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Ten films… that have made an impact (continued)

Network (1976)                      Dir. Sidney Lumet

Directors are habitually celebrated and idolised for masterpieces forged through the accumulative effort of cast and crew, much to the neglect of hundreds of highly skilled creative and technical bods. However, if a single behind-the-scenes figurehead is in need, the idol of this creation is the phenomenal screen writer Paddy Chayefsky. The concise and eloquent corporate speed-talking that thrives throughout Network is an unrelenting showcase of unrivaled talent.

I’ll give you the low down on the plot: Howard Beale is an aging anchor at UBS Evening News which is suffering from the most perilous of televisual bureaucratic maladies: poor ratings. In a mischievous and despairing event, Howard proclaims that he will commit suicide live on air the following week: “You ought to get a hell of a rating out of that. 50 share, easy.” The ratings soar and the sleazebags at the tip of the UBS pyramid detect a mother lode in the exploitation of Beale’s vitriolic blasts. Experimentally wheeled out again for one of many further broadcasts, Beale impassions the nation with his catch-phrase:

"I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!"

The nation responds by fervently echoing his concerns (in this scene) and UBS label him ‘An Angry Prophet Denouncing the Hypocrisies of our Times’. Yet, ironically, his function is to aid the corp with its capital gains, he has inadvertently become Howard Beale™.

Ultimately, Howard is given his own prime-time slot and forcefully disrupts the network’s business interests as it attempts a vital merger with a foreign conglomerate. Together with this and highlighting the fearful power of the tube, Beale has ‘meddled with the primal forces of nature' and is met with fierce confrontation from Jensen, UBS Chairman. Howard is later shot live on air by a guerilla activist group as part of “The Mao Tse Tsung Hour”, a new fly-on-the-wall docudrama on the network. 

The film ends with the narrator stating: ”This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.”

I have, of course, failed to summarise a stunning sub-plot that personifies the insentience of an increasingly remorseless capitalist world through Faye Dunaway’s character, Diana Christensen: “All I want out of life is a 30 share and a 20 rating”. She is unable to show affection to her ‘love’ interest, Max Schumacher. The fiery exchanges between the two offer some of the most refined displays of Chayefsky’s skill: a parlance riddled with metaphor and melodrama. 

The blackly-comic satire presented through this piece has chillingly become a reflection of our contemporary society. This is what makes ‘Network’ so awe-inspiring, it was a prescient warning that no one heeded.

Perhaps there is still time. I think this film comprises more value in today’s current climate thanks to the rise of the Occupy movement. If Beale’s fate is the result of his remarks being marketed and accepted as the frivolous groans of ‘the mad man of the airwaves’, we could avoid viewing the OWS (et al) movements as transient fads which stand to achieve nothing and thus prevent their “Bealesque” demise. We could make the corporations accept that it is them who have ‘meddled with the primary forces of nature’ and with humanity.

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Ten films… that have made an impact (continued)

Funny Games (Original)      Dir. Michael Haneke

Haneke’s psychological thriller was a refreshing take on the horror genre and sought to make a statement about violence on-screen. 

In a category as cliché-ridden as that of the horror, those which recognise their function set themselves apart and are often successful in self-parody. Take the “Scream" franchise, for instance, which did just that through reference to other films of the genre and a refreshing lack of an attempt to add false profundity to what was essentially a stabbing-spree. Thanks to Wes Craven’s wisdom, he and his colleagues are currently reaping the rewards with their fourth blockbuster installment. Similarly, Haneke allows his antagonists to outgrow the restraints of the horror film and ‘break the fourth wall’, addressing their audience and commenting on the genre itself. 

The plot revolves around a family who take a break to their holiday home in an undisclosed location, allowing the setting upon which such violence will later be unleashed to easily be representative of your own neighbourhood. They are disturbed by two young men who first ask to borrow some eggs and cause trivial quarrels that soon take a sinister turn. It isn’t long before the family find themselves taken captive by these mischievous assailants who discuss and play with the whole concept of motives, coming to the conclusion that they do not have a distinct motivation for their actions other than for the opportunity to practice their funny games. Essentially, and no pretences are made to state otherwise, they are merely tools to convey the director’s message: that violence on-screen, and in all forms of fiction, is as relevant as that of the real world (hence all the fourth-wall breaking). 

This film made an impact due to the atmosphere generated in which the sense that the victims were genuinely diminished by the antagonists was effectively transmitted, a quality which makes for uncomfortable viewing. The simple gestures of prodding their hostages, causing minor injuries and even allowing them to come within inches of freedom before effortlessly placing them back at square one allows the aforementioned ambience to be harshly engendered. The reason I have chosen the original Austrian version over its American remake “Funny Games (2007)" is mainly thanks to Arno Frisch’s impeccable performance and charisma as well as the raw emotion delivered by Susanne Lother. See the trailer here.

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Other films I liked from Haneke:

Benny’s Video (1992)

Ten films… that have made an impact

Not necessarily the best films of all time or even my favourites but ones that come to mind often and have made their mark on my skull. I notice that nearly all gifs circulating around tumblr come from about 30 films (i.e. Black Swan, The Runaways, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, American Psycho..) and I’m guilty of reblogging these myself because they’re all good films and might even appear in this list but there’s just a general lack of variety on the whole - not that I’m an obscure-film-nut. These aren’t ranked. I’ll do one or two a day as they come to me.

10 5x2 (Cinq Fois Deux)     Dir. François Ozon

This film is a weird one in the sense that when I watched it for the first time, it was a bit of a struggle - mainly because it had those long drawn-out scenes that french cinema is infamous for and I didn’t fully appreciate the subject matter at the tender age of fifteen. Soon after I saw it, though, I kept thinking about particular scenes and it gradually became the content of a lot of my thoughts concerning marriage, divorce and chilled soirées, see the dancing scene accompanied by Paolo Conte’s Sparring Partner.

In short, the plot revolves around five stages in the life cycle of a couple’s marriage. Starting with the bitter and painful divorce and traveling back in time through their relationship until the first rendezvous when things seemed harmless and promising. François Ozon toys with homosexual relationship parallels to tie in with his fluid representation of human sexuality which is a theme throughout most of his works.

This conventional and emotional view of a modern day failed marriage profits immensely from the reverse chronology which reinforces the inevitable tragic comparison between its first and last powerful scenes, the destruction and blossoming of a passionate relationship. 

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Other films I liked from Ozon: 

Une robe d’été (1996)

Le temps qui reste (2005)

burqa ban dévoilé

11 April 2011 marks the day that France’s polemic prohibition of the traditional muslim dress, namely the burqa and the niqab, was promulgated. An action that is currently under discussion in countries such as Canada, the Netherlands, Spain and Denmark whilst legislation in Belgium and Italy already exists in various diluted forms. Another example of Islamophobia or a protection of women’s rights? 

sexuality and the burqa

sexuality and the burqa

French society is perhaps more rigid than we are often led to believe. Think stereotypical France: la Révolution, the student riots of May ‘68, an aroused Bardot, art movements and hairy armpits. The reality in the modern day republic, though, is seemingly au contraire. With the extreme right-wing Front National gaining momentum yet again, the bigoted Sarkozy already at the helm and the marred promise of liberté, égalité and fraternité for only those who meet particular criteria, the laissez-faire attitude isn’t as rife as you might have thought.

Taking into account this national context then, as well as the global situation, is it not convenient that the French government are suddenly concerned about the rights of the humble muslim woman?

Supposedly, these garments are forced upon their ‘victims’ and are thus emblematic of oppression but, while this may well be the case in a number of instances - as put forward by the french feminist campaigning group Ni Putes Ni Soumises, - a majority of muslim veil wearers would agree that it has been their choice to don the traditional wear as a result of a profound and personal religious journey in their own interpretation of the Qur’an.  See unveiling the Truth.

(Source: jolipunk)

Un grand défi would be to find a religion that is not founded on the stroking and soothing of the fragile male ego. Why are we only reminded of the patriarchal society’s paralysing remains in Islam? Equality of the sexes in Christianity is still a taboo subject with no signs of a resolution whilst hasidic Jewish practices of head-shaving for married women are hardly an issue.  With all mainstream religions preceding the feminist movement, the debate of female oppression is as valid in Islam as it is in any other creed. And if one is of the viewpoint that the veil wearing woman is oppressed, without taking the time to ask her if she feels that she is or not, how much sense does it make to fight oppression with… oppression? Legislating what is inside a woman’s wardrobe is by no means an act of liberty.

One of the principal arguments for this absurd intrusion of yet more of our human rights is the all too familiar expression: ‘potential security threat’. The same blanket term that is used to justify everything from intrusive airport body scanners to the right to detain any ‘terror suspect' indefinitely without any contact with the outside world. Women who wear the Burqa or the Niqab know that it is simply a necessity to unveil at border control and in other such circumstances, diminishing any such security issue. This does not stop the same argument from being raised by many, however, and none more so than the average Joe. It is the abundance of throwaway remarks such as "they are a little bit scary-looking though aren’t they" which allows for the ropes of control and intrusion to tighten around the necks of freedom and tolerance.

While the french government are merely the first of many to talk about “a new form of enslavement” which is not “welcome on [their] soil”, it might be worth while reflecting on the pressures placed on western women by their supposedly equal and free society. Eating disorders and plastic surgery are common lengths young women, amongst others, resort to in order to fulfil the pursuit of the perfect body and image demanded of them by the still largely male-dominated culture that they are born into or they can risk alienation. A muslim woman can therefore feel liberated in having control over her sexuality that she has chosen to hide in public rather than being forced to fit a western mould. See Hebah Ahmed’s and Mona Eltahawy’s contributions on the debate here.

(Source: jolipunk)

The banning of the Islamic traditional dress is not only an open act of Islamophobia but a direct infringement of these women’s human rights. It seems that Europe and the world have not learnt from the past.

Whether or not an incident of injustice involves an individual personally, it is an act of complicity to allow such alienating legislations to come into existence without opposition. The next step could be to legislate against something you choose to wear, a situation that Pastor Martin Niemoller reminds us about in his poem First They Came:

"then they came for me, /And there was no one left/ To speak out for me."

And finally it is vital to ponder this, from whichever stance taken on the issue: is it fair to validate one’s personal passions and viewpoints via judiciary means? - non.