Blinded by the Light
His Dark Materials
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"The Commissar" is set during the Russian Civil War as Communist troops are setting up shop in a village. Amongst them, Klavdia(Nonna Mordyukova), a commissar, is very, very pregnant. After long periods in combat and on horseback, she was so occupied that by the time she saw a doctor, she was so advanced that one would not perform an abortion and no amount of iodine could do away with it, so her commanding officer(Vasili Shukshin) moves her away from her comrades, housing her with a large Jewish family. At first Yefim(Rolan Bykov) is indignant but once Klavdia's condition becomes clear, his wife Maria(Raisa Nedashkovskaya) does her best to help her.
While eschewing a neorealistic approach by going against the grain with a nontraditional musical score and striking imagery, "The Commissar" is also a powerful look at the role of women in combat. Klavdia sees herself as a soldier first which is in conflict with the need to care for her child.(In "Farscape," female Peacekeepers could control their pregnancies to such a degree that they could give birth quickly with hardly a break before returning to the battlefield.) In America, she would be accused of giving in to her ambitions but then that's capitalism for you. In a socialist state, as imperfect as it is, the need comes from being part of a struggle larger than yourself that a flashforward gives an even greater urgency to.
[font=Century Gothic]"Hearts and Minds" is a documentary about the Vietnam war, made slightly after the United States removed its forces from the country and a year before the fall of Saigon. It is an effectively searing attack on the war starting with the fallacies of rabid anti-communism which was a disguise for imperalistic hubris in aiding the French, thus missing the opportunity to aid Ho Chi Minh after World War II when it had the chance. After that, it was a downhill ride to the racism of the combat troops towards the Vietnamese people. [/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"Hearts and Minds" is a very informative documentary, even though I was very familiar with most of the talking heads.(For example, I was familiar with what Clark Clifford, Daniel Ellsberg and William Westmoreland had to say but had not seen footage of the great senator, J. William Fulbright before.) Where this documentary separates itself from others is the unforgettable imagery of the ground-level view of the war. The movie talks to Vietnamese civilians who are not often heard from.(And compare their views to those of the American bomber pilots...) [/font]
[font=Century Gothic]One last thought: compare "Communism" and "Vietnam" to "Terrorism" and "Iraq."[/font]
Featuring dramatic recreations, "La Bataille du Rail" is a highly suspenseful ode to the heroics of the railroad workers of France during the Nazi occupation. While most passengers had their passports checked by officials crossing the border, others were smuggled right under the Nazis' noses. First and foremost, sabotage was the main occupation of the railroad resistance, slowing down or downright wrecking the Nazi war effort. At first, the Germans said that they were all on the same side which of course nobody believed. So, firing squads were set up, shown in one expertly crafted scene that eschews the hyperrealistic approach of the rest of the film. Still, the sabotage continued, especially after the cat was out of the bag with D-Day.
In 1944, African soldiers are assigned to a camp on their way to being repatriated to their native countries. Sergeant Major Aloise Diatta(Ibrahima Sane) is looking forward to returning to France where he can resume his studies and reunite with his wife and daughter. When Captain Raymond(Jean-Daniel Simon) tries to greet Diatta's family, he is shunned, due to a massacre by French army troops that destroyed much of Diatta's village. In the camp, it does not take long for things to turn sour, as the African soldiers complain about the unedible food. When they do not get immediate action, they do the sensible thing and order out while Diatta goes to town to get a drink.
While badly in need of better characterization, "Camp de Thiaroye" builds through a slow boil to an unforgettable climax. And even though one should always be very, very careful when making parallels to the Nazis(which this film does), here I think it applies not only to the incident that is based on a true event, but also to other travesties and atrocities committed by colonial authorities that only begin with the maltreatment of soldiers who risked their lives in Europe and redbaiting, not only in Senegal but also in Algeria around the same time. Out of such loss of life, you can see the first seeds of the independence movement which would in short order take hold and transform these countries.
[font=Century Gothic]In "Zero Kelvin," Randbaek(Stellan Skarsgard) is the foreman at a remote post in Greenland in the 1920's; the only other inhabitant being Holm(Bjorn Sundquist), a sharpshooting scientist. Randbaek is under great pressure to produce pelts for The Company and is angry that the quota for the following year has been doubled. He is furious that the new man he requested, Henrik(Gard B. Eidsvold), turns out to be a soft-looking poet and writer. Henrik has something to prove, not only to himself but also to his girlfriend, Gertrude(Camilla Martens).[/font]
[font=Century Gothic]"Zero Kelvin" is an interesting look at masculinity that regretfully makes its points through talk rather than action. It does not help that the focus is on Henrik, rather on the more interesting Randbaek. Also up for discussion, is how much human company and love a person needs. Of course, no man is an island but that does not mean there is anything wrong in finding a nice, solitary place for oneself in the world.[/font]