Sunday, November 20, 2005

Weekend films

I left work at 10pm Thursday, I had to be up by 6:30am Friday for woodchopping, and I had insomnia. There on the coffee table was Shame from Netflix, and what better way to spend 3:30-5:30am? This is a particularly strange Bergman film. There's the same decaying relationship, the same frayed nerves of intellectuals in existential crisis who begin lashing out at each other in despair, there's Liv Ullman with her shirt off and Max von Sydow gloomy and introspective. But it's also a war movie, with some rather harrowing scenes. I'm used to Bergman's characters lobbing psychological weapons at each other--here there are actual incedniary devices blowing things up in the background and the rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire. Interesting primarily for its complete change of tone from those quiet drawing rooms and rural estates featured in his other work. Instead of mere psychological torture and abuse, we get physical torture by government officials and the rebels and the invaders. I think Bergman intended to explore masculinity and its limits, and to demonstrate the surprising change in character desperate circumstances can bring about--but what do I know at that time of night/morning?

Strange that I'd just read Roth's The Plot Against America which also features Morrow as a crusader out to save the Republic from creeping fascism; Morrow's ghost obviously is restless and moving amongst the activist lefty intelligentsia in these troubling times.

I wholeheartedly recommend Good Night and Good Luck because it's an entirely optimistic film which documents a bleak and dangerous period in American history. Clooney's object is two-fold: he wants A) to demonstrate how powerful a few principalled actors in a subservient and frightened press can be in standing up to government bullying--a lesson we're learning anew--while also B)reminding us during our current dark time that America has been through some scary fucking episodes in the past and come out OK. NONE of what we're experiencing now (trashing of liberals, vitriolic attacks on dissenters, black-balling campaigns, accusations of media partisanship, demoralized opposition party) is unprecedented. McCarthy ran rampant for YEARS, and was more fearsome and successful in many ways than Karl Rove and Co. I don't want to minimize the impact of those moronic ideologues currently in power, but the problems we face are not insurmountable. I found Good Night and Good Luck not only a good bit of cinematic didacticism, but roundly entertaining as well--the narrative moves quickly and efficiently and the direction and performances are rather excellent. I was caught up in it from the first smoky frame to the end credits. To all those critics who think it over-emphasizes Morrow's role in McCarthy's fall? Well, duh--the film is about Morrow and Fred Friendly and CBS choosing to stand up for Truth. Anything outside those parameters would require a 3-hour film.