Film

Kino Eye: The Watergate story

Another US film seems appropriate this week. All the President’s Men (1976, Alan Pakula) begins with the 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee HQ in the Watergate complex in Washington D.C. Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) investigate and, on the advice of the furtive “Deep Throat”, “follow the money”. They steadily unearth a labyrinth of financial corruption and illegal activities pointing to the White House and Republican President Richard Nixon. Despite winning the election of November 1972, Nixon comes under...

Kino Eye: dirty work in US politics

A film about the US elections seems only appropriate, and there’s much to choose from. In The Best Man (Frank J. Schaffner, 1964), liberal candidate William Russell (Henry Fonda) is up against loud-mouthed populist Joe Cantwell (based on Richard Nixon — actor Cliff Robertson) for the Presidential nomination of an unnamed party. There is much “dirty work at the crossroads”. Cantwell illegally obtains a psychiatric report on Russell and threatens to expose him. Russell hears evidence that Cantwell is a closet homosexual but he refuses to use this against him. Eventually, Russell withdraws and...

China's coal mines (Kino Eye)

October 1 was the anniversary of the founding of the “People’s Republic” of China. Regular readers of the Morning Star should turn away now. Blind Shaft (2003, director Li Yang), a film set in a coal mining region of China, depicts the appalling conditions underground and corruption among officials. In 2003 there were 6,700 fatalities (official figures) in Chinese mines. Two con-men persuade a young lad to join them in the mine, posing as their nephew. After a few weeks they kill him while underground and the mine manager, afraid of an investigation, pays them a large bribe. The next time they...

Kino Eye

Kino Eye is a new column which will offer suggestions for film or TV viewing which are related to articles in Solidarity. The term "Kino Eye" is borrowed from the early Soviet documentary filmmaker Dziga Vertov, whose best-known film is Man with a Movie Camera (1929). Suggestions for viewing from readers are welcome. In Solidarity 562 I recommended two interesting, and very different, films from Bosnia, Walter Defends Sarajevo and Grbavica. Although not about Sarajevo, another film from that region also worth seeing is Tito and Me (Goran Marković, 1992), the comic story of a chubby young...

Jiři Menzel: 1938-2020

One of the great European “auteurs”, Jiři Menzel, has died aged 82. He is one of the last of a generation of film directors the likes of which will never be seen again. They included his fellow Czechs Miloš Forman and Vera Chytilova, the Hungarians Miklós Jancsó, Marta Mészáros and István Szabó, and, from Poland, Andrzej Wajda. From the Soviet Union, Andrei Tarkovsky and Elem Klimov. From other parts of Europe: Theo Angelopoulos from Greece, the doyens of the French New Wave such as Francois Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard and Agnes Varda, Germany’s Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Margarette von Trotta...

Dark waters, darker corporate power

In the film Dark Waters, released in the UK on 28 February, Robert Bilottt (played by Mark Ruffalo) is a lawyer who takes us through an exposé of chemical giant Dupont’s cover up of its toxic product PFOA. The film shows us the obstacles thrown up by the legal system and US government agencies to redress for residents of West Virginia who had been exposed to dangerous levels of PFOA. It has parallels with other heroic corporate whistle-blower movies from the USA, such as The Informant (2009) and The Insider (2009). It’s an excellent exposé, explaining enough of the science and the victims’...

The world's housing crisis

A new film, Push, documents the work of a UN Special Rapporteur as she travels the globe to understand the housing crisis. On the face of it, it could be an inspiring call to arms. Unfortunately, it provides few solutions beyond governments working together to tackle global finance. The film title is a nod to the process of gentrification, whereby residents are “pushed” out of their homes to make way for typically more expensive developments. Housing has become a financial asset to be traded at the whims of private equity firms. Meanwhile tenants face ever increasing rents and stagnating wages...

Mr Jones and Stalinism

Agnieska Holland’s Mr. Jones is a film with a clear political message: the crimes of Stalinism must not be neglected and forgotten. It’s based on a real story. Welsh journalist Gareth Jones travels to the Soviet Union in the early 1930s to investigate the success of Stalin’s five-year plan. Instead, he uncovers a mass operation of fake news generated by journalists and finds his way to Ukraine, to be witness to the man-made famine of Holodomor, which killed millions. The film is heavy on contrasts between prosperity and hellish destitution. Upon his arrival in Moscow, Jones meets Pulitzer...

Barbarism or barbarism?

The South Korean film Parasite, a satire of social and economic inequality, has made quite an impression on two major institutions of world cinema. At the Cannes film festival it won the Palme d’Or, and then it won Best Film at the Oscars. It is not difficult to satirise such things, especially when there is an appetite for such in the institutions and audiences of the bourgeoisie. These are feel-good films because they help maintain the myth that world cinema is in fine aesthetic and moral health. In his previous works (The Host, Mother, Snowpiercer, and Okja) director Bong Joan-ho follows...

Trump blocked putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 note. This is why

I’m struck by how many (left-wing, engaged) people I know haven’t heard of 19th century slave turned anti-slavery activist Harriet Tubman. Hopefully Harriet, the new film about a crucial decade of Tubman’s life, will help right that. She was one of the most remarkable of many remarkable figures in a world-altering social and political upheaval, the civil war and revolution that destroyed slavery in the US. Though not a socialist, she is firmly in our broad tradition. Despite the dark subject matter of slavery, the makers have told Tubman’s story as a pretty easy to watch action-adventure film...

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