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


Dr David Archibald, University Of Glasgow
Film International, Financial Times, Cineaste

Liza Bear,
Bomb Magazine

Dan Bessie
Filmmaker and Culture Critic

Prof. Dennis Broe
Jump Cut, NY Newsday, Boston Phoenix

Dianne Brooks
The Film Files,

Lisa Collins

Benjamin Dickenson
Bright Lights Film Journal, UK

David Ehrenstein
Quarterly Review of Film and Video

Miguel Gardel
Proletaria Press

Michael Haas
Culture critic

Laura Hadden
Pacifica Radio

Gerald Horne
University Of Houston

Reynold Humphries
British Film Historian

Sikivu Hutchinson, KPFK Radio

Jan Lisa Huttner, Films For Two

Cindy Lucia
Cineaste Magazine

Pat McGilligan
Film Historian

Prairie Miller
WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network

Logan Nakyanzi
Go Left TV, Huffington Post

Gerald Peary
Boston Phoenix

Steve Presence
Radical Film Network, UK

Louis Proyect

Sandy Sanders

Nancy Schiesari,
BBC, Channel 4,
Univ. of Texas, Austin

Rebecca Schiller
Culture Critic

David Spaner, Hollywood Inc.

Luis Reyes
, Arsenal Pulp Press

Christopher Trumbo
RIP, January 8, 2011

Dave Wagner
Mother Jones, Film International

Linda Z
LFC Film Club

Noah Zweig

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

Friday, December 26, 2014

Women and Economics In Holocaust Movies

 Phoenix Movie Review: Nazi Sympathetic Ambivalence And Identification With The Oppressor In Holocaust Movies

The proliferation of Holocaust films has burgeoned into somewhat of a genre in its own right, but with a persistent suppressed and unspoken irony kicking in as well. Namely, a larger story of human behavior, inevitably cut off at the same moment in time when its victims turned up in Palestine. And to subsequently likewise perpetrate displacement and extinction of the Palestinians people and their homeland there.

An additional elephant in the screening room when it comes to partial truths and selective history, is the lack of focus on what connects all these instances of inhumanity. That is, economic gain at the expense of those designated victims. Perhaps with the distance of time from such enormous brutality, this objective analysis even dramatically, is becoming more evident in movies.

And in this regard, two such Holocaust dramatic features happen to focus on women  - and painfully fraught female bonding - as the tragic protagonists. While at the same time serving as the historically astute eyes and ears for the audience, and emerging from the extensive virtual cookie cutter, primarily torture porn cinematic category in question. Last year, Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida traced the traumatic discovery of a young nun (Agata Trzebuchowska), along with her communist activist aunt (Agata Kulesza), that the apparent beneficiaries of the Nazi persecution of their Jewish family had been neighbors who took over their property.

And now German filmmaker Christian Petzold's Phoenix probes a similar dilemma of women struggling to make sense of the senseless, each in their own way, in adapting as Jews to post-Holocaust life. In this case, Nelly (Nina Hoss) is brought back to civilian life as a barely surviving concentration camp victim by her friend and Jewish Agency employee Lene (Nina Kunzendorf). Lene had fled to England, but returns to Germany after the war to help Nelly recover from severe facial wounds. And with hopes that together they might emigrate to Palestine.

Nelly however, has other ideas. She has never gotten over her dream to locate and reunite with her gentile spouse Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld). Even though Lene reveals to her that Johnny betrayed her to the Nazis under duress. Emotionally shackled to him by a self-destructive combination of denial and obsession, Nelly finally tracks him down to the lurid nightclub, Phoenix.

And failing to recognize his wife due to her facially disfiguring wounds and less than perfect surgical reconstruction, Johnny aggressively drags Nelly through an elaborate ploy to pose as his presumably dead wife that she so closely resembles, in order to split substantial monetary compensation damages owed to her by the government. And Nelly reluctantly agrees to play along with the deception, in order to blindly cling to this disgraceful man. Just as she herself chose the ethically questionable route of aiding the camp Gestapo, we learn, by confiscating the property of newly arrived Jewish detainees, to order to ensure her own survival.

Eventually a human canvas emerges in both films, dividing these characters, in particular the females, into people facing brutal moral realities they cannot transcend. And while some go along to get along or succumb to identification with the oppressor, others overcome by immense heartbreak, choose suicide instead. And for none of them, unlike those Holocaust films proposing Israel as some sort of Hollywood happy ending however warped in the real world, does that healing option outside of the flow of history exist. With credit to these movies, for not doing so.

And perhaps even one day, the real story of questionable heroics will be told in movies. Namely, that rather than racing to rescue Jews from European obliteration - as the United States makes claims all the time to have done back then, as well as on behalf of other ethnicities around the world in the present. Under the cover of the better to exploit those invaded and destroyed countries' resources.

And instead, that the economic imperatives of capitalism instead allowed Hitler to advance across Europe, the better to destroy that Western ideological competitor, the Soviet Union. As flawed characters on the world's stage - both personally, and as countries - engaging in a cosmetic reconstruction metaphorically, burying truth under the rubble of history.

Prairie Miller

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