'Criticism is the only thing that stands between the audience and advertising.' - Pauline Kael

*

Paul Robeson With Oakland, Ca. Shipyard Workers, 1942

Black August

So in order to best cover all bases, progressive film critics tend to consider three categories of assessment, rather than two: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The first two are self-explanatory. And the third category is reserved for movies that may have been impressively put together, but there's just something offensively anti-humanistic about them.

Stay tuned......

The Organizer

Saturday, August 22, 2020

THE 24TH REVIEW: Exhuming Suppressed Buried Black History

 

Based on real events in the long infamous US past, the historical drama The 24th takes place during WW I, and a Houston army contingent known back then as the 24th Regiment. But this is not a war movie, while at the same time it is, very much so. Namely, the endless war against African Americans from the inception of this nation, and essentially to this very day. And the repeatedly buried black history of defiant, desperate resistance and rebellion, however bereft of hope.

Known as the Camp Logan Mutiny taking place on August  23rd back in 1917, a mass rebellion of those 156 segregated soldiers of the Third Battalion occurred in reaction to the Houston escalating racist assaults and outright massacres all around them. While an evident spark igniting the uprising however futile, was in some cases the personally experienced East St. Louis Massacre ending just a month earlier, when up to 250 African Americans were murdered by whites,  and another 6,000 left homeless following the rampage burning down their homes, beginning that May.

And the Army unwilling to do anything to protect the soldiers, or prosecuting those responsible. Leading to the armed attack one night against those brutalizing Houston whites, including the police, responsible for the torture and murders of terrified African Americans civilians of Houston as well. The resulting trial, the largest murder trial in US history, led to the execution of nineteen of those brave and defiant soliders, and the rest sentenced to life imprisonment hard labor.

Helmed by first time director Kevin Willmott (BlacKkKlansman, Da 5 Bloods screenwriter) and co-written and starring Trai Byers, The 24th is yet another exemplary example of persistent filmmakers of conviction stepping in to exhume that invisibilized black past - where US history and the cowardly, abominable suppressed education system fear to tread. 

And while it may be noted that the film is being released during this Black Lives Matter moment - along with Emperor, and the Samuel Jackson narrated Enslaved - potentially ushering in a commendable and urgent Black Renaissance in movies, that convergence which could not be more timely, may be more coincidental than otherwise. And quite possibly a reaction against a very different, loathesome convergence - the long surging racist white backlash against this country's first Black president, than anything else.

Prairie Miller

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Big Ugly: Gangster Thriller, Greed, Oil And A Rural Appalachia Uprising


Move over, The Ugly American, boasting Brando front and center or not. A gangster thriller gone global that may endure for it's provocative title if nothing else, The Big Ugly could not have encapsulated planetary US imperialism thuggery more. Playing out in discovered West Virginia oil-rich land around a local creek known as Big Ugly, this Scott Wiper sophomoric sendup of well worn gangster territory, promises so much more while delivering exceedingly less.

The film follows the unfortunate escapades of London mobsters played by Malcolm McDowell and Vinnie Jones, as they are lured to rural West Virginia to invest in a money laundering oil venture concocted by shady businessman, Ron Perlman. And though by no means saintly operatives themselves, the comparatively gentlemanly Brits get caught up in the deadly bully instincts of those avaricious oil Yanks, with tragic consequences. And while dredging up oil exploitation gangster capitalism via the otherwise tired narrative proceedings, Appalachian rebels as the ripped off rural masses happen to rise up to reclaim their confiscated land - though they should have grabbed a lot more screen time, and been placed decisively front and center in the story. 

Meanwhile, with UK sacrificial racketeers turning up, would that be British Brexit anxiety chiming in - now that Boris has left the country vulnerable and on its own for the anticipated US economic feeding frenzy? Who can say. On the other hand, spending screen time with the likes of that OG - or rather OJ, original Joker  - that Clockwork Orange classic unhinged thug, Malcolm McDowell while pondering his take on gangsters then and now, usually tends to feel like it might have been an otherwise missed opportunity.

Prairie Miller

Friday, July 17, 2020

Dateline: Saigon Review: Fake News, Nothing New



 Though the notion of fake news has a specific connection at this moment in time to the sitting president lashing out at media reports unfavorable to him, that concept has a surprisingly much longer and secretive tarnished US history - with no particular party affiliation in collusion with the media as well. And Dateline: Saigon, the documentary delving into the Vietnam War as covered by fearless journalist back then, simultaneously reveals a huge trove of US state secrets conducting that war covertly as if, say - directing a Hollywood movie.

Written and directed by first time filmmaker Tom Herman and narrated by Sam Waterston, Dateline: Saigon revisits the efforts of Viet Nam war correspondents - Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, Malcolm Browne, Peter Arnett, and photojournalist Horst Faas, to record the truth on two war fronts, not just one. In other words, struggling against US government censorship bent on discrediting them, pressuring to report the Viet Nam War their way dishonestly, and as a winning venture.

And revealing not just about what transpired decades ago in that regard, but that nothing has changed - no matter which political party. And by extension, what the past can reveal concerning our present time, both historically and about the media.

While in the case of Peter Arnett,  covering Middle East US invasions and wars, along the US assault on Viet Nam - the JFK/Johnson government, CIA and Hoover's FBI were bent on destroying Arnett by shutting him down professionally, And necessitating personal protection as well for reporting the truth.

Dateline: Saigon - A rigorous and scathing chronicle of devastating defeat: The US War on Viet Nam, and on the US media.

Prairie Miller

Sunday, January 5, 2020

ARTS EXPRESS TOP TEN BEST LIST 2019




ARTS EXPRESS RED EYE MOVIE REVIEWS - Red Hot And Saucy Top Ten 
Served Up Here

Cold Brook: 'Are you ready to be different?' - Part ghost tale, part Bartleby while at the same time a captivating slavery reparations fable, the film flirts with the supernatural even with its heart planted firmly in sobering class and race issues historically and now.

Dolemite Is My Name: With class, race and cultural divides up for satirical scrutiny, the entire explosive socio-political era that fed blaxploitation gets raw enlightenment on rewind. And with the ignited rebel instinct, lucid moment of the marginalized defining that subversive time.


Gloria Bell *Best Musical: Julianne Moore in a take no prisoners transformative middle age makeover moment of clarity from emotionally passive 'other woman' outcast to patriarchal payback uprising. And with lots of self-celebratory, breathlessly expressive emancipation in this somewhat feminist musical too.

In The Aisles: A metaphorical, muted lyrical elegy of unrelieved despair in the Kafkaesque corporate workplace catacombs of global capitalism, somewhere in the former GDR following German reunification - and the concurrent disappearance of a collective trucker brotherhood under socialism.

Joker: Fear of the masses - in a movie. Unlike say, Parasite's combo derisive mockery and apprehensive undercurrent of potential workingclass rebellion. Along with an erroneous official fear-mongering advisory that the portrayal of that anarchistic comic book villain would precipitate violence in America. But the Golden Lion top prize winner at the Venice Film Festival as more manifestation of a violence already grounded in US culture, and a reflection of simmering low wage police state millennial generation misery.

Official Secrets *Best Female Action Hero: "My motive was to stop a war and save lives - Yes, I'd do it again." Yet another instance of filmmakers of courage and conviction stepping up where unfortunately and unlike Keira Knightley's anti-Iraq War real life rebel - politicians and the press (including critics) fear to tread. Which is the reason you likely never heard of this best female action hero of the year. 

Pause: A vivid, near soliloquy, men distorting women and bypassing the hungering housewife soul. And relief for aging suppressed passions and frustrations do eventually break free for moments, but with only elusive windows of dramatic conjecture provided - as perhaps it should be.

Richard Jewell: 'Don't become an asshole, a little power can turn a person into a monster.' A real life unlikely designated hero in this emerging police state/corporate press collusion cautionary tale.

The Operative: Essential filmmaking of conviction indeed, a dramatic denunciation of the Mossad against Iran, penned by a former Israeli intelligence officer. And a brave movie stepping in to confront the challenges of current political censure and censorship offscreen - where timid and cowardly or complicit governments and corporate media fear to tread.


The Public: A mix of eloquence and satire, in this homeless mass uprising takeover of one of the last remaining US public service and social program sanctuaries for bookworms and the homeless alike, the public library.

** Note: 7 out of 10 were mysteriously 'disappeared' for their socio-political content. The others are inexplicably Hollywood.

AND...Worst Movie Of The Year: Parasite: 'On est tous le parasite de quelqu'un' [We are all the parasites of someone] Though billed as a kind of South Korean anti-capitalism satire - this eat the rich outing when not eating its own at the bottom of the economic food chain, comes off more as an empty plate...A condescending, pessimistic portrayal of human nature, bereft of class consciousness or ideology.
 ~ Prairie Miller

Saturday, November 30, 2019

ARTS EXPRESS


ARTS EXPRESS RED EYE MOVIE REVIEWS - Red Hot And Saucy
Served Up Here 

**Karma Express: [That 'refurbished' Lionel train above was the company owned by Roy Cohn...]

THREE CHRISTS REVIEW 
Image result for three christs movie poster

 THREE CHRISTS - OR POSSIBLY FOUR

Based on a true story and adapted from the autobiography The Three Christs of Ypsilanti, by Dr. Milton Rokeach, the dramatic feature set in the sprawling Michigan mental hospital of the book's title stars Richard Gere as the shrink in question, here named Alan Stone. It's the late 1950s when warehousing, and shock therapy and lobotomies were the mostly cruel and ineffective psychiatric treatments of choice, and Dr. Stone is determined to oppose the resistant institutional bureaucracy in that regard, taking up the challenges of introducing group therapy as an innovative alternative.

Facing the hospital's 'unfeeling, conformist' determined backlash, Dr. Stone proceeds defiantly by scoping out two diagnosed paranoid schizophrenics claiming to be Jesus Christ. And in search of a third Christ to complete his planned assemblage, Stone sends his assistant on a quest through the institution to find one - which turns into a complicated affair as she comes up with 'three Cinderellas, two Eisenhowers, and one Duke Ellington' in the process.

Eventually the trio materializes (Peter Dinklage, Walton Goggins, Bradley Whitford), but what ensues is more erratic behavior and unorthodox therapy such as staff role playing as fictitious patients themselves, than any noted cure. Which tends to focus mostly on Gere and his complex state of mind, than the patients in question - who as actors give off vibes here as somewhat dramatically uncomfortable with portraying mental illness.

And Gere is to be commended for his principled choices on and off screen - including Avnet's Three Christs along with his compelling portrayal of a homeless man in Time Out Of Mind - and personally delivering water, food and other supplies this past summer to African migrants stranded on an Open Arms vessel off the coast of Italy.

But missing from this championing of psychiatrc therapy over prior methods, even as a postscript confesses 'Though I had failed to cure the Three Christs of their God-like delusions, they had cured me of mine' - is what should have been a crucial second postscript about the current terrible state of affairs regarding psychiatric care that followed this doctor's efforts. Namely in the present, replacing warehousing and the rest with simply tossing mental patients on the streets into burgeoning homelessness, and budget cuts that have denied them treatment.

Though that particular issue rears its head in another current frightening movie touching on that horrifying present reality - Joker.

The First Worst Film Of 2020

Citizen K: Don't Believe The Hype

Who is Russian oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and what is he doing as a dubious hero in this Alex Gibney documentary? And what does all this have to do with the Black October coup not collapse back in 1993, and Russia election meddling - no not that one. Rather, the Bill Clinton/CIA bromance with Boris Yeltsin that brought the counter-revolutionary candidate to power back then.

The ex-con turned Gibney martyr celebrated here as the once richest man in Russia after grabbing the wealth out of the people's coffers in that post-Soviet scam known as state vouchers, turns up in the film promoting his human rights organization out of London, Open Russia - an outfit created and funded by war criminal Henry Kissinger and UK robber baron banker Jacob Rothschild.

Say It Ain't So, Gibney...

Richard Jewell: Truth Stranger Than Hollywood

"Don't become an asshole - a little power can turn a person into a monster."

"A little power can turn a person into a monster." That key observation by Sam 'Make My Day' Rockwell in Clint Eastwood's biopic Richard Jewell, sets the highly unusual tone for the conservative minded director, whether incidentally or accidentally, of the US moving progressively into police state mode.

The film is based on the true story of Jewell, an eccentric security guard underachiever aspiring unsuccessfully to be a cop, who is deemed a public hero helping save lives during the 1996 deadly Centennial Park Olympics bombing in Atlanta. But with a joint FBI/press obsession to rapidly collar a bombing suspect however inconclusive, Jewell finds himself abruptly morphed from an object of celebration into condemnation - simply because he appears to fit a vague psychological profile of frustrated, reclusive white male. And a trend on screen as well this season in movies, with the immense audience interest in Joker and The Irishman.

Actor Paul Walter Hauser has been praised for his clueless and impassive stifled portrayal of Jewell, which tends to border until an emotionally charged conclusive breakthrough finale, on the exclusively public persona of southern hillbilly bordering on caricature. While the powerfully conveyed resistance and rage against the authoritarian and repressive political drift in the country, is a burden placed heavily on the shoulders of Sam Rockwell as unheralded real life low rent Atlanta lawyer - who bravely rises to the formidable occasion rigorously denouncing the FBI and tabloid tendency press, with kickass fury and then some. 

A tacit, cautionary  wakeup call to what's going down ever since then in the drift towards a police state in collusion with the press, the film has resounding implications but could have weighed in on the surrounding political reality continuing to this day. Namely, a reversal reaction against the liberating Anti-War and Civil Rights Movements earlier in the last century, proceeding into the '80s Greed Decade and accompanying repressive political tendencies - the 1994 Mass Incarceration Crime Bill and privatized prisons cashing in. 

Along with historically, the upcoming 1999 US/NATO bombing of Serbia and entire obliteration of that former country known as Yugoslavia. While their leader Slobodan Milošević was hauled off to the International Criminal Court, accused of 66 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes - only to have the charges dropped long after years of incarceration, following his death in prison due to chronic health conditions.




Cold Brook Review: Are You Ready To Be Different

Part ghost tale and part Bartleby The Scrivener while at the same time a captivating slavery reparations fable, Cold Brook flirts with the supernatural even as its heart is planted firmly in the social reality of the hear and now. And a story so delicately woven with a tender human core, yet grounded in sobering class and race issues reverberating today.

The Bartleby in question is Gil Le Deux (Harold Perrineau) an African American  dignified yet determined seeming apparition haunting an Upstate NY history museum. And when asked to leave at closing time, somehow 'prefers not to' - and refusing to do so while vanishing repeatedly on the premises. What comes to light progressively, is that Le Deux is fixated on a glass enclosed antique scroll on display, a deed that would confirm his right to land left to him in this area by the New Orleans slave owner who freed him. But due to tragic circumstances back then in the 1850s (actually around the same time that Melville wrote Bartleby) Le Deux died and never arrived to claim his land - until now.

Meanwhile, a pair of museum maintenance men, George and Ted (Kim Coates and William Fichtner respectively - the latter the director and co-writer of Cold Brook), following a frantic period of disbelief, fear and ambivalence, set out on a mission, despite the risk of arrest and losing their jobs, to help this tormented spirit claim justice and closure. While one of the most radiant lines in Cold Brook uttered by Coates - 'I don't know if I'm ready to be different' - speaks to the human and historical challenges of fearlessness, risk, and rebellion in acting on convictions - and taking a stand no matter what.

The film could have been shortened to pick up the somewhat sagging pace, when a brisk, suspenseful momentum was called for. And the narrative lost a key opportunity for socio-economic scrutiny, while skirting over the stark class differences within Ted's family - between the demeaned blue collar spouse and his bourgeois, educated college dean wife pretty much wearing the patrician pants in the family.

But remarkable in any case about Cold Brook, is a rare and commendable sighting of blue collar working class heroes like this duo, not the usual condescending proletarian screen buffoons, but instead graced with affectionate humor while treated with seriousness and dignity as principled, courageous protagonists. While the many metaphorical ghosts haunting the film historically within the darker recesses of this country, are bravely illuminated as well.


Official Secrets Review

"My motive was to stop a war and save lives - Yes, I'd do it again."


Yet another instance of filmmakers of courage and conviction stepping up where unfortunately and unlike Gun, politicians and the press (including critics) fear to tread. Which is the reason you likely never heard of this best female action hero this year.

While most attention when it comes to US invasions and wars, is paid to those who fight them, the truly courageous with unbroken resolve who battle for peace instead, are inevitably ignored or worse punished into silence. Such was the predicament of young British intelligence translator Katharine Gun. And venturing a guess you never heard of her.

Yet this fearless woman's lonely struggle nearly stopped the Iraq invasion and mass death and destruction - costing up to a million lives and many more injured - in its tracks. While her bold and plainly stated motivation was simply explained as caring about the world - and confessing her actions in order to protect her fellow workers around her from similar suspicion and persecution.

And sadly as well, too often investigative, truth telling filmmakers step up to the plate to bring such insidious government manufactured events like the WMD hoax in question here, to light, where more often than not politicians and the media fear to tread. Or as one persistent reporter is ordered by his boss in the docudrama Official Secrets - 'stop over-thinking it.'

And Official Secrets, directed and co-written by South African filmmaker Gavin Hood and based on the book The Spy Who Tried To Stop A War: Katharine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion  by Marcia and Thomas Mitchell, is both a politically inspiring and emotionally intense portrait. And of one woman's fiercely determined, solitary challenge in a faceoff against the illegally duplicitous UK government, that would already seem to have clearly earned Keira Knightley best female action hero acclaim this year - blockbuster babes move over.

That is not to say that movies reviewers - and that all too often dancing around controversy, elephant in the room film criticism - will be forthcoming regarding praise for this politically illuminating gem. Unfortunately as is already the case with Official Secrets.

Instead, reactions more likely avoid the kind of bravery demonstrated by the film's protagonist, however minimal in comparison, by diverting reader attention to unwarranted distractions like assessments of production values or dramatic pace over vision. And relegating the crucial importance of what matters in the real world to an inconsequential realm - instead a pressured meek press opting for feeling taking precedence over thought and ideas.    

Prairie Miller

       ENOUGH BOWLING - LET'S GO JOIN THE FARC

Image may contain: 3 people, people sitting and indoor 

PARASITE: Deplorables, South Korea Style. Though billed as a kind of South Korean anti-capitalism satire - this eat the rich outing when not eating its own at the bottom of the economic food chain, comes off more as an empty plate...Parasite is screening at the NY Film Festival 2019 in progress.

Image result for parasites movie 2019

A somewhat combo tale of two families and exceedingly twisted prince and the pauper dubious Seoul mates turned sour spree, Parasite plays out as the poverty stricken bottom feeder (literally basement dwellers) Kim clan conspires together to pull off an elaborate scheme posing as hired help at the home of the patrician Park family. All goes well until part of the ploy involving maneuvers to get rid of the existing household workers backfires into over the top mayhem, as a kind of chaotic both external and internal bloody class warfare ensues.

Director Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer, Okja) presents a condescending, pessimistic portrayal of human nature bereft of class consciousness or ideology - and a workingclass whose sole motivation is to go to extremes, or aspiring to do so, to replace when not feeding off the economic class exploiting them.and similar films exposing government deceit, intelligence manipulation,  and mass murder in pursuit of avarice around the world - fear of denunciation from those in power for 'overthinking' what lies in plain sight, is marked it seems by press retreat from daring and truthful responses.   

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text                                                      

LARRY FESSENDEN TALKS DEPRAVED

** "I think horror has to address the current collapse of society, that is what it's always been good at. It's a cautionary genre that tries to shock people out of their complacency - and I really believe that it has a heroic purpose, horror films." 

COMING DETRACTIONS!

Understanding The US Obsession To Make War In Venezuela
'...The answer to whether or not Venezuela will be intervened militarily may not have to be sought in the official statements of the head of the Southern Command, Craig Faller, but in the signals that come from the cultural wing of the American war apparatus, that is, from the film industry.'
"If you want to know what the next great war will be, just look at the marquee of the cinemas," exclaims a literary character - and may be right.


TWITTER.COM
“There's no looking back for #JackRyan. Next stop: Venezuela.”
                                                                                                                      

Friday, November 29, 2019

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Bolivia

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Revival


Image result for creedence clearwater revival

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand
Lord, don't they help themselves, no
But when the taxman comes to the door
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yeah
Yeah, some folks inherit star-spangled eyes
They send you down to war
And when you ask 'em: "How much should we give?"
They only answer: "More, more, more"
Fortunate Son | Creedence Clearwater Revival

Monday, November 18, 2019

BRO ON THE GLOBAL TELEVISION BEAT

Image result for serie series, fontainebleau

Arts Express Paris Correspondent Professor Dennis Broe presents his report on location attending a television festival at Fontainebleau, France - The Americans Are Coming! And how what you'll be seeing on the small screen in the near future is impacted by corporate monopolies, class tensions and class privilege, the Trump doctrine, lobbyists - and progressive content in a collision course with ratings.

Listen To The Show HERE

Friday, July 12, 2019

ARTS EXPRESS


ARTS EXPRESS RED EYE MOVIE REVIEWS - Red Hot And Saucy
Served Up Here                                             

The Gold Glove: Fatih Akin Takes The 'Glove' Off, In This Take No Prisoners Socio-Politically Rooted Horror Spree  

"Your heroes are losers. You are supporting a lost cause. Believe me, I knew the original Nazis. Growing up I was surrounded by broken men, men who came home from the war filled with shrapnel and guilt, men who were misled into a losing ideology. And I can tell you that these ghosts that you idolize spent the rest of their lives living in shame. And right now, they're resting in hell."
(Arnold Schwarzenegger to Donald J Trump)


At the same time a gruesome serial killer horror film and in no way that at all, Turkish-German filmmaker Fatih Akin's The Golden Glove confounds and fascinates once again, somewhat like his predatory protagonist, luring in audiences with a bait and switch narrative agenda exploiting the notion of controversial entertainment for socio-political shock and awe. And specifically from a cultural outsider's subversive point of view.

The take no prisoners, daring director's perspective focuses yes, on disturbing audiences, but more as mirror reflecting back on themselves with ugly historical truths, than what may be seductively, evidently up on the screen. And specifically how Germany or any western society may appear to the alienated, demonized or victimized outsider - whether immigrant or conquered, destroyed nation historically and in the present time.

The narrative is ostensibly a retelling of the crimes attributed to an actual obscure early 1970s German serial killer Fritz Honka targeting primarily elderly prostitutes inhabiting a dilapidated, exceeding grotesque red light district pub of the title, but much more. The Golden Glove is based on the novel of the same name, revisiting the madman's barbaric exploits, and written by Heinz Strunk.

A blue collar, alcoholic with physically deformed facial features and a raging temper, Honka (a remarkably disfigured, transformed Jonas Dassler) prowls for his female victims at the local bar in question, and takes them home to his attic hovel where he horrifically, beyond graphically rapes, tortures and beats most of them to death, dismembering and stuffing their bodies behind a wall there. And when complaints ensue about the terrible smell, he readily blames the cooking odors of a Greek family he detests as immigrants, living below.

Though Akin would appear to have much more on his mind that similarly sadistically plays with audience minds. We learn in the course of this grueling procession that victims and perpetrators alike are the seeming waste product of  a decaying Western civilization following WW II, specifically Germany in this case, leaving in its wake a procession of damaged and destroyed humans. And among them dangerous elements as well.

At one point we learn that the serial killer's father had been a communist sent away to a concentration camp during the war, as was one of Honka's prostitute victims - implying a similar fate of other women like her at the bar as well. And, the telling presence of another mysterious intimidating barfly there, a former SS officer with eventual sadistic malice on his mind at the men's urinal there.

All of which creates a grotesque canvas that might be said to extend from the Hieronymus Bosch and Bruegel sado-masochistic Renaissance hellish landscapes, Germanic even if Dutch - a seemingly self- fulfilling trajectory that may be said to extend from the cruelty and decadence of early capitalism, to the degeneracy and blight of late stage capitalism today.

And consequently, the telling cultural outsider perspective of Akin, a demonic depravity and ironic reversal connected to western demonization of the 'other' - whether referring to misogyny or the horrendous mass murder and serial killing all around the world, justified politically and economically by those controlling western powers.

And not unlike Akin's previous film In The Fade, in which Diane Kruger goes full Antifa with nothing to lose, following the loss of her entire family at the hands of right wing extremists. In other words, the immensely provocative notion of victimization reversal - and the justified perpetrator as motivated by victimization in a persistent cycle perpetuating grief and revenge.


THE OPERATIVE: Diane Kruger Kicks Ass

** 'The world is so hypocritical about the sanctions - it's okay for Israel to blow up children but we can't have the components for medical equipment.'

While the tendency is to not view actors in terms of the characters they play, there may be a pattern regarding the choice of roles. And in the case of Diane Kruger, her recent work demonstrates political conviction, determination and courage rare in a vocation more associated with ambition, conformity, and exclusively careerist considerations. 

Such was the case with Kruger's subversive principled role as victim turned sympathetic anti-right wing Neo-Nazi terrorist in the dramatic feature, In The Fade. And no less is her astonishing commendable turn in The Operative - an anti-Zionist espionage thriller particularly daring at this historical moment in time in view of the assault, and even censorship and outlawing, of those critical of Israeli crimes against Palestine and abroad.

And The Operative is no typical espionage thriller, though those basic conventional elements form
the groundwork of the narrative. Rather, as the enigmatic story unravels, Israeli director Yuval Adler opts for psychological components instead - and specifically how spy operations like the Israeli Mossad exploit emotionally vulnerable assets who may be cooperative but not voluntary at all in that regard, under psychological pressure.

Diane Kruger is Rachel, a rootless and alienated German woman who seems to have been cornered into assisting the Mossad as a driver, a favor to a friend while living in Israel. And seemingly personally connected to rebellious resentment against a contemptuous, rejecting half-Jewish father - who harbors critical, liberal views politically against Israel. 

And Mossad agents maneuver to ensnare Rachel psychologically and ever deeper into deadly assignments, connected to her value as a multi-lingual teacher - coaxing her off to Iran on a vague assignment, but with cruel and homicidal intended operations conspiring with Kurdish terrorists. And to maintain Rachel in an anxiety-free state of mind while exploiting her for their own illegal ends as they infiltrate a foreign country, the Mossad emotionally pairs her with Thomas (Martin Freeman), a similarly expendable, culturally alienated British asset living in Germany.

A German, French and Israeli co-production, The Operative is based on the novel The English Teacher. Written by former Israel intelligence officer Yiftach Reicher Atir who may have conflicted feelings of his own, The Operative is a deeply engaging and critically important politically and emotionally brutal thriller exposing the Mossad. And Israel as well, a country reportedly possessing 80 secret and globally unregulated and unquestioned nuclear warheads - and with enough fissile material to produce 190 more - while engaging in attempts to sabotage and destroy Iran in that regard, a country possessing none. While back in 2014, former US president Jimmy Carter noted that 'Israel has, what, 300 or more, nobody knows exactly how many' nuclear weapons. 

Which would deem The Operative essential filmmaking indeed. A brave production stepping in to confront those challenges - where timid and cowardly or complicit governments and corporate media fear to tread.

Prairie Miller

  'We blew it. Good night, man. I'm hip about time. But I just gotta go...'

  PETER FONDA, THE LAST INTERVIEW


** "Gary Cooper said something that I didn't understand at the time, he said that if I know what I'm doing, I don't have to act. I didn't understand that, and now I do. And that sounded strange coming from an actor, and it was such a wonderful moment. I feel that freedom - and in Easy Rider, I didn't understand that yet."

Peter Fonda Talks Boundaries, Easy Rider: And a different sort of journey, his life journey in film. And in our conversation, touching on co-starring in his last film theatrically released before his passing, Boundaries - yet another road movie with no less than two Christophers - Plummer and Lloyd; memories of James Stewart, Marlon Brando, and playing football with Elvis; teeth, water, and a song John Lennon wrote about him secretly; life growing up around Henry Fonda as 'uncertain and unformed'; and why "12 Angry Men was my father's Easy Rider."


THE LOAD: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You...Disappear. And which might update that Winston Churchill axiom: History is written by the victor's filmmakers.

A tense, muted, never less than simultaneously grim and confounding, historically laced road movie venture into the heart of darkness of a disappeared country, The Load [Teret] opts for subtlety over sensationalism. Directed by Serbian Ognjen Glavonić, the story follows truck driver Vlada (Leon Lucev), who appears to be transporting an unknown, secretive cargo across a terrifying landscape from Kosovo to Belgrade, being subjected to NATO bombing in 1999. Not only bombing the population, NATO is likewise conducting a propaganda blitz, dropping leaflets across the land intended to convince civilians that destruction, invasion and occupation are their glorious democratic future. While The Load has been cited as referencing the highway thrillers Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear, and Williams Friedkin’s retelling, Sorcerer. 

Glavonić, who has emerged from a young, post-communist Yugoslavia generation of filmmakers, appears most personified here in a despondent, directionless nomadic youth Vlada picks up along the way. An aspiring musician who plays some of his songs on a cassette for Vlada - when asked about the group, the youth's reply provides a stinging metaphor expressing the fate of the broken, disappeared and Western imperialist devoured Yugoslavia itself: My group no longer has a name, because the band broke up when everyone was gone.

While the inferences of The Load remaining ambiguous regarding casualties of war and culpability, have been referred to as a praiseworthy artistic preference - perhaps the truth resides elsewhere. No less than that this Serbian-French collaboration is an ironic co-production between that NATO invader/exploiter and victim country. Which might update and expand that Winston Churchill axiom: History is written by the victor's filmmakers.

Likewise an intriguing update that might have made for an insightful postscript, would have been the inclusion of the current shadow CIA regime change factory known by its front name CANVAS, and secretly functioning in the present time in Serbia. And where self-declared coup president of Venezuela Juan Guaido had been trained to do just that. While preceded by their regime change factory operation that succeeded in the imprisonment there of Socialist President Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes, a subsequent Hague trial and imprisonment over the course of many years  - and with Milosevic ultimately declared innocent long after he had died in prison at the Hague, for lack of adequate medical care for a serious heart condition.

Prairie Miller