Thursday, February 16, 2006

Triple Feature 

As you know, Saturday night is triple feature night at the palace of Zembla, and although this delightful tradition is indisputably popular with the members of the royal court and their lucky families, there was considerable grumbling to be heard on Wednesday morning when we announced that we would be showing Pickup on South Street, Some Came Running, and Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles for the sixth week in a row. Because we are a benevolent despot and not in the least unresponsive to our subjects' desires, we have reluctantly consented to return the aforementioned titles to Netflix -- prematurely we feel, because a few of their mysteries remain unplumbed -- and as a consequence we are now faced with a gaping void in our Saturday-night social calendar, the sort of entertainment vacuum that nature abhors almost as much as we do. We are therefore much indebted to the many kind readers who have stepped forward to suggest worthy replacement features that might be of especial interest to Zemblan cineastes. Among the possibilities:

1.) The Valley of the Wolves -- Iraq, a box-office smash in Turkey, recommended by our tres comique colleague J. Schwarz of A Tiny Revolution:
Apparently it portrays America in Iraq as monstrous, massacring civilians and removing prisoners' organs for patients in the U.S., Israel and England.

Dispiriting. But what really caught my eye was this section of a
recent Knight-Ridder story (via):
Yusuf Kanli, the editor in chief of the Turkish Daily News, said the film is grounded in a real event known as the "bag incident," which cemented the movie's popularity in Turkey.

"Abu Ghraib is a deep wound, but it's war, and war is never clean," Kanli said. "But what happened in July 2003 can never be forgotten by any Turk."

In that incident, U.S. troops arrested 11 Turkish special-forces officers in northern Iraq and walked them from their headquarters with bags over their heads. It was considered a bitter betrayal by a trusted ally. Turkish newspapers dubbed it the "Rambo Crisis." Recent opinion polls rank it as the most humiliating moment in Turkish history.
What interests me about this is not only did I have no opinion about the "bag incident," I had NEVER EVEN HEARD OF IT.

In other words, it's possible for America to do things to other countries that they consider "the most humiliating moment" in their history...and even anti-American America-haters like myself can't be bothered simply to know it happened.

This is one of the true perks of power: being able to get away with complete ignorance about other people.
True dat, double true! -- sez Yr. Mst. Hmbl. Mnrch. And on to:

2.) The Road to Guantanamo, which gets two thumbs up (best not to speculate up what) from Zemblan patriot M.F. From Variety:
The true story of four British Muslim boys who go to Pakistan for a wedding and end up in Cuba as tortured prisoners of the U.S. Army is retold as a modern horror story in "The Road to Guantanamo." Powerfully co-directed by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, the film has a winning combo of excitement and topicality that should get it rolling through international theaters, backed by critical support and press coverage.

Far more immediate than the news accounts that have been circulating, this graphic depiction of prisoner abuse at Camp X-Ray and Camp Delta is a punch in the gut meant to shock auds. Yet film also has a very British reticence that keeps it away from simple sensationalism.

For example, there is barely a nod at reports of sexual humiliation and no mention at all of prisoners dying. Nor does it go out of its way to demonize individual soldiers or their superiors, thus leaving Bush, Blair and Rumsfeld, who appear in newsreel footage, holding the buck for blatantly trampling on the Geneva Convention and human rights . . . .

The heart of the film, which will be most talked about, is its graphic depiction of what appears to be round-the-clock torture at Camp X-Ray, the first holding block for detainees. It starts as the boys are locked in open-air cells resembling dog kennels. With the boys' own account to back up the images, these scenes have a sickening realism.

Not allowed to talk to one another, exercise, touch the wire of their cages or protect themselves from the hot sun, they are awoken every hour for a head count. Interrogations at the hands of the CIA, FBI and military personnel involve beatings to extract confessions that they are Al Qaeda fighters. Most diabolical of all the tortures, worthy of a modern-day inquisition or Nazi Germany, is being tied up in stress positions to the floor of cells while being blasted with ear-splitting music, which even a few seconds of re-creation makes torturous for the audience.

The boys' sudden release in 2004 affords a merciful end to the abuse, at least for them, although as Winterbottom and Whitecross remind us, some 500 prisoners are still in Guantanamo.
3.) The third film we are hoping to see does not have a title, and in fact has not yet been produced, but it follows a proven box-office formula. A number of travelers arrive in an out-of-the-way place which seems, on the surface, quite congenial; but beneath its quaintly picturesque facade lies a long history of death, degradation, and dark secrets. As one by one the wayfarers meet grisly, but ironically appropriate, fates, those who survive must confront their own deeply-repressed guilt -- and by the time they realize the nature of the trap they've walked into, and the grotesque vengeance the locals plan to exact, it is, of course, too late to escape.

The only drawback is the picture's running time, which is just over four days:
More than two dozen cities, including New Orleans, have been invited to submit bids to explain why they would be the best choice for the 2008 Republican National Convention.
But that one, alas, won't be on DVD in time for Saturday night, so as always, suggestions are welcome.

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