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nazi power in story-filmmaking

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Nazi Power for Storytelling

Nancy Cohen/koan

Oh those Nazis! Can’t  get enough of them.  That they continue to fascinate is both a curse and blessing. We all contain enough s/m tendencies to want to understand them better and of course, the Holocaust should never be forgotten,  especially when certain world despots would like to see that happen.

In Darkness, directed by Agnieska Holland, tells the story of a righteous Pole (Robert Wieckiewicz as Leopold Socho) who helps a group of Jews survive in a dark and putrid sewer in Lvov, Poland.  They have been evacuated from the ghetto and he discovers them by accident. It starts out as a pure monetary proposition; everyone made money from the Jews’ dilemma in times that are unimaginable to even the most depressed New Yorker . But then Socho begins to feel their plight emotionally; perhaps it’s when his wife tells him that Jesus too was a Jew, a fact that he had never before considered. But as time goes on, fourteen months of helping and risking his own life and that of his family; he develops real caring for this rag tag group of survivors.  It’s to be commended that Holland makes no one a saint; the Jewish survivors comprise adulterers and thieves as well as a professor who speaks lovingly of Heinrich Heine.  Benno Furmann plays the Jewish hero, Pirate, who smirks continually through the film; though his blue eyes are a great asset in defying the idea of the perfect Aryan.  Mostly the Poles are indifferent and perhaps in their own way as shocked as the audience is in watching what is happening to them. That they are quick to take advantage of the Jews’ plight speaks  to their own starvation and to centuries of Church disseminated anti-semitism.

But the Nazis are dependably cruel.  The soldiers make old religious men dance on a box as easily as shoot a child with their mother. Holland never excuses these soldiers who seemto have invented new levels of cruelty and sadism.

The one problem with the film is that I never really believed the moment when the Polish hero and the Jews connect in their humanity.  It was displayed via a child’s birth, but didn’t feel real or true.  Still, it is the Nazis and the war’s darkness, not the sewer, to which the film speaks and the miracle, that within all this madness and darkness , one man could  still find his inner light.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo also depends on the Nazi’s barbarity to drive this oddly femininist action film. The first Swedish version, based on the book by Larrsson was intriguing and David Fincher’s is fast, bright and even more cinematic. And what intrigues here are Swedish Nazis; those who have taken their admiration for the Fuhrer and kept the little flame alive by perpetrating diabolical acts on women, many construed as Jewish by the films’s hero Lizbeth  Salander(Rooney Mara) and her ‘helper’,  Mikael Blomquist (Daniel Craig).

Malcolm Mclaren in my own film “Malcolm McLaren – Not For Sale”, talks of the commodification of the planet by the Nazis and their deep understanding of media and branding.  And so it with the descendants.  Race is always involved, but early sexual cruelty seems to lead to an urge to re-enact such horrors on others, once the victim is no longer a child and has his own power. That Salander, who has been maltreated all her life by a cruel system and neglect, learns to show softness and caring, may speak to the great power of the feminine unleashed … unfortunately for Herr Hitler and the rest of humanity, his feminine was projected horribly on his niece and others. Redemption was not at all on his to do list.

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Written by nancykoan

December 20, 2011 at 7:07 pm

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Photo0538

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Photo0538

Written by nancykoan

December 20, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

The question: to wear headphones on the street or not

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from the mouths of babes

A spectacular moment…the bus going west on 9th street actually arrived…for those denizens of uptown, it is a rare moment indeed. The line is so special that it has been stopped completely on the weekend; probably, so that the overworked tires can get a lube job or whatever buses and their drivers require in order to work so hard Monday to Friday. Must ask Ralph Cramden.

I squeezed myself on between a set of nine year old boys.  The future leader of the world was enthralling his friends with his knowledge of history and it was pretty good. “This guy Patrick, he was cool. And he was out there saying great stuff and then he got married.” Patrick who I wondered. Then: ” If This be treason, make the most of it!”, the kid bellowed through the bus.

Well he wasn’t talking about OWSers? Was he? I kept trying to turn around without making him self-conscious..but nine year old boys are rarely self-conscious.  “Yea, and he said, Give me Liberally or give me death.”

Ok, even with the typo… Patrick Henry. I knew that much. Interesting.. he must have a good teacher…even in New York. Ok, so I continued with my spying.

“Yea, and he married and she died.” The other chap uttered a “oh”, and the third “did he find a new wife?”

“Yes, said my genius friend, she was twenty years younger.”  So that’s when trophy wives were invented.

“And he kept doing good things and lived until…I forget ..how old.”  At this point, their nanny caregiver suggested the two brothers share a snack before swimming. So there was a pause of 3 seconds while they inhaled their granola bar and then he continued, “But he had slaves, even though he was a nice man. Everyone had them. ”  His other friend must have looked a bit surprised, so he quickly added, ” But.. he treated them very well. Like family. They were part of his family” Aha, revisionist history. This is why we needed  Howard Zinn so much.

When I turned to peek at the caregiver, a kind looking woman from perhaps Haiti, I understood his confusion as well as his apology.  Suddenly the bus reached the swimming stop and the history lesson was over.

I got off at my corner, still amused by the kid’s erudition when I over heard the twenty-year old trustafarian NYU‘ers coming up fast from the rear. “Yea ..she didn’t like him at all but had to carry his scent all day on her butt finger.”

Ok, I’ll wear the headphones.

 

Written by nancykoan

December 19, 2011 at 4:59 pm

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Like an O-Henry Story, the Gift

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While the rest of you are  wrapping kindles and flat screens, I have accepted that the only gifts to come my way this holiday season may befrom secret santa parties, and give very little personal satisfaction. So it was in the spirit of self-giving that I decided to present myself this week.What joy it was when my toilet refused to flush properly this Thursday. A crap situation which gave me a real reason to be generous. My over-priced tenement has yet to offer the amenities of a pro-active super, so I am usually left with the awful task of plunging and snaking. These plumbing tools of the trade are rather difficult to use and require dexterity and strength or a boyfriend…three items I seem to be living without.

Since I only have one bathroom, I was forced to visit the upscale hardware store and told them of  my dilemma. Of course, I could have settled on one of  the standard rubber bell plungers, but they always turn inside out and I’m too weak to master them. The clerk showed me a new gadget that “even his grandmother can use.” It’s a sea blue plastic that sits on the toilet rim and apparently all that is needed is to put the lid down. The air pressure does the rest. It looked actually complicated but it was the twenty-two dollar price tag ….I asked for something cheaper and there it stood. My new best friend.

No lovers need apply. This black multi-layered rubber thing sang out to me. I knew it would be easy to use…it looked like an accordian on a stick and at $12 I lept.

Once home, I put my little friendt over the toilet bowl and pushed.  And pushed. And then, boom, the water went down and I was ready for a weekend without BTS (blocked toilet syndrome). What a Chanukah revelation. It’s the simple things after all.

Written by nancykoan

December 19, 2011 at 4:19 pm

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this goes with o henry story

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this goes with o henry story

Written by nancykoan

December 19, 2011 at 5:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Like an O-Henry Story, the Gift

leave a comment »

While the rest of you are  wrapping kindles and flat screens, I have accepted that the only gifts to come my way this holiday season may befrom secret santa parties, and give very little personal satisfaction. So it was in the spirit of self-giving that I decided to present myself this week.What joy it was when my toilet refused to flush properly this Thursday. A crap situation which gave me a real reason to be generous. My over-priced tenement has yet to offer the amenities of a pro-active super, so I am usually left with the awful task of plunging and snaking. These plumbing tools of the trade are rather difficult to use and require dexterity and strength or a boyfriend…three items I seem to be living without.

 

Since I only have one bathroom, I was forced to visit the upscale hardware store and told them of  my dilemma. Of course, I could have settled on one of  the standard rubber bell plungers, but they always turn inside out and I’m too weak to master them. The clerk showed me a new gadget that “even his grandmother can use.” It’s a sea blue plastic that sits on the toilet rim and apparently all that is needed is to put the lid down. The air pressure does the rest. It looked actually complicated but it was the twenty-two dollar price tag ….I asked for something cheaper and there it stood. My new best friend.

 

No lovers need apply. This black multi-layered rubber thing sang out to me. I knew it would be easy to use…it looked like an accordian on a stick and at $12 I lept.

Once home, I put my little friendt over the toilet bowl and pushed.  And pushed. And then, boom, the water went down and I was ready for a weekend without BTS (blocked toilet syndrome). What a Chanukah revelation. It’s the simple things after all.

 

 

 

Written by nancykoan

December 19, 2011 at 5:10 am

Cook County film review

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Cook County has the feel of  really being there and at the same time wishing you could get the next bus to anywhere else, In this beat town in East Texas, a dysfunctional family tries to make sense of itself in a world that offers little hope or understanding. They live with consistent lack of jobs, crap food and a desperate vision for a future; remnants of the American dream epidemic that still holds them in its thorny claw.    Cook County could be any one of the dying small towns across America; where poverty and lack of opportunity more often than not lead to drug and alcohol as a respite from ennui and rage. In this case, it’s crystal meth, the one crystal not approved of by the New Age. Meth makes them crazy and mean and producing it becomes a way of supporting their slight life style. That they don’t all commit group suicide is an indication of just how delusional this type of living becomes.

A solid script by writer director David Pommes, a first film for a lawyer –by- day, and terrific performances by Xander Berkeley (24) and Anson Mount(Hell on Wheels),who also co-produced it, Polly Cole, lend much weight to this tough film. It’s hard to hate these people as the hero Berkeley  truly tries to make a shift; but they are a by-product of something gone wrong for too long. When Mount’s daughter and nephew (Ryan Donowho, Broken Flowers) spend a day with overweight relatives in a safe and Christian Texas suburb, the extremes of our culture really hit home. There is no in-between in the lives of these people. Feast or famine. At home, Berkely tells his son Donowho to put newly purchased potato chips in a bowl. The son looks at him as if he’s out of his mind. They haven’t eaten out of a bowl in years

Mount, as the worst of the addicts, has to make a choice at one point… to feed his addiction or sacrifice the only bit of the feminine left in him. It is a Lear moment, a blind man unable to control base instincts of ego and need. It is a brave and scary piece of writing and acting.

This film is finally being released after receiving numerous festival awards and deserves attention. It’s not pretty like Days of Heaven, but is pretty accurate in portraying forgotten America.

The film opens in NYC this Friday.

Written by nancykoan

December 15, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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