Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Orchids

Besides the greatness of Rick Nelson, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is best remembered for its astonishing longevity (14 seasons, 435 episodes) and for the equally astonishing moribund irrelevance of its later years (1960 and beyond). At its best, however, it was great. Under the total creative control of Ozzie Nelson (who it's said made Otto Preminger seem like a pussycat on set), it was the original "show about nothing." Ozzie never had a job, seemed to have no plans for the day, was considered a boob by everyone, and was surrounded by friends, relatives, and neighbors who also had pointless, jobless lives. (What a refreshing change from the CV-obsessed garbage of modern television!) Yet everyone was happy, warm, relaxed, and gentle -- without a hint of smarm or calculation.

One of the wackiest early episodes is called "The Orchid and the Violet," from April of '53. Oz is mistaken for a bum (as he should be) by a florist and his wife, hysterically played by the great Alan Mowbray and by Orson Welles's own Jeanette Nolan, reprising her role here as Lady Macbeth.

Crazy, man!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Enthusiasms

One man is looking for a little girl's doll; the other for a cone of tutti frutti ice cream.


Cops, a druggist, his wife and best friend, the store manager, telephone operators, his sons: all do what they can to help Ozzie Nelson find that tutti frutti ice cream. Meanwhile, Oz plays cards and cooks hamburgers at four-in-the-morning, files a false police report about being lost, raids a 24-hour supermarket, wakes up his sleeping wife after having a tutti frutti nightmare, wakes up a sleeping druggist, throws rocks at his neighbor's window in order to wake him up in case he has the ice cream, is woken up by the same neighbor (played by the great Parley Baer) who now also has the tutti frutti bug, wakes up the boys and tries to fob off some cherry ice cream mixed with fruit cocktail as tutti frutti on them -- with no one in sight having a care in the world as morning approaches . . .



Larry David's L.A. is a city of gargoyles: racists, liars, assholes, cheats: amoral psychopathic egoists -- a place where one is naturally murdered by tire-iron for honking a car horn at a driver who has backed into you. In the first few seasons, David's character is a rather befuddled and passive Joe who, like Ozzie, rarely works and who, unlike Oz, gets into deeper and deeper trouble the more he tries to do the right thing. Everyone he meets outside his closest circle (and sometimes within) treats him with dishonesty, loathing, suspicion, condescension, arrogance: so-called friends, cousins, his receptionist, his dentist, co-workers, other drivers -- everyone. It's amazing the character hasn't gone postal (yet). But midway through CYE's run, Larry David changed character: thereafter, David becomes the instigator of most unpleasantnesses; and seems to get off on them. When this wrongheaded shift originally occured, I figured it was prelude to the ending of the Davids' marriage -- 'cause who wants Larry to be just another schmuck victim of a betraying wife? But the marital split didn't occur until the end of Year 6, so no. A strange choice, and while probably a leap toward what the "real" Larry David is like, the show lost its Everyman quality and has too often been "this week's politically incorrect kick in the teeth to": Orthodox Jews, kamikaze pilots, gay Barneys workers, the deaf, devout Christians, Lesbians, blacks blacks blacks, pregnant women, little girls, and Koreans who eat dog. Still -- as Ozzie represents the giddy "what me worry?" exhilaration of Eisenhower's suburban white Eden -- Curb Your Enthusiasm embodies the prick heart of 21st Century America, as well and as consistently as anything in the pop culture.



And oh yeah. . .

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Willie and the Mick

The very first Home Run Derby, from December of '59.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

All Time



RIP, Glen Campbell.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sisters

My favorite family drama has always been Father Knows Best. FKB was alive for six years (1954-60) and -- sharing the same condition with Ozzie and Harriet and Leave It to Beaver -- crashed and burned when midnight approached on the decade. Like LITB (but unlike O&H which had the good sense not to turn Rick Nelson into a big man on campus), the Anderson kids changed quite a bit and not for the better. The show is at times preachy, always drenched in Eisenhower monochrome conservatism, somewhat predictable, and toward the end Jane Wyatt as Mother turned herself (or somebody did) into a piece of arch waxworks so annoying as to ruin most episodes from years 5 and 6. Still, I love it, most of the time. It is beautifully photographed, scored, and paced. What's most attractive is its radical faith in the basic goodness of people. Unlike O&H and LITB, there are unrepentant bad characters in FKB (unlike any other 50s family show). There's a war going on here -- internal and external -- between Christian light and Christian dark, and when necessary both sides get their due. But the human good, in the most earnest way, always has the last word. Why not?

A lovely episode from March 1955, "No Partiality"

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Lost

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Empire is Born

Friday, August 4, 2017

Honne

A lonely man meets an abandoned little girl on Tomoyasu Murata's Scarlet Road (2002).

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Swells

Under the hand of Vincente Minnelli.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Moses Supposes

Thursday, July 27, 2017

On the Town

The Powerpuff Girls hit the Big Apple!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Again, Vietnam


Dr. John Newman -- author of four indispensable histories of the American Cold War deep state -- clinches our understanding of John. F. Kennedy and Vietnam:

NO WAR

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Happy

Monday, July 17, 2017

Friday, July 14, 2017

The True Masters of the Universe

In the midst of what Chris Floyd has called the Continuing Revolution of the Rich, what is it exactly that the swine of corporate totalitarianism wish to exterminate from our race?

This.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Money and How It Gets That Way

Explained by David Harvey.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Longing


A movie exploring extreme states of consciousness or moments of vision or intense emotion is notoriously difficult for story-based viewers to deal with, since most movie criticism is exclusively "realistic" and story-based in its awareness, only sensitive to social events and interactions among characters, fetishistic at analyzing psychology and motivations and resumes: criticism, in brief, only capable of describing and understanding who said what to whom, why he or she said it, and what the consequences in the plot plausibly should or should not be. The difficulty with all this is that all great movie moments are moments when frequently nothing that matters is happening in those ways, nothing may be going on socially, verbally, or "professionally" that is important. The only event taking place at a given moment may be a derangement in the style or in the tone; the occurrence of an expressive close-up of a figure’s face; or the brightness or quality of light falling on the wall of a room ~ actions or events more momentous than those noticed by the story-fetishists and are obviously not analyzable in terms of psychology, resume, dialogue, or social interaction.

The reality to which these true movie moments pay allegiance is a reality that offers itself as an alternative to the prison of manners, social standing, and political categories as definitions of the individual, or as indications of his or her capacities of performance. These are precisely the moments in which a character or a dramatic situation escapes from being understood in those terms, moments when social or political definitions break down or when an individual is released into another, less limiting relationship to his or her surroundings.

These are the moments or scenes that descriptions of the characters or summaries of the movie story leave out, scenes or fleeting moments when characters simply sit still and are silent; when they look at each other but do not speak; when music swells on the soundtrack, or the rhythm of the editing changes, or a special lighting effect is used, even though nothing is apparently happening in terms of the advancement of the plot or the dialogue spoken. Such moments, when the social situations of the characters or the lines they speak cease to express the meaning of a scene, are often the most important ones in movies, moments when the film is longing to express feelings or visions too intense or private to be expressed in story or social form.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

US

Friday, June 30, 2017

Haunted Heart


A young man, Sokichi (Dajiru Natsukawa), promises his blind, dying mother to do all he can to become a successful medical doctor. He loses his way after her death and is kidnapped by a criminal gang specializing in stolen religious relics. The gang's leader, Kumazawa, has a mistress, Osen (the 17-year-old Isuzu Yamada), who takes a fondness for Sokichi and does all she can to protect him, including helping him escape the gang. She escapes as well, and her protection of him continues in the outside world. Through hard work (and occasional petty thievery, of which he is unaware), she sees him through medical school but not before she is arrested at a moment of desperate theft.

Eventually he arranges (we presume) for her care in a sanatorium, where in a final rage of hopeless madness, she kills him, mistaking him for the men who betrayed her and hurt Sokichi when he was young, and who caused their eventual separation.

Kenji Mizoguchi's silent Orizuru Osen (1935) forces us to ask: What are we seeing? Whose point-of-view is this? Everything is made strange and difficult. Everything is fractured, obsessively moving back-and-forth, over-and-over, from intense kindness and protective sweetness, to violent criminality and despair. The movie is Osen's heart, and her madness.

And the director's. We know of Mizoguchi's older sister, watching over him much as Osen does Sokichi, protecting and supporting his early artistic wanderings via the water trade. And of Mizoguchi's wife, who would be institutionalized in 1940, due to his cheating, neglect, and brutal treatment. She would die in that sanatorium in 1967, outliving him by eleven years. A sin he would pay for by creating the greatest body of female suffering in movie history. A body he is already at work on here -- and in 1933's Taki no shiraito, among others, years before his wife's commitment. . .

In their separateness, Osen has gone mad. The spic-and-span doctor -- who owes his worldly respect and comfort to her efforts -- comes upon her, while waiting for a train in the rain, wholly by accident. Basically, he has forgotten her. While she, in her loneliness for him, has departed. After stealing for him and being arrested for it, he did nothing to try and find her. 'Though Osen kills him by furious accident, Sokichi deserves to die.

One of the greatest films from the Japanese classical period, by its greatest director. (And starring perhaps its greatest actress. 17-years-old??)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Veiled

Catherine Russell from her Cinema of Mikio Naruse:
With this film, the director shifted gears yet again to make one of the most anomalous films in his oeuvre. He did not fare any better with the critics, and he himself declared it to be a failure. . .
The film's protagonist Goro periodically pauses while a dark filter drops like a veil over the image and he speaks his inner thoughts in voice-over. . . The device is not terribly effective. . .
A bigger part of the problem with Avalanche is its speechiness. The voice-over monologues are only one element of a script that places an enormous emphasis on spoken language. Moreover, the editing style is remarkably static. . . In one of the film's key scenes, Goro argues with his father, both of them articulating their positions while standing facing each other in a Western-furnished room. Using conventional reverse-angle cutting and a few camera movements as the men move around the room, this four-and-a-half minute scene fails to convey the emotional tension of a conversation in which the son tells his father that he wants to end his marriage. . . .  
Much too harsh.

The blocking of the actors is stagy and there is lots of talk. On first view I thought it was a Japanese equivalent to those popular stage adaptations with Important Themes so beloved by American movie critics of the late-1930s. (Holiday [1938] being by far the best of the group.) It is not. The movie is based on a popular serial-novel and the screenplay was written by Naruse in collaboration with Tomoyoshi Murayama, a well-known Marxist intellectual. (Whose deep understanding of Fascist and soon-to-be-annihilated Japan can be pretty much summed up by the song "Kids" from Bye Bye Birdie.) More important, Nadare (Avalanche) could never work anywhere but within 5 or 6 feet of a movie camera. All the beauty of this strangely brief masterpiece is contained in the medium-shots and close-ups of the very human cast, and most of that beauty resides in the face and body and voice and movements of Noboru Kiritachi, as the ignored wife. The sexual obsession that the Empty Suit husband/son has for Yayoi (Ranko Edogawa) is perfectly believable. But one who believes that Empty Suit husband/son cannot feel love or physical desire for Kiritachi is one who has lost his marbles. She is among the most heartbreakingly beautiful actresses in all cinema and the great Naruse -- who must've fallen in love with her as his marriage to Sachiko Chiba fell apart -- photographs her with reverence. He allows us to comfort ourselves in the beautiful light of her nature.

Nadare (1937) also sports some of the most astonishing hats and hairstyles of the still (in Japan) Deco Thirties.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Shimai

Mikio Naruse's women, from a different time: tender animals, angels, does at large in melancholy and lovely human forms.

Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Morning's Tree-lined Street (1936) is how normal it is for the director. Part of a long series of 1930s masterpieces by Naruse (Flunky, Work Hard! [1931], No Blood Relation [1932], Apart from You [1932], Every Night Dreams [1933], Wife, Be Like a Rose! [1935], Three Sisters with Maiden Hearts [1935], The Girl in the Rumor [1935], A Woman's Sorrow [1937], Avalanche [1937], The Whole Family Works [1939] -- what titles!), and the third and final starring Naruse's wife Chiba Sachiko (they would divorce soon after), the story is very simple: a young woman leaves her country hometown to make her way in Tokyo.

Catherine Russell:
After some fruitless job hunting in downtown Tokyo, [Chiba] accepts a job as a bar hostess in Shiba ward. Well away from glamorous Asakusa and Ginza, this is a neighborhood bar where the women are dirt poor, each having only one kimono to their name. Contrary to the title, there are few trees to be seen, although a small stream crossed by a little bridge gives the setting some character. The film contains a surprising number of exterior scenes, including shots of canyonlike downtown streets strangely empty of traffic.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wife


Thanks to the downloading magic of Karagarga (the most essential movie site on the net), I've been blessed over the past few years to see more than half of the surviving 60-plus works of Japanese director Mikio Naruse. Meshi (1951) is generally considered to be the director's "return-to-form" movie, after two periods of drift and underachievement: caused by Pacific War restrictions; and by post-war US Occupation restrictions. The problems of wartime production are obvious regarding material and message (although these problems did not keep anti-war masterpieces such as Kinoshita's Army [1944] and Mizoguchi's 47 Ronin [1941-42] from being made, accomplishments absolutely impossible within wartime Hollywood). Yet during the war Naruse was able to create the lovely comedy Hideko the Bus Conductress (1941) featuring the teenage Hideko Takamine, the dark and moving The Whole Family Works (1939), and the ceremonial masterpiece Way of Drama (1944), with the heroically beautiful Isuzu Yamada. Naruse's Occupation output has an especially mediocre reputation, lumped by many (including Naruse's best English-language critic Catherine Russell) under the limiting category of kitsch.

The movies from 1946 - 1951 are certainly more open to the swirls of outside influence (ostensibly of a democratic nature) than anything he made before or after, and have thus taken on the baggage of being impersonal assignments taken until Douglas MacArthur and Christian band found some other backward non-white non-Western civilization to improve. Yet Naruse's movies under Occupation are among the most human and interesting ever made: Urashima Taro (1946) and Both You and I (1946) are insanely earnest in their worship of "the people and democracy" and in their loathing of zaibatsu culture; the neo-realist noir romance The Angry Street (1950); the beautiful White Beast (1950), embracing the lost women of Occupation; and my favorite Spring Awakens (1947).

If one sees the works in order, the changes within Meshi, hinted at in Naruse's previous movie Dancing Girl (1951), are startling, and I was at first resistant to them. The look is slicker and more processed, almost at a Hollywood level, getting between us and the characters (at first) in a way not to be felt in the Occupation movies. The characters are more typed, less detailed and grounded than we are used to -- they are more like emotional motifs in an anti-connubial music piece. The stars are bigger. (Setsuko Hara was the biggest female star in 1951 Japan.) The script is based on a best-selling prestige novel by the great Fumiko Hayashi. (Naruse's first of many uses of her.)

If the 1950s Douglas Sirk "triumphed" over the slickness of the woman's picture genre and the popular soapy novels usually at its base, then Meshi pre-Sirks Sirk. As with most movies from the Hollywood (born German) director, Meshi has a single consciousness: Hara's. Her loathing of the state of marriage is here (at first) an act of triumph and freedom. She may be trapped within a legal institution, but she is in no way stranded within the torture chambers of her own imagination as are the wives of Dreyer, Mizoguchi, Ophuls, Cassavetes and Hitchcock. Hara creates and re-creates the meaning around her. She throws out the fetching young niece who has come to visit, and who has enchanted Hara's husband. Hara packs up and leaves for Tokyo. She opens the door to an affair with her old flame Kazuo (Hiroshi Nihonyanagi, the same actor she marries in Early Summer). She writes a farewell letter to her husband, decides not to mail it, and tears it to pieces at the end. In control all the way, she is moved purely by her own cares. By leaving the marriage and returning -- her hold over it and her husband becomes near total: a death grip; although the last we see of her, she doesn't seem too thrilled with what she now controls. And neither are we, nor Naruse, thrilled with our heroine. Meshi rejects more than it embraces what has been ignited in the wife by Japan's now ego-based, consumer culture.

Hara's emotional music has changed sharply from earlier in 1951, where she was not the central consciousness of Ozu's Early Summer.



In Meshi, despite the distaste for her husband and their marriage, her pity for him comes through. The husband is lost without her and always would be. Naruse captures the heart of the problem: one is never in so much marital danger as when one feels closest to the loved one. That is when the devils seem to have their hour. And hawks steal something living from the gambol on the field.

She knows this and her return to him is an act of love and triumph over her own "happiness." (Has the awkwardness between two people who live together, two married people, been captured better than Meshi's scenes of "reuniting"?) Making another human being happy is not the worst basis for a life, even if her eyes at the end suggest otherwise.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Most Powerful Man in the World

And the strongest world leader against American vampirism, interviewed by Oliver Stone.  (The full collection of interviews in ePub format can be grabbed here.)

Part One.



Part Two.



Part Three.



Part Four.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Place

Fauré and Bonnard.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Every day is. . .

"I've believed all my life that children have more to teach adults than the other way around. The person who has never dealt with children is a spiritual cripple. It is children who not only open our hearts but our minds as well. It is only through them, only in seeing the world through their eyes, that we know what beauty and innocence are. How quickly we destroy their vision of the world! How quickly we transform them into the image of us shortsighted, miserable, faithless adults!" -- Henry Miller

Friday, June 16, 2017

Bein' Green

Is Green Acres the funniest show in the history of television?

While eating his breakfast of "vaffles" and sludge coffee, Oliver's treated to the happy news that the Monroe brothers, Ralph (who's a girl) and Alf, have at last finished expanding the Douglasses's bedroom. Oliver decides to celebrate with a new television set and a new TV antenna on the roof, but falls through the roof and breaks his ankle. Ordered by the doctor to take a few days bedrest, Oliver's visited by Mr. Kimball eating his lunch, Mrs. Ziffel eating a big box of candy she brought over for Oliver, Ralph and Alf eating sandwiches and fruit on their coffee break, and the very fetching Bobbie Jo (Lori Saunders) over from the Shady Rest Hotel with a nice basket full of fried chicken, promptly eaten by all the guests -- who all watch Frankenstein Meets Mary Poppins on Oliver's new TV set. Now out of his mind with hunger, Oliver runs and hides in the barn.

From February 1966.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Motive II


Following-up on the exposition behind the National Security State murder of John F. Kennedy, Jim DiEugenio has created a PDF proving that:

DALLAS = VIETNAM

Monday, June 12, 2017

Medgar

R.I.P. times 54.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Cracker in the Doorway


1963 would mark the zenith of American moral authority as Kennedy and his government embody the belief that power should be used to protect the powerless; and should be used to increase communion in the world and lessen domination.

Robert Drew's brilliant Crisis explains the background, as Governor George Wallace upholds the promise of defending Segregation Now, Tomorrow, and Forever by blocking two black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama.



That night's speech.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Mortal

"That Kennedy, he really thought he was President." -- Allen Dulles
It was 104 degrees that June 10th, 1963 day, and the President of the United States is dressed for graduation. John F. Kennedy -- the most powerful man in the world -- makes a speech calling for the rejection of power, the rejection of domination and demonizing: he calls for quiet, thoughtfulness, empathy and compassion. He rejects most tenets of the American "character": brutishness, ignorance, aggression, self-justification, the love for war.

And it got him killed.



My gosh, the openness -- like a Sermon on the Mount. Where's the security? And how 'bout that guy getting into the dark sedan, obviously late for an important lunch. . . If John F. Kennedy had been alive under Reagan (but then of course there would have been no Reagan), he would've been a Liberation Theologist.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Nowhere Man


Paul Street on Slippin' Barry and the malignant brood he embodies.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

No Exit

Each man trying to outrun his past, by returning to it: David Janssen at his warmest and most intimate; and a middle-aged Mickey Rooney, very special. "This'll Kill You" from January 18, 1966.

TV noir at its best, directed by Alex March. (With the young and luscious Nita Talbot.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Motive


Why was John F. Kennedy murdered?

Jim DiEugenio with the answer. Poor video, great insight.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Lightning @ 100

Yes, it's a cold war document. Yes it was written and directed (and scored!) by right wing loon Bruce Herschensohn (borrowing heavily from Leni Riefenstahl). And yes we have to listen to Gregory Peck's voice. . .

But it is a great documentary (ignore the part about Dallas): earnest, transcendent, and -- like the man himself -- honorable and very moving. He left behind a more compassionate country and world. What more can one do?

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Eternal

"I'm afraid we were misled. All the critics, myself included, were misled very early. I see that now. We spent too much time and effort microanalyzing the details of the assassination when all the time it was obvious, it was blatantly obvious that it was a conspiracy. Don't you think that the men who killed Kennedy had the means to do it in the most sophisticated and subtle way? They chose not to. Instead, they picked the shooting gallery that was Dealey Plaza and did it in the most barbarous and openly arrogant manner. The cover story was transparent and designed not to hold, to fall apart at the slightest scrutiny. The forces that killed Kennedy wanted the message clear: 'We are in control and no one -- not the President, nor Congress, nor any elected official -- no one can do anything about it.' It was a message to the people that their government was powerless. And the people eventually got the message. Consider what has happened since the Kennedy assassination. People see government today as unresponsive to their needs, yet the budget and power of the military and intelligence establishment have increased tremendously.
"The tyranny of power is here. Current events tell us that those who killed Kennedy can only perpetuate their power by promoting social upheaval both at home and abroad. And that will lead not to revolution but to repression. I suggest to you, my friend, that the interests of those who killed Kennedy now transcend national boundaries and national priorities. No doubt we are dealing now with an international conspiracy. We must face that fact -- and not waste any more time microanalyzing the evidence. That's exactly what they want us to do. They have kept us busy for so long. And I will bet, buddy, that is what will happen to you. They'll keep you very, very busy and, eventually, they'll wear you down."
-- Vince Salandria to Gaeton Fonzi, late-1975

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Sacred Hearts


[Originally posted during the too-hopeful autumn of 2011, forgive the swill regarding Occupy. Who knew it would turn out to be little more than a punchline, a detour between iPhone 3 and iPhone 4? A strange concoction emerging from nowhere just when the drive toward a Democratic Party primary challenge to Obama was strongest; a concotion which then disappeared when it was too late to file any challenges.]


"Film is a phenomenon whose resemblance to death has been ignored for too long." -- Norman Mailer

There were movies made during the 1940s war different from all other movies, from all other times; as tens of millions lost their lives in waves of newborn death-machine technologies, these works exist, on the cusp of noir, somewhere between life and death: La Nave Bianca, 47 Ronin, Heaven Can Wait, Ivan the Terrible - Part I, the Val Lewton/Jacques Tourneur RKO masterpieces.

Robert Bresson's Ladies of the Bois de Bologne.


The Magnificent Ambersons.


Day of Wrath.


And the greatest directorial début in movie history, Bresson's 1943 Les Anges du Peche (Angels of Sin), a film Bresson -- because of Occupation and air raids -- had to shoot entirely at night. (Also occasionally lacking were electricity and heat: you can sometimes see the actresses' breath.) The movie is the Catholicism of my youth: secrets, magic, sorrow, hysteria, purity, suffocation, mystery, passion, furtiveness, wonder, humiliation, pride, miracle, sacrifice, self-abnegation, monumentality, prostration before power, ceremony, despair, blood, terror, lust, suffering, severity, ecstasy, longing, relics. There are many Holy Relics in Les Anges: Anne-Marie's mirror and family photographs, Thérèse's gun, police handcuffs, the dour Assistant Superior's black cat, the nuns' bare feet, the hands of Anne-Marie and Thérèse.

Although reshaped by the fresh winds of Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, and Vatican II (eventually causing inanities such as singing masses, church architecture more suited to high school gymnasiums, Saturday services, folk guitars, no Latin, congregational call-and-response, and the elimination of incense because it was making some people sick), my parish embraced the individual over the communal, mostly divorced from good works. One burns for good or evil by one's own flame, not in relation to others'.


A young and beautiful aristocrat joins a convent dedicated to the resurrection of lost souls -- female prison inmates released at the end of their sentences (or commuted) into the grace and mercy of the Sisters. Anne-Marie (Renée Faure) becomes obsessed with inmate Thérèse (a hard-bitten girl who rejects the convent upon release, but who later runs to it for sanctuary after shooting her ex-boyfriend, the man who framed her). Because of excessive willfulness and pride, Anne-Marie is asked to leave the order. She refuses to return to her family, instead sneaking onto the convent grounds at night to remain close to the Sisters and Thérèse. The characters float through Bresson and photographer Philippe Agostini's black-and-grey-and-white labyrinth of moral hierarchies and dimensions, embraced by Grunenwald's awe.


"Love, unannounced, soon has God's ear. Intelligence and wit He takes longer to hear." -- Silesius

Les Anges du Peche was released the summer of Simone Weil's death:

He entered my room and said:
“You understand nothing,
you know nothing.
Come with me and I will show you things.”
I followed him.

He took me into a church.
It was new and ugly. He led me
to the altar and said:
“Kneel down.”
I told him I had not been baptized.
He said, “Fall on your knees,
in love, as before the place where
truth lies.”
I obeyed.

He took me out and made me climb up
to his room. Through an open window
I could see the whole city, and the river.
The room was empty, except for a table
and chairs. He told me to sit.

We were alone. He spoke. From time
to time, other women would come in,
then leave.

Winter had gone; spring had not yet
come. The branches of the trees were
bare, without buds, in the cold air
full of sunshine. The light of day would
come shining, and fade away; then the
moon and stars would enter through
the window. And then once more
dawn would come.

At times he would be silent,
take some bread from a shelf,
and we would share it. This bread
really had the taste of bread.
I have never found that taste again.
               
He would pour some wine for me,
and some for himself ~ wine which
tasted of the sun, of the city. Other times
we would stretch ourselves out on the floor,
and sweet sleep would enfold me.
Then I would wake with the sun.
He had promised to teach me, but he
didn’t teach me anything.
We talked about all kinds of things,
as do old friends.

One day he said to me, “Now go.”
I fell down before him, I clasped his
knees, I implored him to not drive me
away. But he threw me out. I went down
the stairs unconscious of everything,
my heart was in shreds. I wandered
down the stairs. Then I realized I had
no idea where his room lay.

I have never tried to find it again.
I understood that he had come for me
by mistake. My place is not in that room.
It can be anywhere ~ in a prison cell,
on a train, in a red plush lobby ~
anywhere, except in that room.

Sometimes I cannot help trying,
with fear and remorse, to repeat
to myself a part of what he said
to me. How am I to know if I remember
rightly? He is not there to tell me.

I know well that he does not love me.
How could he love me? And yet deep down
within me something, a particle of myself,
cannot help thinking, that perhaps in spite of all,
he loves me.

"I know there is a God -- and I see a storm coming.
If He has a place for me, I believe that I am ready."
-- John F. Kennedy
Comparing Les Anges to Lilies of the Field, Bresson to Ralph Nelson, is like comparing Missa Solemnis to "If I Had a Hammer" or "Blowin' in the Wind." Still, both movies embody their time and place via a detailed, beautiful, and intense Catholicism as different as Vichy France and Kennedy's America, as apart from each other as were the most despairing moments in man's history from some of the brightest.

Driving across the flatlands of some southwestern state, Homer Smith's car breaks down near to a broken-down convent. He asks the nuns for some water for his engine, and allows himself to be roped into doing odd jobs for what Homer (Sidney Poitier) assumes will be for pay. The pay does not come, the odd jobs multiply, and eventually Smith agrees to personally build the Sisters -- a platoon of German/East European nuns on the run from Godless Communism, in director/producer/actor Ralph Nelson's genuflection before Cold War liberalism -- a new church, brick-by-brick. The local community -- the poor and working class, plus one cracker businessman with a heart of gold (nicely played by Nelson) -- insist on contributing, as Homer steps away from his pride, toward the common good.


In another season, the movie may have been ignored. 1963 would be the last year before Nixon without a Long Hot Summer. Instead it had a March on Washington, George Wallace standing in a schoolhouse doorway, the death of Medgar Evers in the first American political assassination of the decade, four little girls blown up in a Birmingham church, a Civil Rights Bill, and the President of the United States declaring the elimination of race prejudice a supreme moral issue.



So a small, dignified, kind movie gets lots of attention and its star becomes the first black actor (playing a human being) to win an Oscar. A handsome, gleaming black man can appear on screen before white nuns, some of them young and pretty, in his underwear. Quite a-ways from 1960, movie-wise.

The experience of our lone Catholic Administration can be seen as the country's Stations of the Cross, on the road to the Golgotha of Dallas:

First Station -- Kennedy refuses troop involvement in a collapsing Laos, instead helps form a neutralist-coalition government which stands until the middle-1970s.

Second Station -- Kennedy refuses United States air cover and troop involvement during the rout at the Bay of Pigs.

Third Station -- Berlin Wall goes up. Kennedy takes no action.

Fourth Station -- South Vietnam on the brink of collapse, as most of JFK's government pushes strongly for the sending of 250,000 troops to stabilize the Diem regime. Kennedy sends 10,000 "advisers" instead.

Fifth Station -- Kennedy takes on U.S. Steel, forcing the leaders of the steel industry to rescind a price increase which violated a Kennedy-brokered agreement to combat inflation.

Sixth Station -- Refusing calls to bomb and invade Cuba, refusing the calls of some to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Moscow, Kennedy resolves the Missile Crisis by agreeing to not attack Cuba and to remove U.S. nuclear missiles stationed in Turkey, on the Soviet border.

Seventh Station -- Kennedy and Indonesian President Sukarno take steps to form a neutralist government in troubled Indonesia, JFK again refusing to approve any covert actions aimed at the country, a refusal reversed two years later by LBJ, leading to the murder of over 1,000,000 suspected "leftists" and the overthrow of Sukarno.

Eighth Station -- Kennedy forms back-channel to Castro government.

Ninth Station -- At American University, JFK calls for an end to the Cold War, reminding us that "we all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's futures, and we are all mortal."

Tenth Station -- The next day(!), Kennedy announces his intention to help lead the Black Revolution instead of fighting it.

Eleventh Station -- Kennedy forms back-channel to North Vietnamese government, through the Ngo brothers.

Twelfth Station -- Signs the Nuclear Test Ban treaty with the Soviets, banning all nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underground, or underwater.

Thirteenth Station -- Kennedy orders first 1,000 Americans withdrawn from South Vietnam by the end of '63, in phase-one of a planned total Vietnam withdrawal.

Fourteenth Station -- At the United Nations on September 20, 1963, JFK calls for world disarmament, for a world government in the interests of peace, a world center for conservation and food distribution, and a world system of health bringing all people of the earth under medical protection. He also calls for an end to the Space Race, for a unified effort to explore the stars, the planets, the moon -- and a ban on all outer space weapons and military-oriented satellites. This, combined with Kennedy's refusal to Americanize the war in Southeast Asia, would have cost the corporate/military/intelligence vampires trillions of dollars.


Liberation Theology begins here. And continues wonderfully under Pope Francis.


To have defined the Catholic Church by the likes of the former Nazi pope and his fellow pederasts was like defining togetherness along the lines of the Manson Family. In the face of virulent attacks from Rome (most of them directed by Ratzinger), the magnificent socialist liberations across Central and South America flowed from the Theology as does the continuing model of the Cuban Revolution.

The timing of the original attacks on the Church, ignited by the child abuse scandals, has always smelled. One thinks of Chomsky's defense of government: "There's a lot of things wrong with government, but what the US Elites hate about it is what is right: that government is reachable and controllable by the people, that is it the only weapon available against increasing privatization and inequality." The attempt to destroy the public face of the Catholic Church -- a jihad coincidentally begun under the most extreme WASP war administration in U.S. history -- emerged to destroy what is right with the Church: its remaining preference for the poor, its involvement with anti-war, anti-globalist, anti-capitalist movements across the world.

As far as is known, no part of the Catholic Church is currently engaged in the destruction of Palestinian and other Middle Eastern cultures, homes, women, children or old men. Nor is the Church part of the Holy WASP Capitalist Crusade against the world in places like Iran, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Pakistan or Afghanistan. (Or Europe.) The buggery of children has gone on forever in the hallowed halls of:

Yale Skull & Bones
The Council on Foreign Relations
The TriLateral Commission
Sullivan and Cromwell
The CIA
The Carlyle Group
Lutherans, Calvinists, and Presbyterians
Methodists, Anabaptists, and Anglicans

And all the other WASP bloodsuckers who have caused the deaths of billions of people over the past centuries.


Nuns, the poor and working class, the despairing. Who notices now? The message is clear: you are waste product, the world would be better off without you; in fact, doesn't even see you. The generosity of the country's heart has shut. Liberation Theology is Occupy Wall Street, our current Lilies of the Field. Doubtless they are generally unprepared for the shitstorm which will rain down once the show stops and the corporate walls begin to crack, but they are the few honorable, those here in this once great city, now a lost heap of sorrow and rage who still try to do their best and to do good. They are fine troops, with the courage to live at war every day in a society now run by beasts.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Winter is Coming

"The devil is no fool. He can get people feeling about heaven the way they ought to feel about hell. He can make them fear the means of grace the way they do not fear sin. And he does so, not by light but by obscurity, not by realities but by shadows, not by clarity and substance but by dreams and the creatures of psychosis."
-- Thomas Merton
Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds premiered in New York City 54 years ago and for 54 years audiences have asked the movie the same basic question: Why do the birds attack? You could fill a small library with the monographs and books which have tried to answer the question, almost all of them throwing up their hands in confusion, cliché, or pedantry: God's punishment of Man; Nature's punishment of Man; Fate; Science; the Unknown; the Absurd. Or mere storytelling incompetence and exhaustion on the part of an aging, burned-out director (in Pauline Kael's aging, burned-out "analysis"). Yet the movie, I think, provides the answer, a mystery solved consistent with Alfred Hitchcock's chain of wounded masterpieces beginning with The Wrong Man (1956) and ending with Marnie (1964) -- a run of artistic achievement equal to any of the 20th Century.

When do the birds attack?
Gulls attack Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) when she reverts to posing and primping, after exposing herself emotionally to Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) by finding out where he lives, buying love birds for his little sister's birthday, traveling to his family home in Bodega Bay, and dropping off the love birds. Love birds.
A gull crashes into Annie Hayworth's (Suzanne Pleshette's) door after Annie and Melanie have opened their hearts and emotional secrets to each other -- their love for Mitch -- on a night of full moon. Perhaps a warning to them from the witch of the Bay: Lydia (Jessica Tandy), Mitch Brenner's mother.
Gulls attack the children at Cathy Brenner's (Veronica Cartwright's) birthday party -- immediately upon Melanie's revelation to Mitch of her hatred of her own abandoning mother: a crooning that opens the door to Mitch's own mother-hatred -- while Annie Hayworth, the junior witch of the town and its sole elementary school teacher, watches Mitch and Melanie talk among the dunes, as Lydia stands close by watching also. The birds attack the children. . .
Sparrows explode into the Brenner family house as Lydia's hysteria is made manifest, over Mitch's invitation to Melanie to sleep overnight in an upstairs bedroom.
Handsome neighbor Dan Fawcett -- whose chickens won't eat -- is murdered by crazy birds, his eyes eaten out -- mother Lydia's rage killing the man she'd been having an affair with (or hoping to) -- the better to focus on Mitch; the better to keep him near.
Crows attack Annie Hayworth's world, her school and school children, her house where Melanie Daniels is also staying -- the attack beginning instantly after Lydia sends Melanie to the school to check on Cathy Brenner's safety; Lydia willing to risk the sacrifice of her young daughter if it will forever take Melanie and Annie out from between herself and Mitch. Perhaps take Cathy out as well, another future rival.
At last, Lydia loses control, her nightmare of loss released into the open air, as her fury begins to destroy all. Her home and neighbors. Her town. Perhaps Mitch himself.
There are witches in Bodega Bay. And does in lovely human forms. And a cold calculating cunt on her way to becoming a doe. It is always overcast in Bodega Bay, the whole place haunted, the colors muted, earthtones exhausted, like a Braque. The only vibrancy here is the blood red of Annie Hayworth: she is the earth, the wounded, with heart and orgasm -- vows taken for life and the furies of vengeance if one is untrue to the depths of passion.

And something else. The personal panics of Hitchcock's characters seem born of their time. They can hear the ominous, distant drums. The powerful, perhaps smug, confidence of American life growing since the War is reaching a cross-roads -- the Eisenhower consensus is coming apart, so is the Nuclear Family, as sexual repression comes home to roost. Kennedy -- and Rod Taylor could be his twin -- as Fertility God. All the terrors and conflicts to come, as much of the best in American life is about to go away forever. He is in danger! So is the love. The Birds rejects the Kennedy promise. The call for togetherness and love, emotional exposure, sexual relaxation, will be destroyed. The year the movie is released will be the call's high point -- all downhill from here. Hitchcock rejects the promise -- not emotionally or spiritually -- but as a simple impossibility, as something forever out of character with the brutish, hateful, mob-oriented, and violent American "character." Togetherness will not work, cannot, against the furies of reaction to come, Just as he sensed in Psycho (1960) the new-born lone-gun Oswald sickness emerging from the American miasma, here Hitchcock senses the Kennedy hope -- and the doom it will soon face.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Terminated


Paul Craig Roberts:
This Memorial Day, Monday, May 29, 2017, is the 100th birthday of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States.

JFK was assassinated on November 22, 1963, as he approached the end of his third year in office. Researchers who spent years studying the evidence have concluded that President Kennedy was assassinated by a conspiracy between the CIA, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secret Service.

Kennedy entered office as a cold warrior, but he learned from his interaction with the CIA and Joint Chiefs that the military/security complex had an agenda that was self-interested and a danger to humanity. He began working to defuse tensions with the Soviet Union. His rejections of plans to invade Cuba, of the Northwoods project, of a preemptive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, and his intention to withdraw from Vietnam after his reelection, together with some of his speeches signaling a new approach to foreign policy in the nuclear age, convinced the military/security complex that he was a threat to their interests. Cold War conservatives regarded him as naive about the Soviet Threat and a liability to US national security. These were the reasons for his assassination. These views were set in stone when Kennedy announced on June 10, 1963, negotiations with the Soviets toward a nuclear test ban treaty and a halt to US atmospheric nuclear tests.

The Oswald coverup story never made any sense and was contradicted by all evidence including tourist films of the assassination. President Johnson had ro cover up the assassination, not because he was part of it or because he willfully wanted to deceive the American people, but because to give Americans the true story would have shaken their confidence in their government at a critical time in US-Soviet relations. To make the coverup succeed, Johnson needed the credibility of the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, Earl Warren, to chair the commission that covered up the assassination. Warren understood the devastating impact the true story would have on the public and their confidence in the military and national security leadership and on America’s allies.

As I previously reported, Lance deHaven-Smith in his book, Conspiracy Theory in America, shows that the CIA introduced “conspiracy theory” into the political lexicon as a technique to discredit skepticism of the Warren Commission’s coverup report. He provides the CIA document that describes how the agency used its media friends to control the explanation.

The term “conspiracy theory” has been used ever since to validate false explanations by discrediting true explanations.

President Kennedy was also determined to require the Israel Lobby to register as a foreign agent and to block Israel’s acquisition of nuclear weapons. His assassination removed the constraints on Israel’s illegal activities.

Memorial Day is when Americans honor those in the armed services who died serving the country. JFK fell while serving the causes of peace and nuclear disarmament. In a 1961 address to the United Nations, President Kennedy said:

“Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us. It is therefore our intention to challenge the Soviet Union, not to an arms race, but to a peace race – to advance together step by step, stage by stage, until general and complete disarmament has been achieved.”

Kennedy’s address was well received at home and abroad and received a favorable and supportive response from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, but it caused consternation among the warhawks in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The US led in terms of the number of nuclear warheads and delivery systems, and this lead was the basis for US military plans for a surprise nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Also, Many believed that nuclear disarmament would remove the obstacle to the Soviet Army overrunning Western Europe. Warhawks considered this a greater threat than nuclear armageddon. Many in high military circles regarded President Kennedy as weakening the US viv-a-vis the Soviet Union.

The assassination of President Kennedy was an enormous cost to the world. Kennedy and Khrushchev would have followed up their collaboration in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis by ending the Cold War long before the military/security complex achieved its iron grip on the US government. Israel would have been denied nuclear weapons, and the designation of the Israel Lobby as a foreign agent would have prevented Israel’s strong grip on the US government. In his second term, JFK would have broken the CIA into a thousand pieces, an intention he expressed to his brother, Robert, and the Deep State would have been terminated before it became more powerful than the President.

But the military/security complex struck first, and pulled off a coup that voided all these promises and terminated American democracy.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Pleasure of His Company


The video quality stinks (and who needs Edward G. Marshall), but perhaps the closest we came to the private John F. Kennedy was given to us by his public press conferences.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Conspiracy Theorists


Jim Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable:
One summer weekend in 1962 while out sailing with friends, Kennedy was asked what he thought of Seven Days in May, a best-selling novel that described a military takeover in the United States. JFK said he would read the book and did so that night. The next day Kennedy discussed with his friends the possibililty of their seeing such a coup in the U.S.
"It's possible. It could happen in this country, but the conditions would have to be just right. If, for example, the country had a young President, and he had a Bay of Pigs, there would be a certain uneasiness. Maybe the military would do a little criticizing behind his back, but this would be written off as the usual military dissatisfaction with civilian control. Then if there were another Bay of Pigs, the reaction of the country would be, 'Is he too young and inexperienced?' The military would almost feel it was their patriotic obligation to stand ready to preserve the integrity of the nation, and only God knows just what segment of democracy they would be defending if they overthrew the civilian establisment. Then, if there were a third Bay of Pigs, it could happen. But it won't happen on my watch."
Director John Frankenheimer was encouraged by President Kennedy to film Seven Days in May "as a warning to the republic." Frankenheimer said, "The Pentagon didn't want it done. Kennedy said that when we wanted to shoot at the White House he would conveniently go to Hyannis Port that weekend."
The Pentagon need not have worried.

Director John Frankenheimer did complete Fletcher Knebel's Seven Days in May (screenplay by Rod Serling) in the late summer of '63; and his views of the Kennedy White House during the final months of its life haunt the picture and give it an emotional and historical weight it does not deserve. The story is well-known. Air Force Commanding General -- and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- James Matoon Scott (Burt Lancaster) plans to overthrow the President of the United States (Fredric March in a manly, beautiful performance, his last starring role) -- a "criminally weak sister" who has just negotiated total and complete disarmament with the Soviet Union. Scott's executive assistant, a man named Jiggs (played in characteristically constipated style by Kirk Douglas), a man who has been cut out of the plot, stumbles across it, reports it to President Jordan Lyman, and after a number of twists and turns -- including the assassination of White House Chief of Staff Paul Gerard (a very effective and furtive Martin Balsam in a too-small role) -- the overthrow is suppressed, the plotters are forced to resign, all the happenings are kept from the childish U.S. public (something the movie endorses), and the Constitution of the United States is preserved.

Boy . . . does John Frankenheimer love the Constitution, and -- as we will see in the previous year's The Manchurian Candidate -- all the established institutions it "preserves and protects." Seven Days opens with the Constitution as backdrop, before giving us the director's vision of the political wars of the early 1960s: the John Birch Society/Minutemen/KKK vs. SANE/SNCC. A brawl breaks out before the gates of the White House. Perhaps Jack was inside at the moment taking a dip in the pool with Fiddle and Faddle, his two favorite WH secretaries. (The first thing Richard Nixon ordered when entering office was to have Kennedy's swimming pool ripped out.) Not to worry. Here come the D.C. police in full riot gear to the rescue. . .

General Scott's plot is this: kidnap Lyman and hold him incommunicado while taking over all radio and television broadcasting by armed force; then announce on TV and radio the temporary but necessary suspension of civilian authority in order to prevent the military castration of the country. (Scott's plot would later be improved upon by Nixon/Kissinger/David Phillips/Pinochet in the 9/11/73 destruction of Chile.) What is to happen to Lyman? Is he to be assassinated along with other recalcitrant members of the Administration? (The Chief of Staff has just been killed to hide proof of the plot.) What is to be done with public resistance, even if it is merely of the NAACP/SANE/ACLU sort? Scott and the plotters have arranged for the takeover of electronic communications. What about the Washington Post or Time Magazine? ('Though Scott would certainly have had the full support of the Luces.)

Silliness aside, the movie does speak of something real. James Matoon Scott was mostly based on General Edwin Walker, the man stripped by President Kennedy for insubordination and the spreading of fascist propaganda to soldiers under his command. Resigning his rank, Walker in the autumn of '62 led the insurrection against the enrollment of James Meredith at the University of Mississippi, resulting in the deaths of two reporters. Attorney General Robert Kennedy issued a warrant for Walker's arrest on charges of sedition, insurrection, and rebellion. Walker's only response to the warrant, besides having it successfully quashed by a racist Mississippi judge, was to announce his candidacy for Governor of Texas (a race won by John Connally). Walker's last contribution to official history was to be the murder target of Lee Harvey Oswald seven months before Dallas, a Warren Commission canard thought ridiculous by General Walker himself.

Seven Days in May also speaks of how strongly John F. Kennedy had blown away the numbing Eisenhower fog of "cold war consensus" -- leaving him to face the fracturing of the culture formed by that fog and all the new power centers hidden within it, as he tried to guide the society into a quieter and more modest world, one more inward-looking and conscious-stricken. (Perhaps this was what his murderers hated most.)



The movie is beautifully told and paced, trim and clean (but for the bizarre detour taken on Ava Gardner's sad, slatternly performance, nicely introduced by Frankenheimer under "Stella by Starlight"). It also embodies the era's growing obsession with all things public and communal, as seen in its movies: Lilies of the Field, A Child is Waiting, Manchurian Candidate, The Best Man, Dr. Strangelove, Advise and Consent, Fail Safe, The Miracle Worker -- a time when the sight of fruit-salad, generals, admirals, and military bluster caused fear and loathing in the popular culture.

The scenes between Douglas as Jiggs and Ava Gardner  -- all her screen time is with him -- are on a different track from everything else: they go nowhere. Gardner's deepening private heartbreak and her skill overcomes Frankenheimer's mere exploitation of her fading beauty and personal distractions (while Douglas just stands around). The movie wastes time on a cul-de-sac concerning compromising love letters written by the married General Scott (as if their exposure would somehow stop the coup) while eliding, beyond March's heartfelt loss over the death of his friend, the assassination of Chief of Staff Gerard. The intentional downing of Paul Gerard's airplane isn't even dealt with, it is merely presumed -- with no effect on future action. And after all, the love letters aren't even used. . .

There was a real-life Jiggs the whistleblower. His name was Abraham Bolden. Bolden was the first black Secret Service agent assigned to Presidential detail, and became a favorite of John F. Kennedy's. Because of complaints made regarding blatant racist treatment, and concerns expressed about sinister attitudes held toward JFK's safety by other WH agents, he was transferred to the Chicago S.S. office in early '62. In late October 1963, Bolden came across evidence of an assassination plot against Kennedy scheduled for November 2nd, during a motorcade from O'Hare Airport to the Army-Air Force football game at Soldier Field. Four men, four high-powered rifles, and a patsy -- working in a building overlooking the President's route. The potential patsy, Thomas Arthur Vallee (an ex-Marine loner with emotional problems), was picked up and held. Two of the snipers were also arrested, then released. The other two escaped the city. Kennedy's Chicago trip was cancelled as in 1963 the country seethed with plots: June '63, Beverly Wilshire Hotel (trip cancelled); November 2nd in Chicago; November 17th in Tampa (motorcade cancelled); Miami, November 19th (trip cancelled); Dallas on the 22nd.

After Kennedy's death, perplexed by the general embrace of the Lone Nut Theory, Abraham Bolden kept speaking to supervisors about the obvious connection between the local plot and what happened three weeks later, and repeatedly requested to testify before the Warren Commission about his Chicago evidence. On May 17, 1964, he directly called J. Lee Rankin, General Counsel to the Commission. On May 18th, Bolden was arrested and charged with fraud, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy, in connection with a black counterfeiting ring. In August 1964, he was convicted on all three counts. Abraham Bolden served three years and nine months in federal prison.

In focusing on a small group of cartoon conspirators vs. a small group of patriots, Seven Days in May ignores -- in the Year of Goldwater -- the rise of Western cowboy economies (space, oil, weapons, big agriculture), ignores the growing nationalist movements across the world, ignores the economic basis of the U.S. war machine, and ignores the ongoing wars within the American deep state itself. A coup launched for purely ideological reasons? Never.

But for a tender version of Iceman Cometh (1973, originally made-for-TV but given theatrical release) starring Lee Marvin, with final roles for Fredric March and the immortal Robert Ryan, Seven Days in May would be the last interesting feature Frankenheimer would make. Although his connection to political murder would carry on. He would host, at his Malibu home, Robert F. Kennedy on his last full night and morning, and drive the Senator to his Ambassador Hotel execution.



Frank Sinatra met John Frankenheimer at a 1960 Hollywood campaign party for Senator John F. Kennedy. Legend has it, Kennedy mentioned (between dances) a book he had just enjoyed, a best-selling political thriller by Richard Condon called The Manchurian Candidate.

The director's work prior to the party consisted of almost 200 (mainly social issue) television dramas. In 1960, godfathered by Burt Lancaster, Frankenheimer was given his first shot at a full-blown feature (a forgettable independent called The Young Stranger came-and-went in 1957): The Young Savages, starring Lancaster in a sort of black-and-white version of West Side Story without the songs. During Savages, Frankenheimer and producer George Axelrod (screenwriter of Breakfast at Tiffany's) bought the rights to the JFK-endorsed Condon novel, a project already rejected by several studios. In early '61, they grabbed the interest of Sinatra and the movie went into production one year later.

The Manchurian Candidate would not be the first instance Frank Sinatra dove into assassination waters. Toward the end of his tortured, hopeless husband-love for Ava Gardner, before his Hollywood-career saving Oscar for From Here to Eternity, he contracted to play in Lewis Allen's Suddenly (1954) -- an inert, pointless movie made twice interesting: it is a movie the Warren Commission claims was TV-viewed by Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before Dallas; and Sinatra's raw, almost-hysterical performance as an Army section-eight turned mob-hired presidential assassin.



If The Manchurian Candidate has too much politics (or not enough of the right sort), Suddenly has none. Johnny Baron (Sinatra) doesn't know who is paying him $500,000 to kill Ike. And doesn't care. (My money is on Nixon and the Dulles Bros.)

Johnny summarizes the story's POV:

BARON
One President dead,
another arrives.
What changes?
Nuthin'!

The great Sterling Hayden, fresh off Johnny Guitar, plays a small-town California sheriff and is totally wasted. The whole movie feels post-dubbed; and has a McCarthyesque love of police authority. Sinatra doesn't appear until 20 minutes into a 73-minute movie, but when he does he blows a hole in the screen. We are now used to seeing strung-out military-trained psychopaths performing blowback when returned to families and country, as movie characters. Hardly at all in the Fifties, and Sinatra's in Suddenly is the most frightening. (The way he yells "It didn't stop!") Career desperation or not, what other star in that time would have signed on to play such a repulsive character?

How Ava deepened his talent; and his soul. . .



Frankenheimer's style in The Manchurian Candidate is as baroque and wet as his style in Seven Days is flat and officious. Yet the two works have much in common: worship of a behaving military and its honor; a 6th-grade history book's presentation of how power works; a classical conservative's faith in how it should; embrace of all existing institutions (lone exception, MC's Republican Party, not exactly a career-breaker in 1962); media power absent; so, of course, is capitalism. The two movies' decapitation plots are like Potemkin villages. In Seven Days the cadre of generals exist apart from national and state law-enforcement, from international support, from banking or other financial hierarchies. The word "corporation" is not used in either film. The intelligence community does not exist. (Did James Angleton secretly bankroll Frankenheimer as means of distraction?) Manchurian Candidate's plot is a Bircher nightmare, only worse. Here even the most virulent of the far right are Sino-Soviet front men and women. When Angela Landsbury (great ~ Sinatra wanted Lucille Ball for the part!) reveals to her son Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey) the final piece of the plot, she announces her intention to betray her Communist sponsors. How? For what purpose? For whose benefit? Raymond's? We see no plans made for his escape after assassinating drip candidate Benjamin K. Arthur. She says she will create the most vicious and bitchiest police state of all time. Again, how? By a Russian/Chinese land invasion? (The Sino-Soviet split was already obvious by '62.) Then Frankenheimer blows the scene with that stupid mommie-kiss.

In the screenplay adaptation, it's clear Frankenheimer and Axelrod hoped to push the more mythomaniacal and (worse) Freudian aspects of the Condon novel to comic book levels. All hopes crushed by Frank Sinatra's brave, naked, deeply-wounded performance.



Inside the thick political shell of the movie there exists two worlds elsewhere: Josie (Leslie Parrish) and Raymond; Rosie (Janet Leigh) and Major Marco. Here the work's obsession with ideology and plots quiets and ends. And briefly, it embraces a Borzagian world apart from the power-saturated universe. Perhaps the strangest and most unsettling parts of Manchurian Candidate are the flashback sequences with Raymond and Josie, and her dad Senator Thomas Jordan (John McGiver, stealing every scene he's in). For Raymond and the father seem irremediably gay. Nowhere to be found in the Condon book, the gayness extends to Raymond's first boss (and domestic victim) Hobart Gaines and his very fruity bedroom, and to the star-chamber scenes in Korea. (Similar to the torture in Michael Cimino's reactionary and stupid The Deer Hunter, in MC the facts are turned upside-down. The U.S. military and its puppet SVN army used tiger-cages for torture. The U.S. government in the 1950s -- the movie is set in the 1954-56 period -- created brainwashed/torture/assassination victims via Allen Dulles-sponsored programs such as MK Ultra.) And let's not forget the Red Queen. . .


With Raymond Shaw, Frankenheimer and Axelrod have added to Norman Bates of two years before in creating a new American type: the sexually-frustrated loner whose only real orgasms are acts of violence. Shaw could be Bates with a Cambridge polish and an alive mother. It was just the beginning: Oswald, Speck, Ray, Sirhan, Bremer, Hinkley, Manson, Whitman. All ostensible loners, all with sinister intelligence connections.

Frankenheimer is so successful with the brief scenes of Rosie and Ben Marco he almost capsizes the film. (Perhaps the half-hour cut after disappointing previews contained much more of the couple.) They exist in a different movie. (Days of Wine and Roses or perhaps Axelrod's Breakfast at Tiffany's.) We only get a taste which leaves a serious question: What draws her to this clearly sick and broken man? Has Rosie been sent to cover Ben, as Eva Marie Saint covers Cary Grant in North by Northwest? And let's hear it for Janet Leigh, such a talented gal who was indispensable to some of the key works of her time: Candidate, The Naked Spur, Touch of Evil, Psycho.



The Manchurian Candidate was a box-office bomb and -- along with Suddenly -- removed from circulation after 11/22/63. Seven Days in May was scheduled for an early-December '63 release, postponed until the following February with the planned ad-campaign and nation-wide showings trashed. (It only opened in select theaters in select big cities. None in Texas.) It was also taken out of circulation until around the time of Watergate. Both films are in an honorable and classical tradition of liberal filmmaking as vanished as the Hollywood Palace. (The only modern equivalent I can think of is Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck [2005], a fine chamber piece whose sole theme seems to be: people should treat each other decently.)

While Seven Days in May made its final pre-release adjustments, and The Manchurian Candidate disappeared after completing its theatrical run, David Atlee Phillips, Richard Helms, General Curtis Lemay, Admiral Arleigh Burke, Allen Dulles, Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Des FitzGerald, Tracy Barnes, Jim Angleton and others murdered John F. Kennedy. Two days later, his accused assassin was killed on national television. On Novermber 25, 1963, Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. On the 26th, Frank Sinatra, George Axelrod, producers Howard Koch and Edward Lewis, Rod Serling, Burt Lancaster, and John Frankenheimer all went back to work.