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March 13th, 2010

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10:18 am - Green Zone
Last night I went to see Green Zone, directed by Paul Greengrass who directed the last two Bourne films and United 93, all of which I really liked. This film is stylistically extremely modern, and thematically very old fashioned Hollywood liberal.

(ETA I realise that in this discussion I don't make explicit that it's a film about the Iraq war)

The cinematography and editing are almost avant-garde, and during the action sequences they reminded me of Marcel Duchamp, all broken up into yellow fragments. The camerawork at times of stress becomes extremely wobbly, and rather than using the modern convention 'as if the shot of a single hand-held embedded in mis-en-scene', it seems to be composed as a collage of overlapping slightly different angles from dozens of different hand helds. There was a fight where Matt Damon disarms a man with a gun on him, which was very much like the Bourne films, but the whole thing was much more fragmented and choppy. I personally thought that at the action climax of the film this fragmentation went on far too long, but I do understand it was a deliberate attempt to convey the confusion and overwhelming chaos of a war situation. The editing was technically very impressive.

The word 'liberal' is nowadays used to abuse anyone left of Dick Cheney, but it has an older history as a term of abuse by socialists like me. In that context a Hollywood liberal film is one which turns the systemic structural injustices of society into character building exercises, where a noble white male professional (like a lawyer) protects a disabled and/or ethnic minority person with a childlike name and courageous demeanour. A blond female reporter looks on appreciatively. When the Truth is Made Known, typically by exposing a single corrupt official, the situation is happily resolved. Job done, American values reasserted.

Of course one shares the basic values of the Hollywood liberal - hatred of war or racism or lies - but one doubts that the lies are an error which has crept into the system. One suspects that the lies are endemic, are what creates the system. There may be some suggestion in this film that the lies go right through, but for such a serious subject I thought it was a weak exposition. Perhaps it will get the message across better than a more developed film.

I had to laugh though, when the blond female reporter first comes to realise that - gasp - perhaps Washington officials had lied to her. Oh noes! And all the other cynical reporters and political appointees were fooled too! How could they have been so naively trusting! Doh. Luckily at the end they email the truth to the Guardian and as we know everything went fine from then on.

(6 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:March 13th, 2010 10:25 am (UTC)
Luckily at the end they email the truth to the Guardian and as we know everything went fine from then on.

LOL! Best ending for a post ever!
[User Picture]
Date:March 13th, 2010 10:37 am (UTC)
The orchestra swells as the camera pans down the 'Mail to:' list, over a whole string of news outlets and I spotted Fox News in there. It must have got caught in the spam trap.
[User Picture]
Date:March 13th, 2010 12:53 pm (UTC)
It's remarkably common, sadly. Jeremy Paxman admitted that he assumed that if Colin Powell was saying that there was evidence for going into Iraq then there must be.

[User Picture]
Date:March 14th, 2010 08:25 am (UTC)
I think that the use of the term 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' proves that the office that coined the term thought there was something (albeit fairly trivial, such as some gas cannisters) to be found. That is, if they were simply setting out to lie from the start they would have said 'Nuclear weapons'. They would also have prepared the ground better for a cover-up. My suspicion is that this is because we had sold Saddam some chemical weapons, and thus there was confidence he had them.

The term also proves, however, that they did not think there was much of any significance. Because if they had thought that, they would have been more explicit.

Thus, regardless of the personal integrity of anyone involved, you could work out what they expected from the language they used. In my opinion. I thought at the time it was pretty obvious, like decoding a TV advert.
[User Picture]
Date:March 13th, 2010 05:24 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I'd file the pattern under liberal, but "it's all corrupt/wicked subordinates, we'll be ok if only the King takes charge" shows up in Robin Hood and Robocop.
[User Picture]
Date:March 14th, 2010 08:29 am (UTC)
Yes, and it's a very old peasant attitude I think. I have heard that it was what serfs said in pre-Revolutionary Russia. I suppose it arises when people feel powerless and are oppressed, but need some sort of comforting fiction to get them through the day. But I think Hollywood Liberal is a bit more narrowly defined than that 'Yes, there are horrible abuses but if we just tweak the system a bit everything will be fixed' and the audience identify with the white hero who does the fixing.

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