I guess I picked an inappropriate movie to write about yesterday in light of the navy yard shooting which left 13 dead. I had read about the story before writing my blog entry but somehow it didn't occur to me until later it might not have been the best time to write about a John Woo film starring a million bullets. Though, of course, considering ongoing violence throughout the world, such a movie would always be a ridiculous clash with reality somewhere. And I wonder that I can still see anything extraordinary about a shooting occurring in the U.S.--a by-product, I suppose Putin would say, of America's perception of itself as exceptional. I doubt I need address Putin's hypocrisy in his op-ed at this point. But it's certainly true the U.S. notoriously harbours an undeserved admiration of itself.
I see a few obligatory mentions of this latest incident prompting dialogue on firearm legislation. But if dead children and a congresswoman with a life altering injury weren't enough to move the beast of capitalism to empathy I doubt the deaths of a dozen military men will. I doubt there's one person who seriously expects it to.
I can't tell whether this cartoonist is making a point by putting a hammer and sickle on Putin's arm or if it's a reflection of the artist's ignorance. In any case, it's once again appropriate to quote William S. Burroughs;
We have a new type of rule now. Not one-man rule, or rule of aristocracy or plutocracy, but of small groups elevated to positions of absolute power by random pressures and subject to political and economic factors that leave little room for decision.
They are representatives of abstract forces who have reached power through surrender of self. The iron-willed dictator is a thing of past.
There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers.
The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds are rulers by accident. Inept, frightened pilots at the controls of a vast machine they cannot understand, calling in experts to tell them which buttons to push.
Perhaps the last haven for the dictator is in the motion picture industry, something implied by this badly written op-ed in The Guardian. I get annoyed when I see the many typos and errors that crop up on my blog but when I see mistakes in a piece written for a publication where people are presumably paid to do copy editing it's even more frustrating. Here are a couple gems;
Sir Lawrence Olivier and method-acting Dustin Hoffman shared an infamous exchange during the filming of Marathon Man. Hoffman, who had rationalised not sleeping for 24 hours as preparation a gruelling scene where he needed to appear exhausted, was approached by Sir Laurence, who simply asked “why don’t you try acting?”.
That's two spellings for Olivier's first name, I guess they figured one of them must be right so why bother looking it up? It's Laurence, by the way.
Yet this tightly-bound relationship can often crosses over into abuse.
The article lazily connects voluntary method acting techniques with director enforced physical and psychological stress. I do agree that it's troubling that in a disproportionate number of the cases where the actor is unwillingly suffering for a director it's a female actor and a male director. The quote from Bjork about Lars Von Trier has a fascinating insight, "He needs a female to provide his work soul. And he envies them and hates them for it. So he has to destroy them during the filming. And hide the evidence."
Though it's interesting the Guardian article avoids using the entire quote from the article it pulls its quote from;
"...you can take quite sexist film directors like Woody Allen or Stanley Kubrick and still they are the one that provide the soul to their movies. In Lars von Trier's case it is not so and he knows it. He needs a female to provide his work soul. And he envies them and hates them for it. So he has to destroy them during the filming. And hide the evidence."
Perhaps the author of the Guardian article found this muddied the issue a little too much.
Personally, I generally do think an actor ought to be willing to go as far as the director wants. If the actor is unwilling, he or she should not accept the role. If the director finds the actor unwilling to do what he or she needs him or her to do, the director ought to have the right to fire that person. But it gets tricky when one considers the legal ramifications of firing someone for not being willing to have a nude boxing match twenty feet in the air or something. Also there's the consideration of what if, as in Bjork and Von Trier's case, the actor and director had initially seemed to be on the same page on the issue and later found themselves at odds? You end up with a lot of wasted time and footage if the actor leaves the film under those circumstances, a situation that could endanger the possibility of the film being finished at all. It seems to come down to the question of whether art is more important than human suffering. I would say, absolutely. Suffering is a much more finite thing than art.
I'm glad there are protections in place now against harming animals for the sake of film, beings whose suffering for art is inevitably non-consensual. But would Apocalypse Now be the same without animal slaughter? Or Aguirre, the Wrath of God without Kinski flinging the monkeys around?