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Two Snapshots of America From Inside & Out

I watched Marco Ferreri's 1974 movie Don't Touch The White Woman again over the weekend. It's a French film starring some of Europe's greatest actors (mostly Italian, like the director), and is about America's Indian genocide told from a marxist point of view via absurdist sardonic satire. Partly intended as a comment about Vietnam in specific, and colonialism in general, it sympathizes with the Indians and portrays their decimation as a fun-filled land grab enacted by vain dandies seeking glory in the service of their corporate paymasters. (Hmm...wonder if it has any parallels with what's going on now in Iraq? Nah!) It is America judged and evaluated from the outside, with humor, anger, poignancy, and even a touch of brilliance. It deserves much wider exposure.

Then last night I watched Bill Paxton's directorial debut Frailty and found myself thinking about Siegfried Kracauer's landmark book From Caligari to Hitler: a Psychological History of the German Film. Kracauer shows how the German films of the 20s and 30s presaged the rise of Hitler and the Nazis. Since movies are snapshots of a culture's psychohistory I couldn't help but feel I was seeing with crystal clarity an example of it with this film. Frailty is about a God-fearing man who is convinced an angel told him to destroy demons -- unfortunately the demons are people just going about their business in life. I won't go into the finer points of the film; I will only say that as a snapshot of the inner psychical landscape of present day America it might be a little too accurate, especially how the conclusion (ie, the identity of the town sheriff) portends for Murka's future.

These two movies make quite an excellent double-feature to understand America from inside & out.