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Uphill all the way - The Ex-Communicator

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June 10th, 2009


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09:40 am - Uphill all the way
I am quite obsessed by the film Southern Comfort (1981) directed and written by Walter Hill. I think it forms the middle part of a trilogy with The Warriors (1979 - writer/director Hill) and Aliens (1986 - co-written and produced by Hill). All three films have a very specific storyline - a group of beleaguered warriors making their way through hostile territory, being picked off one by one, and the true leader emerging.

The Warriors is based explicitly on Anabasis ('Uphill') by the soldier/writer Xenophon:

Stranded deep in enemy territory, the ... Greek senior officers killed ... Xenophon, one of three remaining leaders elected by the soldiers, played an instrumental role in encouraging the Greek army of 10,000 to march north across foodless deserts and snow-filled mountain passes towards the Black Sea and the comparative security of its Greek shoreline cities. Abandoned in northern Mesopotamia, without supplies other than what they could obtain by force or diplomacy, the 10,000 had to fight their way northwards through Corduene and Armenia, making ad hoc decisions about their leadership, tactics, provender and destiny, while the King's army and hostile natives constantly barred their way and attacked their flanks. Ultimately this "marching republic" managed to reach the shores of the Black Sea at Trebizond, a destination they greeted with their famous cry of joyous exultation on the mountain of Madur in Surmene : "thalatta, thalatta", "the sea, the sea!".


The Warriors depicts a mixed-race street gang fighting their way out of New York. The film is much less subtle in its exploration of the theme than Southern Comfort or Aliens, for example using the names of characters from the Anabasis, and with explicit discussion about 'who should be the war leader?' It is very interesting to me as a missing link joining up the chain of development, but I prefer the two subsequent films which revisit the theme in a more complex way, and they are both very subtexual.

Incidentally I think Star Trek Voyager could have been a much better show if it had followed this template more closely. In fact it ended up being rubbish.

(ETA - for my classicist friends, why I have used 'thalatta' not 'thalassa': that indented text is from from wikpedia which has the note "θαλασσα... Thalatta was the Attic pronunciation")

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:valderys
Date:June 10th, 2009 09:10 am (UTC)
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Ooh, I never knew that - I love The Warriors, which I caught on a late night showing on tv years ago, and was totally enthralled by. I had no idea there were - not sequels, but thematic sequels, as it were. Of course, I've seen Aliens, who hasn't, but I must look out Southern Comfort, thank you!
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:June 10th, 2009 10:02 am (UTC)
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The link of The Warriors to Anabasis is a definite thing, and all the rest is my interpretation. Southern comfort is one of those films that I love but I'm not confident anyone else will. I must do another post about it.

ETA - I love that icon very much

Edited at 2009-06-10 10:06 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:del_c
Date:June 10th, 2009 10:31 am (UTC)
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Do you think the new Battlestar Galactica counted? (I never saw an episode)
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:June 10th, 2009 11:22 am (UTC)
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I never saw it either, but I see why you mention it.
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From:dfordoom
Date:June 10th, 2009 11:39 am (UTC)
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Incidentally I think Star Trek Voyager could have been a much better show if it had followed this template more closely. In fact it ended up being rubbish.

I lasted two episodes.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:June 10th, 2009 11:50 am (UTC)
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It could have been great, if they'd based it more closely on Xenophon - surely some literate person proposed it in that form, and the idea got bolloxed up before it came into being
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From:dfordoom
Date:June 10th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
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I'm not sure that literate people get listened to all that much in the wonderful world of network TV! I'd certainly wish someone luck, trying to sell network executives on the idea of a sci-fi series based on Xenophon!
[User Picture]
From:emeraldsedai
Date:June 10th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
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I believe it's a commonplace in fanfiction studies that fans don't write fic about the best shows, they write it about the shows that fail at certain exquisite points. The first fanfic I read was the famous Talking Stick/Circle, and it's one of the greats because it did what the show should have done, very much as you describe here: it questioned Janeway's leadership, it broke and reforged the group, it damaged the ship, it abandoned Star Fleet regulations to form needed alliances and it never, ever hit the magic-science reset button.
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From:communicator
Date:June 10th, 2009 06:04 pm (UTC)
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I don't really know the plot of Voyager too well, but supposing the original captain had been killed and the second in command was useless and Janeway was some nurse or engineer who was the only one who could get them home, and they had to have raids on alien planets to steal food ... that's the kind of thing I'd have liked to see

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