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The western girl amid grave moral dilemmas
Much celebrated until very recently, multiculturalism suffers now a great deal of criticism. Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Theresa May, also other voices coming from the left began to realize that there was something wrong; that the promised paradise of peaceful integration is not not really happening. But why? Aix-la-Chapelle in France is one of the many multicultural cities that exist today in the Western world. It is, like the others, segregated, even in terms of geographical division: Asians live with Asians, including Pakistanis with Pakistanis. Apart from campuses, apart from white people who increasingly date Asian people, no one mingles with anyone. Are the two phenomena (1. the growing solitude of contemporary Western man or woman, 2. the growing multiculturalism of society) related? I really cannot say. Too many changes have taken place since the 1960s, multiculturalism has been just one of them. In fact, I think that all the radical phenomena of the 1960s, such as the struggle against traditional values, political extremism, feminism, the loss of religion, the sexual revolution, as well as the disorderly urbanization itself, and the growing immigration flow have been responsible for social disintegration. It isn't debit everything to the account of multiculturalism, but the latter does create, undoubtedly, problems like those shown in this fine melodrama. The idea of a multicultural society arose from (i) liberalism, (ii) the primordial economic function played by immigrants, (iii) university campuses. Western schools are temples of multiculturalism. People from everywhere, regardless of race or religion, mix and coexist almost always in peace. Hence the idea must have arisen that, if this works in sectors, why should it not function in society as a whole? Zahira, 18, is close to her family until her parents ask her to follow the overwhelming Pakistani tradition and choose a husband for herself. Torn between family customs and her western lifestyle, the young woman then turns to help from her brother, sister, friends and confidants. Personally, I ignore whether the Pakistani "culture" in fact is so totalitarian in its anti- heuristic traditions. But we need to differentiate multiculturalism from immigration. Immigration has always existed, multiculturalism is something relatively new. In the old days, there was the expectation that an immigrant would adapt to the country to which he or she emigrated, adopting its language and customs. This didn't happen in all cases, but it did nearly always. Today, chances are exactly the opposite: the immigrant shall maintain his own culture, and this should be "respected" by the society that welcomes him, even if it is a barbaric habit like the extirpation of women's clitoris, or an arguable habit like pre-marital sex or abortion. Today multiculturalism is the official policy in most of the West. It is partly the result of technological and social changes, but also forced against the wishes of the majority of the population by governments and politicians more interested in votes than in social welfare. Just like a pendulum, fashions and societies change. It is quite likely that, just as welfare state money is ending rapidly and leading to crises and conflicts in all that is place, there will also be a violent reaction against multiculturalism in the coming years. Then, sauve qui peut (la vie)...
The Garden of Afflictions (2017)
Film as a viable, didactic, dialectical, high-brow medium
It there is a name that must be quoted when we speak about the redemption, evaluation and cultural recovery in Brazil, as opposed to the recent total domination of the left within the main sectors of society, such name is Olavo de Carvalho, who by now needs no further presentation. Before the hegemony of the 'Lulo-petista' regime in Brazil (2003-2016), the consequent repulsion to the so-called Bolivarian movement, and the combat to generalized corruption via billion-dollar bribe-ducts that stormed the Brazilian nation, both social networks and mass street marches came to adopt , among other signs, the phrase "Olavo is right!", suggesting that the misrule and the debasement at large did confirm Carvalho's "futurological" wisdom, as his geopolitical analyzes and partisan predictions had been proving almost invariably accurate. Carvalho and the late lawyer Graça Wagner were right as they insisted on the importance of the Forum of Sao Paulo, an international revolutionary organization to which Bolivarianist allies have been aligning themselves since the end of the last century. The Garden of Afflictions, an emblematic book, is the favorite of its author. It now gives title to a documentary film directed by Josias Teófilo, produced via crowdfunding collective financing, without a penny of public money. It isn't a filming of the original book, published in 1995. The basic thesis of the original essay was that the history of the West was marked by the idea of Empire and the successive attempts at restructuring it. With different approaches, there was always the same goal - to extend imperial (imperialist?) dominions to the limits of the visible, geopolitical & social world. Carvalho's essay examined whether it was necessary (i) to revise such thesis, and (ii) to assess at what degree it would relate to current world scenarios. In the preface, the poet Bruno Tolentino suggested that the structure of the book was spiral, comparing it the first symphony of Sibelius. The film, consequently, incorporates this symphony to its soundtrack. Its editing also incorporates images from four old (emblematic) films: Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, Ford's Stagecoach, Murnau's Sunrise and Mario Peixoto's Limite. Nevertheless, the Garden's reviewers on dutiful mainstream corporate media, with their infallible airs of sour-puss spite, said the film "is never transcendent." Wow... Whatever has it not transcended? Spiritual elevation, I guess. Only the exact opposite is true. The Garden is a kind of hour-and-a-half master-class on spirituality where Mr. Carvalho's thought is personified by his own presence, routine work and family life. "The greatest force that can exist is personality," he advises us, among other practical, religious, and metaphysical teachings. The film is based on the themes of its eponymous book: (i) the symbolism of gardens in the philosophical tradition, Epicurus' Garden of Delights, the Garden of Eden of the Genesis book, the garden of afflictions of the contemporary world and the 'garden' in Virginia (USA) where the philosopher lives today; (ii) individual freedom and the oppression from the dictatorship of the collective; (iii) Aristotelian thought, and (iv) an eventually central theme in philosophical thought at large (see Plato, Schopenhauer, etc.): death. What ideas are still important to us in the face of unavoidable death? What are you going to do with your life while it's time? Carvalho, just like his predecessor Mario Ferreira dos Santos (1907-1968), is a philosopher that "Brazilian culture" cannot - or refuses to - absorb. Both hover above the institutionalized national consciousness as true extraterrestrials, while beneath them the cultural establishment and its generalized educational forms 'take care of' citizenship. This film does focus on the protagonist. The latter is after all the raison d'être of the former. It makes a point of showing where the speaking voice comes from. It opens out the personality of the philosopher. It lets him lucubrate. It crystallizes his wisdom, elevation, and lucidity in his permanent search for truth, actually the prime objective of every philosopher worthy of such epithet . Accessible to a broad cultural spectrum of the public (not just film critics!), it is an objective, restricted, relatively unpretentious document that revolves around the protagonist and never tries to take the place of him by pushing him out of the spotlight. Of course one cannot judge a person by the size of his library. (Otto Maria Carpeaux's library, for example, was surprisingly small, considering that its owner had written the "History of Western Literature," and was one of the greatest encyclopedic minds in Brazilian culture.) But Olavo's library impresses by itself. Throughout the film, he quickly discusses, in addition to his pillars Plato and Aristoteles, Eric Voegelin, Ortega y Gasset, St. Augustine, Anaximander, Boethius, Josiah Royce, Antonio Gramsci, Raymundo Faoro and a lot of other authors referenced during the interviews. While 'Garden of Afflictions,' the book, is now a classic, this partially-derived film opens a new horizon in the evolution of Brazilian culture via cinematographic routes. It's, to say the least, the highest-brow movie in recent times.
Amok (the title of a Stefan Zweig masterwork) meant indeed a temporary, paroxysmal state prone to impulses.
The film, treated in a semi-documentary style with an accentuated preference for plan-sequences (in-camera editing of sequence-like shots), is interesting in itself. But even more interesting perhaps would be to seek, or rather to fantasize, what would have been Zweig's life had he not opted for a terminal attitude. He'd already seen the US joining the War. He probably felt that Germany would inevitably win the conflict, and this would bring about the extermination of Judaism, the end of Western-style democracies, and so on and so forth. Had he lived, however, he'd see the Allies gain the conflict, which would provide him with a breath of optimism and comfort. He'd see his adoptive country, Brazil, leaving (in 1945) a long-overdue dictatorship. Later, already an octogenarian, he'd see Brazil plunging onto another dictatorship - against which Zweig would certainly say nothing, not in the least because he was an anti-communist. One thing is certain: the writer would never live to witness the growth of the largest criminal organization ever invented in Brazil or, for that matter, in any other place. The "Land of the Future" (Zweig's book title) has been since very busy , trying hard to dump her historical promises into the trash cans of History...
The hostess without the mostess
Most pf us can understand the mythical meaning of certain characters, and that's briefly what it's all about. Each club has the myths it deserves, and every TV viewer has the myths he (or in this case more commonly, she) deserves. Mythical is that particular individual bathed by good luck, godlike aura and kinda halo, a fact that science cannot plainly justify through its laws. The myth (as Roland Barthes might have put it) is a symbol of example, attitude, conviction, character, and honor. Fatima Bernardes is probably not THE best symbol for mass myth, but she does satisfy the daily mornings' belief that "a positive thought a day is what we need." Mythical, she personalizes the ideal of the collective mainstream viewers. Her boastful interviews celebrate social inclusion, feminist protest, political correctness, gender ideology, hooligans' graffiti on public walls, sexual (mis)education in primary school, by preaching that any child is born with sexuality, by disrespecting the right "to be a child." Fatima ignores that angels have no sex, so she steals their innocence. Along with other myths of TV Globo network (Regina Casé, Big Broder Brazil, Amor & Sex, etc.) she does help to foster a kinda social engineering nexus.
Captain Fantastic (2016)
not the most tasteful of concoctions
If I only were by myself, I would certainly have gotten out of the theater during the first half hour, because overall this film (which has neither a captain nor anything fantastic) is slow, boring, presumptuous and above all ultra-irritating. To dispute several Oscars re 2016 was an obvious prank from the activist Academy that decided to combat the "trumpamaro chaos" that now prevails in the US. But the film serves to lift & renew some real emotions - of disgust, basically - as well as to uplift that old, picturesque discussion on what would be a right-wing, a center or a left-wing film. The "author's message" says that the anti-hero proves social Darwinism as he proves to be a fittest survivor who trains the family to survive "savage capitalism." In fact, I do not condemn, on the contrary I do approve homeschooling. However, how to promote homeschooling without resources like labs and computers in order to properly prepare the offspring for a future where high technology will be ubiquitous? An all-knowing, adult educated daddy who encourages and trains his children to steal would hardly qualify as civilized. The production, of course, can be labeled far-left (it's nihilist, trotskyist, anarchist, anti-Christian, libertarian, etc.) but one must always distinguish between leftward and simply sinister films... The best of current critics , Mr. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, put this distasteful concoction in its proper place: https://www.theguardian.com/.../captain-fantastic- review-vigg...
Shades of Grey #51, #52 and so on
Most of the characters,needing intensive care from the get-go. are supposedly "borderline." There is hardly anything borderline, however, about them: straight-jacket material, yes, all around. The film shows how unstable people get together, how they multiply existential & sexistential problems for themselves as well as for anybody else they encounter. Are we supposed to care for them? Well, yes, for the current French way of life seems to support a sloppy mental health system which lets psychos roam free & wild, endangering themselves as well as everyone they interact with. "Pretentious," "morbid," "tremendista," are probably accurate reviewer's labels for the picture. Perhaps novelist Djian and director Verhoeven should both get the pillow treatment as well. ;-)
A thinker with an odd, Barthesian insight
The accent is brave, hardly penetrable. Captions are really necessary. But the title of the movie says it all: it IS Slovenian humor at an abstract, high-brow level. The host mitigates the Freudian legacy as he perverts - in a decreasing order - (1) Marx (2) Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt School at large (3) Lacan. His universalizing framework comes from Lacanian psychoanalysis, although he is as 'revealing' as Lacan. The greatest apparent influence on Zizek seems to be that of Roland Barthes's 'Mythologies'. As if he were kinda Roland The Hip Semiologist, Zizek analyzes everything from the perspective of the 'myth,' revealing at every opportunity a new approach, criticizing our surrounding, culturally globalized habitat, and insinuating what might be its intrinsic authenticity. The film is essentially an illustrated conference in the style of other mass culture analysts such as Jacob Bronowski, John Berger, Robert Hughes, Kenneth Clark. Zizek is not interested in the respective ideology of the filmmakers he quotes. He uses fragments of films as illustrative of real life processes and their 'myths', not specifically Nazism or Communism, but rather the way we all shape our lives and the universal themes that connect our 'mythological' subconscious needs.
Nada Será Como Antes (2016)
Everything remains the same
Nothing will be as before - or Nothing Remains the Same - is a title both generic and unoriginal for a period plot that barely respects the very era portrayed: from 1946 through 1959. The scenario goes from the heyday of the radio era up to the beginnings of televised soap operas. Rio de Janeiro was then the capital of Brazil. The name of this fictitious station - TV Guanabara - strangely mimics a TV station that did existed in the 1960s - in fact, such station still exists today, although it is now entitled 'Band' - actually a fierce competitor of TV Globo, the latter being the producer of the program in question. As in almost all of Globo's fiction productions, there is a lot of social engineering here, ranging from gay kissing to interracial marriage, to condemnation of machismo and tolerance towards cuckoldry. The direction is academic and the visual treatment, as usual, based on an impressionist imitation of brown & white. But the most shocking thing was the video clip that crowned the end of the arrhythmical series: a flash-forward in the form of self-propaganda of 21st-century Globo, which unveiled the "prodigious" programming of half a century later: nothing but a brazen self- promotion of a channel that, among the richest media in the world, should hardly need so much self-boasting.
Biopic shows Pimentinha's vitality and glamour, lacks pizazz though
When Elis passed away in 1982, people and talked about an involuntary, casual overdose: she was kinda "first-time sailor," the media never spoke of suicide. The writers of this film, however, reveal that she had been using drugs since long before (the mid sixties to be precise) and did commit suicide, driven by a chronic, deep depression. The movie was based rather on the musical show "Elis, a musical" by his fan, producer, friend and lover Nelson Motta than on Julio Maria's biography entitled "Nothing will be as before." The complexity of Elis's life was directly proportional to her unpredictable, impetuous, and ambitious personality. Only five feet tall, Elis was blessed with a high-pitched, sincere voice, good technique, and a great rhythmic and harmonic sense, somewhat jazzing everything up. The film omits her first two records produced under the tutelage of the father, with a repertoire chosen by the recording label and a standard background playback sound. It also omits her first source of income when she arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1964, namely the jingles she recorded for advertising agencies under the tutelage of her first boyfriend in Rio, Henrique Meyer, also a gaucho. The film exaggerates, on the other hand, the supposed political side of the singer - who was never a communist. It highlights characters absolutely unimportant for this kind of biopic, such as one grotesque colonel interrogator of the Brazilian army, one French reporter too preoccupied with the evils of third-world dictatorships, and one particular cartoonist, Henfil from O Pasquim, who slashed her by drawing her singing in the presence of Adolf Hitler. The film, which can be seen as a pleasant musical, involuntarily confirms Heitor de Paola's thesis of drugs acting as a means - whether or not unconscious - of a collective suicidal drive.
The Crown (2016)
From a commoner with love
Monarchist propaganda, just for grannies to watch - this is what part of the audience has been saying about it... Well, it just seems that I have seen the wrong series, where the Windsors are portrayed as full of fancies, the Crown is portrayed as sheer circus pageantry, King Edward VIII as a pernicious playboy, the Duke of Edinburgh as a narcissist who gained the love lottery but does not value it sufficiently, Princess Margaret as a populist party girl... Not even Churchill escapes blame, as a senile leader who burns his own portrait painted by Graham Sutherland... And the cast, heavens! We never saw a wax museum reproduced with such perfection and visual 'whims.' Lithgow speaks just like Winston, Northam is Eden as is, Foy - who had already brilliantly performed Little Dorritt and Ann Boleyn - embodies the absolutist mentality including all its Inherent weaknesses. Very seldom we have seen so much opulence - both in form and content. And WOW no less than four great directors - Martin and Caron, from the Wallander series (which I keep seeing and re-seeing), Jarrold (from SIlent Witness and Brideshead Revisited), Daldry (from The Hours, Billy Eliot, The Reader)