02 March 2022 446 Views

How does one possibly write about film, at a time like this?

by James Murphy

You cannot do anything, as a civilian, aside from ‘thoughts and prayers’.

You maybe say things on social media.

Or give to charities helping those under attack?

 

But MOVIES. WHERE do those stand now? And how, if at all, can one write around or about a world, at war, through the lens of cinema?

Trivialising a plight is not a way to go. Ignoring things altogether is cowardice. But equally? There IS a way to remember that movies provide comfort and inspiration, to all, across boundaries, in times of grave distress and danger.

Here’s how:

  • Filmmakers: we NEED patriotic popcorn propaganda. STOP killing off our heroes! Bond, Iron Man, et al. We need them ALIVE. And back in the field. Kids, especially, gravitate to those symbols. Losing them was, to my mind, an act of pop cultural vandalism, playing directly to the hands of the enemy.

  • Columnists and Commentators: 

STOP feeding a war on kindness and genuinely progressive cultural politics of the last 25 years. Yes, we may indeed, need a resurrection of some old school machismo, toughness and flawed yet competent behaviours which help people win wars.

I understand that and indeed, warned of this very cultural clash, years ago. Equally however, if we abandon progress made? If we play into the trap that treats all compassionate content as self promotion or ‘woke’ /politically correct brain washing? Then once again, ironically enough, we invite further, rather than repel invasion by the bullying barbarian. In all things: balance!

  • Celebrities/Influencers et al: 

Please, fewer Sean Penns going into Ukraine. More Arnold Schwarzenegger explaining why he cannot truly say or do anything to make this world crisis go away.

Irony being Arnie actually DOES have stuff to say here. Born in the evil embers of Nazism, he built himself up through a life story spanning athletics, business, movies and politics.

So yes, I WOULD listen to Arnold, before liking a story from Mr Penn or a n other counterpart celeb. Sometimes: thoughts and prayers and fund raising are enough.

And you do NOT HAVE TO SAY ANYTHING, in fact. Answer questions from fans, sure. Even use radio silence as a kind of Lenten wartime solidarity gesture. But nobody is going to save the world here, offscreen, even if we killed off anyone who actually could do that in the fictional dimension.

 

  • Film Historians:

The question often posed at present is why we allowed Putin to consolidate power for so long? The answer, ironically enough (for an article confronting escapism in reality) lies in film. Look at the mid 1990s. Post cold war. Russia was still on the brink.

Our greatest fears were of mad nationalist leaders seeking post soviet revenge; breakaway fundamentalists mounting terror ops via Chechnya and Mafiosi acquiring and selling nukes on the black market. All those concerns were founded, legitimately, in fact.

The book, One Point Safe is an essential read on that front, and you’d do well to watch its companion film, THE PEACEMAKER (1997: perfection).

Some of the 1990s blockbuster films, of course, exaggerated threats. But they did not invent the geopolitical bases.

CRIMSON TIDE, AIR FORCE ONE, GOLDENEYE, THE JACKAL, THE SAINT. Those are examples of cultural time capsules which capture a mood that was both cinematic and political. And there were many more, across media.

Putin arguably exploited that climate; benefited from western fears and moved from that premise to today’s tragic conclusions, unabated. And though his time is undeniably up now, just remember that his successor(s) could be even worse. 

  • FILM FANS:

KEEP WATCHING AND LOVING MOVIES! NEVER apologise for that.  Support great art. WRITE AND MAKE SOME YOURSELF.

Do not forget the values that cinema can harness and protect and promote. Creativity. Freedom of expression. Bravery.

Movies are a vessel for values that cannot be penetrated by any regime or war. They ARE a psy-ops front in a communal strike-back on evil.

Romance (yes, stick on the Richard Curtis/Emma Freud rom-coms!).

Probity. Decency. Honour. Love. Fun. Kindness but an absolute need to endure a fight for whatever iteration of villainy one must confront.

Academic clarity and calm but not shunning military adventure (cf; Indiana Jones, Jack Ryan, basically most Harrison Ford films. yep). 

From Citizen Kane to Powell and Pressburger; Spielberg, Coppola, Lucas, whoever: relish their vision and use it to both escape the painful realities and prepare for the unlikely yet now by no means impossible event that YOU may have to find a hill, defend it and fight to the last.

Whether that battlefront is real or ‘reel’ remains another matter entirely, hopefully indefinitely delayed as a question.

In any event: Cinema remains a VITAL asset in the field. Tool and weapon. Comfort blanket and call to action. It is foretold in the Bible as important, as Cecil B DeMille once noted.

Think on the medium as a fusion of cavemen painting on walls to fairy-tales before bedtime. Primal and civil. An asset we ignore at our peril. It keeps us THINKING: the one thing the Putins of this world cannot stop, yet. 

And yes: thoughts, prayers and good movie wishes, one and all x



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