Saturday, August 22, 2020

sympathy for the devil II

Frears: I don’t think the film has anything to do with conventional questions about monarchy.
Slate: You don’t think The Queen has anything to do with monarchy?
Frears: No.
Slate: OK. Let’s say this then—much of the film explores the contrasts between old styles of reticence and the new emotionalism of therapeutic cultures—
Frears: Yes. It’s about tradition and change.
Charlie Rose: Are you a monarchist?
Frears: I'm a Queenist.
Graham Fuller
When Elizabeth last appears, she’s strolling in the gardens at the palace alongside the Labour Prime Minister (who has sardonically been dubbed “Mr. Savior of the Monarchy” by Cherie). That their values have meshed feels like a betrayal.
Manohla Dargis
Those who think more crowned heads should have rolled in the 18th century, in the meantime, can cozy up to “The Queen,” a sublimely nimble evisceration of that cult of celebrity known as the British royal family.
Fuller and Dargis are describing what they wanted to see. So is Frears. He's hedging. But he made the thing, and that's what counts.  Practice precedes theory. Sensibility and opinion are both forms of intention, and in art, sensibility wins.

repeats. Murray Kempton on Spike Lee.
Do the Right Thing is the newest entry in the expanding catalog of films inspired by Italian-American family virtues. If it is less engaging than Moonstruck, it can be commended for the earnestness of its effort to convey the suffering and final defeat of a rational man by an irrational world.
One of the most important scenes in the film. [The title is wrong]

Martha Bayles in the Claremont Review of Books describing the scene above. Some errors are easy to spot, others less so.
Wisely, Frears films the weeping queen from the back, so that rather than gape at her red face and runny nose (a movie staple these days), we see only the back of her head and heaving shoulders. Then enters the stag, picking his way across the hillside until the queen sees him and exclaims, "O Beauty!" (You'd better believe there's no "h" after that "O.") A moment later, hearing gunfire and voices, she tells the animal "Shoo!" And watching him retreat without yielding one jot of his dignity, she breaks into a smile. The queen is resolved. Assuming her customary expression of stern benevolence, she proceeds to comply with the prime minister's suggestions. But clearly she has been moved less by the talkative pol than by the noble beast.

The word noble is crucial. While preparing to leave for London, the queen learns that the stag has been shot, not by the royal hunting party but by a guest at "one of the commercial estates." Upon her departure she stops at the estate in question and asks to see the "imperial 14-pointer," which is hanging beheaded in a game shed. From the gamekeeper she learns that the stag was wounded "by an investment banker" and had run 14 miles before the gamekeeper could "finish him off." "Let's hope he didn't suffer too much," remarks the queen. Then with her characteristic dry irony, she adds, "Please pass my congratulations to your guest."

None of this makes any sense if the stag is interpreted as "a mawkish stand-in for the doomed Diana" or "the movie's simplistic reminder to Elizabeth that Diana, too, is dead and deserving of some compassion" (to quote two metaphorically challenged reviewers). Just as roses symbolize love, stags symbolize nobility. If you want to get mythological about it, Diana is the name of the Roman goddess of the hunt, the one who slays the stag. The queen's epiphany is not about her pathetic former daughter-in-law, it's about herself. And not the private self who wants to hide under the covers whenever Tony Blair rings, but the public self who has been raised from birth to be the living residue of an ancient ideal: rule by a person or persons superior in virtue. Watching the stag beat his dignified retreat, the queen realizes she can do the same. And shortly thereafter, we see Blair lose his temper with his wife Cherie and his press secretary, Alastair Campbell, who have been dissing the queen. Whether or not the real Blair is given to eloquent outbursts defending the importance of the Crown to the British system of government, this one certainly comes at the right dramatic moment.
The Queen doesn't watch the stag retreat, she turns away and turns back to realize he's gone. The simplicity avoids the mawkishness that Bayles wants, but also adds a note of ambiguity, as if maybe the stag had been only a waking dream, something that the Queen wanted to see. The next scene as key and I wish it were on the web, but Bayles' description will do. And she recognizes things that everyone involved in the film understood, but many Americans missed. But she simplifies it.  The Queen would never be so vulgar as to associate the stag with herself. The stag's nobility is the nobility of the old order in which the Queen, the huntsman and the stag together serve their roles. Diana was both the hunter and the hunted. The investment banker, the culture of money and celebrity, killed her. This is the weakest point of a good film. Diana was killed by the same people who worshipped her, who read the tabloids that hired the paparazzi to feed their need for pictures.  If the film treated the monarchy and new money with a mix of irony and deference, the people themselves are untouchable.

The Queen was the Queen's favorite film of 2006
Brian Blessed says her favorite film of all time is Flash Gordon.  I'm sure Martha Bayles is depressed about that one.

repeats: sympathy part I

A section from Captives. On it's own it's too much. I keep thinking it's obvious but I can't tell anymore. No one gets my sense of humor.

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