Monday, September 9, 2013

Top Ten Politicals

Now we as a nation have set back reform for another three years at least here are a few fine pieces to help us maintain our rage.

The Parallax View
IMHO the sharpest response to the killing of the 60s by political assassins. Warren Beatty's career-best as an investigative journalist who ventures well beyond the protection of his paper into the dark of facelessly organised control. The bleakness is pure 70s and I defy any first time viewer to remain dispassionate during the Parallax Corp psyche test slide show. Add a music score that expresses tingling paranoia through a warm patriotic facade.

My favourite Eisenstein film for its energy and sheer thrills. Prefer it to Potemkin any day. 1+1=3 montage editing, constant kinesis and compelling silent performances in abdundance. As they said in the revolution itself: the gang's all here!

2 or 3 Things I Know About Her

Insidious consumerism vs inflexible income turns lower middle class women into prostitutes in this on the transformation of people from citizens to customers. Neither narrative feature nor documentary, this essay on contemporary life retains its vitality all the way from the mid 60s and its blend of philosophy, Marxism and genuinely funny absurdism keep it fresh.

Triumph of the Will
Often forgotten that this is essentially an admin meeting turned epic but you won't need subtitles if you don't have them. Watch a people become a work of architecture with all the compassion that implies. Never again.

The Great Dictator
If Triumph of the Will can't entice you all the way through try Charlie Chaplin's take. Any worthiness aside this endures because it is still bloody funny. There's a story that Hitler not only saw this film but laughed helplessly at the scene where Napoloni and Hynkel try to out elevate each other on the hydraulic chairs. I can't think of a weirder endorsement of this film, if true, but there it is. I'm not a great fan of Chaplin's work overall but the addition of dialogue along with even bolder production values make this a venerable ancestor to the likes of Life of Brian.

Red Monarch
Little known made for UK tv piece on Stalin from thaw-era Soviet satire hits a few boggy points but overall plays the tension between the gravity of the Terror and the Alice-like weirdness of the inner circle. The meeting with Mao is clearly influenced by The Great Dictator but still very funny (marred only by the now archaic casting decision to make up a Euro to look Chinese for the translator, not as unsettling as Mickey Rooney playing Japanese in Tiffany's but still...) Use of Anglo-Irish accents to reflect similar USSR ones was a great decision.

La Chinoise
Young middle class students run a Maoist boot camp in a Paris apartment. When Veronique's fervour is gently deflated during an encounter on a train we feel it terribly as the train speeds down for the next station. Godard is quite harsh on his characters here but less than a year later he joined them at the barricades.

Bob Roberts
Great, if less than always disciplined, satire helmed by star Tom Robbins. Rich conservative independent mounts a campaign for the white house. Because that would never happen would it?

The Dismissal
Tv mini series rather than standalone film but needed Australian content and have fond memories of this dramatisation of the axing of the Whitlam government made in time for the start of the Hawke years and to remind us here of how good and how bad things can get. John Stanton as Fraser was a standout.

Oh, and "never again!"

 Burn the Butterflies
Standalone ABC tv movie with Ray Barrett as a Whitlam-like PM beseiged by crisis. As tough as we could make them here for the small screen once upon a time. Final shot used unfocussed background action with shocking brilliance.

The still is not from the movie but Ray is the one on the left.

It Happened Here
A sobering what-if story of Britain under Nazi control. It distrubed its initial audiences as, while it showed an active resistance, it suggested that the Britons of the Blitz might have knuckled under like everyone else the Nazis got to. A discussion between blackshirted thugs is improvised by the participants from their own experience (they were National Front members). Brilliant device of using a nurse who can move through different social strata with relative ease allows some strong examination of the scenario's possibilities. Looks like a mix of stock footage but every frame was freshly shot. Conceived and executed over years by two guys who were still in their teens when they started it.

Wonder if we could do the same here with the Brisbane Line. Probably not.