Two Sad, Too Sad, Foreign Films

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Censorship is good for the arts. Searching for the right and kosher
metaphor to carry across your point (after all, that’s what a meta
is phor!) stretches your creative muscles. After the Russians left,
the Czech republic elected a truth-telling playwright, Vaclav Havel,
as prime minister. In the aftermath of independence, though, the
vibrant live stage in Prague lost much of its audience, its lan,
its raison d’tre.

Iran is filled with people who love Americans. On September 12,
2001, vast crowds in Tehran lit candles and grieved with our shocked
nation. One reason for the Iranian people’s affection is the hatred
their ruling mullahs hold for the USA.

Apparently, the contempt is mutual. Intelligence analyst “Alan
Peters” described the “father” of the mullahcracy, the Ayatollah
Khomeini, as
follows:

Some linguists, who studied his public speeches in 1979 and 1980,
concluded his Farsi vocabulary to be less than 200 words, so not
only did he not have Persian blood, he did not even speak the language.
With the number of Iranians who have died because of him and his
successors over the past 25 years going into the hundreds of thousands,
if not well over a million if the death toll from the eight-year
Iran-Iraq war is included, this Anglo-Indian with Arab Sunni Muslim
theological and philosophical roots may have had no love or compassion
for Iranians either. In the Iran Air aircraft flying Khomeini back
from France to Tehran in early 1979, with cameras rolling, a journalist
asked: “What do you feel about returning to Iran?” He replied: “Nothing!”
The question was repeated, and again he replied: “Nothing!”

Meanwhile, the Iranian cinema is flourishing.

If
you enjoy seeing universal human themes played out against an exotic
background, be sure to rent Majid Majidi’s film The
Color of Paradise
. The filmmaker obviously loves his country,
and spectacular rural scenery frames the human melodrama. Keep in
mind the theme of generational conflict as you watch a lad who longs
for familial connections. A venal, self-centered, shame-ridden man
trying to distance himself from his blind son. A traditional matriarch
who worries about what her son is doing to his own soul, by his
refusal to do right by the grandson. I found it interesting to note
how this Muslim filmmaker used a Christian metaphor – the father
is repeatedly shown washing his hands.

Finally, take note of which characters actually get to see the
face of God, the stated goal of life for Muslims as well as Christians.

Japanese
legend says that fireflies are the souls of combat casualties. Critics
acclaim Grave
of the Fireflies
as the epitome of Japanese anime. Some
call it the greatest anti-war movie ever made. When you see it,
note the contrast between the lovingly detailed landscapes and the
comic-book line-art human characters. The ground-level view of incendiary
bombing raids on a civilian town pleads the cause of the noncombatants
who pay the price for military machinations. Fireflies, and lots
of them, feature prominently.

The male characters wear westernized garb. The females, with one
exception, traditional Japanese clothing. Towards the end of the
film the absent owners of the town castle come home, dressed like
American flappers, blithely indifferent to the ordeal of the peasants.

This movie, based on an autobiographical novel, focuses on children.
It is not a children’s cartoon.

August
13, 2004

Tom
Smedley [send him mail]
is a technical writer living in the Research Triangle Park area
of North Carolina with his wife and four children.

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