The Irrepressible Rothbard
Essays of Murray N. Rothbard
Edited by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
PSYCHOBABBLE GETS NASTY
I'm beginning to think it's all a long-range leftist plot. First, they tear down our love and admiration for our own culture, by preaching cultural relativism and the irrationality of ethics. "All cultures are equal," there is no trans-cultural morality, and therefore (and self-contradictorily) it is immoral to count your own culture superior to others. That's Phase One. And pushing this line and converting everyone to it, comes the Phase Two sockeroo: there are, after all, moral principles and trans-cultural norms, but what they teach us is that our own culture and values are evil: racist, sexist, heterosexist, et al., and ad nauseam. Morality exists, after all, but what it teaches is that we have been immoral all along, and everyone else is superior: a transvaluation of values. Phase One is the necessary softening up process for Phase Two, a process we are now undergoing.
This summer's cinema is rife with PC, spearheaded by a new trend. Psychobabble, for decades marked by the sickening treacle of "I'm OK, You're OK, Everyone's OK," to get us off our ideas of moral norms, has now shifted gears into a new, far more directly vicious phase: "Middle-class, middle-aged, achieving, white males [MMAWM] are definitely not OK," as a matter of fact, they need the figurative or even literal equivalent of a shot in the head. A direct, brutal, and vicious assault on MMAWMs in our debased culture are not quite ready for that. It has to be done, then, in the sugar-coated pill of "comedy," bitter and witless pills which apparently our downtrodden Atlases, the MMAWM, are ready to swallow without seeing the danger or the assault. In that way, the prosperous, unheeding, American bourgeoisie are happy to pour in the dollars to finance their own destruction.
The two particularly vicious anti-MMAWM "comedies" are Regarding Henry and What About Bob? In Mike Nichols' Regarding Henry, vicious go-getting lawyer, Harrison Ford, is redeemed by being shot in the head. Now a quasi-vegetable, he therefore becomes a dopey, loving, childlike, good human being, because of being deprived of most of his humanity. This sickening story is so blatant that it strikes even liberal critics as idiotic, so that there is at least a chance that this rotten movie will not be a hit.
Unfortunately, it seems that the other horror, What About Bob? has become a hit, helped by the fact that the vicious leech is the genuinely funny Bill Murray. In this movie, successful, uptight shrink Richard Dreyfuss is literally driven insane by patient Bill Murray, who, in the guise of sweet, loving worship of his shrink, turns Dreyfuss' entire loving but simpering family against him. Once again, evil is the MMAWM who is figuratively shot in the head by Bill Murray, and in fact Dreyfuss is never really redeemed, but remains permanently destroyed. The fact that of all MMAWMs, shrinks above all often deserve to be eviscerated softens us up, but should not blind us to the radical evil of this movie.
Other summer hits do not quite reach the moral depths of these two films, but are sickening in their own right. Thelma and Louise celebrate females achieving power and, "liberated" and on the road, committing violence against hated maledom. Kevin Costner's Robin Hood manages to ruin the Robin Hood story by substituting gritty mud and "realism" for adventure and romance, by filming the movie in greys and browns, by sticking P.C. blacks and feminists into a medieval English drama, and by having the Good Guys of Sherwood Forest speak terrible English in flat Midwest and California accents, while the Bad Guys speak in English accents. As one reviewer pointed out, this leads one to believe that these are American colonials somehow stuck in a time warp in the middle of Merrie England. Where is Errol Flynn now that we need him?
FOR THE BOURGEOISIE
MY FATHER'S GLORY, AND MY MOTHER'S CASTLE
One movie in two parts, directed by Yves Robert.
French, with subtitles
Since World War II, with only a few exceptions (usually the films of Eric Rohmer), French cinema has been, for all of us cultural reactionaries, abominable. Almost to a movie, they have been absurdist, snail's-paced, static, camera lingering lovingly on the pores of the faces of the main actors, plotless, dialog-less, morbid, and irrational. In short, aesthetically and politically leftist and avant-garde.
And yet it was not always thus. French movies before World War II were often splendid: rich, buoyant, funny, worldly-wise, and many of them were the marvelous comedies of the French playwright and moviemaker, Marcel Pagnol. The wonderful trilogy, Marius, Fanny, and Cesar, and The Baker's Wife, all featuring the incomparable character actor Raimu, were justly celebrated as some of the best movies ever made.
The late Pagnol is now, happily, very much back with us in spirit, in these two superb gems (they have to be seen in the above order), based on the memoirs that Pagnol published shortly before his death. The movies are brought to us, in a wonderful tribute to Pagnol, by his old friend and movie director Yves Robert. The movies are remarkably evocative of Pagnol's childhood in turn-of-the-century southern France. His father was a schoolteacher in Marseilles, and the family would take the traditional French August vacation in the hills of Provence. At first the family rented the house, and then bought it, and the two films portray young Pagnol growing up, and learning about and falling in love with the Provencal hill country.
And what a childhood it was! The increasingly common modern view is to heap abuse on one's parents for (a) psychologically messing you up, and being responsible for all your ills; and (b) for being part and parcel of hateful, insensitive, cloddish, comfortable, upper-middle-class bourgeois life. Much of modern culture consists of dumping on the bourgeoisie, on one's own parents, relatives, neighbors, etc. as being guilty of exploitation of the poor as well as of psychological destruction of the author.
This Pagnol-Robert film is produced as if in defiance of modern convention. For it is, mirabile dictu, a portrayal of a very happy childhood, a childhood, as Mencken once wrote of his own, "encapsulated in love," Pagnol loves and admires his father, his mother, and even his wealthy reactionary, Catholic uncle, who, in a more trendy film, would be set up as the villain of the piece, but is actually a fine and admirable person. Pagnol's memoirs are a portrayal of a wonderful lost world: a paean to the bourgeois world of pre-World War I France. And the Provencal hills are so rhapsodically displayed that even I, an inveterate urbanite, felt a tug of empathy.
It must be pointed out: none of this is gushing or overly sentimental, in the cornball Hollywood tradition. The conclusion emerges out of a simple, underplayed story line. The photography is superb yet unobtrusive. And it's not as if there were no problems in Marcel's growing up. They were not major, but they are handled with great charm, insight, and affectionate wit. His finding a country friend, learning about nature, his losing his heart to a young vixen and potential dominatrix, are all the more effective for being underplayed and done with a light hand. So lulled are we into an elegiac mood, that the heartbreaking end of the second film, My Mother's Castle, brings the two-movie set to a powerful two-handkerchief climax.
Many of the reviewers of these movies, arrogant in their trendy negative view of the world, claim that Pagnol could not actually be right, that he must be "repressing," that his childhood simply couldn't have been that happy. Rubbish! See these two movies and find yourself back in a world where a happy bourgeois family life was possible: where it happened; and where artists had the simple honesty to defy nihilist convention and proclaim this happy fact to themselves and to the world. And as long as such artists, and such movies, exist, we too can be happy in the knowledge that someday this kind of world can be recovered from memory and nostalgia, and become part of our present and future reality. Some day, when the poisoners of our culture have been sent packing, and our world can be green again.
HEAR MY SONG
A wondrous, exuberant, very funny, and heartwarming movie by the best new director in many a moon, Peter Chelsom, who also co-wrote the screenplay. A richly-textured show-business film set among Irish immigrants in England (presumably in Liverpool) and in Ireland, Hear My Song is the story, based on fact, of the return to England of the legendary Irish tenor, Josef Locke, who had had to flee the tax collectors twenty-five years before. Marvelously directed with a light and sure touch, the movie provides the best-ever portrayal of Irish rural life and hi-jinks. The sound-track too, is filled with wonderful Irish jazz. Ned Beatty displays surprising ability and panache in the Locke role, and Adrian Dunbar (who co-wrote the script) is excellent in the protagonist role of a scampish theater promoter, strongly reminiscent of Nigel Havers. Don't miss this low-budget charmer!
WHITE MEN CAN'T JUMP
This movie by Ron Shelton, who brought us the splendid baseball movie Bull Durham, has been extravagantly praised by all critics as doing the same for inner-city playground basketball. Don't you believe it. Unless you're crazy about incomprehensible shuckin' and jivin'. The banal plot centers around the fact that Woody Harrelson, though white, can actually play good playground basketball. Harrelson and black actor Wesley Snipes hustle each other and other playground players, and Harrelson has a stormy relationship with a dippy Puerto Rican-Asian girl friend who spends her time trying to get on Jeopardy. Big deal. The only interesting thing about this movie is that I saw it in a neighborhood Manhattan theater. One of the guys waiting in line outside for a bus looked like a refugee from the movie itself, replete with baseball cap perched backward on his head and skate blading around the line. The guy was mortified when the bus driver wouldn't let him on.
Hey, suppose they made a movie, Black Men Can't Swim? What do you think would happen?
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES
A charming movie, directed by Jon Avnet, about the rural South, now and in the old days. Outstanding acting by Kathy Bates, Jessica Tandy, and the rest of the cast. A paean to the old Southern way of life, funny and suspenseful. Even the feminism is not obnoxious, with Southern matron Kathy Bates learning to be more assertive and telling off some rude young-punk girls. Based on an autobiographical novel by Alabama-born and raised Fannie Flagg, one of the charms of the movie is that all the Alabama characters, even the Ku Kluxers, are wonderful people, whereas the Georgians, not far across the border, are all nasty villains who beat their wives. And the Georgian Kluxers are real mean.
Organized lesbians have been complaining that the lesbianism of the book is not made explicit in the movie. Tough.
The brouhaha over this movie is ridiculous. This is not one of the Major Statements of Our Time. Basically a film noira tough, sleazy cop-and-murder picture, differing from the old films noir by having lots of soft-core porn. There is nothing redeemable about any of the characters, including the "hero" Michael Douglas, who is getting to resemble Papa Kirk more and more, except that his acting is wooden instead of hyper-emotive. Last-minute editing out of the Famous Nude Shot of sexpot-quasi murderess Sharon Stone saved the indispensable R rating for the movie, but destroyed whatever interest it might have had for porn fans. (Now that hard-core porn is easily available, what in the world is the point of the soft-core variety? Why do we have to endure it in general distribution movies?)
Organized lesbians have hysterically attacked this movie for an allegedly negative portrayal. Actually, women in general don't come off too well, if anyone is crazy enough to look for a Message in this movie. Clearer messages from Basic Instinct would be: (a) Sex is deadly, not so much from AIDS as from a female with an ice-pick; and (b) all female shrinks are evil. Come to think of it, maybe, in its decadent way, this movie can be considered a Moral Tale.
Directed by Paul Verhoeven, whose return to Holland would be welcome.
THE ACADEMY AWARDS
On a dreary occasion, we take what comfort we can. In particular: Billy Crystal's incredulity at Governor Clinton's never inhaling marijuana, and the joy of seeing the ugly, no-talent egomaniac La Streisand not get nominated for Best Director. And, not least of all, Crystal mocking the Streisand claim of anti-female discrimination by stating that he didn't get nominated for Best Actor because he's a man.
Heralded and beloved by the left as Robert Altman's "comeback" movie, this "satire" on Hollywood is both unfunny and meretricious. Supposedly a critique of Hollywood's commercialism from the standpoint of pure art, it actually panders shamelessly to the mob's love of celebrity by one of the oldest tricks in the book: quick, little cameo shots at Hollywood "in" locations, leading people in the audience to nudge their escorts and whisper: "Ooohh, isn't that _______?" throughout the movie. Also, the "good guys" keep making references to pure, avant-garde films of the past, which are allegedly being betrayed in today's Hollywood. But when you get right down to it, this "betrayal" of purity comes down to happy endings, which are still stubbornly and apparently inexplicably favored by the dumb bourgeoisie.
This movie led me to ruminate about the tremendous cultural decline from the quasi-Commie Old Left of the good old days of cinema to the nihilistic New Left of today. Such great Old Left movies, for example, as Casablanca may have pushed a Commie message (Humphrey Bogart as stand-in for America, tough-talking but with a heart of gold, originally isolationist but slowly but surely drawn into World War II as he/it became aware of the horrors of "fascism"), but they did so totally within the trappings of the bourgeois Old Culture. Neither were Old Left movies afraid of pleasing the audience by way of happy endings. (And what's wrong with happy endings, anyway, except that they make the audience feel happy and they don't push the message that life is evil and meaningless?) But now the grand Old Culture is not only cast aside but scorned and ridiculed, and this nihilist message seems to have the highest priority on the current left agenda.
As the protagonist and major "player," Tim Robbins sleepwalks through a zombie performance, which has naturally been extravagantly praised by the critics as one of the great acting jobs of the year.
Would that Robert Altman stay away permanently.
A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN
The Old Culture returns in a warm, affectionate story about the American Girls' Professional Baseball League that was established by some baseball owners during World War II and lasted until the early 1950s. The movie catches the spirit of the 1940s, and its feminist points are therefore never abrasive. Fortunately, the 1990s sensibility is kept out of the film. Geena Davis is excellent as the star baseball player, and director Penny Marshall forges good team performances out of all the players, including even the notorious Madonna, who is kept subdued and amiable in a minor role as "All the Way, Mae," the strumpet of the team.
The movie falters in the last scenes, when the girl ballplayers of the 1940s go to a reunion in the mid-1980s at Cooperstown, New York, and reminisce over old times. The problem is not only the older actresses who impersonate Davis, Madonna, etc. forty years later, but even more the mixing-in of the real reunion of the professional girls' league at the same time, ending the movie during the final credits with a pathetic and quietly grim scene of these elderly ladies desperately trying to play baseball. The film should have stayed within the forties' context.
Any worries that A League of Their Own is too feminist could be eased by reading Georgia Brown's ranting attack in the Village Voice, denouncing the movie for depicting women as emotional (how unrealistic!) and as not being sufficiently anti-male.
And what a pleasure to hear the word "girl" spoken again, and with no stern schoolmaster-type rushing up to explain why that term is politically incorrect! Perhaps someday Old Culture films will be made in the context of current life, and not just as historical set-pieces.
A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
Directed by Robert Redford
A picture about fly-fishing in Montana? For an urban New York type like myself who wouldn't know a fly-fisherman from a surfer, who thinks that fish should be caught in giant nets, and who believes that once you've seen one mountain or tree, you've seen them all? And from someone who had never heard of Norman Maclean, from whose autobiographical sketch this movie was made?
And yet, I found this a wonderful, enchanting movie. I was enthralled by the entire story of an early twentieth-century family in Montana, by the spare, haunting, marvelous narration culled from that book, and by the motion picture which Redford has obviously made totally in the spirit of the story, with no Hollywoodization, and no beating the audience over the head with every point. I loved the Montana river, was enthralled by the mystique and the technical "four-count" perfection of fly-fishing, charmed by the notion that for the narrator's Presbyterian minister-father it was difficult to draw the line between religion and fly-fishing. I was captivated by the scene where the narrator Norman's younger brother Paul breaks through his father's technique to achieve his own innovative and superior form of fly-fishing.
There are many great little touches in this film: the life of the family; the gentle gripe when the father mentions that his reporter son had changed his name to MacLean, with a capital L, making the family look like "lowland Scots." There is the teasing byplay between Presbyterians and Methodists: "Methodists are Baptists who can read;" "don't crowd around him, he's a Presbyterian."
And of course the total contempt of fly-fishermen for the crude, easy and popular form of "bait-fishing": "He's the kind of peckerwood that will show up with a red Hills Brothers can of worms!" And the minister-father stubbornly if erroneously convinced that "St. Peter was a fly-fisherman."
In addition, Redford's deliberate choice of excellent but virtually unknown actors insures that the actors could form an ensemble team without the distraction of "star" celebrities.
What can I say? If this New York peckerwood can be enraptured by a movie about Montana fly-fishing, how much more in love with A River Runs Through It will be those readers who have actual experience of these rural delights! For urban and rural viewers alike, not the least of the charms of this movie is that it shows us life as it used to be lived, life in the Old Republic, of the America that we have lost, or rather that has been seized from us. When will the day come when movies as enchanting and as yea-saying can be made about today's America? The point of the paleo cultural revolution is not to be content with aching nostalgia, but to set out on the long but rewarding path of Bringing America Back, back to Eden.
Previous Page * Next Page
Table of Contents