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Which movie made you better ?

by balbuz Fri May 12th, 2006 at 03:38:30 PM EST

An anonymous old man, dying, in an ambulance rushing through an anonymous Irish town.

The anonymous death of an old man, alone, soon to be forgotten. Not leaving a ripple in the course of events or in the mind of anyone.

The garish neon street lights paint his face alternatively green, then pink, then green again.

In the ambulance, the medics go through their rituals. They are familiar with death, an old acquaintance, they are on a first name basis. They know they will lose this fight of course, but they do their job, listening to these last few breaths of a life soon to vanish.

When they reach the hospital, he is dead.

                                                                        *

The morning after. A girl climbing up decrepit stairs. The grand daughter. She was his only relative. She knows nothing about him.

By the looks of her, she is another of these anonymous English youngsters, too devoid of character and intelligence to have any thought of rebelling against the plastic idols of our times.

A girl who took a train to a town she does not know, to bury someone she did not know.

She has been given the keys to his apartment. She decided to go have a look, the burial will be late in the afternoon.

Where and how did her grand-father live ? Did he live anything ?
Does he leave anything behind ?
What do old men think about ? Were they ever young ?

A girl's thoughts. What do they know about old men ?

The girl climbs the stairs to a small room, last floor. A bed, a table, a chair, an old cardboard suitcase, some books, dried flowers, a map of Europe, a window overlooking the roofs. She sits, a bit desperate now, why did she have to come here, this is all so sad, she should have remained home.

She opens the table drawer, finds those things which seem to inhabit everyone's pockets, stamps, staples, postcards, the flotsam of our existence. She finds a little bottle too, and in it what seems to be a handful of dust.

She looks around, opens the tired suitcase. In it, letters. Many letters, old letters. Old documents, some of them in Spanish, neatly folded, sorted, chronologically. A few torn yellowed black and white photographs. Young men, armed, she couldn't tell where this was. Or when. But she thinks before or during the Second World War. She guesses that much.

Now, she is interested. She empties the suitcase, makes little piles on the bed and on the table, and starts reading.

What she is reading now is the story of a life. The kind of life she had no idea could exist.

Her grand-father, in the thirties, was an idealist, an utopist. He believed in the advent of the Revolution, when at last workers would be freed from their chains. He would go to secret meetings, where the World would be analyzed, and its fate sealed.

The World around them certainly was moving. Hitler's irresistible ascension cast dark shadows all over Europe. In Spain, the Army rebelled against the Republican Government. During one of those meetings, it was decided that those who would volunteer would go to Spain, to fight for the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War.

Of course, her grand-father went. He wanted to fight for the Just against the Brutes, for Freedom against Fascism. He was ready to give his life. He enrolled into the International Brigades. Young men from all over the world, who believed they had to fight for a just cause, Russians, Americans, Irish, French : the International Brigades.

The girl kept reading, for most of the afternoon. She read how he dug into trenches, shells exploding all around, freezing under a merciless winter sky, how he almost died of thirst, how he was bombed by Hitler's Condor Legion, and how he learned this most basic of values, brotherhood.

He fought with the Anarchists. The Communist Party was keeping a close eye on them.

There, he met a young Spanish woman, fighting on their side, and fell madly in love. A once in a lifetime love, the kind of love who opens a door into a better world. Sometimes, fighting would separate them, and an unbearable anguish would paralyze him.

Finally, their fate was decided elsewhere, very far, in Moscow : Stalin decided those Trotsko-anarchists were too difficult to control, and had to be suppressed. The ever obedient Spanish communist party then proceeded to eliminate them, at gun point.

Fighting erupted in the streets of Barcelona. She was among the victims, he was not.

A now broken man, lost, he helped to dig a hole in Spanish soil, where they buried her. Someone did manage to say a poem of Garcia Llorca, and she was gone for ever from the surface of this Earth. His heart went with her. He took a handful of dust, of this soil where she was now resting, poured it in a small bottle, and put the bottle in his pocket.

He was then considered of not much help, his time was over, he went back to Ireland. He had lost his fight, and his heart.

The girl stops reading. She gets up, walks to the window, looks at those roofs, which her grand father had seen so often in his last years.

Later on, at the cemetery, there are half a dozen people, about his grand father age, and a priest. The coffin is lowered into the soil. The girl steps forward, raises her fist, and says this same poem by Garcia Llorca. A poem about Land and Freedom.

She then opens the bottle and pours the dust on her grand father's coffin. Fifty years later, at last, together.


Display:
No doubt some of you have seen the movie, "Land and Freedom", by Ken Loach.

Many different ways to see the movie, but to me it was all about the value of a life, or about what is left of a life, or about what makes an accomplished life. It was about war too, how - sometimes - one side is Good and the other Evil.

How does one know a great movie ? Easy :

  • the worst : I can't stand it, I just get up and go, happened to me when I tried Tarentino's "Reservoir dogs".
  • the best : I just sit there, hypnotized, when it's over I feel better, as if I had been elevated to a new and previously unknown level, and it just keeps me thinking. Happened to me for "Land and freedom". Same for "Mission".

There was this diary about great music : what makes a great film ? how do you know when you see one ? which movie remain with you, has changed you ?
by balbuz on Fri May 12th, 2006 at 03:40:59 PM EST
I am Spanish...family from the rojo side.

In memoriam.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 04:24:01 AM EST
In the early sixties, I remember having seen as a kid columns of forced labor prisoners simmering by the roadside under the merciless summer sky.
Yo no se : eran rojos ?
by balbuz on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 05:23:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the sixties? No, not in the sixties. There were no rojos any more in Spain under Franco...most of them in the exile, dead, hidden or trying to forget they were on the Republican side.

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 05:28:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That was called redención de penas por el trabajo, "redemption of penalties by labour". Arbeit macht frei, nicht wahr?.

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 Sat May 13th, 2006 at 05:51:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the redencion lasted until the mid fifties...but I do not know it for sure, only from comments other people made.. did it really went on until the sixties...?? jesus...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 07:43:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe the imprisonment (and forced labour) of Republicans/Reds ended in the 1950's, but the redencion for common criminals was still available. I don't know for sure.

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 Sat May 13th, 2006 at 10:53:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you are right...indeed for criminals could ahve lasted wellinto the sixties..

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 05:15:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have seen it claimed (bastards!) that the Valle de los Caidos was not built with forced labour of political prisoners because the redención program was "voluntary". The gall some people have.

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 Sun May 14th, 2006 at 04:05:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In 1969 Jimi Hendrix performed his version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" on the Woodstock festival.

A year later  I saw a shortfilm here in Begium : a then minutes long docu on the aerial bombardements in Vietnam with Hendrix's performance on the soundtrack : I was blown away, The mangling of the anthem combinded with the mangling of a country showed in this film was more telling than a 100-page report.

The struggle of man against tyranny is the struggle of memory against forgetting.(Kundera)

by Elco B (elcob at scarlet dot be) on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 05:02:58 AM EST
Not meaning to hijack this thread or anything, but I watched "OSS 117" at the movies yesterday, a 1950s James Bond spoof (French) comedy with Alain Dujardin.

The Canard Enchaîné had a good review of that movie, so I thought it would have to be at least watchable.

Well, it was hilarious.

This secret agent, OSS 117, is sent to Egypt to pacify the Middle East, but knows nothing about Islam or Arabic culture and so screws up everything he does (for instance he can't sleep in the morning because of the Muezzin's call for prayer "god will that bastard shut up, who the hell does he think he is" ... a short while later you see this overview of Cairo with OSS 117 blabbering out of his own loud speaker "god will you damn shut up iiiiiiiiip hey listen to me you iiiiiiip will you stop that shouting of yours iiiiiiip"). It's ridiculous, but funny as a result.

Well such movies are important in my life, they put me in a good mood, they provide me with a funny topic of conversation with friends who have seen it too, and they even create one-liners that live on for a long time. Overall I'd say that these movies make me better because they make me bend further towards the state of "insanely laughing human machine", which is what I strive for in life.

by Alex in Toulouse on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 06:24:11 AM EST
The movie also contains a few references to how westerners trample on Islamic principles, and how the French colonial era was. For instance OSS 117 keeps handing these pictures of French president René Coty to any Egyptian he meets ... "here take this, my brother, this is our president". Or when he meets Nasser, he tells him "come on, you couldn't have done anything without us, look your camels, your djellabahs, your donkeys, it's all nice but you've got to grow up a bit". Nasser looks at him silently, and then throws him out "the only reason I don't send you to rot in jail is because our two nations are friends".
by Alex in Toulouse on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 06:30:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OSS 117...I remember the name. I am not sure I saw the movie. I was an Andre Hunebelle fan (Fantoma). Mylene Demongeot and Michel Mercier were my favorites.

I will become a patissier, God willing.
by tuasfait on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 06:50:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OSS 117 is indeed an old story, possibly made into a movie at the time. The one I saw is a new movie however. And I agree that Michele Mercier was a bomb :))
by Alex in Toulouse on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 06:54:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean it's a new movie but with a 1950s setting (and they do it pretty well, it really looks like a 1950s Pink Pather movie).
by Alex in Toulouse on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 06:55:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mylene Demongeot and Michel Mercier

Oh yes, that's another thing. Fantasms.

I remember being absolutely fascinated by Monica Vitti. She registered a 10 on my fantasmeter (c) scale. Certainly makes one feel good.

by balbuz on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 08:03:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I got into moviemaking in the mid-Sixties precisely because those Nouvelle Vague directors seemed to be surrounded with stunningly sexy actresses. But in a cruel twist of fate I went into documentaries ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Sat May 13th, 2006 at 09:50:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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