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Tuesday, December 26, 2006


V for Very Viewable

I can't remember how it came up, but some time ago several readers gave strong recommendations for the movie V for Vendetta. Although it's not generally "my kind of movie" (not much into either superhero movies, or Matrix-type movies), I was persuaded, and last week finally got around to watching it. Which allows me to add my voice to that of the readers who recommended this very viewable film.

It's not so much recommending the movie itself that prompts me to write, though, but the reaction to it. After watching the movie, I read through a bunch of reviews, and was quite surprised to see the number of negative reviews it received. What became clear to me, as I read them, was how much politics was dominating the reviewing process. Hardly any of them, for example, even bothered to mention the acting, with an excellent performance by Natalie Portman and great supporting roles from Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, and John Hurt, among others (can't say much for Hugo Weaving as V). Virtually none mentioned what I considered to be award-worthy cinematography, exemplified by closeups of the spittle-flecked lips of John Hurt's giant disembodied head, peering down from a screen onto his subordinates as he barks out orders.

Instead of reviewing the movie, so many of the reviewers seemed to be reviewing its politics. And the strange part of that was that so many of them seemed to think the message of the movie was ambiguous or simply unclear. Really? I'd say the message of the movie, boiled down to its essence, is a pretty simple one - tyranny should be resisted. Several of the reviewers, for example, quoted the line (which I'm not sure was actually in the movie although I did hear it from one of the actors in the DVD "extras") "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." OK, I accept the general validity of that statement. But this wasn't just any random terrorist, if you want to use that term. This is a person who is resisting the tyranny of a Hitler, a Pinochet.

Not by coincidence, I'm sure, are the main screen victims of this tyranny leftists, homosexuals, and "others" (which are pretty clearly implied to be Muslims or other foreigners). Jews are never mentioned, but considering the role that the church is playing in this future society and state, it's a pretty good guess they would have been among the victims. And yet there seems to be a reluctance among the reviewers to acknowledge that resistance, armed resistance, to such a brutal tyranny would be acceptable (even given the fact that, as improbable as it actually would be, the movie doesn't depict any innocent civilian victims of the resistance; only those responsible for the tyranny, and the armed representatives of the state, are victimized).

There is some legitimate question about V's methods, of course. Is he the quintessential anarchist, hoping in vain to inspire the masses with "propaganda of the deed"? Although he is a loner, I'd say no, since he does, in his own way, actually attempt to involve the masses in acts of resistance, rather than simply to inspire them.

As a movie, I have no criticisms of "V" at all. Sure, there are plot holes, as there almost always are in movies of this type, but nothing that detracts and can't be easily overlooked. The movie can be criticized "politically" on the grounds that, aside from simple power, there doesn't seem to be any actual motivation for the acts in the movie. Are they trying to gain control of the oil reserves of the Middle East, a la American imperialism, for example? Not as far as one can tell; they're not trying to do anything with power other than to have it. Economic matters simply doesn't figure into the movie at all; aside from the single TV station, we have no evidence that anyone is even working. So the movie is hardly a socialist critique of the world, nor a prescription for revolution. But criticizing a movie for what it's not is simply wrong.

What it is is a cracking good story, with excellent acting and cinematography to boot. Two thumbs up.

As in interesting coincidence, as I was thinking about writing this review, this highly-relevant article appeared in the paper yesterday, which I'm quoting in full:

Rights abuses inevitable, Pinochet wrote
Chile'S 1973 Coup Leading to Bloody Regime Regrettable but Necessary, ex-Leader Said

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) - In a letter to Chileans to be published after his death, Gen. Augusto Pinochet wrote that he wished he had not had to stage the bloody 1973 coup that put him in power, and called the abuses under his long regime inevitable.

His fate was public shunning and unimagined loneliness, he said in the message made public Sunday.

The former dictator, who died Dec. 10 of heart failure at age 91, insisted the military takeover avoided civil war and a Marxist dictatorship, and said his 1973-90 regime never had "an institutional plan" to abuse human rights.

"But it was necessary to act with maximum rigor to avoid a widening of the conflict," Pinochet wrote.

According to an official report, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons in the 17 years after Pinochet overthrew elected Marxist President Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973. Tens of thousands were illegally imprisoned, tortured and forced into exile after the coup, during which Allende committed suicide rather than surrender.

Pinochet's "message to all my compatriots to be published after my death" was made public by the Pinochet Foundation.
It was "necessary to act with maximum rigor." How's that for a euphemism for the murder of 3,197 innocent people (and that "official" estimate is decidedly on the low side of reality, without any question)? And this is the kind of regime for which film reviewers and others want us to think that we should question the validity of armed resistance.

See "V". And don't forget to check out "Missing" as well, to help understand the role that economics (and U.S. imperialism) do play when the likes of a Pinochet seize power.

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