Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Wyatt Earp in Tibet in 2012

2012 – 2009

Some films are patchworks. This is one. And it starts with the Mayan apocalypse prevision in 2012 of course

The apocalypse is coming. We know that. But we have to make it realistic and use the good old Christian myths again without saying so, at least not too obviously. So there is an explosion at the surface of the sun bigger than what has ever been witnessed before. That has the effect of making the core of the earth, or at least a greater proportion of the inner mass go up in temperature at a great speed, making this mass more fluid, hence liberating the tectonic plates and the continents.

That means earthquakes, tsunamis and so on. Our news are full of such events. Just make them bigger, more gigantic. Waves that are nearly 2,000 meters high and you have it.

Add to that Tibet and the Chinese. Noah can be repeated again: a remake of the arch and there we are. There will be three arks at the end, after the catastrophe, because we need a trinity somewhere. Without the Chinese nothing could have been done, and what’s more they provided the work force, probably cheap, and the security forces to build the arks first and then to make sure only the people who have the proper passes can go on them. The world without the Chinese could not go through the apocalypse without any comfort.

The US president is black of course because in 2009 it was obvious he was.

A little bit of Buddhism does not harm but at the same time the only surviving Buddhist monk actually cheated the system with his brother, a lay person, to save their own parents, and end up saving a few more as stowaways.

Add to that a family situation and you have it all: parents divorced, the ex-wife has a new boy friend. The children of the broken marriage, a boy and a girl, are the perfect American reconstructed or recomposed family.

The catastrophe itself is nothing but special effects. They are funny, maybe impressive but certainly not frightening. So banal after all. We can imagine catastrophes of this type every day and some happen every other week.

The funny part is the end. The arks find out that only Africa has survived, with a pun on the Cape of Good Hope. Humanity started in Africa and it will start again in Africa. Marvelous. But rather simple minded.

Now and then some ethical questions are brought up, but they are so easy and the answer is so banal. In such a catastrophe those ethical questions would certainly not be the main questions. The main question would be to keep people from panicking or just plain hurting if not killing one another. It is nice to think that in such an extreme situation people would think of saving their neighbors. We can always dream.



A true story mind you. So it has to be good. It is well filmed, well presented, suspenseful enough. But the general frame of the western and life on the frontier is not disrupted in any way by any unforeseeable element. A few original points yet.

To become the sheriff of a city like Tombstone, or any other of the type, is banal for a horse thief who is running away from justice and the recollection of his first wife who died of diphtheria when pregnant. One deserves a second chance.

To have two brothers as his deputies is a lot more original.

To get into a rivalry with a gang of bad boys is also banal. But to get through without one wound of any sort while one of his brothers is killed and the other one nearly loses his right arm and will be handicapped if not crippled all his life, is rather more interesting.

Then to swear vengeance and to just go away and make sure the gang is destroyed one at a time after the first confrontation that killed a few is banal, but to be married happily on the west coast and to be seen last going to Alaska to take part in a gold rush while the gang members are getting killed is probably less common place.

What’s left at the end? The vision of an original character, of a man of honor in a situation where honor is rather cheap, of a judge who is honest and of a county sheriff or marshal who is crooked, of a second “wife” who is more a fair arrangement to be able to go incognito in the Far West, for both the man and the woman, and finally of the third and last wife who is brought into this western situation as a potential shady lady by a dishonorable male character.

What’s the most important element is the fact that the three brothers are like one and for them family, and in fact blood is everything that counts, and we could add friendship between a couple of men that makes them absolutely loyal to each other. That’s probably what Walt Whitman called the “manly love of comrades.”

Entertaining though slightly long, but a decent intensity all along.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014


Deux notes de lecture: les bébés sauvent les . . . je n'ose pas dire le mot qui rime avec celui-ci


Un sujet d’enfer mais traité en diable, bien qu’hélas le diable est en train de se faire violenter par une bande d’anges craignos. Yves Saint Laurent a « révolutionné » la mode féminine, le vestiaire de la femme, comme un autre a écrit un bestiaire d’animaux. Mais on peut lui pardonner tout à partir de là : son homosexualité, sa maniaco-dépression, son utilisation abusive de certaines drogues, son infidélité aux autres et à lui-même. Sa seule fidélité est pour son génie qui est montré comme une sorte d’hystérie vécue seul à seul avec lui-même. C’est triste.

C’est triste que l’on réduise cet homme à ce pantin. On n’atteint aucune part la profondeur de l’homme qui a consacré sa vie à habiller les femmes car il n’a pratiquement jamais eu le courage d’habiller les hommes qu’il désirait car il désirait les hommes, rien que les hommes. Les femmes étaient des présentoirs, des étals de fringues, j’en passe et des meilleures, « mesdemoiselles » ! On ne signale ce qu’il a fait pour bouleverser le monde de la mode masculine qu’une seule fois, et encore en enlevant le parfum pour homme et en ne gardant que Yves Saint Laurent nu sur cette publicité ainsi désincarnée.

Que dire de plus ?

Pierre Berger est montré comme une espèce de figure paternelle qui recolle les morceaux et ramasse les cendres, mais encore une fois la profondeur a disparu. Alors on essaie de choquer le bourgeois en montrant une ou deux scènes de drague homosexuelle, mais encore très habillée, très modérée, très mesurée, pour ne surtout pas choquer les bonnes manières des bourgeois mais seulement leur pudibonderie de surface. Il n’y a pas plus pervers que les gens qui se choquent à une paire de fesses mâles, mais surtout pas à une paire de seins femelles. Ils diraient bien sûr féminins dans ce dernier cas.

C’est donc un rendez-vous manqué avec l’homme qui a été le premier à poser le concept de mode masculine, de parfum masculin dans notre monde postmoderne, ouvrant ainsi la porte au monde post-postmoderne où la mode masculine n’est pas du dandysme gay. Il n’y en a que pour les femmes et quand on parle d’homme il n’y a que l’homosexualité. Fatiguant à la longue car l’homme a tellement d’autres caractéristiques que la sexualité.



Ce produit, et d'autres du même genre, doivent donner à l'enfant nouveau né le goût du livre avant même qu'il ait été sevré.

Ici ce n'est qu'un livre pour le bain, donc que l'enfant peut mettre dans l'eau, mais aussi dans la bouche, et apprendre à tourner les pages.

Il suffit de lui faire une démonstration de lecture. Et on n'est là encore que sur le livre comme support matériel. Bientôt nous aurons le livre sur support numérisé: tournez les pages et le livre se lit tout seul avec musique et quelques flashes lumineux pour suivre l'histoire en images. C'est pour avant-hier dans le monde de demain.


Sunday, April 27, 2014


Slightly too moralistic to be true


Curiosity may kill the cat but it does not kill nostalgia. To discover today this thirty year old film with a Tom Cruise who must have been hardly out of his teens at the time is funny but interesting to know what an important actor today was at the beginning of his career. You may recognize some of his facial and attitudinal ticks but he sure was young.

The film itself is nothing to brag about. A High School football film again. Stef is a promising football player who could easily get a football scholarship in any college or nearly, if he could finish his senior year on the football team and even take the team to a victory.

He does not because he makes a mistake he had been warned about several times on the last game he plays (the last but one of the season). In fact his team loses the game because he attacks a player who had the ball after he had passed the ball away. He was attacking the man instead of following the ball. Penalty and the game is lost.

The coach is furious of course after the game but Stef is aggressive and in fact attacks the coach and makes him responsible. From this point to the catastrophe there was only one step and Stef crossed it. He is dropped from the team. Then he has to walk home, quite a good distance. So he thumbs a lift and is picked by a band of loafers from his city who decide to go spoil and soil the home of the coach and his cars. They manage to get Stef along and he is considered as responsible for it.

He is dropped from all prospective colleges. Since he is from a steel industry city in Pennsylvania, he has no future except working at the mill.

The film is supposed to teach us a lesson, just the way it does to Stef: apologize and forgive, but that’s hard when you were wrong in the first place, though it is also hard when you get even with someone who is wrong by being wrong yourself, i.e. not forgiving and/or not apologizing. At the same time apologizing and forgiving may become a sort of encouragement to other people to go on being obnoxious.

Life at times cannot go without some strife and tension and people have to learn to step over it and just put it behind. But fear comes back into the picture. When you are afraid of life you tend to look back behind yourself and then you cannot put the past behind. If you try too hard it might backfire, at least in your dreams.

The myth in the film is that such strife and tension is typically masculine and it takes women to soften the situation: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and the medicine goes down. Really? I am sure I will trip my foot in the carpet if I tried that magic potion.


Saturday, April 26, 2014


Don't you cry on my page, baby!


A small and funny film shot in the late 1980s (1989-1990), at the end of Reagan’s era and in the middle of George Bush Senior’s regency, has no pretension except to debunk everything and everyone and make fun of a system that is as crooked as it is full of bigotry.

A remake of the Mods and the Rockers, of the Jets and the Sharks, the Montague and the Capulet, American sauce on top and whip cream to top it off and kick it up. But this multiple remake is so overloaded with clichés and prejudices that it becomes hilarious and the objective is to make us laugh at those biases and other preconceived ideas about the other group, since the whole world is nothing but A versus B.

At the same time the film debunks fake education based on square ideas being the best in the world, on some clean type of dressing being the only decent, godlike and non-obscene way of dressing, all the rest, jeans and everything else, being nothing but homosexual showing off especially for girls who are supposed to wear decent dresses.

You add a love story in that viper nest and you have a real Romeo and a genuine Juliet. But the world must have changed because the judge is falling in love with Juliet’s grandmother and he becomes sentimental and releases Romeo, alias Cry Baby. I must admit that the prison break is definitely as good as all those we were able to examine and/or supervise in the eponymous TV series. And do not forget that the best way to get out of trouble is to follow the rat. Rats are best to get out of the way, out of trouble and back to home security, I do not mean the security of your home.

The film is fabulous as for the music of the late 1950s, actually dated thanks to the evening prayer in the very special school for boys where the “boys” are supposed to thank Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. That’s cool indeed.

Be it only for the music the film is worth its eighty-two minutes, but the “dancing” and the performance of the actors, particularly the very young Johnny Depp is refreshing in this world where everything is nothing but special effect and make believe.

An excellent piece of dialogue alluding to the famous Unabomber who was definitely literate and had been avctive in the bombing business since 1978 at the time when the film was made.

Cry-Baby: That's right, Allison. My father was the "Alphabet Bomber." He may have been crazy, but he was my pop. Only one I ever had.
Allison: God. I heard about the Alphabet Bomber. Bombs exploding in the... in the airport and barber shop...
Cry-Baby: That's right. All in alphabetical order. Car wash... drug store... I used to lay in my crib and hear him scream in his sleep..."A,B,C,D,E,F,G... BOOM! BOOM!"
Allison: But your mom...
Cry-Baby: My mother tried to stop him. She couldn't even spell, for Christ's sake, but they fried her too.

Have one empathetic thought for this man who is in prison for life.


Friday, April 25, 2014


The beat generation deserved a better and more empathetic scrutiny


A film that was expected by many people, because of an actor who were getting out of a teenage part that had lasted six or seven years, like Daniel Radcliffe, or an actor surviving a long series, and his own cancer, like Michael C. Hall. But as for me the main reason was the subject of that film, the birth of the beat generation, the meeting of the main protagonists of the beat generation to be and become. We are in 1943 and we meet young students at Columbia University in New York. They are all going to be the writers and poets of that post war lost generation that will beat their guilt out of their minds and beat us down into our own guilt.

We all know Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Lucien Carr. It is true the fifth character of this pentacle, David Kammerer, is not really known for what he has achieved in his own life, what he has left behind under his own name. He just was the English teacher who fell in love with his pupil Lucien Carr who fell in love too but as a teenager who had to grow out of this pubescent love and did not know how to do it, especially since David Kammerer did not know he had to yield and step away. Instead of that he followed the young man and haunted him.

Our four future poets and writers  were all in breaking rules and experimenting all kinds of strange things, drugs, morphine, alcohol of course, marihuana, but also the excitement and thrill they could get out of violating some good old standards in their society, like sexual taboos and rejected sexual orientations. But they all had to break themselves, to collide into one another and bruise, hurt and even dismantle one another and themselves. It looks as if their future talent had to be born in the blood of a sacrificed innocent man whose sole crime was to love one of them excessively, obsessively, compulsively. That’s the most dramatic and unexplainable fact in their lives and careers. They all needed that death to become. I just hope they were haunted by their guilt till the end of their own lives.

Strangely enough their society was lenient, even for the actual murderer, and that can be explained easily by the fact that David Kammerer was gay and their society at the time was definitely and irredeemably antigay. Lucien Carr could have pleaded non guilty because David Kammerer being a homosexual, he had the right to defend his honor and kill him. But Allan Ginsberg, definitely, and Jack Kerouac more or less, not to speak of William Burroughs who was retrieved and taken away by his own father, had to tell the truth in a way or another, and to let everyone, and Lucien Carr first of all, know the truth: Lucien Carr was in love with David Kammerer, which made him a homosexual too. He thus had to accept the verdict of murder in the first degree. And yet he only got eighteen months of probationary detention. Quite cheap for the life of a man, even a homosexual!

But what remains the real truth for us is that these four poets and writers found their inspiration and force in those mixed orientations and in that crime, described in all its ugliness: discover the details in the film itself. And we are shown the horror twice, plus told about it in full detail one third time, along with the first visual demonstration. No way for us not to know the obsessive and compulsive obligation, necessity, impulse, desire and even fascination to commit that murder, to kill that man, slowly and systematically, as some kind of a last final commitment to each other till death them part and death, inflicted by the young man to the older man, does part them.

We will say it is very romantic to find one’s artistic inspiration in one’s suffering, but here that romanticism is sadistic since they find their inspiration in the suffering they inflict onto one another, including onto an outsider who tries to stick to their small circle of . . . what can we call them? Friends? I doubt it.

The film is packed with fast action, rich piles of artifacts and props, and the actors are all quite seasoned in their guilt and non-repentance, the non-repentance of some crocodiles shedding tears on the suffering of others when they only shed tears on their own misery which is no misery at all since anyway they will be able to use their families or their connections to get through. The film does not in any way acclaim, applaud and approve of this beat generation, but it rather shows how they were lost because they were from more or less well off families: they hated it but they used it skillfully in order to avoid punishment or to get a second chance. The only one who really did it with his own hands is Jack Kerouac, but he was like the fifth wheel of a wagon, the one who took part but did not really belong.

But the film also contains some easy symbolism like showing William Burroughs shooting himself with morphine, Allen Ginsberg being sexually penetrated by some unknown outsider he had accidently picked in the street, and Lucien Carr repeatedly stabbing David Kammerer. It is easy and it is also farfetched as if drug addiction, gay sex and killing a gay partner were the same thing, as if gay orientation led necessarily to anal sex shown on the screen, a syringe in your arm and a knife in the chest of your lover, the three at the same time and in close and dense succession. It even could sound like exposure more than fair presentation. Is the film ambiguous about this beat generation?



This very early play is of course simple, a little bit too much so.


One of the very first plays written by Paul Green, when he was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill under the guidance of Professor Frederick H. Koch.

It is supposed to draw its matter from Paul Green’s immediate social and cultural environment. Having been raised on a white farm he captures in this play the lot of some black farm workers. The landlord is the farmer. The black characters are Candace McLean, the aunt of the main character Mary McLean, the “nearly white” daughter of Candace’s sister who yielded to the sexual advances of a white man who offered her – as we are going to learn at the end – a white dress, the same way the landlord’s son has just offered a white dress to Mary. There was of course no marriage afterwards and there would be none for Mary if she yielded.

Mary is confronted to the same sexual advances from the son of the landlord. Mary is under the illusion that since she is “nearly white” she could – and should – be treated “like” or even “as” a white girl.

The father of the young man and landlord knows better and he has decided either to get rid of Candace and Mary McLean because Mary does not produce enough work to pay for her rent and to take care of herself and her aunt, or to have Mary married to Jim, a black young man who would be a second worker in the rented house, and that would solve the problem of the son who could not then go against such an important sacrament.

The girl resists this solution, due to her illusion about her color but in the end she yields and marries Jim over night and accepts to lose her racial illusion.

The idea is of course not so bad though Mary yields to prevent some hurtful situation for her old and ailing aunt. But the play is very schematic, nearly caricatural, when in about five minutes Mary, under the landlord’s blackmail, shifts from

“Ain’t I almost white? . . . He’s black and I hate him. I can’t marry no nigger. . . “


“Yes, yes, I’ll marry him. I’ll marry him. They ain’t no way to be white. I got to be a nigger. . . He’s a nigger and …yes …I’m a nigger too.”

That caricature is saved by the revelation from the aunt that Mary’s mother fell to the trick of the white dress and by her burning the two white dresses that are symbolical of a fake promise from the white man (you’ll be my wife and you’ll be treated like a white woman) and of the total illusion that what you see is what you get (white on the surface means white in depth).

In fact the play then supports the theory of racial purity defended at the time by Marcus Garvey and his popular black nationalist movement. Marcus Garvey in that perspective will come to support the theory that one drop of black blood is enough to make you black and even some time later to go and meet the grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and to sign a declaration with him supporting racial purity for both white and black people.

This play is a good testimony about the early 1920s in the South of the USA, though the picture is deeply racist and one-sided, slightly too superficial in the way the girl yields to that racist vision of her society.


Thursday, April 24, 2014


You cannot force history, but you can't stop it either.


This film is probably a master piece. To summarize the history of Russia and the Soviet Union in some four odd hours is in itself a miracle. But what’s more it concentrates on Siberia and it follows one little village, Elan, in this region, and in this village essentially three generations of the Ustyuzhanin family, in fact Afanasi, the grand father, then Nikolai the father and Aleksei the son, as opposed to the other family in the village, the Solomins. The first family are the poor ones, the underlings before the revolution, the others are the top family. The revolution of course transforms these relations and we follow the lives of these three men essentially in their village, when they are there since they are often rejected, or they just go away, and then they come back. Dramatically.

Afanasi is the only one who does not come back. He is always there and lives alone with his son and no wife.

Nikolai comes back as a Soviet officer, a Communist cadre and it is dramatic because he had been thrown away at the beginning of the revolution and his paramour, from the other family, had escaped from the village to find him and follow him. It will be a difficult situation since she will be burned to death by the white Cossacks during the civil war after the revolution. He comes back with his young son in the 1930s and is killed by the other paramour of his wife, the one she left behind.

Aleksei is sent to an orphanage, then on one visit to the village and his relatives a recruiting unit at the very beginning of the war against Nazi Germany accepts his enlisting, though he is slightly too young, and he will be a hero in the war, saving his captain all by himself. But in the 1960s he comes back as a master driller to drill for oil in his village because he knows there is some: he discovered it with his father when he was a kid when they marched into the marsh known as the Devil’s Mane and there oil was oozing out all over the place and they managed to set it on fire, accidently. Aleksei though wants to leave after a while, with the woman he had taught how to dance when just under 18 before he enlisted, and it is when he finally can go and is going to go, alone because the woman refuses to follow him, he goes say goodbye to his drilling mates and it is then oil is struck and starts bursting out. But it gets on fire for some unimportant reason and the derrick falls and traps one man. All the others go and Nikolai manages the situation to save that man, but Nikolai is caught by the fire and dies.

But the film is a lot more important than that. It is a real film about history. You cannot force history to do something it does not want to do because you have to work with people and people do not necessarily want to change and you have to convince them. It may take three generations to move from the superstition about the Devil’s Mane to the acceptance that the village is going to be completely transformed by that oil, and the most dramatic war possible in the meantime after a very dramatic and heroic revolution.

The film then shows how at the beginning of this political revolution Nikolai was naïve and thought it was easy to make people do what they did not want to do, and he is killed just because his rival in love refuses to follow him and kills him. It fails because of some private business and affair, a love story that had not gone the way one of the lovers wanted. Trite, and yet history is also the result of such capricious and unpredictable elements. It will take thirty years and one generation for what was then possible in the 1930s to become a reality in the 1960s.

And in the 1960s we are no longer speaking of that kind of romantic revolution Nikolai had in mind. Aleksei and the other oil drillers around him are confronted to the stubborn desire of the central authorities in Moscow to develop the country and to decide in Moscow what is best for everyone and the small village and the country around is going to become the largest man-made sea with the largest hydroelectric dam and factory on the Volga. It is a pure miracle that makes oil burst out of its underground lair on the very same day, killing Aleksei, as the central committee of the Communist Party or some other bureaucratic authority like this one is meeting to take a decision in favor of the dam. The events stop the dam project in its shoes and in its trail. Unluckily, and Konchalovsky knew all about it in 1979, that was the last moment when history was right against the bureaucrats. After that the USSR entered a very dark time when bureaucracy was the only possible authority and initiative from people was discouraged and even choked, and stagnation started, leading finally to regression and the fall of the USSR. We feel that end the director could not know under the open discourse about the heroism of this Aleksei.

The last but one thing about the film that has to be said is that the director chose to always look at historical events through the intimate eyes of one character or another, mainly the Ustyuzhanins. The truth is in the eyes of the beholders and not in the brains of the leaders. The death of Lenin is actually shown, but the death of Stalin is not and when the older Aleksei revisits as a dream his visit as a child of the Devil’s Mane with his father, he gets inside a small hut that had been used by some hypothetical drillers. Aleksei is dreaming of course at this moment and he gets afraid and starts calling his father, as he had done when a child, and to get out of the hut he has to tear up a portrait of Stalin. This scene is of course very symbolical, especially since in the next minute he sinks in some quicksand and drowns, another symbolical act in that dream of his.

The last element I would like to emphasize is the way the director plays on the fake black and white (always in a shade that is not black, sepia or green, etc) to have archives images of some historical moments, Lenin’s arrival in Petrograd, his funeral, and later on Gagarin, for example. At the same time the same fake black and white sequences are used to bring the wishes, the dreams, the recollections of the characters. The real time of each episode is in full colors. That gives a real density to the film as if we constantly had a film in the film with flashbacks and at times flash-forwards into the future (rarely) and into dreams (more often).

I must reckon it is not easy to find that film in DVD. I got the US edition in NTSC in Russian with English subtitles. But it was worth it.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Agitprop is a difficult art but it can be poignant at times


Difficult to find this book. I finally found a copy in the USA from Saint Mary’s University Library, via

Nine plays altogether, some very short, and one bigger, Eight Men Speak. They are strongly inspired by the Communist Party of Canada and particularly Tim Buck, their general secretary, who was arrested with seven other militants and sent to prison for five years for what we have to call today political reasons hidden behind the disturbance they may cause to public order based on a special section of the penal code, section 98. Note the present French Prime Minister, previously Minister of the Interior invoked that famous public order that might be disturbed if the humorist Dieudonné was allowed to performed in a show of his in 2014. That shows there still is some relevance in that play, indeed. There in the prison there was an attempt against his life by some prison warden though it is not clear how with five bullets he managed to miss him. It might have been more for intimidation, but nevertheless that was preposterous.

The play became famous because it was banned, the theatre managers who tried to program it in their theatres got their license cancelled at once, and some parts of it were played or at least read in public meetings, etc.

But the other eight plays or stage productions were all dealing with social problems at the time of the Big Depression in Canada: “Theatre – our weapon,” “Unemployment,” “Looking Forward” (living on relief and yet after twenty years of regular paying of your mortgage, when only two years are left, your house is foreclosed by the bank), “Scientific Socialism” (a confrontation of H.G. Wells and G.B. Shaw at Hyde Park Corner, both with the slogan “Scientific Socialism,”  the Fabian militant and the supposedly communist author of The Open Conspiracy, both rejected by the audience and finally pushed aside by a real communist working class speaker and his audience), “Unity” (in 1933 calling for the unity of socialists, communists, trade-unionists and non-affiliated workers in order to avoid fascism, this play is going against the Komintern order not to unite with the social democrats, or other brands of reformist socialists), “Joe Derry” (an illustration of the class against class strategy of the Young Communist League for young people), “War in The East” (the Japanese war against Formosa, Korea, Manchuria and China and the myth of Japanese soldiers killing their officers and joining the Chinese soldiers to the music of the International), and “And the Answer is” (the only play that does not oppose working class people and capitalists, but oppose simple and poor people to middle class wealthy women who are bigots and unable to share even a room with some people who need it).

This theater, except the last play, is pure agitprop typical of the 1920s and 1930s. It is based on the division of society in two classes: the working class and the capitalists, both dressed in class uniforms. The strong presence of communist ideology with some original points at times like calling for unity with the socialists in 1933, hardly six or eight months after the elections that enabled Hitler to be appointed Chancellor. But this call was going against the Komintern, though it was quite obvious the division in Germany was the key for Hitler to get through the 1932 elections and it was to bring Popular Front governments in Spain and France.

The second leitmotiv is the coming war, meaning the next World War that was the centre of these plays, especially “War in The East” that dealt with the Japanese offensive in Asia. The third theme had to do with class struggle, social problems and the repression of any organized action of the working class as being subversive. The USSR or Russia were the constant ghosts behind the scenes, either as a menace or as a promise.

But, once again, except the last play, all these plays do not explore any psychology on the side of the characters. They are one-sided and clear-cut. The situations then are just as much caricatural as you can imagine. There is hardly any poetry, except what we could call the poetry of the mottos and slogans. That reminds me how Richard Wright will be proposed later in the 1930s by the US Communist Party to become the political writer of the party, writing slogans and pamphlets.

The objective of this theater is not to explore any complicated situation. It is to entertain a working class audience with working class language and working class politics. The objective is not to get the support of people who are not convinced already, let alone who are hostile, but to reinforce the conviction of those who are already convinced.

Of course agitprop does not work beyond the short period directly concerned and the precise issues at stake in that short period for one single unified group of people. Agitprop is not necessarily leaning to the left, though it is commonly known on this side of the political palette.

A great agitprop author is Mayakovsky but he often reached out and could produce great poetic texts, like in A Cloud In Trousers. Another famous playwright in the field is Bertolt Brecht, though he often reached the psychological exploration of his characters and situations that are seen as dialectically contradictory and not just in black and white. He often uses a lot of grey and at times some colors. Some of his plays, though attached to particular event, like the Spanish Civil War, still have a great power because of this widening of the psychology of the characters.

This rare book then is a testimony about that period, though there is no black character in these plays, even if some could be black, though it is not mentioned, and we wonder why Richard Wright was involved in this work, except as some trail blazing experience he needed to mature into the powerful author he was to become.


Sunday, April 20, 2014


Sad, nostalgic and in a way rather fatalistic


A small but interesting film about simple people in India today, simple is a way of speaking since the main character is dealing with public finances. But that is not really important. There is no ostentatious Hindu religion. There is no Muslim religion. We are obviously living among Hindu people and on the train to and from Mumbai, now and then there is a group of children reciting mantras in order to get a coin or two: in other words they are begging. We may also have a set of adult males doing the same, reciting mantras, we assume all along the trip. But that’s little. This absence of Hinduism enables the film to be totally silent on the worst problem of India today, the Dalits. This silence on this social problem is surprising, or maybe not so surprising after all. Let’s push that modern form of slavery under the table or under the carpet and it does not exist.

The film is just a story about a man who is going to retire. He is aging. Due to a mistake in the lunchbox delivery system he gets the lunchbox from a woman who is trying to re-conquer her husband by cooking special lunches for him. An epistolary relation starts via the lunchbox: message to and message fro. Till a meeting becomes possible. But it is then the aging man discovers he has no right to entertain some illusion about that younger woman, nor nurture illusions in her about a rejuvenating love affair which is nothing but a compensation for her inability to have a relation with her own husband. And he has no right to flatter his ego with the idea that he might still be young, to the point of maybe not retiring after all.

So everything goes right in the end, and he retires and his successor can take over. This successor is a total mystery since he is an absolute orphan but he is not a Dalit, and cannot be one since after some time his girlfriend who eloped with him gets the benediction of her rich father and they get married. Such a man who educated himself and who got experience in other countries before coming back to India is fascinating in a way because we can see everyday in our cities these Hindus from Sri Lanka (Tamils) or from India (Hindis or Tamils) selling fruit at the entrance of underground stations. To expatriate themselves, at least for a while seems to be part of the life experience of a certain proportion of Hindis and Tamils for very different reasons at times, since the Tamils of Sri Lanka mostly went to Europe or Australia and Canada to run away from the civil war of the terroristic Tamil Tigers, though they were then the preys of these Tigers who blackmailed them with their relatives in Sri Lanka to force them to pay the “revolutionary tax.” The film does not really say how and why that young man expatriated himself.

That’s the most surprising aspect of the film. It remains very vague on details and explanations. And in the end it is a very sad film about aging accepted by the main character but that leads him to a life of total idleness he turns into some kind of voyeurism from his terrace into the home of what appears to be a Christian family. Nostalgia for real life, with a family and an activity.

India has to cope with this problem fast otherwise the country will do the same as the population: it will age in idleness and the inability to be productive and creative.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?