could argue that Dostoevsky prophesied the Bolshevik rise to power — and the Nazi rise to power and Jewish takeover of America as well. The Bolsheviks and Nazis practiced the radical will-to-power with soup kitchens. Amorality is dangerous but more dangerous is amorality sold as the new morality. Similarly, today’s decadence is more dangerous than decadence of the past for its neo-moralism. The decadent Romans didn’t pretend that their indulgences were moral. They were acting like the gross lavish louts in Fellini’s SATYRICON for the sheer pleasure of it. And Oscar Wilde valued decadence as decadence. But today, Jews and gays have moralized the immoral. So, we are told that ugly and disgusting rap music has profound things to say — as long as it goes easy on Jews and homos. We are told that ‘gay marriage’, an idea that degrades the most important moral institution of civilization, is the most important moral issue of out time in the name of ‘marriage equality’. But isn’t saying that fecal penetration has the same biological and moral value as real sex kinda like saying that retardation is of equal value to genius? We are also told that illegal aliens who violated American laws are ‘more American than American’ and more moral than real American citizens who have lived by the law of the land all their lives. Indeed, a legal immigrant who plays the rules is worse off than an illegal alien who breaks all the rules. Similarly, Wall Street Jews who broke all the rules reaped more reward than honest businessmen of Main Street who played by the rules. And radical gays who push stuff like ‘gay marriage’ win more praise and accolades from the Jewish-controlled ‘mainstream media’ than do decent straight Americans who believe in the values of family and responsibility. And in California, high school graduates who caused trouble for themselves are often favored over responsible students; the former can claim ‘hardship’ — though caused by themselves through bad behavior or drug use — and be favored by college admission board on the basis of sympathy. In Jewish-controlled America, it’s like all the values and norms have been reversed or turned upside down. ‘Happy Hannukah’ wins you more plaudits than ‘Merry Christmas’ though Jews are only 2% of the American public; every holiday season, a giant Menorah is erected outside the White House. A mulatto with radical ties gets to be president while a white person with the slightest whiff of ‘racism’ or ‘homophobia’ is disgraced by the power structure. The gay lifestyle is promoted and celebrated more than the decent values and way of life of real families. Single mothers praised as ‘liberated’ and ‘free’ — though many of them live on the public dole, often for the entirety of their lives — while women who choose to be wife-mothers are denigrated for standing by their man and children. Illegal aliens are praised as what America is all about whereas Americans who uphold the rule of law are said to be ‘closed-minded’. But don’t expect to find much sense among American conservatives who get more passionate about defending Israel than about their own white interests in America or Europe.
Dostoevsky demonstrated the power of fiction to unearth the deep secrets of the mind or soul. As Harold Bloom said of Shakespeare, the Elizabethan playwright mapped the psyche long before Freud attempted it along ‘rational’ lines. Perhaps, this isn’t surprising since what we call ‘fiction’ is an allegorization of what we understand as truth; ‘fiction’ is truth with a mask. What truly distinguishes fiction from non-fiction? If John and Jane did something and if we recount what their deed but change their names to ‘Bob’ and ‘Betty’, is it fiction or non-fiction? Suppose we still maintain that it’s non-fiction albeit with altered names. Now, what if we stick to the basic narrative of what happened but change the chronology a bit. Is it still non-fiction or is it now fiction? Where is the tipping point that turns non-fiction into fiction, turns water into wine? This is a question that has perplexed and even scandalized the admirers of the Polish Communist journalistRyszard Kapuscinski. There is no such thing as pure fiction as all works of fiction draw on the real world and real events; and there is no such thing as pure non-fiction since all non-fictional narratives depend on unreliable sources, hidden agendas, ulterior motives, self-promoting and self-serving lies and fabrications. To what extent was Obama’s DREAMS FROM MY FATHER real or unreal? There so many questions remaining about Ronald Reagan’s life that his official biographer Edmund Morris freely mixed fact and fiction in DUTCH: A MEMOIR. And what of the Jewish-controlled American media that serve as the propaganda wing of the Democratic Party(that is also controlled by Jews) and of the Zionist Neocons in the Republican Party? Especially with the rise of mass electronic media, colorful celebrity-like characters have gained leverage in politics, especially beginning with John F. Kennedy, the first president who owed his success to TV. Johnson lucked out because Kennedy died, and then the un-telegenic Nixon won because all hell broke out n 1968 and because McGovern in 1972 was a colorless candidate. Carter won as a folksy TV personality but was buried by Reagan, who was trained as an actor. Bush rode on coattails of Reagan and had a pushover candidate in the underwhelming Dukakis. Clinton was as smooth as Reagan, but Gore’s stiffness cost him in 2000 against the folksy ‘beer buddy’ Bush II. Obama is like an Hollywood actor groomed and coached by Jews. So, what is fiction and non-fiction?
And what is fiction and non-fiction when it comes to history? Did 6 million Jews really die in the Holocaust? Or was the number 5 million or lower? Was MLK really some kind of a saint, or is his myth mostly fiction? And what about facts that are shrouded in the aura of fiction, i.e. documentary footage presented with gushy music, making it more uplifting and inspirational than it is on its own terms? And there endless ways in which words can be used both convey the fact and spin the ‘fiction’, i.e. to say Japan ‘advanced’ into Asia is no less factually correct than saying Japan ‘invaded’ Asia, but the moral implications are very different. Furthermore, each language has its own flavor and character, thus no two words, let alone no two sentences, can ever ‘feel’ the same between two languages even if they objectively describe the same thing. All our means of expression or communication have a way of ‘fictionalizing’ things since language and media can never be the real thing that they seek to convey; at best, they can only be facsimiles of the real thing. There is also the truth of time where the past is gone forever and cannot be recovered; the power of memory and recording circumvent the truth of time by creating the illusion that the past is still with us, and this illusion can have great power over us. (After all, no Jew is born knowing about the Holocaust, and no black guy is born knowing about black slavery in America. If they aren’t made aware of such things through the illusion of historical memory, such events may not even have taken place. This is why, if an adopted child is never told of his or her real parents, he or she spends his or her entire lifetime thinking he or she had grown up under his or her real parents. Consider how the Chinese Communist regime suppressed all the truth about the catastrophe of the Great Leap Forward, which was why so many young Chinese were willing to loyally serve Mao again in the Cultural Revolution. Mao had killed so many of their countrymen, but young Chinese saw Mao as a god. Or consider Ukrainian children in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Stalin’s economic policies killed millions of their fellow countrymen, even members of their families and relatives, but the children, taught the official history and ideology of the Soviet Union, worshiped Stalin and embraced the Revolution and even spat on the victims of Stalin as subhuman kulaks who deserved to die. So, the control of the illusion of history is power. The past is gone forever, an iron truth of time, and it can only be kept ‘alive’ through the illusion of history; facts can only survive as ‘fiction’, therefore who controls the power of ‘fiction’ controls the past that either validates or invalidates the power of the present. It doesn’t matter if people A killed a million of people B while people B killed only one hundred of people A. What ‘is’ becomes what ‘was’, and ‘was’ might as well not even have happened unless it is kept alive by the illusion of memory. If the institutions of the illusion of memory keep alive the story of people B killing one hundred of people A while burying the memory of people A killing a million of people B, the collective memory will be of people B committing an evil against people A, even though people B killed a lot fewer people of people A than people A killed of people B. If Nazis had conquered Eastern Europe, they would have killed tens of millions and then buried the factual ‘was’ forever, as if none of it happened. Nazis would have kept alive only the stories of how Germans had been historically wronged by non-Germans but not vice versa. Something similar is happening in today’s America that is controlled by Jews. Jews bury some ‘was’ into forever ‘was-ness’ while keeping alive other ‘was’ as ‘still is’ through their control of the media. So, for many white Americans, the story of TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD and Emmett Till might as well have happened yesterday because they’re kept ‘alive’ so vividly by the Jew-controlled media whereas the truth of all the whites robbed, raped, assaulted, and/or murdered since the 60s might as well not even have happened. Though black violence against non-blacks have been endemic since the 60s, most white dummies will likely be more aware of what happened over 150 yrs ago — via stuff like DJANGO UNCHAINED — than what is happening now across big cities where Negroes not only continue to attack one another but attack whites and other non-blacks for the sheer joy of their savagery. When white Americans used to control their own illusion of history, they shaped what their vision of America should be, but once that power slipped to the Jews, white Americans have had the righteousness of their power undermined by the new illusion of history. If ghosts existed and haunted us at all times, we would have a more truthful idea of what happened in the past. We would all be haunted not only by the ghosts of Holocaust evil but the ghosts of Jewish Bolshocaust and Zionist evil. We would be haunted by ghosts not only of black slavery but by ghosts of black thuggery and ghosts of white victims of black robbery, rape, assault, and murder. We would be haunted not only by ghosts of white imperialism but by ghosts of black African savagery that had ravaged Africa from the beginning of time. We would see that the evil soul of greed and blood-thirst have existed among all peoples and in all places and all times. But there are no ghosts of the past to haunt us. Past is gone forever, and the ghosts of the past can only be kept alive by the power of who-controls-the-memory in the present. If a thousand Jews were raised without knowing about the Holocaust, they simply would not know; no ghost of Holocaust Past is gonna haunt them and tell them the truth. Thus, the control of history is like the control of ghosts of the past to haunt us in the present. And this is what Kubrick’s THE SHINING is partly about. Who has control over the ghosts?)
What can we say about a news media that are so heavily saturated with celebrity news and celebrity politics? And celebrity opinions, especially with so many Americans getting their world-view from comedians like Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert, and Jon Stewart? And would-be comedians like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Moore, and Mark Levin?
If certain individuals use non-fiction to fool, manipulate, and hoodwink the people, other individuals use fiction to explore and expose certain truths that aren’t possible through non-fiction.
The problem of non-fiction in regards to truth is two-fold. At its principled best, non-fiction is not supposed to speculate(at least not too wildly) or draw conclusions without clear evidence. Thus, fact-based non-fiction rooted in principles cannot pretend to know more than what it really knows. There is integrity in this kind of non-fiction, but life isn’t possible if we only act on what we know to be absolutely true or ascertainable. The other problem of non-fiction is more dire. Non-fiction has often served as a means of power in the form of propaganda. Leni Rifenstahl’s two famous films, THE TRIUMPH OF THE WILL and OLYMPIA are both works of non-fiction, but they are less about truth than the promotion of Official Truth. Same can be said of any number of official documentary films produced by the Soviet Union or Red China. A documentary extolling the benefits of collectivization of agriculture while ignoring the fact that millions starved is technically and officially a work of non-fiction, but it has no value in regards to the actual truth. Also, what are we to say about books such as John Reed’s TEN DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD and Edgar Snow’s RED STAR OVER CHINA? Both were intelligent and idealistic men committed to the progress of mankind; both had sound journalistic credentials and considerable courage. But why were they willing to believe what the communists told them? Why were they willing to bend the truth to serve their agenda? They likely convinced themselves that in an imperfect world, the choice was between bigger evil and lesser evil, between higher good and lesser good, between historical necessities and historical obstacle. If little factual truths need be sacrificed for the Higher Good of Higher Truth, so be it, many seem to think. And of course, all sides think like this to varying degrees; we need only consider all the myths surrounding Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, and etc.
In an oppressive order where all the facts are owned by the powers-that-be, a honest dissenter may feel compelled to turn to the allegory of fiction to tell the truth that isn’t allowed by non-fiction in the form of the media, academia, and history as controlled by the government. But even in a free society where one has access to the facts(perhaps too many facts, so many that no single person could make sense of them all), the non-fiction narrative may be insufficient in elucidating the strange nature of reality that seems ever elusive; even in a free society, so much truth is lost with time, so many people tell lies, so many contradictory accounts and interpretations of the same event vie for attention; and there is such imbalance of power between the well-connected and the isolated, between the clever and the dim. Indeed, one way of neutralizing the truth in a free society is by using the freedom to present an abundance of counter-truths. Thus, the truth-teller becomes so busy with the discourse of arguing with the counter-truths that the truth becomes just another point of view, just one ‘truth’ among ‘many truths’. In a perfect world, people use freedom to raise honest questions to challenge what is offered as the truth, but more often than not, many people in a democracy willfully raise dishonest questions and put forth lies to obfuscate the truth in a fog of confusion and uncertainty; they act like electrons clouding up the nucleus. There are three ways of burying the truth in a democracy. One is by powerful institutions not providing a platform truth-tellers. Second way is to use taboos, whereby the truth-teller is disgraced for daring to speak the truth. The third way is to counter the truth with so much bogus or misleading ‘controversy’ that the central issue of the truth is lost in the ‘communication’. Consider Ron Unz’s piece in the American Conservative about how Jews may be using tribal networking to favor their own kind over white gentiles and Asians. Once it became talk of the town, what did the New York Times do? Instead of dealing with the central theme of Unz’s article — Jewish tribal networking and elite corruption — , Jew York Times stirred up a lot of bogus debate about whether Ivy League was being fair to Asians. Never mind that Unz demonstrated that white gentiles were being hurt even worse than Asians. This is how dirty hideous Jews play the game.
It’s been said of Proust that, in a way, he was the most profound psychologist of the 20th century, and perhaps the other candidate was Franz Kafka. In the 20th century, so many people employed non-fiction to spread lies and so many people employed fiction to tell truths; in many cases, the same person did both.
Neither Proust nor Kafka was trained in the science of psychology — though they aware of the developments in the field — , but, at least in one respect, the novelist had an advantage over the psycho-scientist for the mind is easier mapped as a dream than as a reality. Carl Jung understood this, which is why he insisted on taking a more mystical approach to the mind, an idea that abhorred Freud. Freud was willing to use myths and archetypes as guides and signposts of the mind but not as the actual substance of the mind. Since the mind is so complex and its workings so elusive — and since so much of human perception, consciousness, and experience is more about how we ‘fictionalize’ the reality around us than about seeing and accepting it for what it really is — , the imaginative, intuitive, and freely speculative approach of the artist may yield more insights than an approach that restricts itself to observed and proven data. A broken bone can be X-rayed and repaired with empirical/objective means, but man has yet to build an X-ray machine for broken hearts and damaged souls. No matter how much a psychoanalyst probes and questions, he must draw his conclusions based on the known data. A novelist, in contrast, can ‘enter’ the minds of others, see and live through them. Art is risky for the artist could be assuming, speculating, or imagining as true what isn’t or can’t be true. But when we read a psychologically perceptive novel, we almost feel as though the author understands us better than we do ourselves.
A visual master, Kurosawa never came anywhere near the psychological depth of Shakespeare or Dostoevsky — with the possible exception of SEVEN SAMURAI — , and this shortcoming may have owed to different starting points. Shakespeare and Dostoevsky began with psychology and sought moral resolutions to the problems of the human soul. Kurosawa began with morality and sought psychological understanding of why there’s so much bad in the world. Shakespeare and Dostoevsky began from complexity and moved toward simplicity whereas Kurosawa generally began with simplicity and moved toward complexity. And this was also the difference between Akutagawa and Kurosawa. The stories of Akutagawa are unwavering in their psychological ambiguity whereas Kurosawa felt a need to ‘make moral sense’ of what happens in the story “In a Grove” that was made into RASHOMON. The heart/art of Kurosawa could be understood in the scene in EXCALIBUR when Perceval, on the quest for the Holy Grail, is at the end of his tether and feels that all hope is lost.
Perceval says, “I can’t give up hope… it’s all I have.” KAGEMUSHA and EXCALIBUR were released a year apart, and both are about clinging to ‘hope’ when all seems lost. In KAGEMUSHA, the great lord is badly wounded and eventually dies, but the his domain is maintained by the myth of his being alive. And when the clan finally meets its doom, the thief who’d served as the ‘double’ remains true to his faith in the clan. The second part of EXCALIBUR is also about an ailing lord, and the Knights of the Round Table go out on a limb to preserve the dream of Camelot, but then, everything falls apart just the same. Even so, Perceval returns the Excalibur to the lake in the hope that it will rise again for the future king.
Clinging to hope against hope is a recurrent theme in Kurosawa’s film. It’s there in the final image of RASHOMON with the woodcutter walking away with the orphaned child. It’s there in the earlier film ONE WONDERFUL SUNDAY where the couple search for happiness in bombed out post-war Tokyo. And of course, in IKIRU. And the story of SEVEN SAMURAI is predicated on an almost hopeless cause of the peasants to recruit samurai to defend the village from bandits.
One of Kurosawa’s stranger films is SCANDAL — strange because it is, at once, his most cynical and most innocent film. The nervy drama revolves around tabloid journalism, but the film’s heart rests with the leading character’s(Mifune) compassion of a bed-ridden pure-hearted girl. It’s about gaining faith in a world without faith.
But, there is also a dark side to hope for hope is a kind of imagination, and imagination has a way of getting carried away. In the case of DODES’KADEN, the power of imagination fuels a funny-big-headed semi-retarded young man into believing he’s a trolley engineer, and as such, he’s found a ‘meaningful’ place in a run-down slum. But hope takes on darker hues in a dangerous world.
There is a kind of meaning and even beauty to the devotion that the thief comes to feel for the clan in KAGEMUSHA, but the delusion becomes a kind of madness and destroys him along with the clan. The character Tango in RAN is, in some ways, the most admirable character in the film, but his sincere and undying devotion to a senile lord fails in the end to solve anything. The clan is lost just the same, the lord and his son are dead, and he’s a nobody without anyone to serve. The darkest hope is perhaps in RECORD OF A LIVING BEING. On the one hand, the old man seems to have lost all hope for the world. He thinks Japan will be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust. But his utter conviction of doom has created within him a fanatical and fantastical hope of saving his own family by moving it to Brazil. Slowly going mad, he hopes against hope in increasing isolation. On that level, he has something in common with the old man of IKIRU. They are both alone in the end, either with hope or with anti-hope(which is a kind of hope).
One of the biggest misinterpretations of DERSU UZALA rests on the assumption that the film is about the ideal harmony of man and nature. From this follows the notion that Dersu Uzala is a man of pure soul who has found and accepted his meaningful niche in nature, i.e. he doesn’t need more than what nature provides for him. Finally, according to the misreading of the film, it is the encroachment of civilization, presumably destructive and heartless, that destroys Dersu. And Kurosawa may have partly been at fault for having said in an interview:
“The relationship between human beings and nature is getting worse and worse… I wanted to have people all around the world to know about this Soviet-Asian character(sic for the story takes place prior to the Russian Revolution) who lived in harmony with nature… I think people should be more humble toward nature because we are part of it and must be harmonized with it. If nature is destroyed, human beings will be destroyed too. So, we can learn a lot from Dersu.”
Based on the comment above, one might assume that Dersu is a Yoda-like figure at harmony with the magical ‘force’ of nature. But, there are more than one way to interpret Kurosawa’s comment. He said “we can learn a lot from Dersu”, which is not the same thing as “we should be like Dersu.” By “being harmonized with nature”, Kurosawa likely meant that modern society shouldn’t encroach on parts of nature that are worth preserving. There must be a place for trees, rivers, and valleys too. And ‘more humble toward nature’ implies not only reverence of nature but awe of nature, a fear of its ‘vengeful’ power.
Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, ‘form is content’. In the end, it doesn’t matter what Kurosawa may have or haven’t said. We can only judge the film by the evidence of what’s on the screen. Of course, there are many ways one can interpret what one sees. While we can all agree on what happens in a movie, different viewers may see it differently. And given the powerful role of the ego in our psyche, a kind of Rashomon-like dynamic takes hold where each viewer insists that what ‘I’ saw is truer than what ‘you’ saw. Also, since we can’t possibly notice or remember every detail of a movie, everyone focuses on different details and then ‘mistakes’ them as the essence of the story. And this accounts for why there’s so much disagreements about movies, even great ones. Some people focus on film technique and style, on the very process of filmmaking. They try to see the film through the eyes of the director. Others focus on characters and dialogue. Others focus on story and plot.
I disagreed with someone on the merits of the MATRIX trilogy because we focused on different things, which had an effect on our overall approaches as well. For myself, part three was by far the most satisfying and the part one the least whereas her case was the exact reverse. I thought the ideas conveyed in part one were the tired cliches of sci-fi. So, all I cared about were the special effects, and as part three piled on the fireworks; part three could at least be enjoyed as a great roller-coaster ride. My feelings about ATTACK OF THE CLONES were much the same. I’d given up on the story and characters in the STARS WARS universe and just wanted a good show. In contrast, my friend took the ideas in the first MATRIX movie seriously and was turned off by the wall-to-wall non-stop action of part three.
Notwithstanding the different ways in which members of the audience interpret a movie, I maintain below that Donald Richie and others fundamentally misread the film. Also, whatever Kurosawa’s conscious intentions may have been, the final product turned out to be emotionally darker and thematically more ambiguous than what he said in the interview.
First, I don’t think the film is about the ‘harmony’ of man and nature. It’s about the conflict and struggle between man and nature, and on that level, the feeling throughout DERSU UZALA is as arduous as alluring. It’s not the nature we see in movies like DANCES WITH WOLVES in which a white man has the time of his life by playing ‘Injun’ under a smiling sun in the paradisiacal plains of unspoiled America where it’s great fun to hunt ‘buffalos’ that spectacularly roll across the fields as organic trucks of hamburger meat. (In most nature movies, nature is either paradise or hell, just like in most space alien movies the extraterrestrials are either wonderful friends or murderous enemies.) The character of Dersu is not some pristine child of nature — like the primitives of THIN RED LINE and THE NEW WORLD — but a man who must use every ounce of his wit, skill, and stamina to survive day after day in a beautiful but pitilessly harsh environment.
Though it’s tempting to read the film as one of ‘heartless mechanized civilization encroaching on nature’, we must keep in mind that it is Dersu who seeks out the Russian explorers and is eager to serve as their guide. Just as some wolves sought out the company of man and became the dog; Dersu, though steeped in the natural environment, is a lonely creature. Part of DERSU UZALA is about man’s need for nature — and man’s inability to survive without nature — , but the other side of DERSU UZALA is man’s need for other men, the need for friendship, camaraderie, and trust.
The story begins on an ambiguous note. Captain Arseniev and his men are trekking through unfamiliar territory, and the voice-over narration says: “Sometimes mountains and forests look cheerful and attractive. At other times, they look sullen and wild.” This sums up the duality of the film’s view of nature. Nature is not a paradise, an Eden providing its children with all they need. It is beautiful and majestic but also rough and dangerous, cluttered with obstacles and challenges for man and animal alike. Nature merely as sight and sound can be as alluring as in documentaries on PBS, but nature on the flesh and bone is no easy task. At least birds have wings. And where trails don’t exist, people must cut through tangled forests. What keeps the Russian explorers safe and sound are each other’s company. They are in the middle of nowhere in some godforsaken part of Siberia but, as a group of comrades, constitute a mini-civilization. Sitting around a campfire, they feel not just the warmth of flames but camaraderie. As the lord Hidetora says in RAN, “Only birds and beasts live in solitude.” And in IKIRU, what the old man fears most is not so much the dying as dying alone(without a meaningful connection to the world). Unable to connect with those near him — even his son — , he pursues a project to form a bond with the community. In SEVEN SAMURAI, as rambunctious and independent-spirited as Mifune’s character pretends to be, he’s really a lonely figure who wants to be part of something. Though born a farmer’s son, he left that world but isn’t accepted as a samurai either. So, he latches onto the mission of saving a village from bandits. And once the thief gets a taste of community in KAGEMUSHA, he wants to be a real member, just like a dog wants to be part of its master’s family. Perhaps the most individualistic figure in Kurosawa’s films is the Mifune character in YOJIMBO and SANJURO, but then he is mythic with supra-human qualities. But, even he ends up feeling an attachment to community, if only to lay it to waste, as he does in YOJIMBO. In SANJURO, upon overhearing the naive sentiments of a group of idealistic young samurai, he feels compelled to join and aid the group. It’s human to feel attached to other humans, even when the latter are strangers, which is why so many people get wrapped up in politics and issues. It makes them feel a part of something.
The Russians gathered around the campfire hear a strange sound and suspect a dangerous animal or marauder is lurking about and grab their guns. It’s like the tension of the nighttime scenes in SEVEN SAMURAI. A voice is heard, “Me are people”, a kind of pidgin Russian, and gradually a figure appears in the shape of a nomadic hunter who calls himself ‘Dersu Uzala’. It’s a man alright, but in another way, he is like an animal seeking warmth, a moth attracted to something glowing in the dark. Dersu says he hasn’t had for food for days, and the Russians feed him. He has a large head, almost no neck, and a stocky body. He moves about in a bow-legged gait. He looks like a human version of the Asiatic black bear — and his relationship with the tiger is like that of the black bear’s: one of immense fear and respect. Though Dersu has lived in this world all his life, the first impression of him is as an old grizzled man who struggles for survival on a daily basis. We sense that Dersu has survived for as long as he did because he knows all about the pitilessness of nature, a truth that must be accepted and revered for what it is. Though Russians are the ‘fish out of water’, they are the ones who provide food for Dersu. And it is Dersu who came to them. When asked about his family, Dersu says his wife and children died long ago from small pox — perhaps contacted from visitors from civilization(though we are not sure). Captain Arseniev then asks Dersu if he would like to be their guide. Arseniev correctly senses that Dersu is a lonely old man in need of companionship, and besides, his company could use the help of someone who knows the terrain. Dersu doesn’t immediately accept the offer and says he must think about it, whereupon one of the Russians makes a gruff sound, but Arseniev motions him to be quiet. Arseniev understands there’s a matter of pride involved. Dersu doesn’t wanna seem over-eager, as if he’s a lonely nobody in the wild desperate for company of men, even that of strangers.
In a way, Arseniev and Dersu are suited for one another because, different as they are in many respects(race, culture, temperament, etc), both are individuals who rise above the social, communal, and/or natural norms. Arseniev stands out from other Russians for he’s well-educated and well-bred. He’s curious and empathetic. He could be of aristocratic lineage and has a sense of the world beyond the conventions of Russian culture. In an urban setting, he might be something of a cosmopolitan. In a way, he represents the best of civilization: A man of knowledge, progress, and decency; a man who can see and feel beyond the perimeters of his nation and culture.
In some ways, Dersu couldn’t be more different. Dersu is probably illiterate. It appears he spent his entire life in the forest moving from one sporadic settlement to another. He may have visited some town, but what goes by ‘town’ in that part of the world could be just a huddle of primitive shelters. At the end of the movie when Dersu settles in Arseniev’s town — modest by big city standards — , it’s almost like he’s on another planet.
But like Arseniev, Dersu is more than the creature of his environment. For one thing, it seems that his ethnic stock, the Goldis, is either very small or fading into extinction. There is something like THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS about Dersu. Like Zorba is quintessentially Greek but also more-than-Greek(in life experiences and folksy wisdom), Dersu is Goldi but more than Goldi — as Arseniev is Russian but more than Russian. Dersu’s wisdom was attained through a lifetime with its share of pain and sorrow. Having lost his wife and children to disease long ago, he’s lived much of his adult life alone, as hunter and trader. Without close ties to family or his ethnic kin, Dersu has become something of a friend to various peoples. He cuts across cultures and finds common cause with different groups, helping them and being helped by them. That he can speak pidgin Russian indicates that he’d met other Russians before — as traders, hunters, or previous explorers. In his own crude way, Dersu is a cosmopolitan too. Or one might call him a cosmo-naturian. Dersu, by circumstance and/or his personality, has formed a larger sense of life and humanity. Had his family survived, his existence may have revolved around his wife and children, and he would have relied on his children to help him in old age. But, he’s an old man growing older on his own. It’s a lonely life, but he’s learned lessons he otherwise might have missed in a domestic arrangement centered around the family. Many of Kurosawa’s characters gain only through some great loss. In IKIRU meaning of life comes only through the looming loss of life. The shoe factory executive in HIGH AND LOW must lose his fortune to keep his soul or gain a better one. The young doctor in RED BEARD abandons his personal ambition to gain a moral purpose in life. The old lord of RAN loses power and sanity but gains, only through a nightmare vision, an understanding of the deeper implications of his life. In facing crisis, one wrestles with madness — and some succumb to it totally, especially in RECORD OF A LIVING BEING — , but just as one can’t fight off a cold without a fever, certain truths can’t be attained without the throes of madness. If some individuals recover from a mad fever with greater wisdom, others merely fall victim to it. The old patriarch of RECORD OF A LIVING BEING has a successful business and an extended family but fears they’ll all be lost in a nuclear holocaust. In a way, his fears and psychological crisis help him see and feel more than others. He isn’t wrong to sneer at the foolish Japanese — a people who’d undergone a horrific war in which they could have been wiped out if Americans had so chosen — who think that everything is back to normal and there’s nothing more to fear(and as such, people should just fixate on mundane matters of daily existence). He has every right to fear and worry. His fears of war may be fantastic but is one’s confidence in peace necessarily more realistic? (As history turned out, Japan survived the Cold War in one piece, but what if tensions had escalated into a hot war in the Pacific? The film was made only two years after the Korean War, a war that both boosted the Japanese economy and unnerved the Japanese about future wars pitting East and West, between which Japan was caught in the middle.) He thinks Japanese are delusional in their faith in peace and prosperity, so he tries to ‘see’ more than other Japanese — just like Dersu ‘sees’ more of nature than Russians do. But his will to ‘see’ what others don’t see eventually drives him mad, and he really comes to ‘see’ what is not there. (Also, the nature of ego being what it is — it wants to be proven right — , he becomes more worried about being proven wrong by peace than being proven right by nuclear holocaust. He doesn’t want the world to be blown up, but he wants to be proven right about its blowing up. He develops a prophet-mentality. It’s like someone who spent his entire life building a survival shelter would be bummed out if it had all been for naught. To be prophetic means to see with the eyes of gods, thus implying one wants to be a god. Such an enlarged ego may prefer to be proven right by the end of the world than proven wrong by the continuation of the world. People are strange that way.) Thus, Kurosawa finds the links between wisdom and madness. They are not the same thing but interrelated as the path toward wisdom requires deviation from normal routines and assumptions. Just like ‘no pain, no gain’, it’s like ‘go insane to be more sane’, a tricky paradox.
This was certainly true of all the great religious prophets throughout history. They were half-mad men who underwent profound personal, moral, spiritual, or social crisis. Siddhartha, according to legend, grew up believing that the world was an Edenic paradise, but when he chanced upon death and disease, he sort of lost his mind and only gradually regained it by meditating on a higher truth. (As profound as Buddhism may be, I always found Buddha’s insight to be rather cowardly. It’s rather too convenient to say the world is just an illusion, therefore one must withdraw into the mind and extinguish the mechanism that creates the illusion. Just how are all those hideous Jews and jigger-jivers ruining Western Civilization just an illusion?) Jesus was something of an oddball too, and it took Him forty days of fasting and meditating/praying to arrive at great truths such as one should turn the other cheek and surrender all wealth and pray for the end of the world. And Muhammad was another serious weirdo. And in primitive tribes, the sorcerer or shaman often lives in a state of semi-exile. He is both an insider and outsider. As a seer and witch-doctor, he can be a strange and even frightening figure to others of the community. But he(or she) is believed to have gone and seen farther — in a sort of Vision Quest — than others who generally stick to more mundane stuff like hunting, gathering, family raising, sitting around campfires and telling jokes, and etc.
In any community, there are the followers and the seers. Most Christians just accept the teachings of Christ and attend Church. And most clergymen preach what they’d been taught. But there’s a small number of Christians who need to know and understand more, to personalize their understanding of Christianity and offer up their own visions of its true calling. And when the new vision is drastically or fundamentally different from the norm, it can lead to new cults like Mormonism. Same is true of all faiths. Most people of primitive societies just follow the customs handed down to them. But for some — due to eccentricities of personality or circumstances of life or both — , there is a need to find their own personal interpretations of the received cosmology. And through such a half-mad process a new variation or mutation of the vision can arise, which is why some scholars think that all ideas are, in a way, ‘misinterpretations’ of other ideas that are themselves ‘misinterpretations’ of earlier ideas. Because words and images can mean/signify different things, they can be (mis)interpreted in many ways. Thus, there is no single way to interpret the U.S. Constitution. There is no single way to interpret the Bible. Thus, every interpretation is a ‘misinterpretation’, and interpretations of those ‘misinterpretations’ are further ‘misinterpretations’. Also, when we read a text, we can’t always be sure if the author was being honest, earnest, subversive, ironic, disingenuous, hiding an ulterior motive, or aware or unaware of the full implication of his ideas. Since no one fully understands oneself, can we trust the veracity or honesty of what anyone is really saying, especially since the conscious mind so often is clueless about the subconscious mind. When a white libertarian rightist insists that he’s for the principle of liberty and freedom, how sincere are his motives? Is he a libertarian because he loves liberty or because libertarianism defacto favors the economic interests of higher IQ whites over lower IQ blacks and mestizos? What does it mean to be sincere? What if one is consciously sincere but unwilling to probe into the nature of what may be his deeper motives? (What of someone like George Lucas, who is clearly fascinated with the neo-fascist ideas of Joseph Campbell and the aesthetics of 20th century Fascism and National Socialism but sincerely considers himself to be a conscientious liberal? Generally, people who prefer success over secrets tend to tell lies even when speaking with utmost sincerity whereas people who prefer secrets over success tend to tell the truth even when speaking with utmost deviousness. George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Roger Ebert are often sincere in what they say, but they can never be trusted since they are so obsessed with popularity, approval, and success. They never dig deep into the secrets of the world and of their own hearts, and so, they are content to live with and spout pat truisms and cliches. They are afraid to find the real secrets of the world and of themselves. In contrast, people like Kubrick, Mamet, and Kael have often been insincere and devious, but their interest in the secrets of the world has a way of revealing things about them, human nature, and the world that are generally lacking among the success-oriented. Paradoxically, there is more truth in the lie of Kubrick than in the straight talk of Lucas or Spielberg.)
There is something about Dersu Uzala that is seer and shaman-like. Though a hunter by trade, he is well-versed in the ways of nature. He speaks of natural things as being different kinds of ‘lyudi’ — ‘people’ in Russian. In a way, he is articulating the beliefs of Goldi culture, but there’s a personal conviction to his words, something more than mere regurgitation of folklore-ish platitudes. He’s speaking from a lifelong experience of having struggled and communed with nature. In a crude way, Dersu is an ‘intellectual’ in his own right who seeks understanding of the world around him. Thus, Arseniev and Dersu are, at once, very much members of their respective worlds — Europeanized Russia and far eastern Siberia — , but each is also a man above and apart from the constrictions of his native culture. Dersu has an amazing knack for getting along with peoples of different cultures. Whether it’s an old Chinese hermit living in a hut, Eskimo-like family that subsists on fishing, or an Asiatic clan led by some guy named Chen Pao, Dersu treats them as his friends. Paradoxically, the man without a family and culture may see the whole world as his family and culture. After all, Jesus, a kind of exile from the Jewish community and a Man without His own family, embraced all of mankind as His family — at least according to Christian theology.
Dersu’s tribal clan, the Goldis, seems to be nowhere in sight. Is it small or nearly extinct? Or has Dersu been exiled from the community? As Dersu has lost his own family, his emotional needs seek attachment to all kinds of people. He finds friends wherever he can, not caring what tribe they belong to. And yet, for Dersu to be a friend to all men, he cannot be or become a man of one culture. Thus, he’s a wanderer who goes from one place to another, meeting all sorts of people but never settling down with any of them. He’s a guest in and an exile from all communities. And in a way, DERSU UZALA is about one such episode in Dersu’s life as he momentarily joins the members of a Russian expedition. Dersu, having no tribal or clan loyalty, doesn’t see the Russians as invaders or conquerors. To Dersu, they are simply another bunch of visitors in the forest. He can help them, and maybe they can help him too. And it’s welcome change to be in the company of men — any bunch of men — if you spend so much time alone in the forest.
Nature is beautiful but it is also faceless(or has too many faces) and mute(or has too many voices). We observe nature, but no single face of nature stares back at us. Boulders and bluffs are fixed in their stony silence. Trees remain stiff and rigid. Leaves flutter and rivers flow, and they make their own ‘music’, but a million leaves play the same tune and a thousand rivers play the same note. Thus, nature is both vast and varied but also monotonous and repetitious. It is at once too complex and too simple, too mysterious and too obvious. Looking across mountain ranges, we feel fascination as to what lay hidden beyond the slopes and across the valleys. But trekking across terrain after terrain, we come upon the ‘same’ rocks, trees, soil, ridges, streams, and etc. We sense inexhaustible wonder but also exhaustion of inexhaustibleness. Also, at some point, despite all its beauties and wonders, we can’t help but feel that nature is ‘dumb’ and ‘numb’. Mountains, despite their grandeur and magnificence, are big rocks. And nature is ‘numb’ in that it doesn’t care whether you’re there or not. Even most of life is ‘numb’ in this sense. Before the rise of consciousness and emotions, life too was ‘dumb’ and ‘numb’. And before the rise of warm-blooded animals, even blood submitted to the way of nature. When temperature dropped, cold-blooded frogs and lizards dug into the ground and hibernated. It was with the rise of warm-bloodedness that organisms such as birds and mammals — scientists now say dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded too — , began to develop an ‘emotional agenda’ that was independent of the way of nature. Thus, even when it was freezing, primitive man in the northern regions made fire and stayed warm in each other’s company. In a way, warm-bloodedness was the first invention of ‘fire’, the fire within. It kept organisms actively alive with an independent flame of life.
A consideration of DERSU UZALA needs to be premised on the duality of nature. Nature is not some Edenic paradise as in THE NEW WORLD or AVATAR. It can be a dark and lonely world, a silent and forbidding place — especially as daylight dims with the coming of night — stirring up moods of depression and madness. Anyone who has gotten lost in the forest knows this.
Nature may be ‘pure’ as opposed to the fallen state of man, but even the worst of the human world can be more inviting than the solitude of nature. Even many animals prefer to subsist on trash around human society than struggle in pristine nature. Consider what happens to the explorers of AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD. Consider what happened to German colonists in the 19th century who sought to create a new ‘Aryan’ community in the jungles of Paraguay. Look what happens to the young man in the film INTO THE WILD. In Saul Bellow’s novel RAVELSTEIN, the narrator recounts a suicidal modern couple who sought solace in nature only to find loneliness and isolation. Nature is beautiful to the eyes and ears. And for geologists and biologists, it’s full of secrets yet to uncover. But one cannot socialize or communicate with nature; there is no emotional meaning to be found in nature. People have a natural need to be social, to communicate. In RESCUE DAWN, the German-American POW fears not only being captured by communists but starving to death in the jungle, which, for all its bounty, doesn’t offer much that is edible to man. A candy bar may be junk food, but it’s ambrosia to a famished stomach lost in the wild. In AFRICAN QUEEN, the swamps with endless reeds and leeches are more frightening than the Nazis. Even if Nazis kill you, at least you’re dying in the company of people; against their evil, you can establish your sense of good. After all, Jesus’s death had meaning because He was killed by man. But suppose He was killed by a desert lion or drowned in a lake. To die alone — or to be killed by nature — is sadder in a way, which is why the guy in TASTE OF CHERRY wants someone to look over him when he takes his own life. Even in death — or especially in death — , people don’t wanna be alone. It’s kinda odd since death means you’re gonna be gone forever, so, what should it matter whether one dies alone or in the company of others, whether one dies meaninglessly or meaningfully(in moral terms).
But, is there anything more dispiriting than dying alone without anyone caring about the dying? Vito Corleone dies, but there’s his family and friends to mourn him. He had a good life and a good death. Soldiers put their lives on the line, but they take comfort in the knowledge that their deaths will be commemorated by other soldiers, indeed by the nation at large. In a way, the Kurtz character in APOCALYPSE NOW was waiting for someone like Willard to come along to kill him. Kurtz has his primitive army, but they are like a bunch of human monkeys. He’s like Aguirre at the end with the monkeys on the raft. Kurtz wants to die meaningfully, to be killed by someone who is worthy, someone who will intellectually understand why he did what he did. That’s the only ‘good death’ he can have. Only someone like Willard can offer a kind of last rite to Kurtz’s death. One of the most harrowing scenes of death is in BLOOD AND BONES by Takeshi Kitano. It’s an uneven film but the final scene is among the most morbidly depressing. Kitano plays a brutal Korean-Japanese who, near the end, forcibly takes his young son to North Korea; in the final scene, he dies in poverty and isolation. The son, now grown older, but presumably brutalized by his father and the totalitarian system, waits indifferently for his old man to die, then buries him and then continues on with his meager meal. It’s a terrifying example of how people can live together and still feel nothing for one another. The opposite of the scene in BLOOD AND BONES is the son’s farewell to his mother in THE BALLAD OF NARAYAMA(Imamura version). And the woman’s lonely walk after her father’s death in Bertrand Tavernier’s DADDY NOSTALGIA is pure poetry.
I remember watching a PBS documentary about a white guy who went to Alaska to live alone surrounded by pristine nature, but he recounted how he slowly began to go crazy. He began to have long conversations with himself; he began to hallucinate. He eventually married an Eskimo woman and had a daughter, thus gaining a sense of emotional equilibrium. Even in the middle of nowhere, having a spouse and kid lent meaning to his life.
This is why it’s so depressing when Max Von Sydow’s character is left all alone at the end in THE FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE. The worst part is not the dying. It’s being left to live and die alone. This is why the spouse who dies first may be the happier one; it’s the survivor who has to face death alone, at least if they had no kids.
A cat let out of the house always comes back — not just for the food and shelter but for company. While most cats are naturally solitary creatures, cats that had a taste of human companionship never wanna let it go. This is why some wolves became dogs. They preferred even the abuse and leftover scraps of humans to the utterly cold and ruthless way of nature. And in CASTAWAY, Tom Hanks’ character creates an imaginary character out of a soccer ball and weeps when it’s lost out in the ocean. Being alone can be so depressing that a white guy even befriends a Negro in ROBINSON CRUSOE and a ‘crazy Jap’ in HELL IN THE PACIFIC.
In a way, religions and myths may have been created as a response to the oppressive sense of aloneness: Aloneness of the individual, as in a prison cell, and aloneness of humanity confronted with the vastness of the universe. There is aloneness imposed by outside forces and aloneness driven by inner forces. Jesus and Siddhartha, for example, were not forcibly exiled from their communities. As neurotics, they chose to depart from social/communal conventions and seek their own truths. In isolation, Jesus meditated for 40 days and Siddhartha for 49 days. Their truths could only be arrived in aloneness.
There are two modes of human existence: that of mediation and that of meditation. When we are with other people, we communicate and mediate; we try to understand, conform, argue our case, and arrive at some kind of agreement or resolution. To be accepted into the company of others is assuring, so much so that most people go along with the prevailing official truth out of fear of being shunned, shamed, or ridiculed by the larger community. So, there was a time when most people thoughtlessly held homos in contempt as a bunch of sickos. But today, since the official culture is controlled by Jews who run the media and courts, the majority of people in many communities kneel before the gay agenda favored by Jewish Supremacists. It doesn’t matter that American society is supposed to be free; most people will go along with whatever the official truth or prevailing ideology happens to be. Indeed, even much of what is called the ‘left’ is just a variation of official culture. And what goes by ‘American conservatism’ is narrowly limited by what is deemed permissible by neocon Jews and their spineless gentile allies. People are like this because of human nature and psychology, and no people have a keener understanding of this dynamic than do the Jews, which is why Jewish operatives control most of the hearts and minds of America. It is in our nature to want to belong, to mediate differences and become a member of the community as Christians, liberals, conservatives, or ass-kissers of Jews/gays.
(People subordinate their personal ideology and faith system to the demands of the prevailing official ideology and spirituality. Thus, hundred yrs ago, many Jews were willing to convert to Christianity to be assimilated, but today, most Christians try to remold Christianity to serve the agenda of Jewish supremacism and the radical gay agenda. Since Jews and gays have been ‘spiritualized’ the most in today’s America, even Christians try to reshape their faith to conform to Jewish and gay interests. The Magic Negro is another much worshiped figure in today’s America, so it’s not surprising that the main spiritual justification of many white Christians is that Christianity served the agenda of MLK. As MLK is bigger than Jesus, it’s as though Christianity existed to serve MLK than MLK was born to serve Christianity. A hundred yrs ago, Jews were more likely to convert to Christianity than Christians were likely to remold their religion to serve the needs of Jews. But today, the reverse is true. Jewishness is deemed holier than Christianity, so it is the duty of Christians to prove the worth of their faith by demonstrating how it serves Jews — and their closest allies the gays.) But all this need to fit in and belong come with a price. We compromise our true selves and feelings. In business and in culture, we go along to get along. So, some people come to the realization that truth is only to be found in solitude; through meditation that isn’t compromised by communal demands or social conventions. And so, Jesus and Siddhartha journeyed far beyond other peoples of their times. Paradoxically, to conceive of a new — and truer and purer — solution for all of mankind to follow, they had to separate themselves from mankind to attain a new truth. This was also true of Moses who supposedly climbed Mt. Sinai on his own to receive the Laws of God. So, you gotta be exiled from the human community to arrive at the higher truth with which to change human community. That is also the appeal of the academia. Intellectuals see themselves as the pure seekers of truth who aren’t compromised by the mundane and impure demands of the world. Thus, Karl Marx refused to actually dirty his hands with the real world. Doing research alone in the British Museum, he sought out the hidden forces that drove history though the use of his intellect, and his ideas were supposedly going to change all of mankind. (Of course, the modern academia is supported by vast funds of rich donors and what generally prevails there is groupthink and intellectual conformism — at least when it comes to touchy subjects like race and society — than individual commitment to truth.) So, in a way, all spiritual truths — and many secular intellectual ideas of the 20th century were neo-religions — are partly imaginations of ‘madmen’ or men who flirted with mad ‘aloneness’. And this could be said of animist shamans and medicine men of primitive societies as well. Such folks generally tended to be different from most of their fellow tribesmen. They might go off on their own and meditate on the deeper truths of nature. They would go on the Vision Quest. They would come to converse with plants and animals. Their imagination would expand by ‘personifying’ the nature all around them. So, a rock wasn’t just a rock but a ‘living soul’. A plant wasn’t just a plant but a kind of ‘spirit’ that one could commune with. (I remember a rock concert where some Jew kid took drugs and drifted into the nearby woods on his own. When his friends went searching for him, some guy said, “last I saw him, he was talking to a tree.”) The shaman would claim to ‘talk’ or ‘commune’ with nature, and other members of the tribe would seek his(or her) advice on how to placate and/or predict the forces of nature.
Transcendentalism differs from animism-paganism in viewing not only the world of man but also the world of nature as impure. A tribal pagan warrior feels he must prove his worth in the eyes of great and powerful nature. So, a warrior-hunter will go off on his own and bag a big beast and drag it back to the tribe as proof his manhood. By killing a lion or bear, he will have proven his worth as a force of nature in his own right. Joseph Campbell spoke of how boys in tribal communities are toughened into manhood. As boys, they were in the care of their mothers and stayed close to women of the village. As nature is dangerous, it was understood that children had to remain near the bosom of their mothers while real men did the hunting and fighting. But as boys grew older, they had to prove their worth as warrior-hunters of nature. They must venture into the woods and prove that they are worthy of nature, capable of surviving in it, with it, and against it. The shamanistic aspect comes into this equation because without a sense of spirituality, the test of the young man becomes purely physical and dreary. But if one believes that nature is filled with spiritual essence, killing a lion and bear means not only that you overcame a powerful beast but that is its ‘medicine’ rubbed off on you. So, tribes needed shamans to maintain this understanding of nature and to articulate its truths to all members of the community. This way, the tribe felt that it not only lived IN nature in the material sense but WITH nature in the spiritual sense.
Transcendentalists, on the other hand, viewed nature — both wild nature and human nature — as the source of evil in the world. Nature is cruel, aggressive, violent, and nasty. Animals are demonic in their tooth-and-claw ferocity. And men of ambition sought to conquer the world and devour other men like lions devour sheep. So, Jesus sought to arrive at a spiritual/moral truth that was freed from the viciousness of nature. He preached love and compassion. Siddhartha, in some ways, went even further for he saw the root problem not only in the aggressive nature of animals/man but also in the loving and compassionate ways of man/animals. To love something means for one’s ego to be attached to something. One wants to preserve and protect what one loves, and that means defending it against forces/things that might cause it harm. Thus, love produces hate, desire creates fear. Thus, the only way to truly transcend the evils of the world is to sever all attachments — even love and compassion — and meditate until one reaches Nirvana and extinguishes the ego itself.
If men like Jesus and Buddha — and Hindu yogis — sought self-exile, the more common form of exile was imposed by society. This has often been the case with political prisoners who end up in prisons and are forced to reassess their lives in a state of isolation. But this is true of any prisoner, even a criminal. While some people adapt to new social norms within the prison community, others — especially those in solitary confinement — stave off madness through an active imagination of the mind; they practice creative/controlled madness to fend off total madness.
Though we associate nature with freedom, it is also a kind of open prison. An escapee from a prison lost in the wild may want to be captured by his pursuers just to be saved from the clutches of nature. In the movie PAPILLON, freedom out in the wild can be more harrowing than confinement within prison walls. At the end, the Dustin Hoffman character chooses to live out the rest of his days on a prison island than risk his life yet again for freedom. This was the reason why most blacks refused to go back to Africa. Even living under the rule of white folks was better than going back to live freely among a bunch of wild Sub-Saharan jigger-jivers in the jungles. Prison life is restrictive and can be depressing, but it is a kind of home, a roof over your head. (Military is appealing to many for the same reason. It’s a barracks existence but one that provides you with purpose, shelter, and food.) For those who are unable to find homes and meaning on their own in the free world, there is a longing to return to the prison-as-home. And this can be occupational as well. In the film LA TERRA TREMA by Luchino Visconti, a fishing family attempts to be independent of the local authority who monopolize the business, but when the ship is destroyed in a storm, the family abandons pride/freedom and reverts to working for the local bosses. In WOMAN IN THE DUNES, the man tries to escape but falls into a quicksand and calls out for help to his captors to save him. He chooses to live unfree than die free.
There is talk of secession among white conservatives with the re-election of Obama and the rapid browning of America, but are most white conservatives really willing to go off on their own and miss out on all the goodies provided by big government, especially when blue states pay more into the system than red states do? And even as conservatives claim to disdain big government, they seem to disfavor political candidates who offer less. Even conservatives prefer to be wards of the state.
Myth and creativity/art have appeal as both bridges and buffers between us and reality. In the novel CATCHER IN THE RYE, Holden Caulfield recounts how a mother at a theater was all weepy about a movie while neglecting her own child who needed to go weewee. The mother was swept up in the ‘higher’ emotions on the fictional screen while ignoring the actual need of her child. The problem with reality is it rarely offers the kind of ‘true’ or ‘higher’ emotions that we crave. One thing for sure, reality doesn’t come with a soundtrack or voice-over narration that magnifies one’s sense of life. Reality is too mundane, messy, ordinary, banal, pointless. And people’s emotions are too out of sync with the expectations of others. When you want to share a certain feeling with someone, he or she may not be in the mood. You may want some people to be good guys and others to be bad guys, but reality is rarely that simple — which is why so much of history is told in the manner of fairytales with heroes and monsters.
This explains the appeal of films like THE GRADUATE and MIDNIGHT COWBOY. Both are about characters who break out of the cocoon of fantasy and come to grips with the falsity of ‘true’ emotions. Joe Buck dreams of making it as a hustler in NY but finally realizes that he isn’t cut out for such things — and the world as he dreamed never existed — , and so, he decides to go down to Florida to look for a real job. Benjamin Braddock is a young man of privilege who can have any job he wants and become affluent and successful like his father. But he wants to be authentic in feeling and in love, and so, he breaks out of the comfort zone and makes a dash to win Elaine Robinson’s heart. Young moviegoers in the 60s applauded and embraced THE GRADUATE as their movie. It was a statement of their truth: authentic truth over official truth. But the appeal of THE GRADUATE really owed to its crystallization of what young people wanted to feel at the time. Thus, it’s not realistic story of a realistic character — not a true truth — but an idealized fantasy of what an ‘authentic’ life should be. Braddock’s breaking out of the cocoon in search of true love was just another fantasy ‘truth’ that could only be availed through fiction. Besides, even as Braddock rebels against the world of affluence, he is still enabled by that affluence. He has a sports car to drive around in. He has free time and money to pursue his personal dreams because his parents are rich. And Elaine Robinson is beautiful, and believe it or not, willing to ditch her tall blonde god-mate for the short Jewish-looking Benjamin. And at the end, everything goes according to plan(of fantasy), with Ben and Elaine making their getaway from the wreckage of the wedding. It all felt so ‘true’, but it was really a mythologization of youth and ‘authenticity’. The ending of MIDNIGHT COWBOY is depressing, but again, it’s a film where everything falls into place to create a moment of ‘true’ emotion, or truer-than-true-emotion-that-doesn’t-and-can’t-exist-in-reality. The final image of Joe Buck holding Ratso seen through the bus window reflecting the fancy hotels/condos in Miami sums up the ‘truth’ just so perfectly. There’s a sense of meaningful closure that one can’t find in life.
The same goes for ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST where the ending isn’t merely sad but heroically sad. McMurphy loses his mind but his soul passes to the big Indian who rediscovers the meaning of freedom. It feels truer-than-true, but of course, no such emotional ‘truth’ exists in reality. Reality rarely offers up such perfect moments, and even most such instances were actually manipulated or manufactured. This is why FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS is one of the more thoughtful movies about history, indeed a necessary corrective to SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. Spielberg is a greater filmmaker than Eastwood, but Spielberg’s war movie is a mythic emotional pill to be swallowed whole whereas Eastwood’s film probes into the relation among history, biography, and mythology. For many Americans, the lifting of the American Flag on Iwo Jima was like a perfect moment. And yet, while such a flag-raising did take place, it was done and redone, shot and re-shot to create the impression of the ‘more perfect’ moment. Same was true of the hoisting of the Red Flag in Berlin.
We want to feel ‘true’ feelings, but paradoxically, we are more likely to feel them through artificial manipulation. MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech is considered one of the ‘truest’ moments in American history, the assumption being that the event and its emotions were sincere, spontaneous, and heartfelt. But in fact, the event was carefully choreographed, MLK(a devious figure) was painstakingly coached and prepared, and the media packaged the event as bigger-than-history. It was a production.
Truth often feels less true than untruth does. This is why women use makeup and perfumes. To make men fall ‘truly’ in love with them, they use masks and deceptions to trigger responses that aren’t likely with the natural looks and natural scents. And this is why politicians carefully hide their true selves and project the image of what people want them to be. Since politicians must be sold to the public, democracies are, in their own way, no less empires of lies than tyrannies are.
People endlessly listen to pop music not only because good songs make them feel good but because songs help them feel ‘truer’ emotions. If a guy and a girl are in a car, and they are trying to be romantic, it probably wouldn’t do if the guy composed and sang his own song. His song would be truer(of what he really is and feels) but would sound less ‘true’ as it will likely suck and be grating. And so, most lovers just turn on the radio and having other people, the rock stars, sing for them. So, the boy and girl come to feel ‘true’ about one another through the emotions expressed by a third party person, the singer. Woody Allen made fun of how this works in PLAY IT AGAIN SAM where a bunch of modern lovers frame and reference their feelings via CASABLANCA. And HIGH FIDELITY is perhaps the best film on why music matters so much to us. Through music created by other people, we feel ‘truer’ of our own feelings that, without massage of music, might just feel weary and stiff.
So, art/creativity/myth both separates us from reality and makes us feel closer to reality. CATCHER IN THE RYE made David Chapman feel closer to reality and divorced him further from reality. It taught him to hate phonies and kill Lennon the phony in the name of truth, but Chapman had lost contact with reality. And John Hinckley felt closer to reality via TAXI DRIVER. In the character of Travis Bickle, he saw a man who dared to strike out against the phoniness and corruption of the world through the purity of a ‘true’ act, but Hinckley — like Bickle — was caught in the web of his own myth-making.
One of the most moving films on the power of myth is the THE CASTLE OF SAND, a story of an artist(music composer) who changed his identity and cut off all ties to his real father but remains connected to him through his music. The composer is a handsome man driven by ambition; he buries all associations to his nomadic childhood with a leprous father. (Japanese, obsessed with purity and cleanliness, were perhaps less kind to the diseased. Burakumin, the caste that specialized in slaughtering animals and tanning hides, have long lived in separate communities, and it’s been observed that even in modern times, the descendants of the Burakumin have been subject to discrimination, rather like the Untouchables in India. And if the recent film DEPARTURES is any indication, Japanese still have problems with people who are associated with ‘dirty things’ like dead bodies. DEPARTURES, incidentally, revolves, like CASTLE OF SAND, around a father-son relationship.) The handsome and now famous composer in CASTLE OF SAND — he is slated to marry an attractive daughter of a powerful politician — doesn’t want to be associated with anything ‘dirty’ or diseased, but his artistic soul draws inspiration and meaning from his memory of childhood. So, art serves as both a bridge and barrier between the man and his father.
There’s something similar at work in the DERSU UZALA. Dersu’s mythic or ‘superstitious’ view of his surroundings serve as both a contact with and a shield against nature. That Dersu sees stones, rivers, winds, trees, and animals as all part of ‘lyudi’(people) imbued with souls emotionally connects him with the natural world. It may be ‘half-mad’, but half-madness can stave off complete madness. It’s like we need germs in our bodies to strengthen the immune system against more dangerous germs. It’s like controlled fires are used to prevent far more serious forest fires. If we think of reality and life, they appear to have no meaning, no point. They are absurd and random products of the universe. So, for our lives to be imbued with a sense of purpose, we seek meaning, and if no evidence of meaning is to be found, the meaning must be created or imagined. If madness is believing what is not true, then the very meaning of ‘meaning’ is mad since reality really has no meaning. We don’t know why the ‘Big Bang’ happened, why matter exists, and why life exists or had to come into existence. And in the larger scale of things, everything we do is pointless since nothing lasts forever. And yet, we go on as if there’s a meaning and purpose to our existence in the world. This is less of a problem with simple organisms and animals that have no need for thought. In contrast, humans think. The development of language gave humans a decisive advantage over other organisms, and therefore, man became master of Earth. But language also made man introspective; language is used not only to communicate but to ‘make sense’ of things. Ever since man came upon the concept of ‘why?’ — perhaps the most significant development in human thought — , man has been searching not only for ‘how’ things work but ‘why’ things exist in the first place. In 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the black monolith plants in the mind of Moonwatcher(the Nietzschean simian or Nietzsimian) the question of ‘how’. Thereafter, Moonwatcher doesn’t merely respond to the world around him but looks at stuff and wonders ‘how’ something, such a bone, can be used as something else of his own making. At some point, the ‘how’ begat the ‘why’ question, and the rest of 2001 is man’s search for the ‘why’ by traveling to Jupiter from where the signals from higher intelligence were received. In a way, the ‘why’ was man’s projection of his self-consciousness onto the universe. ‘Why’ implies intent. If you say, ‘how did he do that?’, it’s a question of process involved in the act. But If you ask, ‘why did he do that?’, it’s a question of intent. Since the conscious mind of man thinks in terms of the mind controlling the body, man believes there are intentions behind his actions, or mind behind the body. This is all the more significant when the action doesn’t involve immediate need. There is intention of necessity on the part of an animal that approaches a water hole or hunts its prey. It is thirsty or hungry, so its intention is to drink or eat. Such intentions are driven by instinct and therefore easily understandable. Man(especially civilized man with some education), in contrast, often does something that has no immediate payoff in terms of need or pleasure. Thus, the question of ‘why’ becomes more interesting. Consider the Egyptian pyramids or the Parthenon in Athens where the question of intention or the ‘why’ is far more complicated. Since man consciously became aware of his intentions, he came to think in terms of ‘this is why I did this, this is why I did that.’ In time, man projected this consciousness onto the universe. God is the ‘why’ written on the sky. Wise men were why’s men. Man figured since he himself had an intention behind the actions he took, the universe — or the force or forces governing the universe — must likewise have an intention behind everything it ‘did’. For man throughout most of history, such a view of the universe seemed quite sensible. After all, if dinky little mortal man had such power of thought and control over his actions, why wouldn’t the infinitely grand and majestic universe not have a ‘mind’ far more profound and powerful than that of man? (Some folks believe the universe is the brain matter of God; and we, along with stars and everything else, are but neurons of God’s mind.) Science disproved the cosmologies of religions and concluded that the ‘why’ question is really pointless. There is no point to the universe. It just is, and life happened simply as the possible product of chemical/physical properties of molecules operating in a certain manner under particular conditions. According to what we know from science, the only thing that can think and figure things out is a creature like man or some such creature on another planet. There can be no consciousness outside the kind of consciousness that living creatures possess on planets amenable to life. The universe, no matter how grand or complex, cannot think and cannot have an intention. It is an ‘accident’, and we, as debris created by the accident, can only try to unlock the mechanism of the ‘accident’. I don’t know much about science, so I just go along with what scientists say. Even so, the very fact that scientists have this need to understand the hidden truth behind the hidden truth behind the hidden truth and so on means that they too are, in a way, seeking the ‘meaning’ of reality. Even if there is no meaning, they wanna know why it has no meaning, which is a kind of meaning. It’s our nature to think in terms of why, and in that sense, even scientists, like spiritualists, project the ‘why’ onto the universe.
If man is, by nature, a social creature, he will likely go mad on his own, and it just so happens that Dersu is a man who spends an inordinate amount of time alone in the forest — as a hunter, he could stalk an animal for days without coming upon human settlements, which are few and far between. He lost his family long ago, and we don’t see any other Goldi in the film. He meets with traders and various peoples in the forest, but he’s not intimately close to any of them. They have their own lives, their own families. In the end, Dersu always goes off on his own. Thus, there is a greater need for him to commune with the mythic forces of nature, a greater need for him to personify them into ‘lyudi’. One could say he’s half-mad, but it’s this half-madness that keeps him from going totally mad. He doesn’t see nature merely as nature but as ‘people’. He ‘fantasizes’ nature and is thus able to feel as part of a community even when he’s alone in the forest. He has the power to see nature like some people see movies. In PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, a woman staves off complete madness via the half-madness of believing in the magic of movies. If Dersu were only to see nature as nature, he would feel as though surrounded by meaningless rocks, trees, rivers, and animals. But seeing nature as a kind of spiritual story, Dersu feels surrounded by living stories and dramas all around him. This ability to ‘fictionalize’ nature makes Dersu feel intimately close with nature, and it also protects him from the utter loneliness and meaninglessness of nature.
The sociability of man has made him both more neurotic and less neurotic. Less neurotic in that being part of a community makes one feel a sense of belonging(though sensitivity about how others see you can make you neurotic). But sociability can make us more neurotic if we lose that link to community. (Paradoxically, society makes us feel more whole and less whole: Being members of a community makes us part of a larger whole but at the cost of making us less whole as individuals. If one is a Muslim or a Christian, his identity is bigger than his individual self. He’s connected through time and space with all other Christians or Muslims. But once his identity becomes defined in relation to the larger whole, his sense of wholeness as an individual is weakened. This was especially true in Ancient Sparta and feudal Japan. There was a fanatical sense of belonging to the larger whole but at the cost of wholeness unto oneself. The genius of the modern West was to both expand and balance the sense of the larger whole and the sense of the individual whole. Thus, to be American means being part of a vast complex society and being a free individual who defines himself or herself. But given that 99% of people define themselves according to conventions peddled by the media and elites, individualism is something of an illusion. The defining dynamic of America has been ‘great individualism’ as opposed to ‘democratic individualism’. If individualism is truly democratic, everyone would individually define his or her own thoughts and values. But in fact, a handful of ‘great individuals’ come up with the ideas, fashions, and manners that all others follow. Thus, most individualisms are copy-cat-isms. Ayn Rand was right at least in this sense. It’s not the little i individualism but the big I Individualism that matters in history. The function of little individuals is to be drones, to work and earn, and then consume by buying stuff created by big productive Individuals who then take the profits and patronize the great creative Individuals.) We can see this in cats and dogs, creatures that are neurotic in different ways. Most cats are solitary animals but they are capable of being sociable. But most cats, except for lions, tend to be conflicted about sociability. House cats wanna live with us but also to keep the distance. And it wants to make up its own mind about being petted and the like. This duality makes cats neurotic. Unlike dogs, they are never totally happy being close to us. Dogs, in contrast, are content to be in our company. But if dogs are left alone, they can be far more neurotic than cats. So, if cats are always a bit neurotic, dogs can be very normal or very neurotic. Some people are more like cats, and some are more like dogs, but by and large, humans are closer to dogs than to cats. We are more social than solitary creatures. And even those who live alone need to feel connected to others through work, attending theater, going to museums, watching TV, going on facebook, and etc. Even prayer and meditation among hermits and monastic types make them feel part of a spiritual community; they may remove themselves from ordinary community, but they wanna be spiritually one with the timeless saints of the ages.
Dersu is kinda like an Asiatic black bear, and bears, though solitary animals, are actually close to dogs. It could be that bears are psychologically and emotionally social creatures but must lead solitary lives since they aren’t physically built to coordinate with other bears. Wolves were built for speed, so they can cooperate in hunts to bring down big prey. Bears, though faster than man, are not faster than most prey animals, so it would be ridiculous for them to hunt together. Also, bears being bigger, would be less willing to share a kill than smaller wolves.
As much as Dersu loves and appreciates nature and imparts his wisdom to others, his ‘wisdom’ of nature is paradoxically an outgrowth of his need for the world outside nature, the world of man. Even as he admonishes some of the Russians for their lack of belief/understanding in the spiritual forces of nature, he finds warmth and meaning in the company of men. And instead of seeing nature on its own terms, he considers its elements to be ‘people’; he ‘societalizes’ nature. Besides, nature is a double-edged sword. It is ‘generous’ in providing Dersu with animals to hunt and with materials out of which he can build tools and shelters. But nature can also be pitiless, especially for the weak and old. There are no retirement homes and hospitals in nature. There is no mercy. Most animals are nervous wrecks since one false move could turn them into lunch; look at deers, birds, squirrels, and frogs, and they’re all flipping out at the first sign of danger. It is in the world of man that man can relax and take things easily, especially if one’s growing old and weak. For survival sake, nature is only for the young and strong. Dersu is an old man but still possessed of keen senses and abilities when he comes upon the Russian expedition. But later, when his senses begin to fail, he becomes a most pitiful figure. He becomes so frightened that he abandons his pride and begs Arseniev to save him. Perhaps, Kurosawa saw himself in the character of Dersu. Just as Dersu was a kind of shaman of nature, Kurosawa was a master showman of cinema, the director who perhaps harnessed the forces of nature — wild and human — more powerfully than any other. He became so famous and respected around the world that he thought he could do anything with the camera and took for granted a willing audience eager to watch his films. But with the TORA! TORA! TORA! fiasco and the abject failure of DODES’KADEN, Kurosawa might have feared the loss of his powers.
DERSU UZALA differs from Kurosawa’s previous films in being about man-and-the-world than about man-in-the-world. Especially in the films with Toshiro Mifune, the characters were at the center of the story and scenario. In the opening shot of YOJIMBO, the stature of the hero is equal to that of the distant mountain. In THRONE OF BLOOD, the forests serve as metaphors of the human heart. Kurosawa had something in common with Elia Kazan, whose VIVA ZAPATA! and ON THE WATERFRONT revolve around powerful personalities. Though Mifune has been called “Japan’s John Wayne”, Marlon Brando was his closer counterpart for both he and Brando hurled themselves into their roles — that varied drastically from film to film — with total abandon. Kurosawa prized Mifune because an actor of such caliber and firepower was rare, especially in Japan. From 1948 to 1965, Kurosawa directed 17 films, and Mifune starred in all except one, IKIRU, where the central drama was more about quiet dignity than dynamism of will. Kurosawa came to depend so much on Mifune that parts without him in RED BEARD kinda drag. Mifune was irreplaceable. Kurosawa later found a Mifune-like actor in Daisuke Ryu(as Obunaga in KAGEMUSHA and Saburo in RAN), but despite his talent, he couldn’t hold a candle to the young Mifune. It was like comparing a German Shepherd with a real wolf.
But Mifune or no Mifune, Kurosawa sought to broaden his approach, one where the totality of the vision counted for more than any character or set of characters. IKIRU didn’t have Mifune, but it too was a man-IN-the-world drama centered around a key character. Though RED BEARD has Mifune, it may have been Kurosawa’s first real attempt at man-and-the-world story. Though the title of the film refers to Mifune’s character, Mifune doesn’t dominate the narrative as he did in other Kurosawa films. He generally comes and goes or remains as an inspirational figure lurking in the background. In this sense, RED BEARD could be said to be more ‘democratic’ than dramatic. Like Jacques Tati’s PLAYTIME, it’s as much about the place as about the individuals in it. (Fellini similarly abandoned the primacy of the central character beginning with JULIET OF THE SPIRITS. Up to 8 ½, there was a fully-realized character or set of characters — played to perfection by Marcello Mastroianni in LA DOLCE VITA and 8 ½ — at the center, but the subsequent films were less interested in characters and mainly used them as paper cutouts for Fellini’s phantasmagoric puppet theater of the imagination. Compare the vividly conceived and realized characters of I VITELLONI and NIGHTS OF CABIRIA with the clowns and human puppets/dolls of FELLINI SATYRICON and AMARCORD. Perhaps, artists, as they grow older, become less interested in the idea of the character. The concept of the character is a youthful idea, one that promises free will and dynamism. Young people believe that they can control and shape their own destinies. But as people grow older, they realize that all lives fit into patterns of a never-ending cycle; they may also feel threatened by younger people who now challenge them who’ve become the ‘old’. It’s like Benjamin and Elaine in THE GRADUATE discovering that after all the excitement of their youthful will, their future is gonna be much like their parents’. When you’re young, you think you’re gonna make a difference and be different; you think you’re gonna change the world and make it better. But you reach a certain age and realize the world is much bigger, more powerful, and more resilient than you ever thought.) Whatever may have caused the rift between Kurosawa and Mifune — and whatever impact this may have had on Kurosawa’s later films — , Kurosawa was becoming less character-centric. Instead of approaching his stories in terms of individuals struggling against the world, Kurosawa began to treat them in terms of people navigating through the world. This may have accounted for the lack of any central character or meaning to DODES’KADEN. And though Dersu is, along with Arseniev, the central character of DERSU UZALA, Kurosawa didn’t so much present Dersu-in-the-world as Dersu-and-the-world, the world being just as central as Dersu.
To be sure, this sense of detachment could have risen from any number of factors. Kurosawa didn’t know Russian, and Russians didn’t know Japanese. And both Russian film crew and Kurosawa didn’t know much about the cultures of far eastern Siberia. And the man who played Dersu, Maxim Munzuk, despite his remarkable performance, wasn’t a real Siberian Goldi but a seasoned professional actor. There were lots of communication errors and logistical problems that plagued international productions, and such factors may have prevented the film from igniting a more powerful sense of drama. And given the long shooting schedule, Kurosawa could have been more involved in technical matters than with story and characters. (And that may have been one of the problems of RAN, which, after the magnificent first 90 min, becomes rather uneven. Kurosawa could have been so involved in the mega-production aspect of the film that he neglected character development in the middle. On the other hand, it could have been intentional, i.e. Kurosawa, in older age, saw the fall of the great lord not so much as a moving tragedy as banal folly. If the world is indeed meaningless and there’s little that can be done to change it, then history is a case of winners winning until they inevitably lose, and that’s that, with no great lesson to be learnt.)
Another reason for the subdued tone of DERSU UZALA could have been the subject itself: the way of nature. While Kurosawa had featured the elements of nature powerfully in films like RASHOMON, SEVEN SAMURAI, THRONE OF BLOOD, and HIDDEN FORTRESS, it was with DERSU UZALA that Kurosawa really made a film where nature could be said to be the main character. And what might have struck Kurosawa was the sheer vastness of Siberia. While there are natural wonders in Japan, Japan is a relatively small nation, and its natural areas were never far from the encroachments of the modern world. In contrast, there were seemingly endless forests and tundras in Siberia. There was so much that Kurosawa probably felt unsure what and where to film. Just when he might have been enthralled by one place, he could have been tantalized by the possibility of finding another place that was better. In the end, Kurosawa did the smart thing to avoid pictorialism and spectacular-ism and instead train the camera on the hardships imposed upon man by nature. Thus, we are made to feel the vastness as well as see it.
Because we are presented with Dersu-and-the-world than Dersu-in-the-world, a certain distance is established between him and us. He isn’t the dominant figure in the foreground with nature as his stage — as was the case with Mifune in THRONE OF BLOOD or HIDDEN FORTRESS. It’s as if no one can be a dominant character or figure in a world as grand and forbidding as the Siberian tundras and forests; indeed, it’s as if no nation has the right to claim ownership of such vastness. Not that the film is about the smallness or insignificance of man in nature. Dersu is a resourceful and scrappy hunter-survivor who is as apt to ‘argue’ with nature as show it respect. At one point, he admonishes the campfire to behave. Dersu also fears nature, especially in the form of the tiger. As close to nature as Dersu is, he has no natural defenses against a tiger. He must rely on the gun, the product of civilization, to hunt for food and to defend himself(and his companions).
Just as there are more powerful animals and less powerful animals, nothing is equal in nature, which is ruled by hierarchy. Dersu says the three ‘mightiest men’ of nature are fire, water, and wind. Nature is not a flaky paradise of New Age sentiments but a domain of violent competing and conflicting forces. To survive, animals need keen instincts of fight or flight. Animals must hunt or flee from hunters. Since the tiger is the top hunter of the forest, it is associated with Kanga, one of the main spirits of the Goldi people. Dersu is also a hunter, and hunters compete with one another, therefore, the tiger is something that Dersu respects and dreads. And what the hunter, man or beast, fears most is loss of the ability to hunt for it means starvation and being hunted by other animals. Even the mightiest lion, once grown old and/or sick, becomes hunted and killed by other beasts, even by smaller animals such as hyenas or African Hunting Dogs.
Nature and man have as much in common as in contrast. Because modern folks are so removed from nature, there is a tendency to see nature as the opposite of everything that has to do with modernity. So, if modern civilization is corrupt, we see nature as pure and pristine. If civilization is violent, we see nature as harmonious and balanced — as in the films KOYAANISQATSI and BARAKA. If there’s want and hunger among the nations of the world, we see nature as plentiful. Such willful naivete is projected not only onto nature but onto primitive man. In films like THIN RED LINE, THE NEW WORLD, AVATAR, DANCES WITH WOLVES, and EMERALD FOREST, there’s this idea of primitive man as living in ‘harmony with nature’. To be sure, DANCES WITH WOLVES gives us good Indians and bad Indians(the Crows), and there’s a good tribe and an evil tribe in EMERALD FOREST. (Btw, Boorman’s film, like John Milius’s FAREWELL TO THE KING, is somewhat forgivable for its vivid depiction of the more violent and darker side of nature.) It was no accident that many of the English and German Romantics were city folks or rich folks. They could romanticize nature because they didn’t have to live in it. Thus, nature for them existed as an ideal, an emotion, a dream. They could use their imagination and write poetry about it, compose songs and symphonies. They could mythologize it. But for those living in the heart of nature, romanticism is the last thing on their mind. Like the soldiers wandering through the jungles of Philippines in FIRES ON THE PLAIN, their minds are on survival, food, and shelter. Their sentiments have been coarsened and hardened by their struggles against nature. It’s like the young toothless Eskimo in NEVER CRY WOLF doesn’t much care about the beauty of wolves. Natural beauty generally isn’t comfortable and may even be lethal. One cannot sleep on top of or under a majestic waterfall. Mountains are magnificent but one cannot grow food on them. Rainstorms are impressive but will get you wet and muddy. Tigers are beautiful but ready to pounce on you and tear your head off. Snow is lovely to one’s eyes to but freezing to the bone. (Paradoxically, people such as loggers, miners, and trappers are more like nature whereas green environmentalists are less so. Animals and plants have one thing in mind: ruthless self-preservation and self-interest. Loggers and others who depend on exploiting natural resources are like animals in serving their own interests. In contrast, environmentalists are being ‘un-natural’ in their defense of nature — with which I sympathize — because they value nature not only in terms of its utility but its beauty, something nature doesn’t care about. To be sure, environmentalists also make a utilitarian case for preserving nature, i.e. destruction of nature will destroy civilization because we all depend directly or indirectly on nature.) For people living in nature, its beauty is like wallpaper; they hardly notice it or feel inspired by it. It becomes ‘boring’. Also, survival in nature is tough, which is why most animals are nervous 24/7. We go camping into nature to relax, but animals generally don’t relax in nature. Deer are ever on the alert for danger to run like a mothafuc*a. Same goes for squirrels, rabbits, birds, lizards, frogs, dragonflies, and etc. Even in a preserve without predators such as cougars, wolves, and the like, most animals are nervous wrecks because they’d been naturally selected over tens of millions of years for their alertness and quickness to run like a mothafuc*a. And indeed, if we hadn’t destroyed so many bears, wolves, cougars, and other dangerous animals in natural areas, we would be nervous wrecks too. Indeed, people still get mauled by Grizzlies in some national parks. We think modern life is stressful and nerve-wrecking but so is nature for most animals. To survive in nature, animals must be ever on the lookout for danger for a rabbit can be jumped by a coyote, badger, or hawk at any time.
A more sober understanding of nature and primitive folks is to be found in the films of Werner Herzog and Mel Gibson. Herzog’s AGUIRRE: THE WRATH OF GOD is not some Edenic nature trip. Though the film is highly critical of European hubris, the natural world isn’t a pristine paradise either. Nature is awesome and beautiful but also tangled and terrifying. FITZCARRALDO and the jungle sequences in RESCUE DAWN give the same impression. And in GRIZZLY MAN, Herzog says, “And what haunts me, is that in all the faces of all the bears that Treadwell ever filmed, I discover no kinship, no understanding, no mercy. I see only the overwhelming indifference of nature. To me, there is no such thing as a secret world of the bears. And this blank stare speaks only of a half-bored interest in food. But for Timothy Treadwell, this bear was a friend, a savior.”
Though Herzog is being overly simplistic — bears are deeply emotional, curious, and intelligent animals and capable of feeling something other than hunger — , he’s right about the nature of nature. Nature in all its manifestations is so busy with survival that it has little to spare for sentimentality. This is why wild animals are ‘most human’ when raised in captivity and provided with comfort and food — with the exception of jigger-jivers who seem to be crazy no matter what we be providing for them. In nature, animals live in a state of constant fear and hunger. A bear cub barely survives to adulthood against all kinds of dangers. Timothy Treadwell devoted his life to bears, but his kind of romantic fixation could only have been the product of civilization. As an Eskimo guy says in the film, his people respect and fear the bear and leave them alone; they don’t see bears as friends or ‘nature children’. It’s like a jigger-jiver who grows up in a black neighborhood sees ‘crazy niggaz’ all around him and fears and/or respects them on the basis of their badassness; he don’t mistake no ‘nigger’ for no Magic Negro. It is the foolish white liberal who, from a distance, romanticizes the volcanic ‘crazy nigga’ as a mountain-sized Negro who weeps and wuvs a wittle white mouse. Ken Burns is the Niggrizzly Man.
But, as nutty as Timothy Treadwell was, there was indeed something ‘spiritual’ about his ‘quest’ or ‘mission’. Though his life was like a parody of Jesus’s, it takes half-mad folks who depart from social norms in search of a deeper or higher truth. Not that Treadwell gained any such wisdom — though he did leave behind some thrilling videos of bears — , but unless one has the will and desire to know what is unknown and feel what is unfelt, there can be no breakthrough to the other side, no actualization of higher consciousness. The problem with Treadwell was not his love of bears. And I think it would be wrong to entirely dismiss what he lived for. After all, he did manage to live near bears for many years without getting killed. So, he did come to some kind of understanding with the bears. Just as there is more than one kind of man or one kind of dog, there are more than one kind of bears. Different bears have different personalities or bearalities. And even during lean times when many bears were starving, they didn’t think to eat Treadwell because they were likely ‘fascinated’ in their bearing manner with this odd creature in their midst. In that sense, Treadwell did succeed to some degree as an ‘anthropologist’ among the bears. The problem was his immaturity, and in this regard, his death was rather like that of Steve Irwin. The difference was Irwin was an irrepressible showman and Treadwell was a goofy shaman. Irwin didn’t know when and where to stop in promoting himself. And Treadwell didn’t know that being a shaman requires a degree of introspection. The paradox of Treadwell’s life was he isolated himself from humanity to be admired and accepted by humanity. Even as he removed himself from society, he felt an urge to videotape his adventures for posterity so that humanity will admire and respect him for what he’d done; bears certainly weren’t gonna watch his videos. On this level, he had something in common with religious prophets who separate themselves from humanity to go on a lonely quest to attain the higher wisdom with which they return to humanity to bestow as a gift. But to make this journey, one’s heart must be sincere and one must make peace with loneliness. Treadwell couldn’t do this. Even when he was alone in the woods, he was constantly in worldwideweb mode. And instead of trying to understand the mystery of bears on their own terms, he projected onto bears his childish teddy bear fantasies. He was killed by the bear he was trying to save just like Jesus was killed by humanity He was trying to save, but Treadwell’s tragedy was a ridiculous parody of spirituality because bears, unlike humans, lack conscience and potential for higher understanding. Ironically, the bear that killed Treadwell was a weirdo bear, i.e. a weirdo killed a weirdo. Most bears left Treadwell alone. They were like black folks who see a stupid white loser guy in their midst and just ignore him as a ‘stupidass white boy’. But there are some Negroes who just can’t stand the sight of a punkass white boy acting all stupid and shit and making a nuisance of hisself.
Though Christianity is seen as an anti-nature and anti-pagan religion, it too has had a long ambivalent relation to nature. In a way, a movie like DANCES WITH WOLVES wasn’t merely channeling New Age neo-paganism of the 60s(of ‘touching Indians’) but the founding myths of American civilization, i.e. that of white Pilgrims being saved by nice Indians who taught them how to grow corn and roast turkey. This founding myth says the white man and the Indian, at least for a time, met as friends and helped one another. And there are variations of such narrative among French Canadians who actually took an outright miscegenationist approach to the Indian problem. BLACK ROBE is an interesting film on the subject. But of course, the difference between Christian nature-outreach and New Age nature-outreach is that the former hopes for the savages to become Christian whereas the latter fantasizes white man going noble-savage. THE MISSION by Roland Joffe is another take on the Christian/nature dynamic. Its depiction of nature is like the lost Eden of the Genesis. It is so beautiful and its inhabitants, animals and primitive man, are living almost in a state of ‘innocence’. But the Genesis also speaks of how the Serpent destroyed the Garden and therefore all of Earth is fallen. Thus, primitive folks are both ‘innocent’ and ‘Satanic’. Christianity, in favoring ‘innocence’ in the hearts of men, is pro-nature(or all animals and plants are childlike and innocent). But in praying for everlasting peace, Christianity is anti-nature for nature is about tooth-and-claws.
Generally, rightists have better instincts about primitive folks and nature than liberals do. Paradoxically, liberals who claim to love nature, don’t really understand it — no more than they understand the true nature of the human heart. Rightists who fear nature understand it better. Consider the opening scenes of Mel Gibson’s APOCALYPTO. Primitive folks are not children of the garden. They are hunters and warriors. And far from being ‘spiritual all the time’, they are not above their own version of toilet humor or ‘dick jokes’. And when another tribe enters their turf, there is a tense moment when the confrontation could go either way — end in bloodshed or truce. One false move and it will be fight to the death. In face of dangers that are all around in the form of dangerous animals and potentially hostile tribes — in the absence of universal laws and central authority — , everything and everyone’s on hair trigger alert. And though the movie GERONIMO was considerably altered from John Milius’s original script — to make it more politically correct — , it is still one of the truer movies about the American Indian. Geronimo is a medicine man of his people and a ruthless warrior fighting for his turf and culture.
To be alone in nature is to confront madness. Indeed, to be a man or woman alone anywhere is to wrestle with madness. One of the most frightening scenarios in sci-fi is being ‘the last person on Earth’. Even when someone isolates himself or herself from the world of people, he or she wants that world to exist — even if he or she has resolved never to return. For even isolation from the world has meaning in its (opposing)relation to the world. Life still has meaning in the sense that one chose to REJECT the world.
If there’s no world to reject, there is no meaning in rejecting the world. Also, if there’s no world to reject, there is no meaning at all as life’s meaning comes from relating to other people. Such people can be family members, friends, associates, or even strangers. Indeed, most book readers don’t know the authors. Long after an artist is dead, others admire his art, and that is the consolation and meaning that artists — even those who shut themselves off from the world — find in what they do. Even in working in isolation, they hope for an audience somewhere and sometime in the future. It’s been said many artists were misunderstood in their time, but they continued with their work in the hope that the world would recognize its worth one day. This is why even a man all alone in a deserted island will record his thoughts and put them in a bottle so that someone may find it someday and read it and recognize his existence. Many civilizations have come and gone, but we know of them because they left artifacts, temples, and monuments. As such, they were not only remembered by their own descendants across generations but ‘rediscovered’ by other civilizations of the future. And we search for life in the universe; we don’t wanna be alone in the cosmic vastness. If ours is the only planet with life, nothing will be remembered of us after our planet blows up. But if there are other planets with life, a capsule we send into outerspace may be intercepted by them, and we will be remembered by other beings in the universe long after we have perished. For some reason, that is more edifying than fading away from the universe as if we’d never existed. We dig into the past not only to find out more about lost civilizations for our own interest but to ‘save’ them from meaningless oblivion, and it is the wish of every civilization that it too will be remembered, or recovered if lost by beings of the future. In A.I. the meaning of humanity’s existence on Earth long after its extinction is kept ‘alive’ by the archaeological expedition of beings that are neither human nor robotic(in the conventional sense).
In a way, Dersu is a half-mad character. Not because he was born with a natural predilection to madness but because of the nature of his existence. He spends so much time alone in the forest that he has to commune with the ‘peoplehood’ of nature. He talks to nature like they’re his friends, enemies, rivals, relatives, etc. He’s not merely acting according to Goldi culture but giving it his own twist so that he won’t feel all alone in nature. Though many critics have seen the film as being mainly about the harmony of man and nature, it is really about man’s loneliness in nature. Though Dersu sometimes admonishes white Russians for not properly understanding nature, he greatly appreciates their company. He likes to correct them, just like teachers like to correct students. Teachers need students, and Dersu needs people to listen to his ‘wisdom’ about nature. Dersu has found his niche and meaning in nature, but it’s not a happy life, and indeed it is the lack of happiness and the morbid loneliness that made him such a ‘guru’ of nature. He’s felt a need to communicate with something, and in the absence of people, he learned to communicate with nature. And this is the central tragedy of the film: not so much civilization’s encroachment on nature but the existential problems of a man caught between man and nature, as Dersu is. Dersu is kinda like the hobo character of Jean Renoir’s BOUDU SAVED FROM DROWNING. Though Boudu finally makes his escape from the bourgeois family and goes on his way, he’d found warmth and meaning in its company — as well as insight — before he fakes his death and regains his freedom. Similarly, Dersu’s home is in the wild, but the time spent with Russian explorers is very precious to him. This feeling comes across in the original Soviet film(1961) as well. When the Russians go their own way at the end and leave Dersu alone in the wild(in the original film), we can’t help but feel sorry for the nomad-hunter. We don’t feel sorry for the Russians though they’re departing from the wonders of nature because they are going back home. Dersu is home, but it means being alone in the wild. As long as a person is with other people, there’s warmth and meaning. It’s like what Clarence says to George Bailey at the end of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: “Remember no man is a failure who has friends.” What is tragic about the ending of GODFATHER II? Michael has lost his family and is emotionally all alone.
Dersu’s imagery of wind, water, and fire as the ‘three mighty men’ was given a twist in KAGEMUSHA where the three battlefield banners of the Shingen clan signify wind, fire, and forest. Dersu sees nature as ‘people’, and the Shingen clan sees their warriors as forces of nature. In a way, man’s personification of nature is an illusion — as is his nature-ization of man — , even a form of vainglory, but it is also natural since man is part of nature and everything about is us a reflection of nature. So, when we personify nature, we are, in some ways, reflecting an aspect of nature back onto nature. As man is the most versatile creation of nature, we embody many aspects of nature, and in our personification of nature, we are holding up a mirror to nature. What drives human nature is much the same as what drives nature-nature. Pressures build underneath Earth’s crust and blow up as volcanos. Repressed rage also blows up in fits of violence. Tensions build among tectonic plates and rupture into earthquakes. Similarly, social tensions build among various groups and are unleashed as wars. ‘Diplomacy is war by other means’ is closer to the truth than ‘war is diplomacy by other means’ as everything and everyone’s in constant conflict. Even things that are settled in ‘peace’ are the products of clashing interests. Emotions that define human nature are shared by all sorts of animals. Dogs, wolves, bears, cats, and etc. also feel affection, hate, fear, curiosity, and so on. Though personifying nature can make us blind to its peculiarities, it can also make us understand the very heart of nature.
It’s worth asking if the distinction between nature and civilization is real or arbitrary. If an ant colony or a bee hive is part of nature, isn’t civilization also a part of nature? Where do we draw the distinction between man’s realm and nature? If a primitive community creates a settlement out of the forest, is it living in nature or apart from nature? Don’t even the most primitive human communities create their own zone of safety from rest of nature? Is that zone natural or artificial? Isn’t that the seed of what eventually became civilization? If so, isn’t civilization merely a larger safety zone for humans who are still surrounded by nature? The concept of nature — contrasted to ‘artificiality’ — is certainly convenient and necessary, but how valid is it really? Is it any more valid than the false dichotomy of body and soul? Could civilization be better understood as a part of nature or merely another reflection of nature? If human nature is natural and if human nature led mankind to build civilization, then civilization is also a part of nature, just like an ant colony is part of nature — unless we wanna designate it as ‘ant-ificial’. If the nature of ant is to build ant colonies, then it is the ant that is not part of a colony that is in violation of ant nature. Seen from this light, civilized man may actually be ‘more natural’ than ‘natural man’ for the nature of man is to be social and build communities that are safe from rest of nature. In this light, civilization isn’t really outside nature but a part of nature that is safe from other elements of nature — just like an ant or termite colony is made safe from other elements of nature. (Some might argue that it’s only man that seeks total domination over other things of nature, but is this true? More likely, man has been most successful in gaining domination of the world, but in truth, all species seek domination. Invasive species of plants and animals have no compunction about destroying all of the original species.
Bacteria and viruses will keep spreading and conquering until everything is infected. Weeds will grow and spread everywhere, indeed as much as they can. And even non-life elements of nature will engulf and conquer as much as possible. Take a fire that spreads all over and burns down entire forests. It’s the nature of natural forces to be ‘out of control’) And this may account for the element of gloom that pervades Dersu’s life. He’s a man of nature but, in a way, separate from the nature of man, and the nature of man is to be with other men. There’s a sense of exile to his existence — even though he is in his own environment — when the white Russians bid him farewell and go back to civilization. To be alone with nature goes against the nature of man. To reiterate the lord in RAN: “Only the birds and the beasts live in solitude.”
The theme of aloneness is furthered with the figure of an old Chinese hermit who lives alone in the forest. He’s like the dejected husband with the blank stare in DODES’KADEN, a kind of human zombie. We are told that the Chinese man’s wife was taken by his brother long ago, and so, he removed himself from the world and settled in this part of the world. There’s a duality to his isolation. He seems, at once, to seek pain & punishment and peace & solace living alone in the woods. He seems both self-pityingly weak and stubbornly resolute. I haven’t read the book on which the film is based, and my guess is Kurosawa added this element(of the man’s sad isolation) to the film, perhaps as a reflection of his own sense of isolation from Japan that took away his camera, the thing to which he was soulfully wedded — notice that the Chinese is stirred back to life by the kindness of Arseniev, just like Kurosawa regained activity with the support of Soviet Union. In the original 1961 version of the film, the Russian explorers do come upon a Chinese man but he’s married and has a family.
Perhaps, Kurosawa meant the Chinese man to serve as a foil to Dersu. The Chinese man can’t let go of his past indeed, seems paralyzed by it. He’s broke free from the unjust world of men but memories of it continue to imprison his soul. Thus, he’s become indifferent and blind even to the natural world around him; he mostly sits outside his shack, locked within himself — on the other hand, maybe there’s an element of masochism to his sadness, adding the weight of righteous martyrdom to what is otherwise an insignificant life — the agony over his abducted wife adds fuel to the peasant leader in SEVEN SAMURAI, and the most(maybe only) poignant scene in YOJIMBO is when a wife is held captive as a sex slave by one of kingpin merchants. But all said and done, the Chinese man lives without living and seems utterly oblivious to the nature all around him — perhaps this is partly a reflection of Chinese humanocentrism rooted in Confucianism; as far as Chinese people are concerned, nature exists only so that their kind can kill bears and tigers to cut off paws and penises to turn into ‘medicine’ and soups so that rich Chinese men can have more dependable erections; Chinese have no heart and are blind to the beauty of nature, indeed blind to any kind of beauty as many Chinese, especially in the South, are no lookers, and their language, especially Cantonese, is hardly music to anyone’s ears. In contrast, Dersu, who suffered perhaps a greater tragedy — he lost his wife and kids — has chosen to lead a hardy life. (The Chinese man is like Watanabe — of IKIRU — before taking on the project, and Dersu is like Watanabe upon embarking on the project. One uses tragedy as an excuse not to live whereas the other lives even harder to rise above the tragedy.) Paradoxically, Dersu is more sane because he carries on a half-mad ‘conversation’ with nature. The Chinese man seems to have no illusions about anything, but his lack of his faith and total fixation on the fact of his sad life has driven him mad in a more fundamental way. It’s the contrast between the imaginary trolley operator kid and the dejected husband in DODES’KADEN. The trolley kid is half-mad but has found meaning in life through his imagination whereas the husband has gone mad precisely due to his total lack of illusions. Similarly, though spirituality is about having faith in things that don’t exist, it has helped many people maintain their equilibrium. I know of a couple who lost both of their daughters but maintain their sanity in their faith of being reunited with them in the afterlife. And novels, plays, and movies are all fiction, all fake, but they help us see and feel through a surrogate reality that can more-real-than-real. Reality is, at once, too mundane/banal and too complex/multi-faceted. It has the same old face and a million different faces. Thus, we seek meaningful shapes and forms of reality through fiction. We rely on fiction to speak to us and for us. (The problem of always favoring fact over fiction owes to the power of emotions in our choice of facts. Some people, especially libertarians and objectivists, pride themselves on favoring facts over fantasies and ideologies, but which fact or set of facts are they talking about? There are millions, indeed billions, of facts all around us. Everything that happens to us and around is a fact. The problem of factualism, or radical factualism, is it often favors and/or mistakes a fact or a set of facts as the Truth. As we are emotional creatures, we cling to and obsess over certain facts while almost entirely shutting out others. That’s the problem with the dejected hubby in DODES’KADEN and the Chinese man in DERSU UZALA. Neither has illusions. Both have clear memories of the facts of the case, of what happened at certain moments in their lives. But they are so emotionally obsessed with those narrow facts that they are blind to all other facts of life. In a way, this is the problem of Watanabe upon finding out that he’s dying of cancer. He becomes so overcome with the fact of his looming death that he refuses, for a time at least, to ponder all other aspects of his remaining life. And Kurosawa surely understood this problem as well as he tried to end his life when he thought his career in film was finished. His obsession with the fact of his recent failures blinded him to all other possibilities and meanings. Libertarians fixate on certain facts of human nature and conclude that such are the truth for all time and places. Blacks fixate on the fact of American slavery, but in their total emotional fixation on the matter, they are blind to the fact of African slavery and the fact that blacks gained a tremendous deal by having been brought to America, even in chains; indeed, blacks gained far more relative to whites due to the slave trade. If not a single black African had been brought to the America, whites would still have built a great powerful nation whereas black Africans remaining in Africa would only have been beating on bongo drums and acting like baboons. And of course, Jews are notorious for seeing all of history through the fact of the Holocaust. Such radical factualism on a single subject blinds Jews to the full meaning and implication of their history that’s filled with their own mendacity, wickedness, hideousness, deviousness, murderousness, and contemptuousness.)
At one point, Arseniev suggests that they should invite the old Chinese man, but Dersu advises him not to. Dersu says the Chinese man is thinking of lots of stuff — his old home and garden, and etc. In a way, it shows that Dersu is a keen reader of human hearts. Though Arseniev meant well, Dersu thinks he understands the man better. As for what may really be running through the old Chinese man’s mind, of course Dersu doesn’t really know either. But being an imaginative sort, Dersu could be projecting onto the Chinese man what he himself projects onto nature. If most people just see a lonely old Chinese man, Dersu ‘reads’ his soul like he pries into the spirits of nature. In this, Dersu has a kind of gift. And it’s not just empathy but what might be called ‘empushy’. Empathy is about trying to feel what others are feeling. Empushy would be like projecting one’s own nature onto other things and beings. But it’s not brash and aggressive. It doesn’t seek to force others to feel or believe what oneself thinks they should feel or believe. Rather, it is like imbuing things and beings all around with one’s own soulful experience of the world. (Of course, there are problems with empushy. White liberals think they are full of empathy regarding Negroes, but it’s really a case of empushy. Instead of trying to understand the real Negro soul — which is jiggerjiverish and funkyassfoolish to anyone with an honest set of eyes and ears — white liberals push onto the Negro with their goodwill fantasies. So, instead of seeing gigantic muscular black prison inmates for what they are — thugs eager to rip the white boys’ bungholes to shreds — , white wiberals imagine the giant black thug to be some mountain-sized Negro who wuvs and weeps over his wittle white mouse. That is not empathizing with the real Negro but empushing onto the Negro the fantasies of white liberal pussyboyishness.) We know that Dersu still thinks of his wife and children, and so, it could be that he wishes to believe that the Chinese man has similar remembrances of his past. But of course, we don’t know.
Anyway, something strange happens. Next morning, we see the Chinese man prepared to leave. We don’t know where to, whether back to China or some other part of the forest. Though quiet and timid, he seems appreciative of the kindness shown to him by Arseniev and Dersu. Could he have been inspired by their kindness? Or was he just annoyed by the arrival of all the people and is setting out to find another place where he won’t ever be disturbed? We don’t know and we’ll never know, and Kurosawa leaves it at that. One of the most disturbing moments in SEVEN SAMURAI is when one of the samurai advises a peasant named Rikishi to get married, but Rikishi suddenly grows angry and runs off and hides in the woods. Later, when the samurai tries to strike up a conversation with Rikishi, Rikishi is bitter and tight-lipped again. (We find out later about his wife.) Come to think of it, considerable tension in Kurosawa’s films derives from the contrast between tight-lipped-ness and explosive directness. Japanese culture has never been garrulous, communicative, or emotionally open. The title of Ozu’s film OHAYO says it all. ‘Ohayo’ means ‘good morning’. It’s a greeting, and it’s as though Japanese are in greeting than conversational mode most of the time. Propriety is a factor 24/7 except among close friends and siblings. It could be difficult to find people to be really close with in Japan. And due to a sense of hierarchy, there probably isn’t much easy communication between parents and children, and I doubt if Kurosawa had an easygoing relation with his discipline-oriented father. That may have been the reason why Kurosawa was so close to his older brother. He was one person Kurosawa could converse with easily, not least because his elder brother tended to be bohemian and easy-going with his younger brother. Japanese can relax and talk freely with certain siblings and close friends of similar age — as those considerably older or younger are treated according to their age — , but they cannot really open up to anyone else. In SHALL WE DANCE, the husband doesn’t even speak freely with his wife. In most Ozu films, almost everyone understands and obeys the rules. It’s like Rules-of-the-Shame. If someone must break the rules, it’s done sneakily under the table or behind the screen. OHAYO, though a comedy, is one of Ozu’s emotionally most aggressive since the kids refuse to play along and insist on having a TV. Ironically, though the kids are the most expressive and emotional in the film, their manner of protest is to seal their lips. They go on a silence strike(indeed before the woman in PERSONA got the idea). Since Japanese society stifles free expression, it’s like the kids decide to beat the system at its own game. They will speak less than everyone else. Further irony is that TV makes people talk even less as all they do is watch and listen to whatever’s coming from the Idiot Box.
Talkativeness is no problem in the films of Shohei Imamura where the dynamic is ‘low and low’, i.e. as Imamura said of his films, they are about ‘the lower half of Japan and lower half of the human body.’ But Kurosawa’s films are best described as ‘high and low’, the title of one of his films(at least in English translation; in Japanese, it’s actually ‘heaven and hell’). Kurosawa was both a communal traditionalist and an individualistic rebel. He was both a moralist and an order-ist. From a traditionalist viewpoint, he disdained many facets of modern culture with its consumerism and hedonism. But from an individualist viewpoint, he lashed out at the repressive injustices and polite deceptions of traditionalism. He valued the moral courage to speak truth to the social or political order but also defended the social order from the nihilism of individual whim in postwar Japan(personified by the kidnaper in HIGH AND LOW). Kurosawa saw moralism inherent in traditionalism and order-ism but also in individualism and rebellion-ism. Morality wasn’t a simple matter of choosing order/tradition or individualism/rebellion. Morality can never be purely individualistic since to be human means finding one’s worth in relation to others. Morality can never be purely communal/traditional since it entails individual conscience and free will. Thus, morality exists between the dichotomies of tradition/order and individualism/rebellion. One has to think things through and make one’s own decisions but always in consideration of its consequences and impact on the larger society. Perhaps the tensions of morality — at least in the modern sense — were greater in Japan because so many views and feelings could not be expressed or articulated there. Given the importance of face, saying the wrong thing could get one in trouble or shunned by others. Manners were of supreme importance. British were also into manners and restrained in their behavior, but they still developed an highly verbal/oral culture. One had to say it in the right way, but as long as one did, the thing that needed to be said could be said. Or it could be suggested in roundabout or subtle ways through indirection, irony, innuendos, subtlety, wit, and etc. It’s like the ‘wink wink nudge nudge’ skit on Monty Python:
Not for nothing did Britain produce Shakespeare and Jonathan Swift. The most famous forms of theater in Japan, Noh and Kabuki, are played more through constricted gestures and movement — like pantomime puppetry — than through words. Even the music in Japan is ‘afraid’ to flow freely(like a monologue or conversation) and is cut up and served like pieces of sushi. Japan developed a kind of mute culture where even the sound of female urination became taboo. In many Japanese films, a lot of characters choose not to speak out of fear of being looked down upon — and this is no less true in more recent Japanese films. Despite the violence of his films, Takeshi Kitano is a mini-master of silence and stillness. (It seems less the case in Chinese films, so maybe the Chinese are less uptight and anal-fixated, what with the sweeping showiness of Shaolin kung-fu and wire-fu.) Because of the ideal of silence or language-functioning-on-the-level-of-greetings, Japanese seem to lose it when they feel a need to speak freely or express themselves. It’s as if there’s shame in the very idea of free expression. And so, the woman freaks out as she makes her confession in RASHOMON. And the bandit(Mifune) speaks exaggeratedly as if only such an outburst can overcome social conventions of polite speech. One either breaks down or blows up when speaking freely. One either collapses in shame or explodes in fury. This is especially true of Mifune in SAMURAI REBELLION(by Masaki Kobayashi) where his anger turns into uncontrollable fury.
Kurosawa was of both the old world and new world. There was much of the old world that he disliked and wanted to rebel against. But Kurosawa couldn’t help being molded by the values of the old world. Also, Japan changed so fast in the 20th century that he couldn’t keep apace with the new values and attitudes of the post-war era. Everyone feels young against the old and old against the young, but Kurosawa felt this more keenly.
Changes in Japan were of course heavily impacted by foreign influences. The Western world following WWII was not what it had been before WWII. Kurosawa’s formative foreign influences came from 19th century Russian literature, Classical Western music, the films of John Ford and William Wyler. Japan’s post-war generation was exposed to Jazz, new fashions in Hollywood movies and European cinema(especially the French New Wave), and rock music culture. As the saying goes, “old dogs can’t learn new tricks”, and Kurosawa didn’t really understand much of the new-new. His film RED BEARD is, at once, one of his most leftist and one of his most conservative. It’s about social injustice and poverty, the need to do something about the poor. But it’s also pro-hierarchy. There’s a call for a better order but no suggestion that the poor should rise up and topple the order. Also, the young doctor, full of vanity and arrogance, learns to be a wiser and better person under the tutelage of the older doctor nicknamed ‘Red Beard’. It seems Kurosawa reacted to the new generation the same way Pete Seeger reacted to electric Dylan. Of course, the difference between Seeger and Kurosawa was the former was just a folkie hack whereas Kurosawa at his best was indeed a great artist, and, in that sense, Kurosawa had more in common with Dylan who was also a real artist. Also, as with Dylan, Kurosawa’s politics wasn’t easy to pinpoint.
Andrei Konchalovsky, the director of SIBERIADE and RUNAWAY TRAIN(written by Kurosawa), recounted a meeting where Kurosawa praised Lenin as a man who’d brought glory to modern Russia. Konchalovsky begged to differ, and Kurosawa exploded in fury and cursed out Konchalovsky in no uncertain terms. Watch the video below at the 3:25 mark:
So, did it mean Kurosawa was pro-communist? Like many of artists of the 20th century, Kurosawa certainly had some leftist sympathies, not least because he’d witnessed what right-wing militarists had done to Japan during WWII and what consumer-driven capitalism did to Japanese society after the war. But his admiration of Lenin probably had less to do with ideology than with the idea that a great man transformed a backward order into a great modern power on the basis of moral principles.
Russia during WWI lost to Germany but Russia during WWII defeated a much more powerful Germany. And Russia couldn’t defeat Japan under the Tsar in the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, but Russia under Leninism-Stalinism handily crushed Japan in the 30s and 40s in Northern Asia. The theme running through modern Japanese history was the dream of turning a backward nation into a modern superpower, and Russia(in Kurosawa’s eyes perhaps) seemed to have achieved this with communism, certainly more than Japan that lost the war and became a political colony of the Americans. Also, communism wasn’t merely about power but values of social justice. Also, it wasn’t just about rebellion but revolution to create a more stable social order. So, elements of Marxism-Leninism probably appealed to Kurosawa — at least from a distance — even though he never would have wanted Japan to become communist. The fact is Japan had failed in the great power gamble in the 20th century. Though its economy rapidly recovered after WWII, it was essentially a political geisha to Uncle Sam. In contrast, Russia of the post-war period seemed to be on the rise. And with US retreating from Vietnam and spiraling into the morass of hippie-boomer hedonism, it seemed as if America’s days as a great power were numbered. Of course, many misread the trajectory of history then, but even many conservatives in the 1970s thought the USSR was on the ascendancy while American power was in retreat. Kurosawa wasn’t so much praising communism per se as admiring what communism had done for Russia: transform the most backward European power into a great superpower. Russia had succeeded where Japan had failed.
By praising Lenin in front of Konchalovsky, a Russian director, Kurosawa may even have thought of it as a form of compliment. So, when Konchalovsky begged to differ and made a case that Lenin was a ‘killer’, Kurosawa could have been angry for any number of reasons. For one thing, he probably drank too much. He may have been offended that his goodwill compliment regarding the Russian nation was rebuffed by rude Konchalovsky. Or maybe Kurosawa was being a bit devious and picking a fight. He would play the bad-boy by playing the contrarian who praises Lenin to a Russian filmmaker in semi-exile. Also, as Konchalovsky said, it’s just not done in Japan for a younger/inferior person to disagree with the ‘master’. And yet, as Konchalovsky also remarked, Kurosawa was being uncharacteristic for a Japanese person for most Japanese, whatever their station or age, generally don’t show their emotions to foreigners or outsiders. So, Kurosawa, by pulling rank, was being very Japanese, but in blowing up and shouting like a crazed Mifune character, was being un-Japanese. It was this tension between Japanese-ness and un-Japanese-ness that made his films so riveting.
On some level, Kurosawa may have projected some of his own personality onto Dersu, who is, at once, characteristically Asiatic and un-Asiatic. Dersu is also both instinctive and ‘intellectual’ — at least in terms of his primitive theorizing about the ways of nature —, both rough and reflective. Dersu is curious and empathetic but also quite blunt as if he doesn’t suffer fools. He’s also both proud and fearful, both respectful and reverent toward nature and fearful and ‘paranoid’ of it. On a conscious or subconscious level, we can see aspects of Kurosawa’s own personality in Dersu’s character. Kurosawa grew up Asian but was deeply fascinated with Russian culture, so he may have been drawn to the character of Dersu who is Asiatic but forms a bond with Russian explorers.
When the USSR approached Kurosawa, it gave him the freedom to choose any project, and Kurosawa chose the story of Dersu Uzala. Why didn’t he choose a project about Russians in general or Russians in big cities? Kurosawa might have figured he didn’t understand all the nuances of Russian culture and people. So, maybe he chose to meet Russians halfway through the character of Dersu, who befriends Russians and learns about them but is unwilling to surrender his Asiatic identity and culture. Also, even though Russians are more numerous and have bigger guns in the film, Dersu is the master in the world of the Siberian forest. Had Kurosawa decided to direct a film about Russian civilization, he would have had to be in the student’s chair learning about Russian people and culture. In contrast, nature has no nationality. A tree in Russia is no more ‘Russian’ than a tree in Alaska, a squirrel in Canada is no more ‘Canadian’ than a squirrel in Minnesota. As a master of filming nature in works such as RASHOMON and THRONE OF BLOOD, Kurosawa could claim nature — in Siberia as well as in Japan — as his domain. Thus, the character of Dersu the Goldi could have been both more exotic and more familiar to Kurosawa. Goldi culture and Siberia were sufficiently different from Japan to pique Kurosawa’s curiosity and fascination, but it was sufficiently natural and ‘primitive’ for Kurosawa to access, understand, and imagine. Besides, if Kurosawa got Russian culture wrong, there would be plenty of Russians to point out the errors, whereas if he got the Goldi culture wrong, how many Goldi film critics are gonna come out of the woodwork and complain? Kurosawa’s take on DERSU UZALA could have been somewhat similar to Imamura’s in PROFOUND DESIRE OF THE GODS, a film comparable in scope, vision, and imagination as 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, PLAYTIME, and ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, all of which came out around the same time.
It’s been said that if you scratch a civilized Russian, there’s a vodka swilling bear-wrestling barbarian underneath. Similarly, if you scratch a Japanese, there’s a hairy Ainu-like primitive man below. Russia was civilized later than Western Europe, and Japan was civilized considerably later than China and Korea. Both Russia and Japan became major nations and developed sophisticated cultures, but both, more than their European or Asian counterparts, remained closer to nature. Russians have long been into the notion of mystical union with Mother Russia as a natural force, and Japanese, more than most East Asians, maintained a kind of animistic worship of nature. Thus, as refined as upper levels of Russian and Japanese society became, there were plenty of rough and natural characteristics to be found at the core of both cultures. Therefore, there’s a kind of duality to Dersu’s character. He is, on the one hand, a distinct cultural member of the Goldi tribe, but on the other hand, he could represent the nature-spirit that still exists in the heart of the Japanese people despite their embrace of Confucian high culture, technological modernity, and Westernization. Similarly, the primitive inhabitants of the semi-tropical island in PROFOUND DESIRE OF THE GODS represent, at once, the sort of backward folks in places like Southeast Asia that Japanese developers were ‘exploiting’ AND the Japanese themselves who, despite their adoption of high culture and modernity, still remain clannish barbarians.
The scene where Dersu and Arseniev lose their way in the tundra is reminiscent of the scene in THRONE OF BLOOD where the two samurai vassals on horseback become lost in the fog after emerging from the forest. The frightful aspect of both scenes derive from a special kind of lostness. One can be lost but still have a sense of moving from one place to another, a modicum sense of direction. But another kind of lostness makes it seem as though one isn’t going anywhere — as if no matter which way and how far one movess, one is same place. The fog uniformly envelops everything in the scene of THRONE OF BLOOD. George Lucas created a similar effect in THX 1138 where Duvall and Pleasance’s characters are in a vast prison of whiteness where everything looks the same no matter which way or how far they go. In DERSU UZALA, increasing winds cover the tracks in the snow, and the men lose their sense of direction. If the scene of THRONE OF BLOOD was metaphorical, the impact is much more physical in DERSU UZALA. Dersu, for all his experience in the wild, cannot retrace the way back to camp. Every direction simultaneously seems right and wrong. And Arseniev, for all his expertise with the compass and modern instruments, is also helpless. There is also the element of time. The bright sun and calm winds can create a false sense of security, as if it’s okay to relax and take in the scenery. But with the sun and temperature dropping rapidly, Dersu realizes there’s no time to waste. They must give up their search to return to camp and build a makeshift shelter as fast as they can. This is the most exciting and suspenseful scene in the film, indeed one of the few things that even Donald Richie praised. It is significant because Dersu saves Arseniev, who comes to feel especially indebted to Dersu. In a way, theirs is a strange kind of friendship, one that is paradoxically premised on distance and temporariness. One can be friends with some people on a mundane basis, but some friendships are based on circumstantial factors, and this is especially true of Arseniev and Dersu. They don’t have much in common other than their shared struggle against nature. Also, Arseniev is curious to learn about Dersu’s world in the forestz(which is why they grow close in the woods), but Dersu isn’t willing to learn about Arseniev’s world of civilization(which is why they grow further apart in the town). Nature’s challenges had to come between them to forge their friendship. Without it, there’s little for the two men to share. This is why Dersu wears out his welcome in the final scenes at Arseniev’s house, and it’s part of the reason why Arseniev doesn’t protest when Dersu says he must return to the forest. Dersu and Arseniev are different, but their different qualities and talents serve both of them well in the forest as long as Arseniev is a visitor and not a settler. It’s like that time when Indians and whites found a moment of peace when they worked together to celebrate the first Thanksgiving. But in the end, the red man and the white man were incompatible as ‘normal friends’. It was a special friendship borne of the accidents of history.
Dersu’s makeshift hut made of reeds roped around Arseniev’s surveying tripod saves them both, and they reunite with remnants of the expedition. Having come to the end of their expedition, Arseniev and his men, along with Dersu, trek toward the railroad that will take them back home. As night falls, Dersu smells the frying of fish and leads the Russians to the home of an Eskimo-like family. Though the guests must be an inconvenience to the family — especially as big Russians with hearty appetites devour the fish like bears — , they’re provided with shelter and food. Also, Dersu seems to know the family; there’s a sense of mutuality among these people, i.e. to survive in such a harsh environment, everyone gives as well as takes.
Remarkably, a note of sadness hangs over the scene, which appears somewhat strange. After all, everything turned out alright in the end. Dersu and Arseniev survived the storm, they met up with others on the team, and it won’t be long before Arseniev and his men are back home with their families. And Dersu will have the forest all by himself. And yet, the tone is moody and depressing. Why? Because Dersu’s newfound friends will go away, and they will likely never see each other. If Russians have their country, countrymen, and family, Dersu has the forest that, as beautiful and magnificent as it is, lacks warmth and intimacy. One cannot talk to boulders and trees — except by going a little mad. And Arseniev and his men recognize what’s eating away at Dersu. He will be left alone. It’s like a stray dog that befriended hikers/campers being left behind when the latter take leave of the forest. You feel sorry for it and wanna take it home — and the poor thing wanna follow you home — , but you can’t. This is even truer of the stupid Negroes. Every time some stupid well-meaning Christian missionary goes to Africa, he or she feels this need to save some ‘lost’ or ‘abandoned’ jigger-jiver by bringing him or her to the US.
Dersu knows he must return to his old way of life, and the Russians know they have to return to theirs. It’s emotionally significant that they find shelter in the Eskimo-like man’s place for he has a wife and child. Dersu may be reminded of the wife and children he once had. But now he’s an old man with only a lonely life to return to. Not only Arseniev but his two hulking and gruff-looking Russians sense Dersu’s mood. Though still hungry, they refuse the second serving of fish offered to them by the Eskimo-like woman because their hearts are with Dersu who sits silently.
Donald Richie says the film presents Dersu as this wonderful nature-man who’s so wise about everything while presenting the Russians — other than the sensitive and intelligent Arseniev — as a bunch of bumbling, simple-minded, crude, and loutish fools, but I disagree. Though Arseniev’s men are certainly not well-educated or well-bred like their leader, they are presented sympathetically(even if they remain minor characters). In the scene in the Eskimo-like family’s home, it’s Dersu who looks lost and dispirited, and it’s the Russians who come across as men of good hearts. And contrary to the notion that the film peddles the Edenic ideal of a wise man living in harmony with nature, Kurosawa’s vision is far more complex and ironic. Dersu’s relation to nature is not easy. And Dersu can be as childish, petty, prickly, and even half-mad as he can be kind, helpful, and wise. As he sits with the Russians for what could be his last night with them, Dersu looks like a child who knows that Christmas has come and gone. Working with Russians was like a happy vacation from his usual routine of hunting alone in the forest. Now, Dersu must return to the same dreary daily chore of survival in the wild. For him, nature is the same old same old. As much as he reveres and communes with its powers, it’s a lonely life. It reminds me of the scene in “La Maison Tellier” — second story in Max Ophuls’ LE PLAISIR — where a farmer, whose life was enlivened briefly by the arrival of city women(ironically whores), must return to the same routine once they depart.
In the next scene, we see Russians and Dersu bidding farewell at the railroad tracks, something Dersu may have set his eyes on for the first time. The Russians walk along the railroad while Dersu climbs up the slope leading to the forest. Arseniev’s men break into a song — one we heard at the beginning of the film — , but then Arseniev stops in his tracks and the men stop singing. He turns around and calls out to Dersu, and Dersu answers ‘kapitan!’. And we see Dersu as a lone figure climbing and disappearing over the hill. The contrast is powerful. The Russians have a definite place to go, and the railroad tracks will lead them there. They have a song to sing, and there’s the power of unity, warmth, and camaraderie in their chorus. They are headed toward human community. And the three men are relatively young. Dersu, an old man, disappears into the forest alone. There’s all kinds of sounds in nature, and they constitute a kind of music but never harmonize into a song of assurance or confirmation. Same species of birds may understand another, like frogs other frogs and insects other insects. But they are all ‘Greek’ to human ears. The music of communication for humans is the song, and Russians sing the song while Dersu vanishes into a world of ‘silence’. Despite Dersu’s ‘communication’ with nature, it’s really a one-man-conversation. He imagines elements of nature to be ‘people’ or ‘men’. He lives in a world of make-believe.
Some viewers may see the railroad as a symbol of civilization’s encroachment on nature, and there may be something to that, but the tracks also offer a sense of reassurance and direction. There’s the saying, “All roads lead to Rome”. It’s like all railroads lead to Home, which is society. Thus, there’s more to DERSU UZALA than a paean to nature(and the ideal of its harmony with man). Kurosawa revered nature, but he also valued human community, the sense of belonging. The saddest scene in KAGEMUSHA is when the thief is expelled from the clan. Though free to go anywhere, he feels lost without community. And the lord in RAN goes mad when he’s exiled from his own domain. And there’s also the figure of the blind man living alone in the forest with his flute. He has his music but no one to share it with. Though surrounded by peace and harmony of trees and hills all around, he feels only emptiness and loneliness.
It is in the ‘anarchy’ of nature that the horrible rape and murder take place in RASHOMON. And it is the forces of nature that fuel the bloodthirsty ambitions of the character in THRONE OF BLOOD. And nature is a tangled territory of ego and politics in MEN WHO TREAD ON THE TIGER’S TAIL and HIDDEN FORTRESS. Many things are possible in nature, but many things essential to human meaning are impossible in nature. Survival is such a full-time occupation in nature that it spares little energy for sentiment. In that sense, Dersu is something of an anomaly because he’s a man of considerable heart. Even the bandits in SEVEN SAMURAI raid community after community because there’s more abundance to loot from humans than from nature. Nature may be full of life, but there isn’t much that man can eat — and whatever happens to be edible is hard to catch, which is why it’s a special moment when Mifune’s character snatches a fish from the stream.
So, the relation between man and nature is far more complicated in DERSU UZALA than a mere paean or tribute. Even Dersu’s death isn’t a simple case of a noble man-of-nature being killed by heartless civilization. It’s surmised that someone likely killed Dersu to steal his rifle; Dersu was killed by greed. But this is how nature itself works. Animals steal from other animals. There is no moral law in nature. Lions steal from hyenas that steal from leopards that steal from cheetahs. Tigers will kill bears and consume cubs. Bears will steal kills from tigers. Wolves will steal from bears. And there is no remorse, no moral thought. And there is no mercy for the old, weak, feeble, injured, or vulnerable. There are no retirement homes in nature. Even the mighty tiger or brown bear, when it grows old and weary, slowly starves to death or is killed by other animals and devoured. And that is what happens to Dersu. If he hadn’t been killed by a man, he would either have starved to death or been killed by other animals. If there’s any nobility to Dersu’s death, it was because of his determination to face the music and die as he’d lived. He’d been a hunter all his life. He’d taken the lives of other animals in nature. So, if he’s to be a true man of nature, he must die by the same ‘laws’. Though nature is lonely and cruel, it imbued him with a sense of identity and purpose in life. Civilization is more comforting, but he has no history and place in it. He’d rather die where he belongs than live where he doesn’t belong. The irony is that there is no real belonging in nature. While civilization may not care that Dersu is dead, neither does nature. At least civilization recovers his body and records his death. Nature has countless organisms dying on a daily basis, but that’s just how it goes. Had Dersu died alone in the forest, animals would have eaten his remains and he would have vanished as if he’d never existed. In the end, it is Arseniev, a man of civilization, who remembers him — and it is through the book written by the actual Arseniev that the world came to know of Dersu. (But then, civilization can be awful lonely too. So many modern people without kids will effectively die alone. Some Filipino nurse may change their bedpans in nursing homes, but it’s just a job; she has no emotional connection to the patients. A person without children is all alone in the end. His or her parents will have died long ago. His or her siblings will be just as old or dead — that if he or she has siblings. Friends will either be gone, be senile in nursing homes, or, if they have children and grandchildren, be with their own families. Perhaps, this is why some people cling to ideology and causes. Without families, they need some kind of community, some sense of belonging. Through political commitment, they feel like they matter in this world. There’s a scene in SEVEN SAMURAI where the elder samurai advises the young samurai to find his own path, one of community and family. He says, “…time flies. Before your dream materializes, you get gray hair. By that time your parents and friends are dead and gone.” Hearing these words, the other masterless samurai sit silently reflecting on their own aloneness in the world. Farmers always have a community, and samurai with lords belong to a clan. But masterless samurai just grow old and fade away. In a way, it’s as if part of the reason why the masterless samurai join the crusade to save the farming village is they want to savor a sense of community that has been denied them.) So, even though the nature-vs-civilization dichotomy exists in the film, no less important is the dichotomy between man and community. In the end, what Arseniev has that Dersu doesn’t have is a family and a cultural community. He has a wife and son and belongs to the Russian nation. The ending of part II of the film parallels the ending of part I. In both, we have Dersu facing the world alone in contrast to the Eskimo-like family(at the end of part I) and in contrast to Arseniev’s family(at the end of part II). Whether one lives in nature or civilization, a man finds meaning through family. As Vito Corleone said, “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family cannot be a real man.” Dersu is a real man to the extent that he once had a wife and family, but he lost them, and he’s too old to start anew. In the end, he belongs neither to nature nor civilization, and that is his tragedy. He feels stifled in the world of civilization and sees himself as a burden to Arseniev’s family, and so he returns to nature. But he doesn’t belong in nature anymore either as the ruthless ‘rule’ of nature is the ‘survival of the fittest’. Only death awaits him, and it’s only a matter of time before he meets his end, by man, beast, or the elements. Though Dersu cannot be more different from the Strelnikov character in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO — the David Lean film as I haven’t read the book — , they have something in common in their aloneness. Strelnikov, in his total dedication to the Revolution, believes that ‘private life is dead in Russia’. Dersu, unlike Strelnikov, didn’t willfully abandon or reject the private life — his family was killed by disease — , but he too wanders in the world of ‘ideals’. Strelnikov has his theories of history and destiny of humanity; Dersu has his ‘theory’ of nature and man’s place in it. But all said and done, no matter how much Dersu feels for and thinks of nature, the fact remains that the forest is a dark, cold, and lonely place — especially during winter that lasts a long time in the Siberian tundra.
Part II of the film begins with yet another expedition after several years. Arseniev has returned to the region during what appears like summertime — in contrast to the autumn scenery that began the Part I. Arseniev is a man of reason, a mapper of the world. He goes from place to place with his surveying instrument to gather data on the territory. We see him atop a mountain range gazing at the forest world below. In contrast, Dersu is a man of the trees, a man who lives amongst the woods and knows all the ins and outs. He feels a spiritual and emotional link to the nature around him. He has no use for grand schemas or formulas that are the hallmarks of modernity and reason, of nations and empires. Dersu welcomes outsiders to the extent he can trade with them, help them and be helped by them, but he has no real understanding of or interest in why the ‘kapitan’ is exploring the far eastern Siberian territory. Dersu knows there are all sorts of peoples — Russians, Chinese, Eskimo-like folks, and host of other ethnic groups — , and he even speaks some of their languages in a crude manner, but he seems ignorant of and uninterested in the politics and national ambitions involved.
As the film was produced by the Soviet Union that, like the Russian Empire before it, lay claim to the vast Siberian territories and saw itself as a benevolent protector of all peoples of the empire, there is no emphasis on the theme of modernity’s war on nature. The theme, if present, is muted, and the Russian soldiers — though members of the empire prior to the Revolution — are presented in a favorable or neutral light. That the story takes place prior to the Revolution probably had a de-politicizing effect and made it more ‘universal’. DERSU UZALA is not a propagation of the communist rationale for Russia’s ‘liberation’ of non-Russians, which was the theme of Vsevolod Pudovkin’s powerful STORM OVER ASIA.
As with Zorba, Dersu’s appeal is both unique and universal. There is also universal appeal to nature. Whatever one’s ideology, culture, nationality, or faith, all people can agree about the wonders of nature. Part of nature’s appeal is the duality of its simplicity/innocence and mystery/secrecy. There is a pure and childlike quality about nature, which is why children have an instinctive affinity for it. Trees, rocks, rivers, and animals don’t think or conspire, at least not as humans do. And yet, one is also overwhelmed by the sense of mystery and secrecy of nature. What are the birds really ‘saying’? What are the ‘meanings’ behind the myriad sounds of leaves, brooks, insects, and howls in the forest? What do animal senses detect that ours don’t? What is it to have wings and fly? Nature has an infinite number of mechanisms and signs we have yet to decode. Dersu, having lived all his life in the forest, has access to some of the mysteries of nature. Some of his knowledge are based on experience. Just by inspecting footprints, he has an almost unerring sense of what kind of person passed through the area and why. Like a dog detecting scents virtually non-existent to man, Dersu senses what others do not. In this sense, he’s kinda like the ‘witch’ in THRONE OF BLOOD who sees what humans cannot. If hearing and smell are essential for dogs, eyes are the essential senses for humans — though Dersu has a pretty good nose too(as when he smelled the cooking of fish at the Eskimo-like family). For a man to lose his eyesight, especially in the wild, is to lose the world, a fact of special poignance to a visual artist like Kurosawa. (As years passed, Kurosawa’s eyesight did become considerably worse, and there were rumors during the filmming of RAN that Kurosawa was working almost half-blind.)
As long as Dersu can see, he can play the role of master of nature. He knows its secrets, some through experience and trial-and-error and others through spirituality and imagination. As such, Dersu, like nature, is both simple and mysterious. His animistic yammering about nature may sound superstitious and ignorant but, far from being the stuff of idle fantasy, it is the product of Dersu’s lifetime of experience and survival, emotional as well as physical. The more we get to know nature and Dersu, the more his spiritual view of nature makes sense. Nature is powerful; it is lonely; it is mysterious. Thus, man needs to find some way to revere it, fear it, commune with it, and master it — without destroying it. (This is the difference between religion/mythology and the fantasy genre. Fantasy writers may conceive of material similar to what’s in religions and world mythologies, but theirs is the product of wishful imagination than genuine need and search for truth. When the ancients were creating or conceiving of their gods and cosmologies, they weren’t doing it for the fun of it. They were trying to make sense of the world around them. They needed to ponder and access its mysteries and mediate with natural forces. Thus, religions and mythologies arose from real need. Also, the ancients wanted to know the truth, and in the absence of modern science, mathematics, and logic, they sought understanding of the world through poetic imagination and metaphor-ization. Thus, all religions and mythologies are grounded in the roots of experience and sprout into revelations of truth. Old Testament is especially root-like, and the New Testament is especially revelatory. Fantasy writers, in contrast, have no need to understand the world around them. They have the advantages of science and technology. So, the purpose of their poetic imagination is merely escapism. If the ancients used myths and religions to connect to the world, fantasy genre distracts us from the world. This may be why EXCALIBUR and 13th WARRIOR, based on real legends and myths, have such power whereas something like THE LORD OF THE RINGS, CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, and STAR WARS seem rather inane and silly. Science-fiction is a more effective genre in our time because it mythically connects us with the mysteries of technology that increasingly affect every facet of our lives.)
Dersu has a certain pride for his modest mastery of nature, but nature is no friend of pride; and it doesn’t reciprocate. Nature may seem bountiful at times but not out of generosity. Countless salmon swimming upstream may feed a lot of bears for a season, but salmon make the journey to ensure their own survival. That bears benefit from the largesse of this reproductive ritual is purely accidental. Fields may be crowded with trees bearing fruits, but their numbers multiplied to gain dominance, not to feed all those who happen to benefit from the fruits. Trees ‘trick’ other organisms into spreading their seeds by offering edible sweets. So, a bear or deer will eat the fruits and then excrete the seeds that will then be fertilized by nutrients in the feces. Trees seem to be giving but they are ‘using’. At best, the relations among species are symbiotic, never in goodwill or harmonious.
Nature equipped men and animals with brains, muscles, and senses; and when those faculties function well, everything seems well with the world. But nature also takes away the senses. We become so accustomed to reality as gathered through our senses that we take our senses for granted. We think in terms of ‘world looks like…’, ‘world sounds like…’, and etc. without reminding ourselves at all times that ‘my eyes see the world as…’ or ‘my ears hear the world as…’. So, when our senses began to deteriorate, we are panicked panic because everything we took for granted about reality seems to be falling apart. It’s as if not only our senses but the world itself is being lost. It’s like the scene in ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND where the guy in sleeping-state realizes that his memories are being erased. Instead of the usual dichotomy of the individual and the world, the individual becomes the world and the world becomes the individual, inseparable and integral.
Dersu’s worsening eyesight is part of the natural process. Even the most fearsome tiger eventually grows weak and weary, loses its ability to hunt, and dies a terrible death. Dersu in his old age has to face the fact of his failing faculties. He becomes more forgetful, more senile and irritable, and finally he begins to lose his eyesight. ‘Heartless’ nature or natural process will destroy him as it has destroyed countless animals, plants, and humans. If Dersu were a man in total ‘harmony’ with nature, he would accept his fate — like the old woman in BALLAD OF NARAYAMA or old folks in traditional Eskimo tribes who were sent away to their deaths on icebergs(as in the movie THE SAVAGE INNOCENTS).
Dersu takes great pride in his ‘wise’ understanding of the spirituality of nature, but nature/reality is what it is, ever refusing to conform to the ‘spiritual’, ‘poetic’, or ‘meaningful’ conceits cooked up by man’s imagination. In the end, nature is not ‘lyudi’ or ‘people’. When a tiger comes near the Russians, Dersu tries to ‘converse’ with it and persuade it to just go away, but the tiger comes closer and closer, forcing Dersu to pull the trigger, whereupon Dersu feels he has committed a crime against Kanga the nature god. And when Dersu’s eyes start going bad, it’s a stark physical fact that cannot be sweetened by ‘spiritual’ explanations. We can be romantic and poetically ‘wise’ about nature, but nature is nature, a brutal reality. It’s like the Burt Reynolds character in DELIVERANCE has his pet philosophy about nature, manhood, survival, and the heroic struggle for life, but when his leg is broken in a canoe accident, he’s utterly helpless and squeals like a pig. Despite Reynold’s character’s manly philosophy of survival and Dersu’s ‘wise’ musings about nature, when nature ‘fails’ them in the most blunt way, they lose their pride and become like children. Reynold’s character cries out in pain, and his only wish is to be rushed to a hospital — this from a guy who earlier said he doesn’t believe in insurance because there’s no element of risk. And Dersu, who spoke so spiritually about nature, is deathly afraid of nature when his vision grows worse.
In a way, Dersu is like the eponymous character in Andrei Tarkovsky’s STALKER. He knows and feels things of nature — some more valid than others — that most people do not. He’s happy to play the role of traveling & spiritual guide for the Russians, but he wants the Russians to understand and appreciate the way of nature. But also like the Stalker, Dersu has a crisis of faith. As much as the forest is his home, it’s a lonely place, and one gets the sense that Dersu’s been tempted to leave the forest and seek out permanent human settlement. His health and eyes are still good at the end of Part I, but we sense his loneliness as he wanders back into the forest. So, to a certain degree, Dersu’s failing eyes serve as a rationale for asking Arseniev to save him from the wild. (Similarly, though the Stalker is an eccentric loner who shuns and condemns modern society, he feels an unquenchable calling to convince modern man of the holiness of the Zone. On the other hand, though distressed by his failure to persuade others, there is a kind of righteous masochism to his isolation. The repudiation of the Zone by others means he is special for he alone understands its mysteries and sanctity. This paradox seems to exist in the heart of every would-be converter. He believes he holds some great wonderful truth/secret that should be shared with the world, but then, it’s a great truth/secret precisely because it’s rejected by the world. If the world were to accept it, it would no longer be special, which means he himself would no longer be special. So, every would-be converter wants to be both heeded and rejected, be both hero and martyr, and this dichotomy is powerful in the story of Jesus as He was brutally rejected — even to the point of being whupped real good and Crucified — but then was embraced by humanity. The symbolism of the Crucifix plays on this paradox. It a sign of man’s rejection of Jesus, but it also signifies man’s acceptance of Jesus’s sacrifice. Would-be converter fears failure but also fears success. Susan Sontag struggled for acceptance, but when she became one of the major celebrities of the intellectual circuit, she didn’t feel so special anymore. She wanted success but also to be in guerilla mode, but it was difficult when she was being feted by the cultural establishment everywhere.)
The ruthless brutality of nature partly explains the appeal of transcendental religions, because only apart from nature can we imagine an everlasting paradise of peace, love, and harmony. Nature, for all its wonders, cannot offer peace, especially to the feeble, old, vulnerable, saintly, and etc. Nature is for the strong, healthy, resilient, and virile. And for life to be strong and virile, it must destroy other life, and it must select the most healthy to mate with the most healthy. For this reason, transcendental religions tend to see the flesh as wicked, sinful, or tainted. For life to live, it must destroy and consume life. Life sustains itself through endless warfare and holocausts. Even in a small pond, there’s the endless war among organisms fighting and devouring one another. Organisms fight for territory. Males fight for dominance and the opportunity to mate with females. Females will use extreme violence to feed and guard their young. A mother Grizzly bear or tiger isn’t one to mess with. Modern human society seems peaceful, but look at the tens of millions of animals we slaughter to feed ourselves. Look at all the fishes we plunder from the ocean. Think of the hogocaust of the helpless pigs, and just because people wanna eat bacon with chocolate. Think of all the cows that get their brains smashed in. And people are so sick, they even kill calves or baby cows because pinkish veal is ‘soft and tender’. In order to wear fancy clothes, show off trophy mates, live in mega mansions, and have lots of cash — all matters of flesh and sensation — , humans are extremely competitive. Elitist victors have created globalism that has reached into every corner of the world so that the ‘best and the brightest’ can make ever greater fortunes to show off how powerful, wealthy, important, and influential they are. Egotism is out of control. It’s like superduper La Dolce Vita. And communism — the ideology of the stomach — , in order to create paradise on earth, killed tens of millions of people. And it was the beauty cult of Nazism — ideology of the eyes — that was behind the mass genocide of Jews who were said to be ugly and impure. The way of the flesh can be vain, violent, and brutal.
So, Jesus and Buddha preached to people to be wary of the flesh and its passions/desires. Even love could be dangerous. For Buddha, love meant attachment and desire, and that meant egotism and will-to-power. A guy in love with a gal will wanna make lots of money to impress her; or he will beat up others guys to show he’s badass. A gal in love with a guy will entice the guy to all sorts of egotistical and materialistic things to win her heart. For Jesus, fleshly love could distract people from the higher love of God. Also, love based on sensualism made us greedy and competitive. If a woman loved herself more than God, she would spend more time in front of a dresser than with her confessor. And her main interest would be win the attraction of powerful men. Females make males fight like crazy among all sorts of animals. In EXCALIBUR, Uther breaks the peace with the Duke of Cornwall simply because he has the hots for Igraine.
All in all, nature — wild nature and human nature — has a way of dragging us down to the level of animals. Civilizations may look impressive and mighty with great armies, monumental architecture, fancy dress and jewelry, and pomp & pageantry, but all such glories are driven by animal desires of power-lust, sexual lust, territoriality, warrior pride, and etc. Kubrick understood this, which is why many of his films are about high/wealthy culture and low/animal cunning. The world of BARRY LYNDON is dreamy and paradisiacal, but the price of admission is knowing the rules of the power game. And the rich guys in EYES WIDE SHUT know how to put on a good Christmas party and patronize the arts and such stuff, but they are driven by lust for power and money. And there is no way out. We must find meaning within our animal limitations, which is why Alice Harford(Nicole Kidman) says to her husband at the end that they should ‘fuc*’. The only Kubrick film that shows a way out is 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, but then the ‘savior’ is from another world. Since there is no salvation for man in the world of nature or in the world of man, man can only hope for salvation by dreaming of something ‘out of this world’. Thus, 2001 is about transcendence in sci-fi terms. But if the ‘spiritual forces’ in 2001 are heavenly, the spiritual forces in THE SHINING are hellish or satanic. The heavenly forces in 2001 strip David Bowman of his human powers but then transform him into a higher being. The new Bowman is a leap from the old Bowman. Bowman has, with the aid of E.T.s, transcended humanity and has become a ‘starchild’. In contrast, the ‘spiritual’ forces in THE SHINING promise Jack Torrance(Jack Nicholson) the keys to power, control, and domination, and in his desire for such ‘great’ things, he becomes more animal, more beastly. In the end, Torrance relives the same psycho-drama over and over and over. It’s like he’s in a hell with no exit, no deliverance. He’s ‘reincarnated’ over and over and goes through the same human tragicomedy endlessly in the Overlook hotel, a kind of hell of vanity, egotism, and deceit. He can’t never break free from this cycle and reach his own ‘nirvana’ because he always gives into his ego’s desire for power and lust, because his emotions and actions are fueled by resentment and envy.
Some people say the Christian concept of Hell is terribly and unnecessarily cruel. After all, if Jesus is so merciful, why would He burn people for all eternity? But the concept of Hell is a morally logical extension of Christian view of afterlife. According to Judaism — though there are various/contrasting interpretations — , there is no afterlife in Heaven and no Hell. The essence of one’s soul is passed down through one’s children, which is why Jews were so obsessed with the ways of the penis and pooter. Judaism was bio-transcendental. The Jewish God was abstract and mysterious, and He cared for the Jews, but the Jews couldn’t hope for their souls to rise to Heaven and reside with God. The souls of Jews could only hope to live on after death through the children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren and so on. Essence of the Jewish soul passed through the pole and hole. In one Biblical story, a guy named Onan is struck dead for spilling the holy juice of the Chosen Jism, or Chism. (This is why, if the Arabs wanna get a leg up on the Jewsters, they must carry out the Schwarz Project that steals from the Jews the real secret of their success: their genetic code written in the Jewish sperm.)
Christianity, in contrast, came up with the idea of the everlasting soul. Since the soul was eternal after death, it could end up forever in Heaven or forever in Hell. One could become Starchild in heaven or Jack the Ripper in hell. Eternal salvation or eternal damnation. If there is an afterlife and if souls last forever, one must make a choice between Heaven and Hell. One might say it’s un-Christian for God or Jesus to punish people by burning them in Hell forever. But one could argue that God and Jesus aren’t the ones who are placing people’s souls in Hell. Rather, Hell is the defacto destination for all of us, and what God and Jesus really offer is the chance of being saved from such certainty. For example, if you’re drowning and a boat comes by to save you but you reject the offer of help and sink to the bottom of the ocean, can you blame the people on the boat? You chose to reject the help and drowned of your own accord. Since man is born with the Original Sin, tempted by all sorts of animal desires, lives by destroying other lives(animals and even fellow humans), and commits all sorts of transgressions, there is much to answer for. Given all the bad things we do, it’s natural that Satan would be dragging us down to burn in Hell forever. So, one could argue it’s not so much that God or Jesus is sending us to Hell but that Satan is grabbing our souls for Hell. What Jesus offers is salvation from this certainty. So, if we end up in Hell, it’s not because Jesus sent us there but because we refused His help.
In this sense, a Christian could argue that Jesus is like a doctor. It’s natural for us to get sick, and doctors offer to treat us. If we reject the doctor’s offer, we are likely to get sicker and die. At any rate, the doctor didn’t make us sick, and we can’t blame him for our getting sicker and dying without his help. He merely offered his services to save us from sickness. If we reject his help and get sicker and die, we can only blame ourselves and the disease/death. Similarly, one could argue that it’s natural for us to be sinful and end up in Hell after we die, i.e. satanism is the natural disease in all our hearts. Just ask the suinaean victims of the hogocaust. What Jesus does is play the role of spiritual doctor and offers a chance to be healed.
Now, one may argue… if God is good, why would He have created a world where the defacto fate of humanity is to end up in Hell? Why did God create evil in the first place? If there was no evil to tempt us, we wouldn’t be evil and there would be no Hell. But the thing is, if we were created to possess free will, then we must have the freedom to choose between good and evil. So, in the very condition of freedom itself, there is evil. If we were programmed only to be ‘good’, we wouldn’t really be good-good since we would be acting like robots or machines. True goodness comes from individual conscience and choice, and that means having the freedom the choose between good and evil. So, even if God destroyed Satan, the latter would be reborn the very second we freely choose to do evil. Satan would be revived just like Dracula keeps returning in all those Christopher Lee vampire movies.
At any rate, nature can be a brief heaven for the hale and powerful, but it cannot ‘save’ or ‘redeem’ anything. In the end, nature condemns everything to pain and death. The only comfort to be taken from nature is that the pain and horror won’t last forever. Man or animal may die horribly in nature, but upon being consumed by death, he or it is dead forever, and that’s that. Suffering is over. There is comfort in that as no one and nothing will suffer forever in nature. (To be sure, one could argue that as long as life goes on, nothing really dies. We tend to think of life in units, i.e. the parent is one unit of life and his child is another unit. Especially with the rise of individualism, we tend to see every person as a unit in his or her own right. But another way to see life is to regard the offspring as a ‘unite’ than a unit, as an extension of life, and since all organisms are offsprings and all are capable of creating more offsprings, they could all be seen as part of the same organism. The paradoxical nature of consciousness is it allows us to connect more meaningfully with other organisms but also makes us feel more separate from them. Consciousness makes us aware of the perception/conception of the ‘I’. Bees have no consciousness, so they work as one organism. But each human thinks in terms of ‘I’ and ‘my reality’, and so, even as he is a continuation of humanity and part of the larger organic community, he thinks himself separate and whole unto himself. Also, given the competitiveness of life, even the units of life within a single species or single community can be at odds with one another. The lion could end up killing its own father. A bear cub grows up not knowing who its father is, and the father could kill the son or the son could kill the father. In the movie PROMETHEUS by Ridley Scott, there is much enmity between father and daughter on the space mission. And there is even greater enmity between humans and their alien progenitors who turn out to be 10 ft skinheads with Schwarzneggerian musculature. They don’t turn out to be very nice. In BLADE RUNNER, Batty destroys his creator, but in PROMETHEUS, the creator race destroys the humans. I’ll bet in the sequel, it will turn out that the giant skinhead folks are mere minions of even greater beings.) But there is also discomfort in the face of permanent death for the nature of life is the desire to live and to fear death. The prospect of dying and fading away forever, to be forgotten and never to return, is a depressing thought. So, different cultures came up with different ideas of life after death. One’s spirit could be passed down to one’s descendants — something the Jews and Chinese believed. Or, souls were said to be reincarnated. Or, there was a Heaven or Hell where one’s soul could be happy or horror-stricken forever. For some reason, Greeks came up with something between Heaven and Hell. Though Hades is kinda like Hell, it is mostly dull and boring than horrific and painful. It’s like a dull cellar of eternity than motel hell forever. Germanic Barbarians had the beer-hall in Valhalla — at least for the heroes. Of course, this was all spiritual theorizing and had nothing to do with reality that is godless, and as far as we know, ultimately meaningless.
Anyway, the point we should take from DERSU UZALA is that it’s as much a film about nature-as-hell as about nature-as-heaven. It’s a film about the longing for human community. At the end of SEVEN SAMURAI, why are the peasants happier than the samurai? It’s not simply because the victory really goes to the farmers but because farmers have a close-knit community whereas the surviving samurai are masterless ronin. They will have to go their own way. Besides, what is an aging samurai good for without a clan to lead or serve, without a place to call home? No better than an old hunter. In a way, the elder samurai’s fight on behalf of the peasants was likely his last hurrah. But then, who remembers or records the heroism of samurai fighting to save a bunch of dirty peasants? Unlike the great wars between major clans, the deed in SEVEN SAMURAI is not for the record books. It’s a sentiment shared by the Viking leader 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.” This is why it was necessary for primitive and ancient men to exaggerate the exploits of warriors and hunters, thus turning them into larger-than-life heroes. The story of BEOWULF captivated listeners through the ages because it wasn’t simply about good guys vs bad guys but about heroic good guys vs an almost insurmountable force. If you say you defeated a bunch of bad guys, the story will be forgotten, but if you say you defeated a bunch of bad guys AND a dragon, it will be remembered. Perhaps this is the appeal of Tarantino’s INGLORIOUS BASTERDS and DJANGO UNCHAINED. The near-fantasy manner of storytelling makes them seem larger-than-history. It’s like how the James Mason character in BIGGER THAN LIFE becomes addicted to a mythic view of himself as a man of destiny. It’s like Lordita.
Because of the individualist and communalist sides of man, there is a dualistic tendency in man to separate/distinguish himself from others and to connect/commune with others. Paradoxically, those who separate themselves most from mankind may feel a need to connect with mankind to the greatest extent. If some people isolate themselves from the larger human community just to get away, there are others who separate themselves to attain the higher truth. This can be said of Siddhartha, Jesus, Marx, Nietzsche, Ted Kaczynski(the Unabomber), and Kubrick(who fled from Hollywood to conceive of and make movies on his own terms apart from the mainstream film community centered in Los Angeles). To rub shoulders with other people means to blend with them, talk like them, think like them, be mindful of them, and etc. This is why academics and writers sometimes go off on their own and finish their novels or theses in seclusion undisturbed by the hubbub of humanity. That’s why it’s called a sabbatical when scholars go off on an academic retreat. In a way, one might say this is a form of Platonism, even if the thinker or artist isn’t a Platonist per se. After all, even the most diehard empiricist must finally gather all his data/findings and formulate his own intellectual theory or spin on them. Karl Marx, for example, pored through mountains of economic data, but data do not turn themselves into theory; and besides, any set of data can support any number of conclusions. So, there is an element of Platonism in all form of intellectualism. All said and done, the final conclusion or higher truth is arrived within the enclosed realm of the mind.
The danger of Platonism in philosophy or Monasticism in religion comes from the emptiness of content. In a way, the mind is like the stomach. The stomach is enclosed within the body separate from the outside world, but the stomach must digest what is entered into it from the mouth and throat. An empty stomach that digests itself is pointless. It will eat itself up like an ulcer. Similarly, the mind needs to chew on data that enters the brains through the eyes, ears, nose, touch, and other senses. Helen Keller didn’t get anywhere until she found a connection to the outside world through her senses that her teacher trained to translate into meanings for the mind. Monastic people seem to think that the teachings of Jesus or Buddha are enough, with which they seclude themselves from the world to pray and meditate. And extreme Platonists seem to believe that after one’s intellectual faculties have been developed to a useful point, one should then seek all the meanings and truths in the mind. But, the mind needs to be constantly fed with new data just like the stomach needs to be fed with new foodstuff. Of course, the quality of the food or data is essential.
The mind also needs to be process-oriented. It must take in data and select what is useful and discard the rest. The problem with rote-memorization is it’s like constipation for the mind. After all, one doesn’t eat to retain all that one eats. One eats, absorbs the necessary ingredients, and excretes out the rest. The mind functions similarly. The reason why the East Asian mind isn’t as nimble and creative like the Western mind is that the emphasis on rote memorization has led to mental constipation. East Asian mind may be packed with a lot of stuff, but its functional process has been stalled with emphasis on retaining everything through rote memorization, and so, there’s just too much crap rotting inside the Asian mind. East Asian mind could be called poo-rotic, a form of neurosis that comes from the poo-ization of the mind.
Anyway, those who go off on their own and seek purity of mind as the path to higher truth feels a great need to share it with the rest of mankind. If one arrives at something so true, than why keep it to oneself? Why not present it to the rest of mankind? Such an act can be both supremely selfless and supremely self-more. One would be gifting mankind with higher truth/knowledge but one would also be taking credit as a godlike Promethean figure. Nothing has value unless others recognize its value, and as such, ‘value’ is the most subjective of words. It’s like the “Gloria Discovers Women’s Liberation” episode in ALL IN THE FAMILY. Michael(Meathead) and Gloria argue and aren’t on speaking terms; later, Michael receives his grades(positive), but he feels no joy because Gloria isn’t there to share his happiness.
Our fear of death isn’t only about the extinction of ourselves but of the world around us. If you’re the last person on Earth staring up at the starlit sky, your death means not only your end but the value of the stars. For unless there is someone to gaze up and treasure the stars, what value do they have? As long as we exist, the universe has meaning and value as the grand mystery that we revere and worship. Without living creatures, there can a million stars, a billion stars, or a zillion stars. They will have no value. Unless living creatures find beauty in things, the meaning of beauty is meaningless. And unless humans exist to find value in gold, gold has as much ‘value’ as dirt. And in a way, this may explain why God(or gods) needed to create man. Without man to worship and value them, God or gods don’t have value either. Thus, the creation of man by God or gods is both generous and ‘greedy’. God or gods have given life to independent creatures, but it is through the creatures’ worship of God or gods that He or they feel the sum of His or their greatness. A king sitting alone on the throne as the sole member of his empire is a fool. And this is why men and women have kids. No matter ugly or retarded a man or woman may be, his or her kids will — at least for a time — worship and value them as godlike guardians. And even when the child grows up and becomes less enamored of his or her parents, emotional bonds still remain. It’s like modern man eventually grew apart from its God or gods, but emotional links still remain; even diehard atheists sound like children arguing with their parents.
They claim that God as Lord and Father doesn’t exist, but their anger belies a certain emotional link to God that they themselves can never extinguish.
One of the reasons why intellectuals and artists want more funding for higher education and institutions of arts-and-culture is because they want a wider audience who will appreciate their works and/or theories. They wanna be human gods or at least prophets to be admired and revered by their minions. The problem is most people couldn’t care less about higher ideas or higher culture. Most people have no feeling for modern or contemporary art — or even traditional art — , and so, they must be culturally and intellectually ‘elevated’ to appreciate that stuff. Intellectuals and artists see themselves as being at the cutting edge of thought, truth, expression, and creation. They see their works as a kind of higher gift to mankind, but it just so happens that most people don’t give a crap about academic ideas or intellectual ‘culture’. Of course, most of what goes by ‘cutting edge’ is really a brand or conceit. Most thinkers are politically correct hacks, and most artists today are fraudulent self-promoters(no better than Obama, Oprah, Abe Foxman, or Lance Armstrong), but as long as they are official members of the fancy club of ‘radicalism’ and ‘subversion’, they think they’re ‘ahead of their time’. They confuse bottleneck heeding for breakneck speeding. They yammer the same tired crap about ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, ‘homophobia’, ‘patriarchy’, and etc. fed to them since cradle by Jewish supremacist intellectuals. Perhaps, many of them do suspect themselves of being phonies, but they dare not practice genuine truth-seeking and speaking-truth-to-power for what they prize above all is their own power and privilege. It’s like Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution-ism or Mao’s idea of To-Rebel-Is-Justified, i.e. revolution is good as long as it conforms to the communist formula; to rebel is justified as long as one doesn’t rebel against Mao. This is why leftist revolutions tend to devour their own. They are predicated on the notion of destroying the oppressor or reactionary class. Once the bad guys have been rid of, the revolution loses its rationale to exist, and therefore, must seek more bad guys. Since capitalists and reactionaries are gone, the revolution falls into the habit of accusing other communists of being ‘capitalist roaders’ or ‘imperialist spies’. And when even that gets tiresome, the whole thing starts to implode. All revolutions need to challenge the existing order, and this is why leftists have lots of energy and drive when they’re out of power and fighting for power. But once they have the power, the revolution becomes a top-down affair. It becomes repressive than rebellious, and a repressive revolution eventually becomes another form of ‘conservatism’.
Capitalism has been truly revolutionary because the state cannot control all the businesses and all the individuals. Every individual with smarts and drive can rebel against the existing systems to bring forth a new system. And this happens on endless fronts in food processing, computers, retail, design, fashion, entertainment, medicine, and etc. As Peter Berger argued in
THE CAPITALIST REVOLUTION, communism couldn’t hold a candle to capitalism when it came to real revolutionary change. Communism replaced the old big boss with an even bigger new boss who sat his ass on everything. And if as Karl Marx said, the economy is the real engine of progress and social change, then capitalism had the advantage over communism for capitalism constantly destroyed the old ways and replaced them with the new ways. Cars people drove in the 40s were replaced by cars of the 50s which were replaced by cars of the 60s, and etc. And today, cars are merging ever more with computer technology. In contrast, the Soviet Union were still making 60s-70s style cars in the 80s. And Cubans still drive cars from the 1950s. It’s like time stood still in Cuba, the land that time forgot.
If socialists of old feared this truly revolutionary power of capitalism that was leaving Eastern bloc nations in the dust, today’s ‘progressives’ have embraced capitalism whole hog in the name of diversity-promoting and cosmopolitanizing globalism. Given that the overwhelming majority of the superrich are globalist and ‘liberal’, capitalism is now the tool of the ‘left’ — if it can still be called the ‘left’ — and a serious challenge to the Right that still seeks to preserve the racial and geopolitical integrity of nations and peoples.
To belong to everyone is to belong to no one. It is both the most selfless and the most self-centered. In THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, Jesus has to choose between all mankind and his personal life. For Jesus to be Man of all times, all peoples, and all places, He mustn’t belong to any specific person(s) or people. Thus, embracing all of mankind means you cannot embrace any one single person. And in EXCALIBUR, when Guinevere says, “I loved you as king and sometimes as husband. One cannot gaze too long at the sun”, to which Arthur replies, “Forgive me, my wife, if you can. I was not born to live a man’s life, but to be the stuff of future memory.” Arthur fails as husband because he must fulfill his role as a just and fair king to all. Though no friend to most of mankind, Hitler also chose destiny and ‘future memory’ over family and friends. He had control over so many people but didn’t have anyone he could really consider a friend. The irony of Michael’s case in THE GODFATHER is he tried to do everything for the family, but he loses his family. But then, there are two concepts of family in the film. There’s family in the sense of wife, kids, and relatives, but there’s the family in the sense of clan, mafia, brotherhood, history, and culture — ‘this whole Sicilian thing’. Michael could have forwent power and settled into a quiet family life, but his idea of ‘family’ meant family greatness. He inherited power and wealth from his father, which made his family — and friends of the family who were like an extended family — important. But Vito Corleone had made his fortune through organized crime, therefore Michael felt he needed to redeem the family name by making the family legitimate. But the more he tries to go clean and keep/increase the family’s power, the more he has to play cold and dirty.
And then, there’s the question of what it means to go legitimate in America. If Wasp America is the true America, then non-wasps cannot truly become part of the American ‘family’. On the other hand, if the American concept of the national family is propositional, then it’s ultimately anti-family since it’s too ‘inclusive’. All concepts of family, personal or social/national, must draw the line between who’s in and who’s out. This is why Tom Hagen is, in some ways, the most uneasy character in the film. He’s part of the Corleone family as he was raised like a son, and Vito came to feel affection for him, not least because he himself had been orphaned. But he’s not Sicilian and he’s too rational to be a real Corleone. (When Vito was shot and thought dead, Tom Hagen advised Sonny to make the peace with the man who targeted the family patriarch. Though Michael sought a life outside the family, the Hagen plan is something he, the real son of Vito, cannot accept. Though Michael proposes a rational case for killing Sollozzo, it’s really blood vengeance by the son in the name of his father. Michael has the fire. Hagen doesn’t, partly because he’s not really a Corleone, because he’s been trained as a rational lawyer, and because he has a cooler personality. Michael wants revenge, and he’ll get it. And in THE GODFATHER PART II, Michael knows Hyman Roth the ethnic Jew will never forgive him for what he did to Moe Green. Italians have the vendetta-mentality, and Jews have the vengeance-mentality, and this is what Wasps never understood. Jews are more dangerous than Italians, who tend to be childish, trashy, and too easily distracted. Jewish vengeance is brooding and eternal, whereas Italian vendetta can dissipate or burn out. If wasps and waspized whites in America understood this, they would be uniting and working to destroy the Jew. What the Jew did to white America is worse than what Sollozzo did to Vito. At the very least, it could be said of Sollozzo that it was about business and not personal. Sollozzo had no special animus against Vito. He just wanted to sell narcotics. He was the young turk against the old turk. In contrast, Jews have had this vengeful and resentful hatred of white Europeans and white Americans. Jews have been cunningly planning to kill the white father, cut off the white son’s balls, and hand over white pussy to the mandingo meats of big Negroes. Look all around, and Old white America is dying if not already dead. And Jews are celebrating and spitting on the white man’s grave. Jews are pissing on white America and saying, “you’re old, you’re finished, and you’re history.” With Jews acting like this, you’d expect young whites to stand up and fight. But they’ve been castrated and are instead bending over to be rammed in the ass by Obama. And white girls don’t care what the Jews did to white America. They’d rather suck Jewish cock, spread their legs to Negro dicks, and shake their whore-ized asses to rap music. How did a great and mighty people fall so fast and so low? A people who cannot feel the anger and hatred cannot win. Whites are often accused of ‘hate’, but the problem is the sheer lack of necessary hate in the white soul. Jews are filled with hate. So are fruiters, radical feminists, Negroes, and illegal aliens. But white Americans, who should be filled with hate and uniting to fight the good fight, mope around like pussies. Like Tom Hagen after Vito was shot, they speak of doing business with the other side. The fact is the Jewish war on white America has been personal from day one. White Americans need to connect with one another and unite against Jews, blacks, and illegals, but that is not what we are hearing from the GOP and neocons. Romney lost in 2012 because he failed to connect with lots of white lower middle class and working class folks in the northern states; but then, many whites have been disconnected from their own survival instincts and seem to be welcoming the demise of their race, i.e. even if Romney had reached out in the name of white interests, he would likely have been rejected for being a ‘racist’ by whites.
Something tells me that if Pat Buchanan or Jared Taylor had run as GOP candidate in 2012, he would have gotten even less votes from white conservatives, most of whom are MLK-worshiping dorks.
Still, the main lesson of 2012 should be the GOP should appeal to Northern whites. But that would mean the rise of white unity, white consciousness, and white coming-together-of-the-race. As Charles Murray pointed out, the big story in American society is the breaking up of white society from rich and poor and across cultural/ideological lines. The last thing that Jewish liberals and neocon Jews want is for white people to COME TOGETHER. And so, Jews of both parties give the same advice to white conservative leaders: reach out to blacks, Latinos, and Asians. In other words, ignore whites and go for non-whites that the GOP has little chance of winning over. This is how Jews act. No one with any sense would ever trust or listen to Jews. Jews NEVER argue or advise in good faith. They see us like Marx Brothers see dimwit goyim. Jews are always trying to hoodwink us to maximize their own power. This isn’t to say that neocons aren’t conservative. It’s to say that their conservatism is primarily centered around ‘what is good for Jews?’ than ‘what is good for whites?’ As Jews are the minority in America, even conservative Jews fear white unity and white power; even conservative Jews want to liberalize white America. Some white conservatives may take comfort in the rightist turn of Israeli politics, but Jews — even liberal ones — support Jewish nationalism in Israel because it’s good for Jewish power. And even conservative Jews don’t want white Americans to think and act like right-wing Zionists do in Israel. Jews defend Israel’s building of walls to keep non-Jews out, but even the most conservative Jew in America doesn’t want white Americans to build walls to keep out non-whites. Even conservative Jews play on ‘white guilt’ about black slavery since they fear that if whites lose ‘guilt’ over slavery, whites may also lose the ‘guilt’ over the Holocaust, and that means whites may challenge and criticize Jewish power. Zionists are like communists. Communists were for liberalism and free speech in capitalist nations since they needed freedom and civil liberties to operate as radicals and subversives in democratic nations. But in communist nations, communists were for total censorship and persecution of anti-communists. Similarly, Zionists are right-wing and nationalist in Israel since Zionist nationalism serves Jewish power over there. But in America, even hardline Zionist Jews are anti-white-power and anti-white-unity. If neocon Jews were really for white unity, they’d call for the GOP to reach out to the white masses in blue cities. While many northern whites are indeed dogmatically liberal, there were many Norther whites who chose not to vote in 2012 because they were disgusted with a GOP that offers them nothing. But neocons say GOP must suck up to the globalist superrich and reach out to blacks and illegal aliens while ignoring Northern middle class and working class whites. This is how Jews play the game. What’s amusing is Obama knows all about how this game is played. While Obama is no less a puppet of Jews than Bush was — in a way, he’s an even bigger puppet — , he has no illusions about the Jewish game and Jewish power. He knows what he had to do to win the backing, support, and protection of Jewish power. He knows how to keep the wind behind his back. Jewish power was the real Hurricane Sandy for Obama. Jewish power saw him through in 2008 and in 2012.)
Dersu is not a messianic figure or a man of spiritual/intellectual pretensions, but he realizes at the end that he too must die as he lived. Nature has come to define so much of what he is that he’d rather die ‘meaningfully’ than live a compromised life in the security of civilization. Just as Jesus in Scorsese’s telling of the Christ tale ultimately rejects the domestic life and chooses death on the Cross, Dersu decides to return to nature. Of course, unlike mankind, nature doesn’t care who or what lived or died. In the end, it is Arseniev who cares, and it is he who wrote the book that served as the basis of the film by Akira Kurosawa that made the figure of Dersu Uzala known to the whole world. (The jungle hero of GREYSTOKE: LEGEND OF TARZAN also returns to nature, but it ends on the note of romanticism, but then, the whole thing is fantasy. BORN FREE has a happy ending, but Elsa the lioness didn’t live long in the wild, and the authoress was later killed by lions, and her husband was killed by native thugs. GREYSTOKE is an interesting work for it treats fantasy as the material for a serious ‘art film’, and as such, it was neither here nor there and flopped at the box office. I like it but I like Hugh Hudson’s REVOLUTION too.)
For PART TWO of this article, CLICK HERE.