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Armond White

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China’s Art-Film Army of the Brainwashed

Swim Out Till the Sea Turns Blue, (Cinema Guild) Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue confuses poetry for politics. Is Jia Zhang-ke’s Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue public art or political art? This documentary about survival in the People’s Republic of China appeals to our humanist sympathies, yet current conditions make it seem like propaganda. The gray, carefully modeled, lifelike sculptures of ethnic Chinese people displayed in the film’s opening shots are evocative of what used to be called “Family of Man” portraiture. The genre was named after Edward Steichen’s legendary 1955 Museum of Modern Art exhibition that collected international photo essays about “the gamut of life from birth to death.” But today, such a panoply feels different. Jia Zhang-ke’s doc exhibition uses humanist portraiture deceptively. Its woebegone people — faces and facts devoid of political analysis — are like an army of the brainwashed. This looks like Chinese Communist life as Western progressives want to romanticize it. Hardship that normally stirs empathy instead, in socialist terms, inspires political need for justice, equality, and nostalgic allegiance. Swimming Out promotes this ideological switch through several hard-luck stories familiar to American leftists, specifically that of China’s literary elite. It focuses on four authors, Jia Pingwa, Ma Feng, Liang Hong, and Yu Hua. Americans might be familiar with Yu Hua, whose 1994 novel To Live was filmed by Zhang Yimou in a style of neorealist melodrama similar to that of Swimming Out. Jia Zhang-ke has recently embarked on several semi-documentaries that, while personalized, closely align with official Chinese representation. Proving himself an ambassador for the lifestyles of our chief adversary/competitor, he’s conscious of social conditions as such, but his films make peace with the difficulties that occur as a result of Communist restrictions. Leftist American critics who overpraised Platform (2000), Unknown Pleasures (2002), The World (2004), and A Touch of Sin (2013) seem to love Jia Zhang-ke as a harbinger of political possibilities for America. But every time I see a Jia Zhang-ke film, I get stuck on the difficulties, the trials and prohibitions that are in the background of every story he tells. (Ash Is Purest White, from 2018, is the exception, mainly for Tao Zhao’s magnetic performance as a no-nonsense survivor.) Swimming Out is a reminder that what’s promising for progressives will seem fascist for most Americans. #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff751bc .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff751bc .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff751bc { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff751bc .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff7558b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff7558b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff7558b { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff7558b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff756fa .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff756fa .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff756fa { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff756fa .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff757e5 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff757e5 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff757e5 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff757e5 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff758bd .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff758bd .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff758bd { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c9d9ff758bd .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } Jia Zhang-ke’s common-man interviews recall how Warren Beatty’s Reds paid attention only to “witnesses” who were also political celebrities. As in Reds, the individual testimonies here beg our indulgence of political habitués — no dissenters welcome. Liang Hong recalls an old man who believes in Communism because he sold a kilo of seed to the government. Should Americans admire this example of obedience? Or the stories about scarcity? Or restrictive social customs? Or nostalgic reminiscences about mass mobilization during the Cultural Revolution? Is this information or indoctrination? Yu Hua tells about reading books with torn covers and pages that are missing titles or authors, but he excuses the deprivation by strangely recalling “The Internationale” and its atheist, collectivist lyric “There are no supreme saviors / We need to save ourselves.” “In the 1990s, especially after Deng Xiaoping toured Southern China, the whole nation went into business,” Yu Hua recalls. “The result was economic prosperity.” But he also details the moment’s dehumanization: “Some who’d become writers like me abandoned their careers to become entrepreneurs. People who’d been together went their separate ways.” This testimony isn’t as moving as Chen Kaige’s Caught in the Web, from 2012, a non-ambivalent depiction of emotional complexity and regret in the age of social media. Swimming Out’s sentimentality often seems controlled, as if under duress. It’s easy to imagine this film’s elitist sympathy for the distant threats of oppression being endorsed by PEN International. Jia Zhang-ke’s vague intentions make this the most dubious of recently imported foreign-language films. Its overly poetic, quasi-humanism about the gamut of life from birth to death seems more official than universal. Jia Zhang-ke’s humanist portraits never transcend politics, unlike the ecstatic nature celebration in the Soviet master Alexander Dovzhenko’s Earth (1931) was ecstatically both. These days, film culture operates on different territory. 

In the Heights Is Cultural Erasure, Not Celebration

Melissa Barrera and Anthony Ramos in Into the Heights. (Macall Polay/Warner Bros. Entertainment) A goose-stepping, hive-mind musical for these progressive times The worst cultural appropriation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights comes from the maestro himself. Altering lyrics from the song “96,000,” he reflects the current Obama-style imperiousness. Miranda had originally composed a Black Latino striver’s cheer: “I’ll be a businessman man richer than Nina’s Daddy / Donald Trump and I own the links and he’s my caddy” Now Miranda rewrites it as “Tiger Woods and I own the links.” This update weakens the social and economic punch. It prevents In The Heights from celebrating triumphant American aspiration; now it’s simply about cultural erasure and self-delusion. Miranda’s Hamilton wasn’t a great show, but it epitomized the Obama era of political power worship through bizarre racial patronization. Now Miranda proves it was all in exchange for pettiness and Soviet-style dishonesty. Miranda composed his 2008 show about New York City’s Dominican Republic enclave in Washington Heights as if he was putting its non-white immigrant community on display. It’s the same local-color concept handed down from Porgy and Bess, West Side Story, Zoot Suit, and Do the Right Thing. Miranda shamelessly pilfers all four but goes light on sociological angst. His loose story frame about hustling, hardworking little people like bodega owner Usnavi (Anthony Ramos), car-service owner Kevin (Jimmy Smits), and dreamer Benny (Corey Hawkins) imitates the hip-hop comedies Next Day Air and Lottery Ticket. Miranda — “incredibly talented,” as the media dubs him — puts these keystones through his personal Broadway-processor machine, and Hollywood’s awkward, ersatz result deracinates their essence even further. Whose idea was it to hand Puerto Rican Miranda’s shallow Dominican folktale over to Jon M. Chu, director of Crazy Rich Asians, the most ethnically fake, aggressively woke movie of 2018? In the era when racial groups complain about not being “seen,” Chu depicts the Other as outsiders see them: diversity stereotypes, proud ethnic minions. Miranda’s gimmick of erasing Trump and travestying race and politics is exacerbated by Chu’s ultra-slickness. Chu smash-cuts TV-commercial clichés that reviewers now mistake for “cinema.” His pseudo street life lacks the spatial and rhythmic sense of Kenny Ortega, who directed the original High School Musical and innovated Michael Jackson’s multivalent This Is It, the last great movie musical. Chu oversells ethnic exuberance with relentless montages (there’s more montage here than in any single film by Eisenstein, Peckinpah, or Bob Fosse) and frenetic dancing. Instead of genuine urban-tribal rituals such as celebrating a $96,000 lottery win, In the Heights offers the choreographic equivalent of groupthink. The big dance sequences are cluttered and regimented rather than diverse. These Heights might as well be Damien Chazelle’s La La Land. #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ac963 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ac963 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ac963 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ac963 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59acee0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59acee0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59acee0 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59acee0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad0af .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad0af .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad0af { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad0af .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad26f .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad26f .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad26f { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad26f .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad3f8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad3f8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad3f8 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c33b59ad3f8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } This film’s superficial emotional display comes from Chu’s insensitivity to rhythm and detail. By always presenting the musical numbers as a gigantic, impersonal parade, In the Heights sneaks in an incidental political message (recalling the fondness for protest seen on New York’s partisan local-TV news stations). This chop-socky vision of “mostly peaceful” gatherings are a showbiz activist’s notion of solidaridad. Chu’s goose-stepping for the masses is tiresome. And yet, In the Heights’s phony “communal” style suits Miranda’s inauthentic Broadway rap. He owes his breakthrough to Eminem’s white hip-hop “breakthrough” — it’s too fast, nonsensual, and bloodless. Miranda’s rushed combinations of rap and recitative breaks the spirit of blues, merengue, and bachata that’s supposed to represent the heart of ethnic peoples. (“My syntax is highly complicated due to the fact that” typifies Miranda’s tortured rhyme scheme.) Miranda’s cultural misappropriation in In the Heights is the grotesque product of a mainstream culture that seeks a Latino figure who is acceptable precisely because he is politically and artistically nonthreatening. (Imagine the conservative Latino community Miranda might have unmarginalized had he kept his Trump lyric intact.) Black Americans witness this sellout charade all the time, and “Charade” would have been the perfect title for In the Heights. Miranda’s story of colorful New York ethnics proudly protecting their segregated barrio — ghetto — ultimately keeps the town’s existing power structure in the commanding heights. 

Loki, Disney’s Latest Nihilist Hero

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in a scene from the new Disney+ show. (Marvel Entertainment/via YouTube) Moral relativism for die-hard Marvel fans Not just for Marvel die-hards, Loki gives the shape-shifting trickster — derived from Norse mythology as Thor’s adversary and last seen in Avengers: Endgame (2019) — his own storyline in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This six-part Disney+ television series tells us nothing about that old literature-class bromide about man’s inhumanity to man, but it says a lot about the blatant commercialization of narrative. Because schools apparently no longer teach interpretation, cathexis, or exegesis, Marvel and Disney’s inhumanity to viewers is as brazen as Loki himself, the god of mischief played by tall, lanky Tom Hiddleston, whose pale skin and dark, flowing mane stylizes today’s fashionable gender and moral chaos. The TV show-runners behind Loki use Hiddleston’s paycheck androgyny to disrupt notions of good and evil. They diddle with the narrative — further convoluting the Marvel plot ideas about timelines and Time Keepers — to get viewers wrapped up in silly minutiae. After Endgame, Loki takes the Tesseract cube and enters a new dimension where he must stand trial before the Time Variation Authority (TVA). This story arc exposes the makers’ cynicism, while discombobulated viewers commit themselves to Hollywood venality. Marvel and Disney’s travesty is unacceptable following Zack Snyder’s Justice League, a visionary narrative that was a restoration in the grandest sense, enlarging its characters’ personal, principled choices. Snyder’s sensual, kinetic imagery gave aesthetic substance, emotional weight, and suspense to human dilemma, even when told through the analogies of godlike or superhuman figures. The fact that Loki is flimsy and doesn’t take itself seriously is part of the Marvel-Disney problem. Director Kate Herron and writer Michael Waldron don’t have Snyder’s chops — the only visually interesting moments occur when Loki traipses his way past panoramic views of the TVA that’s in another dimension (ripping off both Lord of the Rings and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets). Herron and Waldron settle for comic-book, sci-fi pastiche in which the narrative is reduced to the tongue-in-cheekiness that always gives away the budget and time constraints of TV production. Generations of TV viewers and now TV binge-watchers have learned to accept this discount sub-cinema (worth even less than what film-lover Frank Zappa saluted in his song “Cheepnis”) in the name of what media sophisticates now acknowledge as “content.” #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c09848038c0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c09848038c0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c09848038c0 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c09848038c0 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803bc2 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803bc2 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803bc2 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803bc2 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803cc1 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803cc1 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803cc1 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803cc1 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803d99 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803d99 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803d99 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803d99 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803f74 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803f74 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803f74 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60c0984803f74 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } Loki justifies each episode’s content through the icon of the god of mischief (“a devil bearing gifts”) whose misadventures “reorder the multiverse into a single pantomime.” This means that Loki arbitrarily loses or regains his “magic” as the storytellers see fit. Mostly, it’s Loki and TVA bureaucrats Mobius B. Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) endlessly investigating the series’ own plot. Such meta-TV as this actually resembles outdated vaudeville routines: Hiddleston and Wilson josh their way through MCU babble about apocalypse and annihilation — especially Wilson, whose familiar, slumming insouciance evokes the Wes Anderson–verse. Mobius taunts Loki: “For someone bound to win, you sure do lose a lot.” Loki snaps: “Am I guilty of finding all this extremely tedious? Yes!” Wilson and Hiddleston are the minstrels Rastus and Mr. Bones, in their own version of Waiting for Godot. Between the larky badinage and Star Wars–level stunt fights, Loki is casually nihilistic. Instead of Zack Snyder’s impassioned, hopeful, struggling figures, Loki and the TVA mock serious consequence. It all comes down to Loki’s time-crossing declaration “Everything is written. There’s no such thing as free will. I know something children don’t: It’s ‘No one bad is ever truly bad, and no one good is ever truly good.’” So once again, Disney and Marvel exchange traditional morality for its opposite, teaching adolescent viewers to accept cartoon nihilism. Sure enough, when Loki is taught how the TVA works, it is through a cartoon instructional film. The series achieves its ultimate manifestation as Saturday-afternoon animation. With Loki, Marvel, Disney, and their die-hard constituents have found ways to make the banal even more banal. 

In Sublet, World-Changing Contradictions

John Benjamin Hickey and Niv Nissim in Sublet. (Greenwich Entertainment/Trailer image via YouTube) Eytan Fox explores Platonic and political sophistication. Sublet starts out as an “It’s not your world anymore” movie in which 56-year-old director Eytan Fox observes the distance felt between a cautious, mature man sensitive to mortality and a freewheeling youth living the recklessness of modern times. Fox then reveals what they have in common. It’s a double character study that penetrates superficial social and political differences. John Benjamin Hickey plays Michael, a New York Times travel writer who escapes complications back home by going to Israel, pretending to do research for an article. Theater actor Hickey is the first actor to put a perfectly proper, bespectacled white male Times wuss — a definite cultural type — on the screen. His meek, inconspicuous white-collar clerk’s wardrobe suggests a Graham Greene hypocrite. Michael feigns resourcefulness and courage and is rattled by the domestic mess that resulted from his and his husband’s fashionable attempt at child adoption. Meeting Tomer (Niv Nissim) — a dark-haired, sexually adventurous filmmaker of the next generation — whose Tel Aviv apartment he sublets, puts Michael in touch with feelings that he, through imperious class privilege, has disconnected. It’s not so simple as rediscovering ethnic heritage or sex. Michael is forced to learn about his human obligations. He asks Tomer, “What kind of movie do you want to make in the future?” And Tomer answers, “Why the future? I’m already making them! Romantic horror! Punch audiences in the face! I think cinema should physically shake you up like a roller coaster.” Michael’s careerist question implies the snootiness of the wary and defensive professional class. He tells Tomer, “When I was your age, we did everything we could to change the world.” But Tomer mocks him: “It’s not a question of right or wrong. Not all of us likes cheesy romance and happy endings.” This movie talk is not just Millennial snark; it’s existential. The apartment’s Funny Games and Holy Motors posters suggest artistic confusion passing for hipness. Tomer’s cynicism complements Michael’s lost moral connections. Their generational conflict and personal need go deeper than either of them imagined. #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb585c .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb585c .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb585c { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb585c .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb5e25 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb5e25 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb5e25 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb5e25 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb5f64 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb5f64 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb5f64 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb5f64 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb6071 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb6071 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb6071 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb6071 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb617b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb617b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb617b { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ba016cb617b .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } Fox revisits some of the same emotions featured in his 2013 film Yossi, a modern Death in Venice, but now in Sublet he uses a double metaphor — to symbolize the men’s shared destiny in time and space along with the crisis of Michael’s surrogacy parenthood. Fox confronts the dilemma of gay self-sufficiency through Michael and Tomer’s Platonic affinity. It’s an approach that no politically correct, issue-obsessed gay American filmmaker has dared. Aside from the film’s considerable emotional pull, Sublet offers a social and political subtext about Michael and Tomer’s global identity. Michael is shocked when Tomer and his bohemian friend Darla (Lihi Kornowski) are fascinated with visiting Berlin. Darla later performs a dance pantomime of Israel-Palestinian mutuality. There’s also a visit to a David Tartakover exhibition featuring his Peace Now painting that became a political logo. Calling himself “the intrepid traveler,” Michael finds Tel Aviv “full of contradictions.” Tomer replies, “Maybe because we are in the Middle East and want to be treated like we’re in the West.” Sublet confronts us with a world that is changing personally first. Both of the two main characters offer poignant insight into our modern, uneasy attempts at sophistication. 

Jane Fonda Cultivates the Saplings of Sedition

Jane Fonda in FTA (Kino Lorber) FTA, her anti-war documentary, reveals the roots of modern political gaffes. In step with Kamala Harris’ Memorial Day gaffe — urging Americans  to “enjoy the long weekend” — Jane Fonda’s film FTA (from 1972, but newly released on Blu-Ray by KINO) continues the anti-military sentiment. The film’s title acronym indicates other meanings than “Free the Army.” It takes sophomoric aim at America’s organized self-defense, no different from today’s more serious executive-branch gaffes. In 1970, right after filming the movie Klute, the recently politicized Fonda put together a musical-comedy anti-war sketch show to tour U.S. military bases and encourage soldiers, many en route to fight in Vietnam, to rebel against their country and dissent from their mission. Ostensibly, Fonda’s purpose was to protest the war. But what makes FTA joltingly contemporary is that its stark irreverence toward the military so closely resembles current anti-police opinion. The FTA skits, written by such Sixties notables as Jules Feiffer and Herb Gardner, exceed rebellious “free speech”; they sound unmistakably subversive. (Donald Sutherland contributes a terrorist threat written by Hollywood’s reliably snide Communist sympathizer Dalton Trumbo.) Here are the saplings of sedition we see blooming today (although Millennial comedians seem as stunted as biased journalists). The FTA tour is what emboldened Fonda in 1972 to make her infamous trek to North Vietnam, where fraternization with the enemy (she posed on an anti-aircraft gun) won her the traitor’s nickname “Hanoi Jane.” Those sorrowful events make FTA aggravating and difficult to watch. Directed by the late Francine Parker, who routinely mixed stage and audience shots with documentary interviews, the movie doesn’t showcase light-hearted commedia della guerra (although Fonda is radiant, fully into the bad-mannered jibes). What comes through now is the vehemence and sulky confusion of a generation’s anti-American snit. The problem is that Fonda and her cohorts (Klute co-star Sutherland, singers Len Chandler and Rita Martinson, comedian Paul Mooney, and others) are making superficial political arguments rather than the moral argument of pacifists. They flout the benefits of American government — the Bill of Rights — that they refuse to recognize or repay, yet blithely take for granted. This so-called movement pretends to be anti-war when its effect is, essentially, naïve. #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a96223d .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a96223d .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a96223d { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a96223d .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a9626d2 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a9626d2 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a9626d2 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a9626d2 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a9628f8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a9628f8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a9628f8 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a9628f8 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a962ac4 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a962ac4 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a962ac4 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a962ac4 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a962c80 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a962c80 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a962c80 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60b760a962c80 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } The FTA players avoid debate with others (at one point evicting some rowdy GIs) and then use the insidious strategy of pitting Americans against one another — the ploy that Kamala Harris and Joe Biden have revived. Race, then as always, is at the handle end of this politically progressive cudgel. FTA’s most striking sequences alternate two racially segregated rap sessions held by black and white enlisted men stationed at Iwakuni, Japan. Neither group knows why they’re there. One soldier complains about being thousands of miles from home and conflates that with the grunt’s standard dissatisfaction about military bureaucracy. After drinking and smoking with Fonda and her filmmaker friends, he smiles, “I was the silent majority until today.” Despite Fonda’s candid, self-righteous entreaties 50 years later, these FTA skits (including Martinson’s melodious yet wickedly deceptive “Soldier, We Love You” song and “Insubordination,” Fonda’s two-step with Holly Near) actually mask the personal discontent that the performers suffer. Obvious symptoms of social and psychological dysfunction (same as found in BLM zealots) may explain why FTA is falsely serious and mostly unfunny. Fonda has proven herself a great actress, the best of her era alongside the also politically active Vanessa Redgrave (both bleeding hearts refuse to recognize communism for what it is), but the truth is that Fonda could attract crowds of G.I.s because she had starred in Roger Vadim’s 1968 sci-fi sex farce Barbarella. She was the most curvaceous figure in Sixties Hollywood, outclassing Joey Heatherton, Raquel Welch, and Ann-Margret who had appeared on Bob Hope’s USO tours. But ironically, Barbarella also exposes Fonda’s utter humorlessness, and FTA confirms it. FTA premiered the same week as Fonda’s Hanoi stunt, was quickly yanked from theaters, and went undistributed since. That might have saved Fonda’s career, which otherwise would have been overwhelmed by this film’s undeniable hatefulness. FTA is the kind of well-intended but misguided lark that used to be called guerrilla theater. Now that term aptly applies to mainstream corporate media. 

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Ten GOP Senators Announce Support for Infrastructure Compromise

(rarrarorro/Getty Images) A bipartisan group of 20 senators, including ten Republicans, announced their support for a compromise framework on infrastructure on Wednesday. Details of the framework were not immediately available, although the cost of the potential bill would be $1.2 trillion over eight years, according to CNN. The backing of ten GOP senators could give the potential bill a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, if all 50 Democrats vote in favor. “We support this bipartisan framework that provides an historic investment in our nation’s core infrastructure needs without raising taxes,” the group said in a statement. “We look forward to working with our Republican and Democratic colleagues to develop legislation based on this framework to address America’s critical infrastructure challenges.” Twenty senators from both parties announce support for $1.2T, eight-year bipartisan infrastructure outline pic.twitter.com/0aTxnBGwzM — Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 16, 2021 #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c905d .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.2rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c905d .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c905d { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c905d .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #e92131; background-color: #e92131; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c9471 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c9471 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #000000; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c9471 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c9471 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #eba605; background-color: #eba605; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c96a3 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #dd9933; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c96a3 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c96a3 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c96a3 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #dd9933; background-color: #dd9933; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c9845 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.5rem; line-height: 1.7rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c9845 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c9845 { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #cccccc; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c9845 .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c999e .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta label { font-size: 1.3rem; line-height: 1.5rem; color: #0f733c; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c999e .inline-newsletter-subscribe__cta p { font-size: 1.05rem; line-height: 1.45rem; color: #2d2d2d; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c999e { background-color: #ffffff; border-width: 1px; border-color: #999999; } #inline-newsletter-nloptin-60ca7567c999e .inline-newsletter-subscribe__email-submit { border-color: #0f733c; background-color: #0f733c; color: #ffffff; } President Biden initially proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that includes funding for bridges, roads, and railways, and a national network of charging stations for electric vehicles, among other provisions. Republicans have attempted to lower the price tag on the bill and have insisted that legislation not include tax increases. Additionally, the GOP senators have strived to keep former President Trump’s 2017 tax reform measures in place. Democrats have explored options for passing an infrastructure bill via budget reconciliation rules, which allow certain pieces of legislation to pass the Senate via a simple majority vote instead of a filibuster-proof 60 votes. However, Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) cautioned against using budget reconciliation to pass an infrastructure bill in comments to NBC earlier this month. “Are you ready to go it alone with just Democrats?” reporter Garrett Haake asked Manchin. “No. I don’t think we should. I really don’t,” Manchin responded. “Right now, basically, we need to be bipartisan.” Send a tip to the news team at NR.
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