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Why Lord of War is not just another great movie

by Agnes a Paris Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 04:34:20 PM EST

I have not been around for some time and guess that all political and economic matters of general interest have already been covered so I will go for slightly different kind.
This forum deals with the transmutations and changing destinies of money, where it stems from, how it impacts people's lives, shaping the future of the world. My distant holiday location did not shelter me from the fuss about the skyrocketing oil prices and, oh la la, the threat this poses to the world economy (courtesy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer). What's the big deal?
Between the two shades you cannot find on a bright rainbow, white and black, money's favorite color is not green, as one would have thought, but grey.
The assets underlying the world's two most significant (in value terms) trades belong to the grey zone. Drugs and arms prompt huge cash waterfalls, most of which lands in the vast ponds of legal trade, making the day of the laundering industry and manufacturers of 100, 000 USD worth watches.


Lord of War, starring Nicolas Cage, who is also Executive Producer of the movie, is not just another great film. Its illustration of "the deadly impact of the uncontrolled global arms trade" won the movie the support of Amnesty International.See link
It struck me as a masterpiece of what the French call "art engage" in other words, a production of art that is meant not only to be decorative but also to convey a political message.

I will not attempt to run a written trailer, just to share what in that movie is transcending the fiction. Yuri Orlov's story is moving inso far as he engineers the scheme he eventually finds himself trapped in. His story is fascinating as it is totally void of any moralistic rhetoric. The good the bad and the wealthy are the same men, actually the dreary dichotomy between good and evil is never called upon to make a point, let alone provide a happy conclusion.
Yuri Orlov dedicates his life to arm trafficking because, as he puts it, he's "good at it". Like us, he lives in a world where money seems to buy everything, including the love of the woman he's worshiped since he first saw her in his teenage years.

The clear-cut filming technique tracks Yuri's life path along the world's macabre route from one conflict to another, from Beirut to Liberia to Afghanistan. His voice comments the unfolding events, evidencing the distance between his acts and the conscience he has of their consequences. He denies any circumstances that would alleviate the gravity of his acts, after all, if he did not sell the guns, somebody else's would.
Guilt is absent, as well as repentance. Yuri is a modern character of the 21st century the same as Robert Musil's Man Without Qualities was the archetype of the dawning 20th.

The end of the film, which I will save for those of you who may have not seen the movie, is summarized in a couple of sentences that are just brilliant. Only facts can be that pristine. Quoting from memory: "the US, the UK, France, the Russian Federation and the poepl'es republic of China are the world's biggest arm dealers. They are also the five permanent members of the UN Security Council."
Fuel for thought, or despair... Cage delivers no message apart from the brutal necessity to be aware of the unaccounted for. The deadliest blow to humanity is one that cannot be caught in mortality statistics.

Extract from the European Network against arms trade

European weapons are not only used for national defence. European weapons are used by the Turkish army against the Kurdish population, by the Indonesian army against the population of East Timor, and in civil wars on the Balkans and in Africa. Although many European governments claim not to export arms to countries that are repressing their population or that are violating Human Rights, in practice there is very little restriction on arms exports.

Extract from the Guardian, April the 3rd, 2006

Since the start of 2005, the UK has licensed over £11m of arms exports to Indonesia, ranging from gun silencers to combat aircraft parts.
After UK-made Tactica armoured personnel carriers were deployed last November against protesters in West Papua, Foreign Office minister Ian Pearson admitted that the UK "no longer seek guarantees or assurances" that British weaponry will not be used to abuse human rights, since such assurances "are not enforceable" ie worthless.

Extract from the Independent, March the 16th, 2006

All United Nations arms embargoes have been breached with impunity, with only a handful of the weapons traffickers responsible for the trade in death ever facing prosecution, according to a report.
Despite the UN naming hundreds of companies - including those in Britain - for allegedly violating embargoes imposed on countries engaged in bloody conflicts and repression, the system for bringing them to book has abjectly failed.

The topic calls for more writing. Please do.

Display:
Very nice film. There is one replica, which made me special impression:

"That is one fire arm for every twelve people on the planet
The only question is
How do we arm the other eleven?"

The answer I guess is...easy.

by Harlem on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 05:01:17 PM EST
Yes, this replica is really stunning, goes straight to the target, just like the bullet the path of which the viewer follows until it reaches the centre of a teenage boy's forehead.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 05:10:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
nhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
by libe on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 06:45:22 PM EST
Yes, it is one of those 11 that are not armed. Not, yet...
There is something terrifying at the view of a young boy, holding on his gun.
He has become a man, even before it has realized that it is a boy.
by Harlem on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 06:53:57 PM EST
Good you're back... Was it more than two weeks this time, or do you owe me another croissant?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 06:55:31 PM EST
And the trans-Manche pastry debt just keeps on piling up... :)
by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Apr 24th, 2006 at 07:55:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
it's less than two weeks. You can have two almond croissants from the PAUL Boulangerie when you come to Paris in May. They also make almond pains au chocolat... Dilemma, eh ? :)

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 12:45:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll take it you'll be there for the meet-up, then?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 02:34:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup ! I already had my Eurostar tickets to spend that week end in London (you may have noticed fares are everything but low, hence the 3 months in advance booking). I then realised it's bank holiday on Thursday the 25th in France and on May the 29th in the UK.  The resulting huge 5 day week end in London made the pill easier to swallow for my husband.  

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 04:23:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The script is OK, and intentions are fine, though. Just bad acting and too much of what Hitchcock called "playing the audience like an organ". It is a difficult subject: as a writer, one depends on having at least one character with whom the audience can identify, and therefore care about what happens to them. In this movie there is not a single sympathetic character. They're all nuts.

Those people that go to see it may well take away some useful knowledge, but I don't think it is going to play well in Finland. I got a freebie DVD of LOW at the launch party for another movie - not a good sign when they dump something into your takeaway bag of goodies.

But there is always a disconnect between the movie experience (entertainment) and the movie message (insight). Only the true classics seem to get the balance right. 'Good night and good luck' being a recent example.

That said, I greatly enjoyed the recent 'Matador' with Brosnan in great form, and a little violent gem directed by noire-fan Wayne Kramer, called 'Running Scared'. But I didn't take any Mametian insight away with me from either of them.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 04:41:08 AM EST
LoW will do very well in rentals I believe. It is just the sort of movie that succeeds in the low-theshold enjoyment stakes of watching movies at home.

As some of you probably know, theatrical sales have not been the major part of movie income for many decades. Maybe in the region of 35% or less. The rest comes from DVD sales, rentals and TV showings - all of which generate income over a long period. (plus merchandising for the big movies) That is why back catalogue is so valuable, and why studio acquisitions always focus on the catalogue, not the potential of the studio. With ipod movies and all the other new distribution channels coming on line, the back catalogues are the focus of business.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 04:50:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As far as rentals are concerned, I saw it on DVD, but the regular way, not on dvx.
In France, where there is a regulatory 6 month time lapse between the theatrical release and the DVD release, the dvx market seems to be soaring.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 08:54:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is a difficult subject: as a writer, one depends on having at least one character with whom the audience can identify, and therefore care about what happens to them. In this movie there is not a single sympathetic character. They're all nuts.

I'm afraid I cannot agree with you. In the history of literature, there are tons of books where one cannot identify oneself with a single character, because each of them has at least a major flaw. In my view, this makes the characters of LoW credible. Indeed, I am not sure whether the topic addressed by the movie would have been compatible with a black and white portraying.  
It is true for popular fiction that this need for identification conditions the success of a book, but not for any kind of fiction work. It is hard to identify with any of Dostoïevsky, Gogol, Tolstoï, Steinbeck or Gide characters, to mention only a few. Same works for a movie.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 05:43:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You missed my explantion of identification 'therefore care about what happens to them'. Though I maybe confused the issue by talking about there being no sympathetic characters in LoW.

All drama revolves around conflict - it is the 'major flaws' that drive those conflicts. Conflict itself is of little interest without human fraility in the face of it. (And of course by conflict, I don't mean wars, I mean the collision of different beliefs and notions of reality)

The great writers you list, write about the human condition in a way that is deeply affecting, and uplifting because they offer insight.

I think you are confusing the subject matter with the execution. This is a very good theme in a bad movie.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 06:25:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right. Though I do not think the main protagonist of LoW lacks frailty in the way he deals with conflicts, the way he is depicted means to reflect his fatalism. But that is a consequence, a stance he takes towards life, and not a character flaw. Maybe there is a shortcut in the film narrative which prevents us from making out what led him to be that fatalist.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill
by Agnes a Paris on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 06:45:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You've hit the nail on the head! If you can't figure out what motivates him, you can't appreciate his dilemma.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 07:46:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll have to see this.  I'm amazed Nick Cage was able to be involved in a decent movie.  (I've never been a fan.  I did enjoy The Rock, but only because Sean Connery had such funny lines.)

Thanks for the heads-up, Agnes.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:02:07 AM EST
Thank you. I liked the Rock as well, also because Cage is geeky all the way through but the end. And I will definitely miss Connery.

BTW, I like your sig' very much. Has a special meaning to me.

When through hell, just keep going. W. Churchill

by Agnes a Paris on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:05:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.  Ol' Axl was able to pull out a good lyric now and then.  You might enjoy "November Rain," as well.  He's a real nutcase, but his music was important to me -- not so much for the meaning of the lyrics, but more from the emotions in the music.  It sort of pulled me out of my shell as a kid.

Yes, I did enjoy Cage's character in the movie.  It's impossible for me to not love the geeky hero, being a somewhat geeky guy myself.  "Ha!  See?  The geek can beat the hell out of the bad guys and save the world!"  Similar to Jeff Goldblum in Independence Day, too -- also one of my favorite action movies.  (I enjoyed he and Will Smith playing off of one another.)

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Apr 25th, 2006 at 09:46:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd love to comment here but I have not yet seen this movie (although it has been promoted by some friends of mine), but it's a great thing that you can write strongly about it, and is helps remind me that I really need to see it.
by Alex in Toulouse on Wed Apr 26th, 2006 at 09:44:21 AM EST


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