CRITICS CHAPTER

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


WHO WE ARE

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, Writemovies.com

Lisa Collins
Filmmaker

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
BlackFemsLens.org, KPFK Radio

Jan Lisa Huttner
TheHotPinkPen.com, 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
s
Counterpunch, Marxmail.org

Sandy Sanders
BlueJayWay.net

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
Telesur


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

Sunday, September 11, 2016

'Where The Fuck Is Snowden' - Oliver Stone Tackles Surveillance State Espionage Thriller


Oliver Stone's surveillance state docu-thriller Snowden delves with detailed scrutiny into the controversial life and defiant courage of NSA whistleblower and fugitive Edward Snowden. Revisiting much of what we already know through media accounts and the prior Laura Poitras Oscar winning documentary, Citizen Four, there are nevertheless several fascinating details gathered along the way.

And burrowing into the Snowden's introverted egghead personality with as much demonstrative emotional energy as is possible under the circumstances, Joseph Gordon-Levitt sensitively expresses a dual conflict plaguing in succession the profoundly psychologically and politically torn Snowden. Including his deeply held conservative ideological family roots, a brief stint as a Special Ops soldier until he broke both legs in training, and unquestioning patriotism sorely tested by both his shocking cyberspace discoveries of unethical government mass espionage of its citizens as a CIA and NSA computer analyst - along with the leftist politics of Lindsay (Shailene Woodley), a romance ironically ignited online as well, at a dating site.

The evolving and occasionally politically divisive contentious romance between Ed and Lindsay, though lingering for too long as time out interludes between the far more serious and sobering matters, does lend a few welcome casual digressions from the heavy duty narrative wrought with unrelenting anxiety and danger. In particular when they first kiss and Snowden in a rare moment of humorous abandon, jokes that her lips taste too liberal. And a pause for thought to wonder just how much his activist girlfriend's influence may have kicked in, leading to such a tremendous ideologically subversive transformation. And with Lindsay remarking at one point, 'I've been watching your inner liberal grow, and I like it.'

Likewise an ironic addition to the proceedings, is Snowden's army commander at boot camp early on in the film, searching around for the missing injured recruit and in hindsight rather prophetically barking, 'Where the fuck is Snowden!' While in summation audiences are left to ponder - Snowden: patriot, fugitive, soldier, spy, hacker, traitor, hero. With Stone somewhat suggesting that viewers call the shots on their own.

Prairie Miller

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Bro on the Euro Cultural Beat: View from Afar


Games of Thrones, Season 7, The Acclamation
Shoring up the Wall to Protect Westeros,
Poisoning the Challenger so the Queen can Reign

I was not able to attend the coronation of Queen Hillary the First of the Royal House of Clinton at King’s Landing this week nor the usurpation in the midlands of the Bush Line by the bastard Trump the previous week but I was able to read some of the reports sent by the ravens and here are my comments on 2016’s Game of Thrones.  

Above ground the Republicans pledged allegiance to god, country and morality but the unconscious of a repressed party was on display as even while they praised righteousness from the podium, in their psychoanalytic basement right wing demagogue Roger Ailes was canned from the party network Fox for multiple complaints of sexual harassment. Also on display were Trump’s blatant corruption; it’s flashy, gaudy and on the surface (he’s so scared of being found out he will not show his tax returns) and contrasts with Clinton’s slightly more subtle concealed corruption. Trump’s incompetence was also front and center in his overture to his Ohio rival John Kasich to be the most powerful vice president in history (next to Dick Cheney?) in charge of foreign and domestic affairs so the Donald could spend his time “making American great.” But the Republican convention was democratic as was the nominating process, the financial elite and the party leaders were absent, and like him or not Trump was the candidate of the people while the democratic convention was nothing but a carefully orchestrated as Mumia Abu-Jamal described it ‘show’.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

The Clinton campaign and the DNC had utterly sabotaged the primary process and when that was revealed on the opening day of the convention in the leaked DNC memos, Clinton acknowledged the meddling by quickly appointing dethroned DNC chair Debbie Wasserman to her campaign. We saw a clear indication of how a Clinton presidency will work when, instead of confronting this utterly undemocratic chicanery, which may have contributed to stealing the nomination, the Clinton campaign diverted attention away from the revelations by blaming the leaks on the Russians (though WikiLeaks Julien Assange who would not reveal his sources suggested that was highly unlikely). Meanwhile a poll revealed Clinton trailing Trump, but now the Democrats, instead of fielding Bernie Sanders who not only trumped Trump in every poll but also would have engaged him in a spirited debate for the heart and soul of the American working class, are now saddled with a candidate whose major claim to fame is that she ran an efficient State Department bureaucracy while of course bombing Libya back to the stone age, abetting a coup in Honduras, and backing the dictator Mubarak in Egypt against the democratizers of the Arab Spring.

The democratic show was all about restoring Clinton’s liberal caring credentials but given her record as an ultimate corporate shill, backing NAFTA, the very dangerous TPP which despite wide opposition at the convention she will likely still promote, and her stunning reception at this point of almost all corporate campaign funding, 43 million to Trumps 1 million, she is at best a Kissinger-esque center-right neoliberal which makes this a race between the Right and Far Right. And the majority of Americans are disgusted with what the two-party oligarchy has produced, with each candidate’s disapproval rate at 58%.

The larger issue here is that there is a point where a neoliberal and a neofascist agenda converge and we are close to that point. When the world economy stops growing and the promises of globalization fade, corporate interests become more and more naked and inequality accelerates, now having regressed, as Thomas Piketty explains, to levels similar to the pre-World War I colonial era. Law and order then becomes the order of the day. But equally important, and this is the point of the ‘show’ in this election, is that those white workers feeling the pain of deindustrialization and globalization in the heartland and minority workers in the cities, enlisted by the Democrats as part of the neoliberal order but not benefitting from it (how wonderful is life in Black America under Obama?), never unite because if they did they would be the most powerful force against Clinton’s neoliberalism and Trump’s neofascism. And so the two camps see each other as diametrically opposed, offering really nothing except they are not the other and the other is unthinkable. But what is really unthinkable—that is, to the oligarchy-- is healing this centuries old rift--the replacement of racism by class solidarity. As the apparent differences between the candidates supposedly grow greater, the actual pain and suffering of their core constituencies, concealed by the personality quirks of these two buffoons, increases and will worsen under either after the election; quickly under the proto-fascist Trump, more slowly but more methodically under the corporate neoliberal bureaucrat Clinton.

Dennis Broe lives in Paris. He is a cultural and political correspondent for Arts Express on the Pacifica Network, a professor of film and television at the Sorbonne, and the author of Class, Crime and International Film Noir: Globalizing America’s Dark Art from Macmillan and Maverick or How the West Was Lost, an entry in the TV Milestones Series. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hillary's America: The Not So Secret History Of The Democratic Party


As the rather mix 'n match title implies, Hillary's America: The Secret History Of The Democratic Party, is really two separate films rolled into one. And with the lion's share topically reserved for the latter assertion, while the former regarding the current presidential candidate feels tacked on, hasty and scattered. And actually, a rather redundant indictment of Hillary that has received a far more in-depth examination and incriminating revelations lately, by experts and civilian journalists alike online.

Which positions filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza and this followup to his 2012 critique Obama's America, in the rather ironic ideological space of concurring with those he aligns himself with (the Republicans on the right), but also at the other end of the political spectrum, the left who've embraced Bernie Sanders or the Green Party's Jill Stein. A peculiar place indeed for D'Souza to find himself, and only further reinforced by imploring conclusively that Americans therefore needs to vote Republican in this presidential election - without actually saying why.

So what is ultimately presented, is the unfortunately all too common one side to ever story reporting, delineating the historical sins of the Democratic Party while whitewashing the Republicans across the centuries - primarily through that other sin, of omission. And no, Inaccuracy Alert, Lincoln was not against slavery for quite some time ["If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it,” Lincoln wrote to Horace Greeley in 1862], while viewing the black population as inferior to whites [“I am in favour of the race to which I belong having the superior position...Free them [slaves] and make them politically and socially our equals? My own feelings will not admit of this. We cannot, then, make them equals.”] And in fact, Lincoln and the early capitalist North settling on anti-slavery as a war tactic, primarily to break the competitive economic back of the rebel South.

At the same time, D'Souza appears to tiptoe around the biggest Hillary elephant in the room - seeming ironically on the same side with her about this biggest of her current crimes most substantially outed in Wikileaks revelations - namely her covert collusion in rigging the Democratic presidential primaries in league with the DNC and corporate bought big media - and seemingly D'Souza carefully avoiding any defense or support for the victim on the left of those very questionable primary 'victories' - Bernie Sanders. Ideological Walking On Eggshells Alert. And, a potential backfiring of just what D'Souza is intending to do here - namely draw audiences into voting Republican, but potentially sending them off in droves to Jill Stein and the Green Party.

Political ironies aside here, D'Souza may come out of this with the appearance of being his own worst enemy. That is, regarding the extended sequences in the film where he seethes in jail about being railroaded there by Obama and the Democrats, following a campaign contribution conviction. A directorial state of mind which can readily be interpreted as subjectively motivated retaliation as - opposed to a measured critique.

And with such determined scrutiny, why in contrast is there a glaring omission of the historical crimes of the Republican Party. And actually, both parties behind the profit crazed ,genocidal military industrial complex mass murder of millions across the planet, under the superpower guise of US exceptionalism. While in fact at the same time, the modern history of presidents from both parties is ironically inconsequential. As those presidents function merely as the greased palms middlemen and the face of the secret permanent government behind the scenes - the banks and corporations.

Then there are several other assorted elephants in the room that inevitably comes to mind here, with the evidently elaborate and expensive production values lavished on this documentary, and that receives no explanation not to mention disclaimers in the closing credits  - Who funded your movie. And, if you're an apparently proudly guilty as charged advocate for the contemporary Republican Party, will you be following up with a professionally impartial sequel about that equally abhorrent entity - both of which have driven most voters this round to seek out candidates outside the political establishment?

That question may have already been answered in D'Souza's abrupt and swift sign-off at the end of his documentary - You know, just go vote Republican. Period.

Prairie Miller
WBAI Radio

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Los Angeles Plays Itself on DVD: LA In Life, Not Movies


By Sandy Sanders

A short while ago, by chance, I ran into the filmworks of Thom Andersen, including a 2004 feature length video essay titled "Los Angeles Plays Itself". Andersen's filmworks make personal observations about the movies by sequencing snippets of films to disclose non-obvious content and meaning. Andersen has lived in Los Angeles since 1946 and uses brief cuts from films made in, or about LA, along with first person narrative and city location photographs. The film discusses the differences between the Los Angeles he experienced and the LA as depicted by the movies. The film was initially shown only at limited screenings but officially released by Cinema Guild in 2014 and is available on DVD. 


For anyone who has lived in Los Angeles this film is a must see. For movie aficionados curious about Los Angeles and Hollywood image- crafting, this insider's take on "LA", is equally interesting. It runs 2hrs and 49 minutes with an intermission which allows two viewing periods, for those pressed for time. But the film moves breathlessly through known and lesser known film depictions of Los Angeles as Background, as Character and as Subject, presenting a personal tour of what has made Los Angeles unique. Andersen contends that Hollywood created the acronym of "LA" as a part of generating a mystique-of-place to keep moviegoer's attention. The historic modernist architecture, the hillside mansions, views of the ocean, the mix of urban and rural, the endless suburbs, anonymous streets and ubiquitous freeways, and post-industrial downtown, that make background for film noir, glamour, spectacle or the seedy, of Hollywood movies.

Andersen asks us to see the documentary aspect of films as nearly equal to their fiction. To see film with the "voluntary attention" of a conscious observer instead of the usual suspension of disbelief required of moviegoers. As we begin to see, Los Angeles was first used by Hollywood as a blank slate for their story-telling, then actually affecting the further development or exploitation of the City and surrounding towns to re-image the illusions of the movie industry. The real Los Angeles lies outside the film reel and includes the ordinary realities of a mixed urban culture of Blacks, Latinos, Asians... and Whites creating disparate but unique places and spaces from a dynamic sprawling region that started exploding in the 20's.

Also on track for discovery is the corrupt history of a city that has been run by the rich and powerful, Hollywood and LAPD. "Kiss Me Deadly", "LA Confidential" and "Chinatown" are period pieces explored for their reconfigured depictions of real events sorted differently timewise, to discuss the power, corruption and lies simmering under the surfaces of Los Angeles. Hollywood does tell tales that expose the power brokers and their scams on society, but, as Anderson comments, aren't these just "crocodile tears"? Do Hollywood movies clandestinely disclose nasty truths for citizen action, or do they merely placate guilty souls until the theater lights come on?

For me the most intriguing part of "Los Angeles Plays Itself" is the discovery of a group of neo-realist LA filmmakers quietly working on the fringes that deserve viewing. Kent MacKenzie's "The Exiles" is a 1961 black and white film about a group of Native Americans coping with being outsiders near downtown, that includes unique views of the now lost Bunker Hill area. Billy Woodbury's "Bless Their Little Hearts" (1984) and two other black filmmakers Charles Burnett and Haile Gerima make unique black & white films of black lives struggling in urban Los Angeles.
Another highly recommended Thom Andersen feature is "Red Hollywood", created in a similar method, about the blacklisting period. 

Sandy Sanders creates art and the future at BlueJayWay.net. He is a member of The James Agee Cinema Circle.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Anti-capitalist Ken Loach drama takes top prize at Cannes 2016!

Loach said it was “very strange” to receive the award in such glamorous surroundings, considering the conditions endured by those people who inspired the film. “We must say that another world is possible and necessary.”
Jury member Donald Sutherland praised I, Daniel Blake as “an absolutely terrific movie that resonates in your heart and soul.”

The 79-year-old Britain has triumphed at the Cannes film festival for the second time with his welfare state drama, as Andrea Arnold’s American Honey takes…
THEGUARDIAN.COM|BY CATHERINE SHOARD

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Broe On The European Cultural Beat: The Nuit Debout Diaries


**Broe On The European Cultural Beat: The Nuit Debout Diaries. A continuing series of Arts Express Paris correspondent Professor Dennis Broe, on location there with updates from the mass labor and student protest movements. Which he indicates have spread to sixty cities across France, while currently spilling into Belgium as well. And with the possibility that Nuit Debut may turn up at the Cannes Film Festival, where Broe will be filing his on location report next week.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE

Up All Night: Restoring the Republic by Questioning the Repression

Nuit Debout, the best translation of which is probably Up All Night, is a protest movement that has featured a radical and non-hierarchical rethinking of French society and French democracy, or the current lack thereof. The movement is growing fast. It began in Paris near the end of March and at the beginning of the April was said to have spread to 20 cities, but one week later was active in 60 cities. Like the French Revolution before them, the movement now boasts its own calendar, dating from its March start date, so that for example the 27th of April was called “58 March.”   
I will rehearse a bit of the “history” of the movement, a strange word in this case since it is just a little over one month old, and then talk about what I think are its four key significances and finally say something about the film that in some way inspired it, Merci Patron, or Thanks Boss.  


The movement grew out of the March 31 massive demonstration against the quote Reform of the Labor Laws at Republic, a massive union and youth rally to oppose the taking away of the 35 hour work week, forcing workers to work on Sunday, and making it easier for bosses to fire or layoff workers, all of which have deeply affected youth in this society.  However the form of the movement, a series of mass meetings which begin in the early evening and heat up as the night progresses at Republic, came from a now famous line from an actor in a demonstration at the Stock Market, the Bourse, on February 23rd of trade unionists, activists and intellectuals protesting a new environmentally unsound airport at Notre-Dames-des-Landes, the closure of yet another factory (Goodyear at Amiens) and the opposition to what is called in the neoliberal parlance university “reform.” From the multiple struggles in that demo, came the idea of creating a forum where all the struggles could be talked about and the now famous line from an actor at the event who said “After the demo, I’m not going home.” What has emerged is France’s answer to the Occupy movement in the US and the Indigenes Movement in Spain, a non-hierarchical series of meetings to debate public issues growing out of the sense that the parliamentary public sphere is bankrupt. As Chatal Mouffe says, many leftists thought that the problem in France was Sarkozy and that the solution was to elect so called Socialists but it is now very clear that these are socialists in name only, and that Holland’s policies are much more the social liberalism of a Tony Blair or Bill (and Hilary) Clinton which has begot much disillusion.


Four major points about the significance of the movement and how it has already altered the socio-political debate in France:

  1. The transformation of the space of Republic. The square of the Republic had been captured by mourners of the December attacks. It was a place of trauma bonding which may be necessary but can also easily be used to heighten security funding, push through repressive legislation such as the lifting of nationality, and as a physical justification for increased bombing in the Middle East and in Syria where France has been one of the leaders in reining destruction. Nuit Debout has changed this space or rather returned it to a place of protest against the Holland government and in so doing has pointed to the fallacy of the left leaders climbing on the security bandwagon when the situation at home is desperate. That is, The R in Republic was beginning to stand for Repression but Nuit Debout has remade the space a place for the possible refounding of the democracy so the R once again stands for the Republic. Along with this Nuit Debout in its constantly contesting places and turning them into spaces has provoked the wrath of the police which in the May Day March for the first time were at the head of the procession. To counter this repression, the demonstrators led with a group of youth in hoods (cagouile) or bandanas or gas masks who were during the demonstration pelleted with tear gas. Le Monde, no firm pillar of support for the movement, the day of the demonstration led off its May Day coverage with a story about excessive police violence. Again, this questioning of the tactics of the police, spiriting demonstrators away for questioning or locking them in their homes because they might be a source of trouble as was done with the COP 21 Climate Conference, is a breach in the image of the police after the December attacks where they have been seen as benevolent guardians of security.   
  2. There is a great fear of this movement spreading like wildfire and being uncontrollable. The Le Monde stories, that is the institutional center left representation of the movement, characterize it as simply a bobo or bourgie group of activists and intellectuals that will not spread outside of Paris. But, it already has adherents and similar outposts at least 60 other French cities and has crossed the border into Belgium. With such dissatisfaction and high unemployment in the country and with such disgust for the ineffective political institutions where both, much like in the US, the neoliberal center of both right and left is breaking down, there is real fear that it could spread quickly. Holland’s response is the hilariously paternal, “But we’ve done all we can for the kids, why are they questioning us?” 

There is also the example of the Spanish movement which began in the central square of Madrid and only a year and a half later is the impetus behind first the election of the movement mayors of Madrid and Barcelona followed by the party that sprang from the Movement Podemos coming in third in the Spanish elections and potentially able to finish second when new elections are held. There are also comparisons to the Occupy Movement which it must be remembered was brutally sabotaged in many key cities by Democratic mayors and so there is fear as the movement grows that the police and the Socialist government or the region’s right wing department head will move against them. (The last week has been filled with police violence with much use of tear gas and with rubber pellets hitting one demonstrator in the eye.) However, Nuit Debout at this moment is wary of comparing itself to either movement because it does not wish the rapid eviseration of Occupy or a too quick turn to parliamentary politics as usual in the case of Podemos. 
  1. This is predominantly youth movement but with strong links to the workers, beginning its stand at Republic after the March 31 union demonstrations against the new labor or really anti-labor law called the Al Kourmi law which will be debated in the French General Assembly this week and which was the occasion for very pointed May Day marches against the law which Nuit Debout joined.
The council thinking on work is very advanced already. The economy commission has recognized the end of the salatariat, of those who work for salaries in the coming world of automation and is pushing for a guaranteed wage, “from birth to death,” and the ability to work or not depending on how one wants to express themselves. The group has already outlined the mainstream coopting of this coming issue, the next stage on from the Bernie Sanders campaign, discussing the way the neoliberal capitalist right will propose a minimum and insufficient lifetime wage that will, in return for doing away with other social services, create a population totally at the mercy of the market, something like what is proposed in Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots, while the left version will provisionally not touch the social system but allow for its trimming in the future. Nuit Debout’s evolving proposal asks for wage, social guarantees and a cooperative model which demands equality in the wage and a reduction in the time of work. This is the crucial debate that with 50% unemployment coming in the next 20 years no politician will touch.
  1.  Movement organization is deceptive. It is non-hierarchical with speakers in the various assemblies taking turns and with the assemblies coming to decisions based on consensus, and against the parliamentary idea that there are issues in which 49% of the population loses. But though it is non-hierarchical, there is a strong organization and decisions and policies are being formulated and there is a high degree of organization necessary to keep the movement going. A Nuit Debout begins with late afternoon specific groups covering not only present but also historical moments so one early week saw discussions of the revolution of 1848, of May ’68 and the question of migration. At 6 there is a popular assembly bringing together 500 to 1000 people where the commissions present the state of their work which lasts until midnight. One problem seems to be that of retaining the memory and decision of the previous session so that Nuit Debout does not collapse into a kind of Groundhog Day where each day is a starting over.

A bit about the film Merci Patron and its role in Nuit Debout. The film is France’s Roger and Me about Francois Ruffin, raconteur and editor of the satirical magazine Fakir, and his love, albeit false, for Louis Vitton and Dior owner Bernard Arnault and his championing of a family let go by one of Arnault’s closings, the Klurs, who in the film win a settlement from the company as long as they don’t tell anybody about it, because then everyone Arnault lets go would want to be supported. The film is playing in the smaller theaters here is Paris but is selling out showing after showing. In my mind there are two main contributions that it makes. The first is a very clear idea of the difference in the country between the Arnault’s, surrounded by lavish fashion and parties, the height of elegance, and the Klur’s, barely able to survive. The film is strikingly clear in the way it differentiates the two worlds of the country, especially in dress, customs and manners. The Arnaults are also only seen at a distance, in promo spots and on the newscasts of their lavish parties while the Klurs are most often shown in the warm intimacy of their tiny kitchen.

The second interesting feature is that unlike the majority of French documentaries, which tackle controversial themes but in predictable fashion, the humor in this film makes us see both the Klurs and the Arnaults in a new light, fascinated by a destitute family and their ex-union best friend and repulsed by the imperious lavishness of the other. That is, we don’t get bored watching working class people. Ruffin keeps it interesting and light but pointed and the crowds enjoy the film but recognize that they are much closer to the Klurs than the Arnaults. Both the lightness and stark contrast are new impulses in French documentaries and the film itself is inspiring people to show up at Republic and question the direction the country is going where representative democracy, outflanked and capitulating to corporate capital, is resulting in no democracy at all.  

Last week the movement also occupied space at the Odeon Theater, which by the way I referred to in my yearend roundup as draped in the slogan “The World Is Yours” which Nuit Debout is attempting to refashion from a delusional consumerist platitude to a slogan with actual meaning. The Theater was one of the key sites of the ’68 Student Revolt here in Paris and this close to the Cannes film festival also raises questions about whether Nuit Debout will spill over into the festival, which often courts controversy as a way of promoting itself in the way that commercializes the ‘68 moment where the New Wave directors Truffaut and Godard led a protest that closed the festival. Will Up All Night appear at the festival to rethink France’s relation with commercial film production? We’ll see next week as I report on Cannes.

May Day addendum. While workers were occupied with trying to stop a repressive labor law, the far right on May Day was splintering. In its traditional subsuming of workers’ rights into a nationalistic celebration of Joan of Arc, the far right Marine Le Pen was at one Parisian Joan statue at Augustine while Jean-Marie Le Pen, her even farther right father was at a different statue at Pyramides. Le Pen the father compared his exile by his daughter--he’s persona non grata in the party with his openly racist remarks judged to make him an albatross in next year’s election--to the beheading of Louis XVI by the revolutionaries. In farther right circles Marine Le Pen is now a revolutionary–you’ve come a long way baby.
 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Dennis Broe Talks Nuit Debout, On Location In Paris

Professor Dennis Broe is on location in Paris covering the Nuit Debout protest movement for the James Agee Cinema Circle.

LISTEN TO DENNIS BROE COMMENTARY HERE


Monday, April 25, 2016

Broe On The Global Literary Beat: The Cultural Politics Of The Noir Novel

By Dennis Broe

The Cultural Politics of the Noir Novel: Truthtelling vs. Bookselling


The Noir Novel, though perhaps originating in the US, is today a global phenomenon which has, like the form it preceded, rap music, a history of truth telling, of unfolding and revealing dark secrets, and of giving voice and subjectivity to those under-represented in the mainstream media and the neo-liberal global order. Thus, the noir novel in France, called the polar (a condensation of roman policier), the novel of detection, in its newest manifestation, which the French term “rural noir,” describes the 60% of the countryside that is marginalized and living outside the urban corporate order. The gialli in Italy recounts the state-mafia collaboration that continues to impoverish the people of Southern Italy while Scandinavian and particularly Icelandic Noir chronicled the years of the economic boom and bubble. In addition, Noir novels, in Iceland’s forced reinvention of itself after the financial crisis, have become one of the leading cottage industries in a country where as one translator recounted it “we kicked out all the bankers and only the writers are left.” But the genre is also a money making machine and there is an impulse to turn it from being a voice of resistance to being a globally reductive imprint of the West on the rest of the world, since we now have for example South African noir with Johannesburg remade as LA, or a rigid, utterly formulaic form, with the new Millenium novel written after its author Stig Larson’s death quickly being appropriated not by the Swedish cinema but by Hollywood’s Sony/Columbia, or, finally, a genre that simply nourishes anger,  resentment or commodified “kinky” sex as in the new “hot” literary form “grip lit,” and its lead authoress Lisa Hilton whose Maestra aims to be 50 Shades of Black.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE 

All these tendencies were on display in the French city of Lyon last weekend for the annual Quais du Polar, a global or at least Euro-American conference of noir writers which in its 12th edition is one of the largest such gatherings in the world. The naked truth telling aspects of this genre are exemplary since, unlike science fiction cousin, it does not have to couch itself in the future to describe the horrific global effects and behind-the-scenes maneuvers of corporate capital allied with the state. In Italy, after the mafia assassination of the judges Falcone and Borsellino in the early 1990s, large elements of the press stopped covering the organized crime story. The privileged location for discussion of the way the state and the crime families were acting in collusion was the noir novel which has even featured the resurgence of the judges, not in life but on the fictional page. Giancarlo De Cataldo, interviewed by France Culture for the conference, is himself a magistrate whose Season of Massacres details the linking of rightwing intelligence forces, the state and the mafia in the wake of the Falcone-Borsellino killings and subsequent mafia bombings to negotiate a state-mafia pact that brought Berlusconi to power. Likewise, Mimmo Gangemi, a journalist and engineer from Calabria in Southern Italy in The Revenge of the Little Judge details the coming to conscience of a corrupt magistrate who attempts to settle scores with the Ndrangheta, the Calabrian mafia--said to be now the most powerful criminal organization in the world--for killing a fellow judge. At the conference Gangemi talked about the need to make the legal system once again a reliable ally of the people of the South in their battle against this endemic corruption now spread globally, claiming that his books, once they are written, belong not to him as an author but to the people of Calabria in their struggle.

Swiss author Sebastien Meier’s The Name of the Father involves a once jailed ex-inspector of the police on the trial of money laundering, tax evasion and prostitution as they are practiced in the white collar corridors of Swiss banking power in its party capital Lausanne. Meier talked about the need in the wake of growing income disparity to create plots that involved this kind of high-level manipulation and it must be noted there is another author now also writing in French, Dominique Manotti, who is also an economic historian, whose books deal with economic corruption including the current Black Gold which details how the Marseille mafia moved into oil distribution. Finally, Nigeria’s Leye Adenle in Easy Motion Tourist, details through his female lead character a gutsy protector of working girls, Amaka--in French the book has the much better title Lagos Lady--both the sprawling beauty of Lagos and the greed which animates its corrupt ruling class who in one scene flaunt their wealth by throwing 100 dollar bills during a wedding party.

The global battle of the festival matched Scandinavian and American crime fiction. From the US Richie Price, who wrote Clockers, the Scorsese film The Color of Money and a number of episodes of The Wire was here with Whites, which deals with working class cops in the Bronx, a subgroup that is currently and rightfully under sustained criticism. James Grady, who wrote the original Six Days of the Condor which became the Redford film 3 Days and who currently has a Condor sequel, Last Days of the Condor was somewhat at pains to slightly challenge while at the same time defending and identifying himself with the contemporary American security state. While William Boyle whose Gravesend, which features an actress returning to the mean streets of Brooklyn, was chosen as the 1000th title of the French series Rivage Noir which began with Boyle’s literary hero Jim Thompson’s Recoil. Thompson is loved by the French and recognized as an original voice of criticism during the years of McCarthyite repression in the 1950s. Best of all though was Wyoming’s Craig Johnson, who appeared in Lyon in Stetson and greeted the audience with a big Western “Hi.” Johnson’s Longmire, a TV series as well which has switched to Netflix for its fourth season, is a defender of the downtrodden in the least populated state in the union and is through his Native American friend sensitive to the plight of the Cheyenne in his county. For my mind, Johnson’s character, along with characters by James Crumley and James Lee Burke, is the writer in the contemporary scene who best carries on the Hammett-Chandler-Ross MacDonald literary tradition of the quick-witted morally grounded detective in a sea of corruption.     

The Americans at Lyon were matched by their Scandinavian cousins and two big hits of the festival were Norway’s Jo Nesbo and Iceland’s Arnadur Indridason, both with best-selling detective series. Nesbo’s Harry Hole is, as his author explained, a divided figure, as is Nesbo himself whose father fought with the Nazis against Russia in the Eastern Front claiming he was a patriot and whose mother as a child was used to run missions for the Norwegian Resistance. Nesbo’s television series Occupied, in a way that is highly politically confused, explores the World War II Nazi Occupation in a contemporary setting by proposing a supposed Russian occupation of Norway, aided by the EU and the US, in an attempt to force Norway to continue to exploit its oil after the prime minister for ecological reasons has refused. (All this is of course news to the Russians who pointed out that it was they who had not invaded but rather liberated Norway during the Second World War.) Iceland’s Indridason’s current book Operation Napoleon is not a tale of his series character Inspector Erlandur but rather the story of 1944 plane crash that carried both US and Nazi officials and the supposed plot they were hatching for Iceland. Indeed the US essentially occupied Iceland with bases after the war and Indridason explained that he was among those who instead wanted Iceland to remain neutral.

The French, not to be outdone in an area in which they excel though find difficult to export, were represented at the conference with their latest form of roman noir which they have dubbed “rural noir,” a recounting of these now increasingly more desolate areas of the country, outside the media and neo-liberal bubble and decimated by outsourcing and wholescale moving of industry. Nicolas Mathieu’s current novel, Animals of War, is a detailing of the stories of what he calls the “lost areas of the country” in a way that is neither bucolic nor simply about regional color. Benoit Minville, the author who coined the term “rural noir” summed up perhaps the purpose of this new strain of noir and of noir fiction in general: “(Perhaps) you cannot change the world but our goal (as authors) is that nothing remain hidden.”

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Tribeca Diaries


By Liza Béar​

  
TRIBECA DIARY: ​

BUGS
THE BANKSY JOB​

April 18, 2016--The day started with an edible insect lunch at the Mexican Miscellanea in the East Village with Andreas Johnsen, BUGS director and his Nordic Lab partner from Copenhagen.

WATCH BUGS FOR LUNCH HERE


This was the first pop-up event for BUGS, one of Tribeca's most exotic documentary premieres.  Enterprising Danish filmmaker Johnsen, who also produced and shot the film, accompanied researchers and scientists from the Nordic Lab in Copenhagen to several countries from Mexico to Uganda for three years as they studied insect-eating habits practiced by 2 billion of the world's population. Today's offering was ant larva tacos cooked in avocado oil with onion and mint. {I ate two small open plan tacos as fortification for cycling from the East Village to the Regal Cinemas in Battery Park). Given Denmark's reputation for Michelin 5-star haute cuisine and its five top international chefs, don't be surprised if insects show up on the menu at the new Grand Central food court and Danish restaurant in the near future. BUGS will be screened again at Tribeca this week at Regal Cinemas, Battery Park (Wednesday, 10:30pm); and at Bow Tie Cinemas in Chelsea (Thursday 2:30 pm).

Then a quick ride down the West Side pear blossom and daffodil-lined bike path to the Regal for another world premiere, THE BANKSY JOB ably co-directed by Ian Roderick Gray and Dylan Harvey. This highly entertaining and well crafted UK movie documents the twists and turns of an art heist engineered by Andy Link, a Hackney, London, self-styled art terrorist AK 47 and, depending on your p.o.v, the successive acquisitions or thefts of Banksy's The Drinker, itself a hollow remake of Auguste Rodin's Le Penseur (The Thinker) adorned with a huge traffic cone/dunce cap on his head--surely a reflection on the artist rather than on Rodin as AK47 thumbs his nose at classic sculpture, its recreation and re-installation on Shaftesbury Ave as The Stinker, and its final disappearance. Silly story, right? But superbly staged, well performed, great production design and super-cynical about the London art world and art authentication, with astute and deadpan commentary by representatives of said art world. The film's dialogue effectively contrasts the posh accents of Brit gallery dealers with the hard-to-decipher Yorkshire brogue of the art "terrorists".

Day continued with a visit to Famous Deaths a surrealist Dutch interactive project at the 50 Varick Street Tribeca HQ. The lounge is adorned with product placements eg IBM's robots: Trendy Bot, Dusty Bot and Shy Bot.

WATCH JUNCTION 48 HERE

TRIBECA DIARY: JUNCTION 48

April 20--Excerpt from the Q & A after today's screening of Junction 48, a narrative film about two striving hip hop artists set in Lyd, a mixed Arab/Jewish town near Tel Aviv. It premiered at the Berlinale this year where it won the Panorama audience award. This is a well-acted, intense and moving film that offers a fresh take on the situation of Arabs living in Israel, fraught as it is with tragedy, co-written by Tamer Nafar (who also stars as Kareem) and based on his own experiences as a hip hop artist, surmounting daily crises. The story is as dramatic as it is realistic. Co-star Samar Qupty, a filmmaking graduate from Tel Aviv University, is a knock-out. Video:  Director Udi Aloni expresses his views on the role of art in the Palestinian resistance, going way beyond ideological clichés to claim that for oppressed people, achieving quality in art, music, theatre is in itself a form of resistance.

TRIBECA DIARY: COURTED




April 23 2016--Christian Vincent's COURTED (L'Hermine) has its last Tribeca screening today Saturday at 6:15, Regal Cinemas, Battery Park. This is a thoroughly engaging milieu film set in a provincial Assize Court in Saint Omer, northwest France, the only court in France to have a jury trial. Leads are topnotch

French actor Fabrice Luchini as the aptly-named Michel Racine, the supercilious presiding judge with impeccable diction but a bad case of the flu and Sidse Babett Knudsen as Ditte Lorensen-Coteret, a juror on whom Racine had a crush in the past; she was the anesthetist who brought him out of a coma after an accident. Knudsen is apparently known as the prime minister in Borgen to viewers familiar with the Danish TV series (I'm not). Here she plays a single mother with a sharp-tongued 17-year-old daughter who buts in on one of judge and juror's rare coffee breaks and attempts to suss out their relationship.

Its emphases as distant from formulaic courtroom drama as you can get, COURTED unfolds with pointed anecdotal detail in the course of a felony trial for the death of a seven-month old girl. The notoriously uncooperative father has been accused of having kicked her to death, a charge which he vehemently denies. Tragedy and comedy go hand in hand. Facts and contradictions emerge--but in both situations, the trial and the not-quite romance, is the full truth ever known? Whether the combat boots the defendant wears throughout the trial are relevant to the charge is never determined. The film's great strengths lie in its nimble script whose subtle observation of human interactions contrasts with the formality of courtroom procedure, and superb performances by both professional and non-professional actors. Winner of Best Screenplay and Best Actor at Venice Biennale this year. Film stills courtesy Tribeca Film Festival.

Liza Bear is a member of the James Agee Cinema Circle. Check out her other videos and interviews on her Youtube channel, nothingofficial, HERE