The fact that Che and The Hurt Locker have finally landed distribution deals — respectively by IFC Films and Summit Entertainment — is welcome news, of course. But the fact that they took so long to happen tells you what an oddly neutured climate we’re living in right now.
I re-watched the first half of Che last night at the Elgin, and for me it’s just as tight and special and riveting as it seemed when I saw it last May in Cannes. No diminishment, no sag, no glancing at the watch. And yet the majority (or a good portion) of those who saw it with me at the Palais du Festival have been putting out the word ever since that it’s a problem movie.
Toronto Star critic Peter Howell has actually called it “Havana’s Gate.” Pete is a friend and a good fellow, but this is a grossly unfair thing to say. Because there are few films I’ve seen in my life that are more unlike Michael Cimino‘s 1981 debacle (including potential financial loss for Vincent Maraval’s Wild Bunch), I think it verges on slander. I absolutely know when a film is a gobbler or a major misfire and Che doesn’t come close. It’s one of the most exactingly reconstructed and truthfully told historical epics ever made — an immersion rather than “drama,” cholesterol-free and believable down to the last rifle and combat boot.
All these months I’ve been asking myself “what’s going on here?” A movie of this distinction may not make mountains of money or win over each and every person who sees it, but the fact that it went begging for four or five months strikes me as almost surreal. What’s wrong with this landscape, with our moviegoing culture, with today’s audiences, with “the business”?
Same thing with The Hurt Locker, which began shooting in Jordan right after Brian DePalma‘s Redacted, which was first shown at last year’s Venice and Toronto film festivals. Kathryn Bigelow‘s Iraq-War drama is ten times the movie that Redacted is/was, and yet it was forced to ran for cover when all the otyher Iraq War dramas died late last year.
Which should matter not to anyone truly of the faith. That’s one of the big problems, I suppose. The indie-film business is in a down cycle and there are fewer and fewer “Catholic” distributors as a result. But it’s just wrong for a film as strong as Bigelow’s to have to scrounge around for someone to release it.
The alleged “excitement” about and support for Sarah Palin among the American stooge strata is a disconnect also — a huge one. Eight years of leadership by a neocon Bible worshipper who’s kowtowed to corporate interests at every turn, taken us into massive debt, mired us in a dead-end war that was launched for deep-down personal reasons (which many believe is a prosecutable offense) and ignored any semblance of progressive leadership on energy and the environment, and the Walmart moms and others in the heartland are still for Palin (and oh, yes…McCain) despite the unmistakable signs that would tell anyone over the age of seven that McCain-Palin will keep the Bush routine going full tilt .
Why the slight lead in the polls for for McCain-Palin? Because the heartland moms see her as a feisty, right-thinking, flag-saluting Bible mom whom they relate to culturally. The mind stalls. Something is terribly, terribly wrong out there.
On top of which I’m getting more and more angry at assessments of the election dynamic by MSM reporters and analysts because they won’t allow for anything more than a passing acknowledgment of the racial elephant. Whenever it comes up, which is to say infrequently, it is invariably described as a minor fringe sentiment that is to be pitied and certainly marginalized in terms of frequent or extensive discussion.
And yet every now and then someone will man up and say what “we don’t really know Obama well enough” and “we’re not sure he’s ready to be president” really means. (Bob Herbert, David Gergen…who else?) The elephant — tusks, ears, trunk and all — is standing right smack dab in the middle of every discussion and reading of what’s going on out there and nobody — not the news media and certainly not Barack himself — is permitted to say it’s the absolute front-and-center factor among the less-educated voters out there, which translates as a crucial one since their votes are big factors in the swing states.