Saturday, March 28, 2015


Two films and one series: a deadly mixture


It was a great film when it came out. The acting is still absolutely astonishing and admirable and yet there is something that is missing twenty-two years later.

The film is so centered on the main character, Esteban Trueba, and his family, or rather his personal history in Chile, his economic fight to raise himself by his own effort over his lot, to become one of the most economically powerful, and later one of the most politically powerful men that we do not really capture the country itself. What is shown of the working class movement is just really anecdotal. Too close to the tragedy in 1993 the film does not show Allende’s party, which was not the Communist Party of Chile, using Lenin and Stalin as direct political references. Their approach was tremendously sectarian and that explains this, and vice versa. They only won the election with slightly more than one third of the votes which was not enough and the enthusiasm of the beginning wore out rather fast.

The film is silent about the real conspiracy with the support of the USA and with the deranged support of the Conservatives who did not even understood what they were doing, at least that’s what the film shows though I am sure it was not that simple: these politicians supported the putsch and for a long time then Pinochet himself. The film is silent on the length of his reign, on the difficulty the country faced later on when he was to be removed, etc. It is nearly a miracle that some democratic order could be re-established in this country. It is true 1993 was too close: the distance was not enough to be able to really get into some detail about the contradictory situation the victory of El Pueblo Unido brought into Chile with Allende first and then Pinochet.

The film is silent too on the fact the US embassy was not the refuge for escaping revolutionaries because the USA were on Pinochet’s side all along. Canada was the only viable option indeed. So twenty-two years after the film and forty-two years after the putsch the film is rather nothing but a denunciation of harsh working conditions for the working class, of military arrogance and violence when “service men” meddle with politics, the full inhumanity of the politicians who accepted the adventure of a military coup, and the purely family-oriented empathy of Esteban Trueba at the end of the film.

The fact that Blanca was questioned during her detention by her half brother was sentimentalese and such a connection between the torturer and the tortured person was a fair guarantee that the questioning would fail because on the torturer’s side there was a desire for revenge, hence the use of pure violence for the sake of violence, and on the side of the tortured person, Blanca, there was a strong feeling of resistance, hatred, desire to fail that intruder, that out of wedlock competitor, challenger, dominator. There should never be any relation of that sort between the two sides of a questioning session of that type, i.e. under duress.

So the only thing we have at the end is that decision of Blanca’s to wash away any desire of revenge or vengeance, but we know that in 1993 that could not be true and even today it sounds very difficult. We have very few examples of that nature and South Africa does not really qualify because in that case the dictatorial power (the apartheid government) just passed that power to their opposition whose leader they liberated from prison on the occasion. For that feeling to be believable you need distance and a tremendous political change that can bring reconciliation. But the real objective was and still is justice in such cases.

The film then has strong scenes and moments but altogether it has become too sentimental and politically superficial to be believable.



The music is quite fine and even at times great though it is not what you could expect as ragtime music. But the music is varied and entertaining, certainly swinging and joyful.

The situation at the beginning of the 20th century in New York, the state as well as the city is rather simple with a lot of social clichés: the immigrant who will succeed by pure chance added to some hard work; the bourgeois type upper middle class racially tolerant wife; the real ragtime musician and his loved one; the anarchistic working class militant calling for a revolution; The ship full of Jewish immigrants that nearly sank in view of Ellis Island; and I should say etc.

The main events are the vicious killing of the musician’s girlfriend by some gang of firemen who will also destroy the musician’s Model T out of spite because the man is black. Then the social and psychological derangement that this racist fact causes in the musician is by far too much since he starts a gang of bomb terrorists who start bombing all kinds of buildings to get even with society, to get a vengeance. The son of the rich family whose fortune was made in firecrackers decides out of spite mostly to join the musician and his gang and help him make better bombs. That is slightly childish.

The negotiations to stop this rampage are performed with the worst forked tongue you can imagine and the musician who is guaranteed justice in court and who has gained a safe exit for the members of his gang, comes out and is shot down at once by all the police waiting for him. That too is too much.

The end becomes then sentimentalese.

That kind of discourse on race relations and what it used to be and is no longer is rather easy but was typical of the 1990s. It is when racial discrimination was at the highest in justice and prisons that we had so many of these entertaining musicals or film to try to make us believe everything was going dandy and fine. It is evident that we are far from that nice situation and discourse. After six years under a Black president in the US black kids, teenagers mostly are shot down by the police even when they are unarmed.

Sorry chaps! But there is a lot of work still to do to come to a racially tolerant society in the USA.



Full and total! The series is all there in 25 DVDs and 63 episodes. It is morbid but in many ways absolutely hilarious. Morbid because it only deals with dead people since it takes place in a funeral home. Morbid also because the family that owns the funeral parlor and the family of their Latino associate or partner are so taken up by these deadly and lethal circumstances that they lose their minds and their sanity that get locked up in some coffin. In other words their lives are nothing but a parade of hearses.

You will enjoy the four main women in this film who are so hysterical and so out of control that you could not spend five minutes with them without them jumping onto you for various violent activities from hitting you to beating you down, to humping you (that is called rape) and refusing any advances from you, men or women, after they have captured your attention and now they detain your bodies. The best one is in the first episode, Mrs. Fisher, the mother calling her husband who is driving a hearse right then to tell him to crush the cigarette she is sure he is smoking, which is true. He does so and gets another one out and when he tries to light it up he runs into a bus. Good morning Mr. Reaper.

It is hilarious when you are confronted at the beginning of each episode with the death of one, two or three, or even more, people who are going to get into the mortuary. You cannot imagine how people can die. There are some berserk and completely insane ways of doing it. Dying is a fine art.

It is hilarious because one child is made by accident out of wedlock and another after many attempts and even a miscarriage. The elder Fisher son is responsible for the first accident and he marries the woman who used to be his best friend in high school or college, or whatever. But one day she disappears and many episodes later the truth will come up: it is so sordid that it becomes hilariously impossible. Then the poor Nate, Nathaniel Samuel, will finally marry and have a second daughter with the woman he met in the first episode on the plane from Seattle to Los Angeles on Christmas eve who dragged him nearly forcefully into the rest rooms or some other cupboard to have a kinky episode of rump riding on the sly in the fast lane.

That relation is just plain absurd. It is marrying fire and water or lemon juice and milk together. It gets sour in a jiffy and they break up and then they go back on the sly, and they announce a first marriage and they have to cancel it and then they will announce a second marriage and that will end in death and sourness. But what a trip around and around the maypole, you can see what I designate with this fairly friendly English device called a maypole with hams and other prizes at the top, if you can climb that high!

Imagine now the younger son who is a closet gay man who comes out of the closet without opening the door that is locked up anyway and they seem to have thrown the key away. He is just as much wavering as his brother about what he is looking for, who is looking for, and many other issues. These two gay men (plus a few more sidekicks) are making everything difficult, even kissing or holding their hands. And they only want to have children, and that too is an adventure. If you do not laugh it’s because you are slightly tight on the gay side. It’s never gay offensive but it is gay hilarious. You might be influenced into getting gay for the fun of it and the great enchanting vivid trip into wonderland and along the yellow road of bricks.

The sister, the youngest Fisher child, is even worse. She goes to art school and she starts having adventures. She is attracted by a lesbian woman and yet at the very moment when she should get active she panics and steps back. Imagine the situation. The lesbians actually are those who are shown as most distant from the core of the story. They remain marginal and unimportant.

The mother and her lovers are by far the best. The mother wants in order not to want and to reject what she wants and is begging for without accepting it when it is offered to her on a platter. She is a Salome of some sort. She is afraid of any kind of amorous and sentimental bodily contact. And she is an obsessive compulsive cleaner and ordering busy beaver chasing dust, dirt and disorder. She is straightening up everything, everybody and everyone with her own crooked and twisted desires and she wonders why people are gesticulating around her when she whips them up and down with a cat-o’-nine-tails and pretends it is thorn-free roses.

Enjoy the trip six feet under and be sure of one thing: there is no ladder to climb out of it. That’s a real treat to die and it is a tearful great extravaganza for those who survive and have to inter the bodies in a way or another, even throw them to sharks if you can.


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