mercoledì, gennaio 14, 2009

The Red Dragon is perfectly rational

Yeah, and the thing is, probably no Locrian women tomorrow either because my mum and I are going to Amsterdam.

Two brief words of advice, though, on something that should be seen:



As far as I can tell it got bad reviews because critics were confused by the story, which just goes to show you critics are fucking morons these days. What the movie got across, and what I really enjoyed, was the tension as the Spanish Inquisition was petering out and the modern age was hacking its way in. Less Catholic countries in Europe were in the thick of the Enlightenment at the time, intellectually speaking; even Russia's empress read Voltaire. And the Spanish Inquisition suddenly becomes unbelievably nasty in its death-throes, a wild stab at continuing relevancy through violence. A backwards, dreadful, beastly and unreconstructed Catholicism trying to piss in the waters of a new rational and internationalist culture.

The positive, artistic side of that new culture was, in the film, perfectly embodied by a low-key Goya from Stellan Starsgaard. Impeccable casting. You can imagine the character snorting a few lines of coke and doing every whore in a brothel, but the actor was disciplined enough to keep that all tamped down, nothing but a twinkle in the eye, while walking us through a story that was mostly about other people. But behind this rational and internationalist consciousness whose beautiful side was Goya was this massive, hungry, anal rapist of a country called France, flogging the new religion of Rationality, a new religion that men were too unevolved to admit was built on the foundation of their own subjective animal emotions, desires and fears, and thus didn't boast any more universal and perfect truths than any other religion.

The Enlightenment is a difficult thing to make a film about, or even to think about, because of the tension in Europe between the old tyrants and the new tyrants that it brought about. It's difficult because of the utter paucity of 'good guys' on an organized level at the time. And it's difficult to think about, most of all, because of the fact that we continue to be the new tyrants - people who worship Rationality without being able to admit our 'rational' perceptions are all built on the foundation of our personal flaws, excellences and prejudices - that the perceptions we call rational are not universal, and that they go far beyond empirical or scientific observation, all the way into the jungles of our own lonely Hearts of Darkness.

And it's difficult because the only ways out of the tension between the superstition that makes your enemies subhuman and the sort of rationality that makes your enemies subhuman is kindness or genius. And most of us have a hard time with the idea that we're not geniuses, and a very very hard time with the idea that we're not kind, or at least not any kinder than people who burnt women at the stake for being witches. Now we just pump the people we treat as subhuman full of chemicals in places like Bhopal and shrug our shoulders when they die en masse in agony because our retirement savings are wrapped up in mutual funds with interests in Dow Chemicals. And I think Goya's Ghosts did a really fantastic job of illustrating that tension, with its Goya being kind, being a genius, bearing witness forever to the atrocities the old and new tyrants threw in his path.

And, you know, Javier Bardem.

2 commenti:

Baywatch ha detto...

does your mum like coffeeshops or are you planning to be a drug-free daughter?

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I'm going to be all I can be of a drug free me. We have some homegrown here if she gets curious, I don't want her to go into some disassociative meltdown if we smoke something too stinky there.