Come and See

Drive-ins. Today Google’s opening page honors Drive-in’s 79th anniversary with a bubble-gum pink ‘Admit One’ ticket see-sawing in front of a sign that reads oogle. Last night by coincidence, I saw one of the most unforgettable films of my viewing life.

The power of film! I am still reeling from an unconventional movie made in 1985 called “Come and See.” Not since my younger brother and teenage me saw Jaws at a Galveston drive-in (double-billed with Capone) and next day had to build courage to step into the Gulf, has a film disturbed me so.

I gave the film a chance because 1) It was on the AFI top 250 list and I never heard of it, 2) The filmmaker tells the story of a young boy. Ever since Mark Twain and Harper Lee, I’m a fan of stories told from a child’s point of view about adult experiences. Come and See is a startling tell.

Image

After a vile runt of a boy shouts invectives to his tall likable friend, the camera rolls with two excited Russian boys as they search for a forgotten  battlefield. They pull up war gear and rifles deep from the sands of an overrun Russian position of the unstoppable German invasion of 1941. The runt dons found Nazi battle gear, imitating a meanness that he believes will suit the German occupiers he later meets. The eldest boy carries home a Russian rifle to  join the Partisans. He charms away his little twin sisters and anxious mother to run off a meet them. The Partisans reject the hopeful lad along with their favorite pretty girl mascot. Sending the innocents home from their forest camp, the Partisans head for the front. The boy and girl share disappointment of their rejection. The next day, left alone, they enjoy an idyllic time until the look to the sky. Strange parachutes open, the SS descend, and the boy and girl face their helpless fate together.

At first it is uncomfortable to see actors and actresses emote deadpan, full frame, directly into the lens. But the director  does not want you to be comfortable with the subject – and focuses us on this – one extermination of over six hundred villages in Belorussia. The focal length is short, making the actress cross-eyed, adding a sense of idiocy to her naivety of the world.

You can forgive the film for some too-long takes because the pacing sets you up for a final thirty minute run which is perhaps the most breathtaking, non-stop war scene ever filmed.  The uniforms and obscure gear are entirely authentic of 1943. Some of the scenes are genius – a flash that we see with the girl that would mean everything to the boy as they are fleeing. After some courage, she utters the image in short words. The rolling camera has more juice than the napalm & helicopter Ride-of-the-Valkyries vertical assault in Apocalypse Now!, or the terror of the Omaha Beach landing in Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers.  The camera rolls and floats with the endless victory of cruelty, shear madness, and horror that a few actors actually experienced in the invasion of their homeland in World War Two.

There are few predictable moments. Sometimes you get stuck in a scene with a Quentin Tarantino cruelty we must endure.  At other moments there is a Fellini-esque vitality of raw moments that I have never seen in a Hollywood depiction of war. There is no stand-out villain Nazi like Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds, the entire mixed-German platoon wheels an invisible zeal of distinct beer house characters – except they are dead sober, being at war for years. The film is a marvelous intertwining of direction (Elem Klimov), writing (Ales Adamovich), and cinematography (Alexei Rodionov). The actors may have been over their heads, for how can a boy credibly act, react, and emote such witness. The unsettling soundtrack and original music complete the film’s psychological pacing. I admire a film shown from a young boy’s point of view that avoids the easy way out of first person narrative overdubs. Raw images, raw acting all the way. This is a cinema experience no US teenager will ever experience from a car seat. And that is unfortunate, not because this is one of the early heroic uses of a steadicam when they weighed 100 pounds, but because you walk away feeling in your gut the horror of something that really happened to us, the human race.

The Revolution Will not be Televised (what I heard)

Gil Scott Heron passed, and this is his classic. I used it to score one of the first Adobe Premiere movies made.

The Revolution Will not be Televised
You will not be able to stay home brother.
you will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
you will not be able to lose yourself in a stare in hip hop and skip out for beer during commercials
Because the revolution will be televised

The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be brought to you
by Xerox in four parts without commercial interruptions
The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John Mitchell, General Abrams or Spiro Agnew to eat hog balls confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary
The revolution will not be televised

The revolution will not be brought to you by the shape of the war theatre and will not star Natilie Woods or Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia
The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal
The revolution will not get rid of the nubs
The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner

There will be no pictures of you and Willie Mays pushing that shopping cart down the block on a dead run
or trying to slide that color tv into a stolen ambulance.
NBC will not be able to predict the winner at 8:32
or report from 29 districts
The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay
There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down brothers on the instant replay

There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.
There will be no slow motion or still lifes.
or Roy Wilkes strolling through Watts with a bright red and green revolutionary jump suit that he has been saving for just the proper occasion.

Green acres, Beverly Hillbillies, Hooterville Junction will longer be so damn relevant
and women will no longer care if Jack gets down with Jane
because black people will be on a the streets looking for a brighter day
The revolution will not be televised

There will be no hilights on the eleven o’clock news
and no pictures of hairy-armed liberationists
and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose
The theme song will not be written by Jack Webb or Francis Scott Keyes nor sung by Glenn Cambell, Tom Jones, Johnny Cash, Engelbert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will be back right after a message about a white tornado, white lightning or white people.
You will not have to worry about a germ in your bedroom or a tiger in your tank a giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with coke

The revolution will put you in the driver seat
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will not be televised
The revolution will be no rerun brother,
The revolution will be live

Republican Anger, The Tale of

Once upon a time, there was a group of people that were as intelligent as William F. Buckley. They generated wealth, conserved resources, spent wisely, were generally happy, and had a large world view. They became powerful and did not want to lose their position so they appointed a friendly dummy to rule the kingdom. Over time the dummy wasted money, spent foolishly, had only one view of the kingdom, and was plainly ignorant. The once-wise became vain and thought it would appear bad if they chastised their dummy. They did not police themselves to cultivate their deepest values, and started to reach old age.

The idiot ruler surrounded himself with people like himself. For one thing, he appointed a fox as town cryer. The wily fox knew if he said only good things about the king’s reign he would get big treats.  Any who disagreed were made fun of and then banished. Citizens heard only one story. The once-wise liked it that way. But the foxes stories created a deep division in the kingdom. A silent resentful group smart enough to know the difference between a lie and the truth – called the knowers, and the less intelligent who couldn’t tell the difference – called the believers.

As the once-wise began to die off, their ranks were filled with braggers, boasters, and simple-minded believers who listened without question. A great turnabout occurred as if by magic.  The believers, remarkably once-wise, now had reversed their cherished values. They no longer generated wealth, they contrived money-making betting schemes, squandered resources, became mean, intolerant of the world, were generally unhappy and were proudly and heroically stupid.

The kingdom became poorer not because the dummy made foolish decisions, but because the once-wise did not intervene to fix anything. Why? Because they were too old, too wealthy, and lived in fabulous palaces. Soon they all died off.

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