Friday, August 31, 2007

Brian DePalma, Hollywood "Realism" and The Negative Spirit UPDATED

A slew of anti-American, anti-military, anti-Iraq mission films will be coming out and one in particular, the Brian De Palma directed Redacted shocked the Venice film festival attendees. The story portrays the rape and murder of a 14 year old Iraqi girl and then murder of her family at the hands of U.S. soldiers. This is a true story. It is a horrible story. It is a shameful story.

And it is one story.

Iraq overflows with stories. So much so that I remember Michael Yon writing about being overwhelmed with the information he has to process every day while embedded with various groups of soldiers. So a writer must choose his stories. The stories chosen reveal as much about the journalist, writer or director as they reveal about the subject.

In the sea of Iraq war stories, Brian De Palma swims into a particularly diseased water. He could swim all year. He chooses to swim during the red tide.

De Palma's choice, really all of Hollywood's choice, is to judge the military, judge the Iraq mission and judge America with a "realistic" eye. This is an interesting perspective. Other "realities" include soldiers who sacrifice themselves, soldiers who save babies, soldiers who save dogs, soldiers who befriend former enemies. The war is a complex tapestry, all of it real, some ugly and some beautiful. The Left sees the ugly and believes they see the truth. But while it may be real, it can't be said that it's true, because truth is a whole picture--the good and the evil.

It is especially easy to see the evil. It takes no special gift to portray the wretched and shocking and call it art. The Anchoress says:

Mostly this “offensive” art seems juvenile to me - it feels like the sort of stuff you come up with when you’re 14, or at least the stuff I would have come up with when I was 14. Daring? No. It’s actually as safe as denouncing Bush, because Christians do not riot or separate heads from bodies simply because someone drew a picture. This stuff is not edgy, just rather pedestrian.
It's safe depicting those who protect you because you feel safe in the comforting arms of democracy and artistic freedom. No government agent will take your art and destroy it. No jack boot will be at your back.

Along these lines, I was reading G. K. Chesterton today. This time Heretics. Again, I'm delighting in his humorous skewering of modern thought. The progressives are nothing if not predictable. Chesterton wrote Heretics in 1905 and his arguments are as fresh during this murky post-modern mushy headedness today as they were then. Chapter two is titled The Negative Spirit. Does anything so describe Western Leftists as a "negative spirit"? No. Chesterton says this:
The tradition of calling a spade a spade starts very early in our literature and comes down very late. But the truth is that the ordinary honest man, whatever vague account he may have given of his feelings, was not either disgusted or een annoyed at the candour of the moderns. What disgusted him, and very justly, was not the presence of a clear realism, but the absence of a clear idealism.
It's not the realism of De Palma's film that will be objectionable, for the facts he presents may well be the real ones (that remains to be demonstrated, however; Hollywood and the media in general excels at sins of omission). What I already object to, without having seen the film, is that in the totality of truth portraying only one factual story becomes, in essence, a lie.

Hollywood and a huge segment of the media seem determined not to see the truth but to see one reality. It is a narrative and parts of it are real, but it's not the truth. The truth is revealed by seeing the whole not just one small part.

If Hollywood and the media want to be viewed with respect again, perhaps they would consider telling the whole truth.



UPDATE: Roger Simon weighs in:
So why would DePalma choose to tell this story now?

Propaganda, of course. But there's a bit more. We are all creatures of our times and of our great successes. This is perfectly human. DePalma, quintessentially a man of my generation, equates Iraq with Vietnam not just because he may think they are the same (ridiculous as that is) but because Vietnam made him the man he is today. In other words, he was able to live a fantastic Hollywood life (even with the normal vicissitudes),including the fancy houses, cars, women, etc., by being a "groovy" man of his generation - militantly opposed to Vietnam War and for all traditional PC things. Why change? Indeed, why not drill down further into the old well when things aren't as they once were. Why think about the specifics of the current situation or about history? They would only disrupt personal progress.
There are many films, real and truthful, that haven't been made.

Glenn Reynolds comments:
HOW ABOUT A MOVIE WHERE HOLLYWOOD FILMMAKERS TAKE MONEY FROM AMERICA'S ENEMIES TO UNDERMINE MORALE? It wouldn't be any more dishonest than Brian de Palma's latest.
The truth? Hollywood can't handle the truth! How ironic that Jack Nicholson's A Few Good Men character displayed the sneering contempt of a corrupt military commander when the character more rightly embodies Hollywood's contempt for all things moral and military.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

You and Instarube and Simon comment on a film without having actually seen it?

Are you mentally ill and mentally retarded, or just one of the two?

Melissa Clouthier said...

Anon,

The subject of this post is the story DePalma decided to portray. He didn't choose an act of heroism. He chose one of the most disgusting happenings in this war. It would be like reducing America to a movie about slavery--as if that's the sum of American character.

The content will be critiqued another later. The theme was critiqued today.

Anonymous said...

You lost all credibility when you quoted Instarube who, like you, passes judgment on something he hasn't even seen. You have no idea if the treatment of the subject is positive or negative, empathetic or critical. DePalma should avoid a topic because wingnut bloggers think he should? You people are just ridiculous.

And, "The content will be critiqued another later"? What freaking language are you speaking?

Stick to new age medicine, you freaking rube.

Blue Texan said...

What I already object to, without having seen the film...

That is some really strong stupid.

Melissa Clouthier said...

Blue Texan & Anon:

Call names if you want. You're obviously purposefully missing the point. Is there a good, positive way to portray the rape and murder of a girl and the murder of her family? There may be a realistic way. There may be a "non-judgmental" way. De Palma has made quite clear that he hopes to end the Iraq war with this film.
Somehow, I don't see a sympathetic rapist portrayal. Not that there should be. Sheesh! Talk about strong stupid.

The point, once again, is to say that the story De Palma chose was perhaps the MOST gruesome one from Iraq. It is a tiny sliver of the reality over there. All wars have had their criminal actions and dastardly deeds.

Hollywood chooses to portray America as the enemy. That's what they believe. And I believe they are lying when they do it.

Anonymous said...

I was talking to Hollywood today. All the America-hating people there said you are absolutely right. From now on they will run all the ideas by you and Instarube first.

David said...

There were certainly rapes committed by American soldiers during WWII. I guess today's de Palmas, had they been around back then, would have used those crimes as an argument for withdrawing American forces from Europe.

Anonymous said...

Wild guess that Davie didn't see the movie either. In typical wingnut fashion, that doesn't stop him from having an opinion about it either.

Wingnuts--proudly fact free since 2001! After all, 9/11 changed everything, including the laws of argumentation and debate!

David said...

Brian? Is that you?

Anonymous said...

Will the moonbats please note - this movie is about a single American soldier committing the act of rape, rather than American soldiers in general performing the deeds of heroism that they do every day (and I can give you links if you want them, but try Michael Yon's site. I'm British and I can tell you about the British soldier who recently won the VC too if you want)

We don't have to see it - this movie is about RAPE and there's no positive way to portray that. If this story is true, then I'd shoot this soldier myself because my 14 year-old stepdaughter was raped recently, but get this - I don't think that just because there are people in the army (who number thousands, obviously) who are capable of committing these acts, that it means that it's any reflection on any of our armed forces in general.

OK, I'm meandering. But Melissa's point was this - of all the stories from Iraq involving American soldiers, he chose to focus on the worst individual soldier that he could, rather than portray the good things that the troops do every single day.

The story might be true in itself but if it's the only kind of thing that people going to the cinema see American soldiers doing on the big screen, does it really portray the whole truth about the army in Iraq?

Liberals, grab yourselves some caffeine and then read Melissa's post again and see if you can wrap your head around what she was actually saying.

Steve said...

Rape is a fact of war, any war, including a "good" war like WWII. Check out THE TROJAN WOMEN (Euripides must have been one of those damn Hollywood screenwriter liberals -- how dare he focus only on the suffering of the conquered!). Sure, there a lot of stories coming out of Iraq, but I don't recall many wingnut objections to stories that show the nobility and self-sacrifice of the troops -- where are your "totality of truth" arguments then?

De Palma's point, a basic point that nevertheless bears repeating since so many here seem so ignorant of it, is that war is not always a noble endeavor -- that it's frequently ugly and horrific, in ways that can degrade and dehumanize all sides involved.

Blue Texan said...

Without having read your response, I object to it in principle.

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