Sunday, August 25, 2019

The Road

SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

The Road is based on a Cormac McCarthy novel. He paints bleak pictures of what’s left of benign humanity struggling to exist in a world in decline, as he did in No Country for Old Men. The first shot here is of beautiful flowers, trees and the sky, filled with brightness and colors. The Man (Viggo Mortensen) and the Woman (Charlize Theron) look happy, accompanied by a horse, which stresses what has been lost as there is then a jump forward in time. (Only one person has a name in this story to show how individuality has been stripped away, and people are reduced to their essential roles.) The brightness and color turns into the darkness of the nighttime with ominous fires glowing in the background. There are frantic voices in the distance. The Man starts to fill the bathtub, not to enjoy getting washed, but to store water, which shows how life’s priorities have altered. (Water is also used as a symbol for actual and symbolic cleansing in the movie)
The Man then wakes up as he had a dream of what happened in the past. He now looks scruffy and he is bundled up in tattered clothes next to a sleeping boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee), his son, in a cave. They are next to a waterfall, but the skies are gray and gloomy, and the landscape looks barren and ravaged, with stripped, fallen trees and no vegetation. The man reassures his boy that the noise they hear is just another earthquake.
We get inside the father’s head periodically as he provides narration in a slow, elegiac voice. He says the clocks stopped at 1:17, and there was “a long sheer of bright light, then a series of low concussions.” So, we are in a post-apocalyptic world. His description can imply that there was a nuclear event, or something like a meteor hit the planet. It could also have been the culmination of some environmental event. The man thinks it’s October, but he’s not sure, because there are no changes in the seasons anymore, and he says he hasn’t “kept a calendar for years,” which lets us know that things have been awful for a long time. He says each day is grayer, and it is getting colder, “as the world slowly dies.” He goes on to say that “No animals have survived, and all the crops are long gone.” If there is no future source for food the only option left is to scavenge for the little there is left to eat. What we are left with is the absence of hope for the future, not only for individuals, but for civilization in general.
What we see is a world that is a graveyard of its former self, littered with the rotted corpses of buildings and cars. The man says, “the roads are peopled by refugees towing carts,” as if today’s homeless people were a foreshadowing of what we all would become in the future. He also says there are “gangs carrying weapons,” as life has degenerated into a survival of the meanest. There are signs of a hellish madness taking hold, as he reports having heard “deranged chanting.”  There are ominous religious messages written on road billboards, literal and metaphorical “signs” of what is happening. The man says there has been cannibalism, which he said is the great fear, suggesting that it poses the main reason for killing others. Everything is reduced to being focused on the basics, such as getting food, avoiding the cold, and finding shoes since they have to keep walking to search for what they need to survive.

He tries to tell his son stories of “courage and justice,” using them as myths that encourage the urge to continue. He says the boy is his “warrant,” which suggests that it is a command issued by God to carry out fatherly duty. He says of his son, “if he is not the word of God, then God never spoke.” All of the man’s purpose is focused on taking care of his boy, or else there is nothing for him to live for, or to believe in. As he reads story books to his son there are shadows on their sleeping tent which appear like paintings on a prehistoric cave wall, as if the world has reversed its evolutionary progress.
They wake to forest fires, a hellish inferno that forces them to push on. They go to a barn, but they can’t find food there. They see family members that committed suicide by hanging. The boy asks why did they kill themselves, but the dad says his son knows why. The next scene is very dark, showing that suicide is the measure that must be considered if they want to prevent suffering in the end. The father shows that his gun contains a bullet for each of them. He demonstrates how to put the gun in the mouth and shoot upwards. He has spoken of this alternative before given the constant threat of either a gruesome or lingering death, but the boy is still shaken by the possibility.

There is a flashback to when the man’s wife was still alive, and pregnant. But she is despondent, crying out “what kind of life is this” in which to bring a child. So the boy has only known this dying, brutal world. The father and his son were sleeping in a car, but they hear a truck coming and hide in the woods as the truck overheats and the men riding in it stop. One of the gang members (Garret Dillahunt) goes off to urinate, but sees the two hiding. The father says he will kill the gang member if he says anything. The man thinks the father won’t pull the trigger and has never killed anyone. The gang member acts like they have food, but the father suspects not, and probably thinks they are cannibals. When the father is diverted by some noise from the truck, the gang member grabs the boy and puts a knife to his neck. The father shoots the man, but the boy is in shock and has blood on him. His fatherly dedication is evident as he picks up and carries his son away from the men. As they hide, he does hope that the boy will be able to pull that trigger if it comes to it. He later returns to the scene of where he shot the man and finds him decapitated, confirming his belief that the roving gang practiced cannibalism.
In another flashback, the man’s angry, dejected wife says they should not have waited until they only had two bullets. They should have killed themselves, because she believes, with all laws and decency no longer in force, that others will come to rape her and the boy, and then kill all three of them for food. He keeps saying he will do whatever it takes, but she doesn’t believe there is anything to be done. She is furious at him and says she should empty the bullets in herself and leave him with no option. She says there isn’t anything to talk about, and that her heart “was ripped from me the night he was born.” We have an upside-down world where hope for the future at the time of the birth of a child is replaced by despair due to the horror of the present. He says they will survive, but she counters with, “I don’t want to just survive.” The movie offers various ways to react to such a dire situation. In a possible dark reference to the Robert Frost poem, the ‘road” traveled on may be one of basic survival, another may be to try to hold onto the old ways as long as possible, and another might be to turn to suicide, to escape the inevitable, impending suffering and death that they all will face. The mother asks that she take their son with her. He says that she is crazy, but she points out that other families have chosen that option. She later bathes her son in an act that shows a yearning for a civilized world, but also symbolically represents a baptism to restore the innocence of a pre-fallen time. (The father’s washing of his son after he is bathed in the gang member’s blood also emphasizes the attempt to cleanse humankind’s sins).
In the present, the father says that it was necessary to shoot the gang member since there aren’t many good guys left. He says they have to keep carrying the “fire,” by which he means “the fire inside you.” The boy asks if they are the good guys, which the father says they are and always will be, implying that they will continue to carry that “light” which represents civilized humanity. The man brings the boy a treat, an unopened soda bottle, a great gift given the circumstances. But they are still hungry. They are heading south, for the coast. The boy still mentions his mother, but the father says they have to stop thinking about her, probably because he knows that the grief will just make them weak. But, conversely, it is also a part of the humanity he says they should hold onto. They are at a crossroads between retaining what makes them the “good guys” and letting those attributes go.
Despite what he preaches, the man can’t stop thinking about his wife. There is a flashback of her playing the piano, which stresses how music, and the arts in general, are elements that comprise a civilized society, and which point to what the wife meant by saying she didn’t want to “just survive.” The father stands on a bridge, representative of his being caught between letting the memory of his wife go and staying attached. He has a photograph of her and throws it off the bridge in a symbolic attempt to move on without her haunting him. There is a flashback of him pleading that she stay for one more night. She looks dead in her soul, and only says that they he and their son should go south since they won’t survive another winter. He says she went off to die “somewhere in the dark,” and there are no more tales to tell of her, suggesting stories cease when life ends. Back in the present, he leaves his wedding ring on the bridge, and says the “coldness” of her departure was her “last gift,” implying an emotional goodbye would have hurt more.

Father and son find another waterfall, and seeing the rainbow colors in the mist and taking their clothes off and experiencing the falling water provides an interlude of joy that they can share. (Again, we have water used as an image of washing away the evil of the earth, and the fact that they are heading south toward the ocean adds to the metaphor). They enter a house, but there are ominous signs there, including a collection of shoes and boots, a locked basement, large kettles outside, and a device with a meat hook on it. The man finds an axe and he breaks into a locked basement, hoping for some supplies, presumably thinking the house has been abandoned. They find emaciated people there, held hostage, and one says they will be taken to the “smokehouse.” So cannibalism is occurring here. It seems that lurking beneath the possibility of something positive is the reality of danger. The owners come back and the man and his boy hide upstairs where there are gruesome remnants of the peoples’ actions. The father, assuming they will be captured, realizes his son will not kill himself if the father is taken, so he is ready to shoot the boy first. But the homeowners are distracted by the people in the cellar trying to escape, and the boy and the father sneak out.

In the woods, they eat some roasted crickets and keep warm by a fire. The boy wants to be reassured that no matter how hungry they get, they won’t eat anybody. The father says they will never eat anyone, and they haven’t so far even though they are starving. The son says they are the good guys, and they are “carrying the fire,” which pleases the father, as the boy repeats what the father told him earlier, and the boy holds up a piece of wood with a flame, symbolizing the vow.

They return to the house where the man grew up. He shows his son where they used to place the Christmas tree and hang stockings. We feel sadness that the boy never had the joyful opportunity of celebrating holidays. The son says they shouldn’t be doing this, similar to how his father said they had to forget about the mother to move forward without sadness to defeat them. The child later believes he sees a young boy running around a building. The father chases his son and restrains him as the boy says he needs to find the other child. This scene shows the boy’s need for companionship and that he aches to be with someone his own age. He most likely was experiencing a hallucination created out of hope which still lives in the boy.

In his narration, the man says the boy hopes that he’ll find other children as they journey south toward the shore. The father probably just sees the journey as just something to do, a direction to go in a world without purpose. The boy asks about the father’s friends, and he tells them that they are all dead now, emphasizing that the father really has nothing to live for except to keep his son alive. He narrates that he just tries to “dream the dreams of a child’s imaginings.” He probably feels this way because future possibilities are the fuel which drives a youth forward in life. But the earth no longer offers no goals to head toward. The father is coughing often and the son asks if they are going to die now. The man tries to shed light on how things end for individuals that die of starvation, that it takes some time. In the narration he says he is trying to get the boy used to when he is gone since he admits to slowly dying, just like he earlier described what was happening to the earth.

The father says every day is a “lie,” since the body wants to survive, and it keeps looking for a chance to live another day, even though there is no point in the attempt. Alone, the father breaks down as the futility of his actions catches up with him. The boy calls to him and says he looked in a window of the abandoned house they are in and realized how “skinny” they look. Many times, the mind does not want to accept the cruel reality of what is happening. The father uncovers a piano in the house, and tries to play, again trying to resuscitate his past life with his wife, and a world that now no longer has music to inspire it.
Outside the house, the dad steps on a metal hatch door, which leads to an underground room. The boy remembers the cellar where those practicing cannibalism lived, and doesn’t want his father to go down the ladder. But, this time, the results are beneficial, reversing pessimism to optimism, and suggesting that one never knows what lies down “the road.” The father finds an underground shelter that has cans of food. The boy asks if it’s okay to take this food, since they are supposed to be the good guys, and are not thieves. The father says it’s okay, and paints it as an altruistic act of the former owners, so they should say a prayer of thanks. He covers the metal opening with an old mattress so nobody else will find the place. They eat and the boy sleeps. The father empties out his son’s belongings. Despite all of his attempts to forget his wife, he discovers one of her hair clips, reminding him of an evening out with his wife at a concert, another reference to a lost world of culture and refinement. 
In the house, just getting washed (more water baptismal imagery) with soap and shampoo, using toothpaste, and cutting their hair and his beard makes them feel human again. He smokes a cigarette which seems odd to the boy since it just makes the father cough more. He comments that his son probably thinks his father comes from another world, which the boy agrees. And in a way the father does, since it was a time “before,” when everything was different, and to which the boy cannot relate.

They hear a dog, which is surprising, since he noted earlier that no animals survived. The father anticipates that someone is with the dog, so the place is no longer safe. He says they must leave and take what they can. The boy, weary of being in fear and running all the time, says his dad is always negative, yet they found this place full of food. The father insists they leave and they find a large cart and fill it with supplies. Always in the background are rumblings, like the shifting of the earth in its deathbed.
They come across an old man (Robert Duvall), who can barely stand upright, and who uses a cane. He says he has nothing, and the father assures him they are not robbers. The boy wants to give the old man some food, but the father’s first response is negative. But the benevolence of the boy influences the father, and he eventually agrees to offering one can of food. The father anticipates his son asking that they take the old man with them, and again he initially says no. But, he relents again, and invites the old man to have dinner with them. 

The father is inquisitive about the age of the old man. He says he’s ninety, but the father believes that is what he says so people won’t hurt him. The old man says yes, and also acknowledges that others hurt him anyway, which shows that compassion is almost nonexistent now. After eating at a campfire, the old man says his name is Ely. It is significant that a very old man is the only person in the story with a name, suggesting that soon even individual identity will become extinct. Ely says when he saw the boy, he thought he saw an angel. He never thought he would see a child again. The father says his son is an angel, or more like a god to him. The old man finds that it’s sad that a god would be traveling on this road (the road to one’s death?), a sort of comment that even the gods have fallen prey to how horrible life has become. To stress the bleakness of their situation, Ely says that “if there is a God up there, he would have turned his back on us by now. And whoever made humanity will find no humanity here.” So he tells the father, “beware,” meaning there is no goodness left, and no God to rescue them. Ely says he saw this apocalypse coming, though many called it fake, which points to those being in denial, even in the face of scientific facts, who reject the truth for psychological, or possibly selfish reasons. The father asks if Ely ever wished he would die? The old man says no, and in a bit of dark humor, adds, “It’s foolish to ask for luxuries in times like these.” Death would be a gift and there is only a purgatory that one must endure now.

Ely leaves them, and the boy points out that the old man is going off to die (reminiscent of what happened to his mother) and says the father doesn’t care. The father reminds the boy that when the two of them run out of food he’ll think about things differently as to why they must tend to themselves first. But the son says the old man was not a bad person and now the father can’t even tell the difference between the good guys and the bad ones. The father only feels an obligation toward his son in the long run, while the son thinks in the short term that they can be generous. The peril that the father speaks of is emphasized in the next scene as they see footprints in the snow and hide as men hunt a mother and daughter. As they flee this danger they encounter another as there are more earth tremors and trees begin to uproot and fall, almost crushing them.

By now the father’s coughing is increasing. He says in the narrative that when one has bad dreams, one still has fear, which means a person continues to want to live. When one has good dreams, one is giving up, which means that in this inverted place, good dreams are bad omens. When they finally get to a southern beach, the father says he’s sorry the water is no longer blue, the drainage of color mirroring the absence of the old world’s beauty. The boy asks if there is anything on the other side of the sea. The father at first says there’s nothing, but then pulls back from his nihilism by saying there may be a father and son sitting on a beach on the other side of the ocean. The boy has a fever and throws up. It then storms, adding to the gloominess. The boy asks the father what would he do if the boy died? The man says he wouldn’t want to live, and confirms the boy’s statement that he would die so he could be with his son in death. The father here confirms that, for him, there is no point in existing without his son, the only connection he has to being human.

The father discovers a shipwrecked boat not far off the beach and tries to swim to get some supplies. While the boy slept, a thief (Michael Kenneth Williams) came by and took all their supplies. The father grabs the boy and goes after the robber, who looks in poor health himself. The man has a knife, and is at first defiant. But the father threatens him with the gun. He then throws down his knife. The father tells the thief to take off all his clothes and put them in the cart. Although the boy pleads for the man’s life and wants to be generous, the father, in a sort of Old Testament “eye for an eye” justice, says the thief would have left them with nothing. He warns his son how he won’t be around forever to protect him, and he has to learn how to survive. The boy’s response is that he doesn’t “want to learn,” what the father is teaching him if it amounts to being cruel toward others. He is echoing, even though he didn’t actually hear it, what his mother said about how just surviving is not enough.

The boy says the man was so afraid, but the father says he is afraid, too. He tells his son he is the one who has to worry about everything. But the boy yells that he is the one who must worry. In a way the boy, carrying “the fire,” is the conscience of humanity, so that is why he must worry about everything. He convinces the father to go back and leave some clothes and food for the man if he shows up where they left him.

Near some houses, hope seems to appear as they find a beetle and see a bird flying in the sky. But, as if to undermine that feeling of optimism, the father is wounded by an arrow coming out of a house window. The father shoots into the window and we hear groans. He gets inside the house and sees that he killed the man who shot at him, and the man’s female companion curses the father. People shoot first, and don’t even ask questions later. It is interesting that the father, Ely, the thief, and now this woman all ask why were they following each other. But nobody is hunting anyone; they are all just suspicious of everyone as fear of others has replaced all feelings of community.
The father pulls the arrow from his leg as he yells in agony. Because of his failing health, he can’t drag the wagon anymore. He looks at the water and remembers being in a car with his wife as she rested by the sea. (The flashbacks of happier times are full of brightness and color). In his narrative, he says if he were God he wouldn’t have made it any different so he could have “you,” as he thinks of his wife and then he looks at his son. Despite the hell that has been visited upon the earth, the father would not change anything since he is still grateful for the love for his family. The boy gives him water and keeps him warm. The father says he doesn’t know what will be “down the road.” In the end, “the road” is all there is left. He gives his son the gun, tells him to continue to head south, look for the good guys, but be on guard. The boy doesn't want him to leave and asks that he take him, too. The father thought he could end their lives together because he promised not to leave his son alone. But he can’t do it. Declaring his love for his son, even in such adverse times, he tells his boy that he always had his father’s “whole heart.”

After the father dies, the boy takes the gun. A man, carrying what looks like a military rifle, and is called the Veteran in the script (Guy Pearce), walks toward the boy along the shore. He has lost some fingers (in a battle, which shows he is a warrior who has the ability to protect?). After he finds out that the father is dead, he says the boy can come with him. The man has a wife and a boy and a girl. He says he doesn’t eat people, and says, yes, he is one of the good guys. Even though he must guess at what the boy is saying, he says that he tries to carry the “fire.” The family has a dog, the one they heard near the shelter filled with food. The Motherly Woman (Molly Parker), the Veteran’s female companion, appears with the couple’s son and daughter, children his own age who he longed to connect with. The Motherly Woman, contrary to what the others declared, says they were following the boy and his father. But, they were doing so only to look after him in case the father could no longer care for the boy. They are like guardian angels. The boy asks how does he know if the Veteran is a good guy. The Veteran says the boy will just have “to take a shot.” The phrase contains feelings of trust and suspicion. But, the boy, carrying that “fire,” opts for optimism. Here is where humanity still exists, in the hope and faith in each other.

After a Labor Day break, the next film is Milk.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

2019 Recent Films

SPOILER ALERT! The plots will be discussed.

I thought I would change things up a bit and provide some brief comments on films that have come out in recent months.

Late Night

This movie is written by and stars Mindy Kaling, who has a personality that is almost impossible not to like, unless you are just into dark, depressing movies, which, I know, have their apocalyptic appeal. Her character gets a job as a comedy writer on Katherine Newbury’s (Emma Thompson) long-running late night talk show, basically as a “diversity hire.” Katherine has no female writers on her staff despite her supposed feminist ways. It’s a bit hard to accept that Molly, whose only comedy background is cracking jokes while working at a chemical plant, gets the job. She is a young fan of Katherine’s but the show does not appear relevant anymore. Katherine has a biting wit and can be difficult to work with. Some of her soft side comes through when dealing with her husband, played by John Lithgow, who has Parkinson’s disease. But, our sympathy for her is undercut since Katherine had an affair with the writing staff’s womanizer (High Dancy), who tries to put the moves on Molly, too. Katherine is reluctant to do topical humor, first appearing ready to use Molly’s abortion joke, but then deciding to skip over it at the last moment.

Katherine’s emotional side comes across when she witnesses Molly’s humor during a stand-up routine at a charity event. Katherine proceeds to go onstage and is genuine in her feelings about the possibility of her show being cancelled and is more vulnerable in her humor. Katherine starts to use some of Molly’s jokes and interacts more with the audience. The network still tries to replace her with a sleazy comic. Katherine fires Molly for telling her she’s wrong not to fight back, but eventually does stand up for herself, and rehires Molly. Time passes, and there is more diversity at the show and it is a success again.

Despite Kaling’s appeal, and Thompson’s talent, the film just doesn’t gel. The plot is not believable, and the jokes fall flat. The characters have no real depth to them. There is one hilarious scene, though, that satirizes the absurdity of untalented people who become “stars” on the internet. Katherine has a YouTube celebrity on her show whose claim to fame is her sniffing her dog’s butt and then fainting. The film argues that just because something is odd doesn’t make it worthwhile, and the proliferation of these type of mindless diversions contributes to the dumbing down of our culture.


Oscar winning director Danny Boyle’s comedy-drama presents a speculative story about what the world would be like if the music of the Beatles did not exist. It starts out with its focus on a somewhat talented singer-songwriter, Jack Malick (Himest Patel), living in Suffolk, England, who gets small gigs booked by his childhood friend, Ellie Appleton (Lily James, the “Apple” part of her character’s name suggestive of what is to come?). He is playing at a sparsely attended tent at a festival when there is a world-wide power outage. Jack, on his bicycle, gets knocked out after a bus hits him. Later, Ellie gets him a new guitar and he starts to play “Yesterday.” His friends think it’s wonderful and believe Jack wrote it. After realizing they are not kidding, he can’t find any evidence of the Beatles or their songs (or Coca Cola, cigarettes, and Harry Potter for that matter, suggesting the world would be quite a different place for the better and the worst if some things never came into existence).

He strains his memory to recall as much of the songs’ music and lyrics since there is no reference material. He sees this opportunity as a way for him to finally realize his dream of becoming successful. It’s great to hear the songs, but we realize that at this point Jack’s quest is self-serving. Despite the quality of the work, it still takes some time for a producer to want to record the songs, but Jack gets a boost from pop star Ed Sheeran playing himself. Jack eventually becomes hugely popular, but there is a bit of humor on how Jack’s rendition of “Back in the U.S.S.R.” is out of date given the fall of the Soviet Union. Some songs are of their time. In addition, the record company wants to change the name of the “White Album” to “The One and Only,” an ironically erroneous title since the songs belong to others, not to Jack. Sheeran also retitles “Hey Jude” to “Hey Dude,” illustrating how in the wrong hands a song can be greatly diminished.

As the story continues we learn that there are two other people who remember the Beatles music, and there is the suggestion that Jack will be revealed as a fraud. But, the movie takes an unexpected, and gratifying turn, in that the two show up at a major concert and are thrilled that Jack has brought the Beatles’ music back to life. Jack acknowledges to the world that the songs are not his, but were created by John, Paul, George and Ringo. He wants the music available for free. There is a shift away from Jack’s personal drive for fame to his understanding of the importance to ensure the world is enriched by the songs.

Another marvelous twist in the story is that Jack tracks down the still living John Lennon (Robert Carlyle, who, through digital enhancement and make-up, looks and sounds exactly like an elderly Lennon). Since Lennon didn’t become famous in this dimension, he was not assassinated, and is currently seventy-eight, and has had a wonderful life with his wife and children. The film poses the question as to which life was better for Lennon, one of fame and fortune cut down at an early age, or one of longevity and happiness? The movie leaves us to ponder the question, and the different ways that life can play out depending on the circumstances.

The long-simmering love between Jack and Ellie is consummated, they are married, and we hear him and school children happily singing the delightful, “Ob-La-Di, Ob La Da,” showing us that Jack can also be successful without fame.


Okay, this movie probably swam past a lot of people this summer because there have been scary films about alligators before, and they have fallen into the B-Movie category, or even B-minus. Yes, this story is unbelievable in how the main characters can survive the onslaught of these nasty amphibians. But, the film works in many ways.

The main character is Haley (Kaya Scodelario), and we first see her competing in a University of Florida swim relay race. There are flashbacks of her as a child with her father, Dave (Barry Pepper), who was her gung-ho coach, calling her a “predator,” to encourage her when she lost a contest. This opening shows how she wants to live up to her father’s expectations, and how she is as much of a beast as the gators she will be confronting.

To add to the great atmospheric tension of the movie, there is a category 5 hurricane bearing down on the state, and Haley gets a call from her sister telling her that their father isn’t answering her calls. Their parents are divorced, and we later find that Dave was selling the family house. Haley avoids the police roadblock and makes it to the house where she finds her dad in the basement where an alligator bit him and he broke his leg. She eventually fights off two alligators, blinding one, but she also suffers a bite. She eventually shoots one of the critters while the gator has the hand holding the gun in its mouth. Anyway, there are other people who show up and many more alligators. There are several casualties along the way until daughter and father, though chewed on, beat off the predators and are eventually saved.

The special weather effects are convincing, the alligators are scary, and there is a Jaws-like suspense to the film. The amusing closing song is “See you later, alligator.” (On a personal note, when I first went to the theater to see this movie, it was a hundred degree day, with the air conditioning working overtime to fight the heat. Besides myself, there was a young couple in the theater. After about a half-hour, we heard a loud dripping sound, followed by the ceiling coming down in front of us. The other fellow went to get an employee who gave us passes, and I eventually saw the rest of the film - at another theater. I told the couple I like special effects, but bringing the hurricane into the theater was taking it a bit too far, and I was waiting for an alligator to slither out of the ceiling tiles.)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This latest Quentin Tarantino film is supposedly his next to last movie. It is a good thing that this isn’t his final work, because, for me, it was a disappointment. In prior films, Tarantino has taken real historical events, such as the war with the Nazis in Inglourious Basterds, and slavery, in Django Unchained, and then rewrote the past through the art of movie magic by killing off Hitler and the slave owners in those motion pictures, giving audiences satisfactory justice and revenge, imaginative thought it may be. He does the same thing here, erasing the Manson Family murders, by having his stars, Leonardo DiCaprio, as former TV lead Rick Dalton, and Brad Pitt, as his stunt double Cliff Booth, killing off the bad guys and saving Roman Polanski’s actress/wife, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie). (Referencing his own Inglourious Basterds, Rick was in a film where he incinerated Nazis, as Pitt’s character did in Basterds, and uses the retained working flamethrower to cremate one of the Manson clan).

The movie shows Hollywood at a time when TV was the inferior version of motion pictures, and television actors were considered second-class entertainment citizens. Rick goes the way of Clint Eastwood, graduating from playing TV cowboys to acting in Spaghetti Westerns. Cliff hangs onto a living as long as Rick is earning, and we see that he lives marginally in a trailer with his dog. He even has to be the alcoholic Rick’s chauffeur. The whole Manson element shows the perversion of the hippie movement of the time, and the fear experienced by some of Hollywood’s elite that they might be targets of anti-establishment forces. Cliff seems like a working-class hero who has the courage to enter the Manson compound to check on an old Hollywood friend whose land the Manson group is inhabiting. And it is funny to see him hold his own in an impromptu fighting match with the bragging Bruce Lee. But he has a dark past where he may have killed his wife, but was not convicted. (A reference to the Natalie Wood death?). After Rick helps save Tate, the doors to her mansion open up, and Rick is invited in, as if the gods of Hollywood may deem to raise him to movie star status.

Unlike other Tarantino films that thrive on witty, quirky dialogue delivered by odd but fascinating characters, this movie is not very funny, the characters not terribly interesting, and the plot drags in many spots. Quentin, let’s hope you’re saving your best for last.

The next film is The Road.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Year of Living Dangerously

SPOILER ALERT! The plot will be discussed.

Following last week’s Witness, here is another film from Australian director Peter Weir, the 1982 movie The Year of Living Dangerously. Like Witness, it also deals with clashes between various cultures and factions, and asks whether one must put the concerns of individuals over the commitment to one’s personal career or associations. This story centers on Indonesia in 1965 ruled at that time by President Sukarno.

Steel drums play to establish the tropical setting before the dark visuals reveal anything discernible, accentuating the possible danger that exists here. There is shadow puppetry on building walls that entertains children, but the playful action contains violence. The image shows how danger exists here, and implies the corruption of innocence. The use of the puppet image is used again later. The action takes place in Jakarta. Reporter Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) arrives in the city on his first overseas assignment as he hopes to make a name for himself. Diminutive Billy Kwan (the female Linda Hunt, winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this role) is a male Chinese Australian photographer, and is by far the most interesting character.

Billy types information about Guy in a dossier and notes his impressions in a voice-over. Billy says Guy is an enemy here because he is a Westerner and Sukarno doesn’t like the West, and he is the voice of the Third World. Potter, Guy’s predecessor in the job, was to meet him for a briefing but suddenly left saying his wife was ill. Kumar (Bembol Rococ), the man who works at the magazine branch office, says Potter was probably sick of Jakarta, summing the man up as an uncaring foreigner who did not care for the country.
Kumar says they have the first air-conditioned hotel because Americans and Europeans there like it cool. The Indonesians are used to the heat which is symbolic of the political climate. At a club, Billy says he worked with Potter. Billy introduces Guy to other journalists including the lascivious Peter Curtis (Michael Murphy) who writes for the Washington Post. They all know how hard it is to work there without contacts. Billy’s narrative shows his opinion of Guy as he observes how he, like “most of us become children again as we enter the slums of Asia.” One senses the childlike feelings of “laughter and misery, the crazy and the grim, toy town and a city of fear.” These feelings come from the joys and fears derived from being naive and vulnerable in an uncertain landscape, just like a child. Billy says Guy is scorned because he symbolizes the West, and Guy says he feels like a “spittoon” as some spit at him.

Billy, as if trying to be Guy’s mentor, takes him to the poorest section of the city, and says the bible and later Tolstoy once asked, “What then must we do?” to help others. Tolstoy went to the poorest section of his city, and was so moved he gave all his money away. Billy asks Guy if he would do the same? Billy notes that five dollars would be a small fortune. Guy says it’s a drop in the bucket, and wouldn't have any real effect. Billy says that’s what Tolstoy concluded. Billy says one shouldn’t think about the grand scheme, but “do whatever you can about the misery that’s in front of you. Add your light to the sum of light.” Guy gives the standard journalist answer that a reporter must not get involved personally in the subjects of the story. Billy later narrates his assessment that Guy is ambitious and self-contained. He is moderate to conservative in politics, but Billy sees possibility in him, what he calls the “unmet friend.” He seems to be assessing him for a role to play.

 Guy goes to the President’s palace the next day and meets the other journalists who must wait a long time until Sukarno is finished his breakfast in a sort of scornful attitude toward the West. The other reporters have made their contacts, but Guy has difficulty getting an interview. He broadcasts at his station, saying that Sukarno attempts to walk a precarious “tightrope” between the right-wing Muslim military and the communists. His boss in Sydney said he didn’t provide hard news, just something that could be observed back in Australia.  So Guy is feeling the pressure to produce.
Guy is feeling miserable as he sits in his leaking office. Billy shows up and asks if he got an interview. Since he didn’t, Billy says Potter sabotaged Guy by leaving early without helping him get established. Guy says he’s waited a long time for this chance and if he doesn’t deliver, his career is through. Billy says outside of Sukarno, who would he want to interview? Guy says Aidit, the head of the communist party there. Billy says he can get the interview for him, and has already paved the way. It will make “quite a stir internationally,” he says. Guy is a little suspicious of Billy being on speaking terms with Aidit. Guy says if he can arrange it, then he will give Billy all the film rights exclusively. Billy is happy, saying he wanted “a real partnership” but didn’t pursue it with Potter because he didn’t like the man, probably because he didn’t see any potential with him in getting the truth out about the people of Jakarta.

Their newspaper piece talks about how Sukarno has made an arms deal with the Indonesian Communist Party. The story shows up in one reporter’s newspaper, and it’s well written. The journalists are jealous, calling him “Sir Guy,” and Billy “The Black Dwarf,” mocking their accomplishment. The Washington Post reporter, Pete, says the story is a lie, and Aidit just used an inexperienced reporter to put forth some propaganda. He says Sukarno wouldn’t risk a civil war by arming the communists. The journalist says he’ll debunk Guy’s story and “piss” on it. They start to fight, but the British reporter, Wally (Noel Ferrier) diplomatically calms them down and says that maybe the piece should have included some skepticism concerning the deal, but admits it was well-written. He gets Guy and Pete to shake hands as professionals.

Some time passes as Pete asks what does Guy do for sex, and mentions the cemetery, where Billy says that’s where the prostitutes hang out. Pete says the sex is great, but one guy says the prostitutes are riddled with venereal disease. Billy, sarcastically commenting on the plight of the prostitutes, says that “starvation is a great aphrodisiac,” which comments on how these westerners are exploiting the local poverty. There is a reference that Billy hangs out with the most beautiful girl in town, but Billy says it’s a friendship. At the bar, Pete hires a small, strange man to do some singing and dancing for Guy, who is embarrassed by the humiliation the person is subjected to just for some money. Billy is angry at the display and Guy is embarrassed by this additional example of the lack of concern for the plight of the local inhabitants.

Guy and Billy walk to Billy’s place. Billy points out a picture of a dwarf and says, “The one great advantage of being a dwarf is that you can be wiser than other people and no one envies you.” Billy probably sees himself as having intellectual power that nobody wants to acknowledge. Billy says Guy “doesn’t see” in an emotional sense the reality around him because of his journalistic distancing, which suggests Guy is not capable at this point of doing anything about the problems of the world. Billy adores Sukarno, and believes he’s really trying to help his people. He says he is a genius, admired as a god among his populace. There are pictures on his wall showing people scrounging for rice, but Billy complains that is not what the journalists are reporting. Billy isn’t concerned about how artistic his photography looks, he is only interested in the contents of what he is depicting. He is the opposite of what he said of Guy, because he becomes involved with the people he interacts with. For Billy, the subjects of the reporting come first for him.

Guy notices Billy’s puppets, which brings us back to the opening sequence of the film. Billy says Guy has to understand Wayang, the Sacred Shadow Play, to understand Java. The Puppet Master is entitled the Priest. They call Sukarno the Great Puppet Master, because he balances the left with the right, politically. The shadows of the puppets represent the souls of people, and the screens on which they are projected is heaven. Watching the shadows is what one concentrates on as there is the constant struggle between the right and the left. The Forces of light and darkness are in an endless balance. All of this symbolism provides a supernatural, other-worldly dimension that transcends reality. In the West, Billy says, people want answers for everything: it is either all good or all bad, right or wrong. But, in Asia there is a different philosophy, where no such final conclusions exist. Billy implies that there are no simple, easy answers to complex problems, and the desire is for balance, not the vanquishing of one side over the other. As a mirror is obscured by dust, and a fire hidden by smoke, all things become clouded. So, there are no perfect heroes, because men can be fickle and selfish, subject to desires, allowing the soul to be blinded. In this mythic scenario there is a dwarf, who serves the Prince, (as Billy feels he serves Sukarno?) Guy notices a photo of Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver), whom Billy calls “My Jilly,” a familiar nickname, with the “my” showing possessiveness on Billy’s part.
They observe Col. Ralph Henderson (Bill Kerr), the British military attaché, at the hotel, who Billy says Guy should meet. Jill is also there coming out of the pool, and Billy tells her he wants her to meet Guy. Jill says she is ready to go back home to England in a couple of weeks and is looking forward to it. Henderson bullies the waiter, one may say he acts imperialistic, because the man added ice to the gin and tonic, and the Colonel says that’s what the Americans want. He then wants to race Guy in a swimming contest. Billy comments that winning at games is very important to the British, which also hints at England’s past hunger to rule the world. Guy lets Henderson win.

In voice-over, Billy wants to find things that he and Guy have in common. He notes that both he and Guy have mixed heritage, mothers who are Australian, but Billy’s father is Chinese, and Guy’s dad is American. They “are not quite at home in the world,” he says, not fitting well into any one place, which makes them outsiders, not embraced as family anywhere. Kumar’s dad is being pressured by the military to pay protection money for his shop. His pride is at stake when Guy has extra cash and offers it to Kumar. Kumar says, “for my father, I’ll play the beggar.” The scene stresses the dire economic situation in the country, and the corruption as those in charge exploit their own people.
There is a communist party protest at the American Embassy. Kumar says the PKI, the communist party, is getting a great deal of support, and the marchers carry signs showing Sukarno’s image. Kumar says the PKI will provide discipline. But Billy, as was shown, is not a believer in any one political answer, and points out that Stalin gave discipline to Russia and wiped out 10 million people as the price for it. The protesters bring a dump truck carrying rocks and they throw them at the embassy. They then start to ram the car with Guy and company in it with a truck. Billy and Gus get out and record video and audio of the mob. Instead of embracing the media attention, the crowd starts to attack the two men, and one cuts Guy with a knife on his leg. But being dedicated journalists, their main concern is that they recorded the footage. The adrenaline rush of getting the story is what dominates Guy’s desire, and Billy wants to expose the anger at the West for not helping the Indonesians.

As Billy bandages Guy’s leg at Billy’s place, Guy looks at Jill’s photo. Billy asks what he thinks of her, and he says the British, like the Colonel, act too superior. Billy says she isn’t like that. The man in the photo with her is a French journalist with whom she was involved, but he was transferred to Saigon. Billy says it’s difficult for Jill because men want to get her in bed within five minutes of meeting her. Billy is pointing out how the sexist attitude toward women dominates here, and reduces Jill to being a sex object. Guy makes an unkind joke that it’s Billy’s job to keep the men at bay, like he’s a eunuch. Guy realizes his insensitive remark and apologizes. Billy says he asked Jill to marry him, but she turned him down. So despite his earlier statement of just being friends, he, too, is attracted to her. Guy sees the file Billy created on him and starts to become agitated wondering who Billy is working for, such as the communists or the CIA. Billy says he keeps files on everybody and isn’t working for anyone. He says he and Guy are friends and make a good team. He then jokes, saying how they even look alike, having the same eyes.
Billy says when he types “here on the quiet page, I’m master. Just as I’m master in the dark room, stirring my prints in a magic developing bath.” The poetic words take on a supernatural and ritualistic connotation. He is like the Puppet Master in his solitude, away from the judgments of the world concerning his small size, as he manipulates those moments he has frozen in time through his power. As he looks at the pictures he has put on his walls, he says he shuffles their lives like cards, having a sort of control over them. Outside his realm these people will decay, become others, “betray their dreams,” and will eventually turn into ghosts.

Billy brings rice and a toy to a woman, Ibu (Norma Uatuhan) and her sick child. He gives her money for a doctor. He narrates that he tries to make her and her boy understand that the water they drink and bathe in carries disease. His words demonstrate how he tries to practice what he preaches, trying to help those right in front of him. In another place Billy says that Ibu could lead a good life. This idea of circumstances of birth determining survival comes up again later. Here she must beg and probably sell herself, and Billy knows her story is repeated a million times over. The film emphasizes the anguish and impoverishment that results when those in power, whether foreign or domestic, continually exploit and neglect the poorer nations. Billy again asks the question that he posed to Guy, “What then must we do?” He concludes that we must give love to whomever God puts in our path.

As poor natives look at money exchanged in the club, the journalists are drinking champagne, as Wally says he has bought a bungalow. The others wonder why anyone would want to take up permanent residence there, seeing their role as information scavengers who are just there to feed and move on. At Wally’s place, there is a party, with Billy, Guy and Jill in attendance. Wally’s house boy brings him a drink, and Wally tells the servant that he spoils Wally. Wally strokes him, suggesting a gay relationship, that is exploitative given the socio-economic situation. The Colonel is there also and says that Guy is young and can be forgiven for speculating in one of his articles about a famine. Guy stands his ground by saying the event was not speculation. Billy asks Jill about the article and she says it was a bit melodramatic. The next shot is of Billy looking at Jill’s photo and saying, “And so it begins,” which probably refers to the romance that will occur between Guy and Jill. Billy may be jealous but at the same time wanted the two to meet, and is instrumental in advancing the relationship because he wants what’s best for Jill.

Perhaps on purpose, Billy does not show up at the news office to meet Jill for lunch. Guy offers to drive her to Billy’s place. On the way, he asks what she thought was melodramatic about his story. She says she was a witness to the famine, so she is not just getting the news second-hand, but has seen the atrocity and wants the information revealed in the most effective way. From a writing standpoint, she felt he repeated the physical description of the children with signs of starvation more than necessary. He jokingly turns up the radio as if to drown out criticism.

As they get out of the car, the children touch them, and Jill comments that they rub against their white skin, which implies they have been programmed to believe it is special, possibly superior, or lucky, because the whites are so rich in comparison to themselves. She asks why did he let the Colonel win the swim race, and he admits that maybe it is because the man looks like his father, bald and with a mustache. She knows that his father died in the war because Billy told her, which shows Billy furthering their connection. Billy is not at his house. Jill says Billy seems to be no threat with the way he looks, and wanders into all the embassies, gathering information, with nobody wanting to make a scene about trying to throw him out because of his vulnerable size. She tells Guy that Billy keeps files on people he cares about, that he’s not an agent, as Guy still suspected. She also points out a picture of the woman, Ibu, and her son, who he has adopted and tries to help. Guy has to do interviews and invites her, jokingly saying she can keep an eye on the melodrama.

Later he asks what she does at the embassy and she is not very forthcoming, so he guesses she is a spy. It starts to pour, and their drinks come, which become flooded by the rain. They are drenched and get to his car. They laugh when he asks what is it they are drinking, and she says it’s green stuff, and then he plays off of what the Colonel said earlier by saying the drink should come with ice. Her hat is soaked and he puts it on and says he should get one for the interview, which she says he can have hers cheap. He drops her off, asks her out to dinner, but can’t get her to go since she is leaving soon, saying it’s too complicated. He says dinner isn’t complicated. He calls later, but she refuses to talk with him. Despite their chemistry, she has already been hurt before and doesn't want to get emotionally invested if there is no future for the two of them.
Billy tells Guy that he has an invitation to a ball at the British Embassy, and gives him an incentive to attend by saying Jill will be there. Billy is again acting like a go-between. The Colonel is suspicious when Guy swoops Jill outside so they can kiss. She says she can’t leave with him because it will cause a scandal and she reminds him she will be leaving soon. Disappointed, he goes, but she hops in his car. The Colonel yells after her asking what is she doing? They are living dangerously in a different way, the one involving matters of the heart. There is a curfew reminder at the party to emphasize the danger and restrictions here. But not for these lovers, as they drive through an armed roadblock that has fire burning in drums as the soldiers start firing at them. They duck and laugh wildly afterwards, showing how their passion has literally made them reckless. Later, Billy strokes Guy’s bullet scarred vehicle, as if vicariously enjoying Jill’s excitement and at the same time feeling the pain of not being able to give her joy.

We return to Billy’s narration as he again looks at Jill’s dossier. He is like a psychiatrist analyzing his patients as he reviews their charts. Or maybe he sees himself as a person who has been underestimated as to his power, and views himself as someone who can alter the course of things, through his analysis and manipulation of others. He is much more poetic, and is a better writer than Guy. He says of Jill, she “has little religious feeling, yet has a reverence for life. This is a spirit like a wavering flame which only needs care to burn high. If this does not happen, she can lapse into the promiscuity and bitterness of the failed romantic.” Billy sees Jill as a person who can either soar or crash in the pursuit of love, and since he is not the one she loves, he takes it upon himself to supply her with the best man.

At the journalist's bar, the men make sexually suggestive comments about the fact that Guy and Jill left the embassy together. They make lewd remarks, but Guy’s reaction is to push away the leering Pete, and leave. As one of them says, accurately, Guy is in love. The next scene has Guy trying to fix the car while Jill sits in it. The two talk about staying and leaving. She says she wants to travel to see firsthand what is going on, not read about it in some “yellow journalism” piece, making a joke about the low quality of his type of news coverage.

Working at her job, she reads a top-secret communication. She goes out. It is raining and the slick, wet streets are symbolic of her sexual arousal and longing for Guy. She goes to his office, pulls him out and they go to have sex. She confides in him that arms are being shipped to the local communists, which means there will be a civil war. She says she told him this not for a news scoop but to save him. She says if the communists take over they will kill all foreigners. But, for him, because he is a reporter, he must stay. He says Sukarno won’t be able to separate the Muslims and the communists, as Billy had hoped.

Billy meets Guy at his office and admits that he was also told in confidence by Jill of the arms delivery. Billy says even if Guy gets independent confirmation about the arms shipment, everyone will know he received the information from Jill, and that will destroy her career and make her a security liability. Guy says he can’t just sit on this story, since he most likely sees it as a warning for the people of Jakarta. But he really wants to run the story because of his desire to be a news-breaking reporter. Billy walks away from him in disgust.

In another narration as he reviews Guy’s file, Billy says Guy has changed, and maybe Billy was wrong about him. Billy sees Guy as being capable of betrayal, since he sees how he put Jill in a precarious position because of his ambitions regarding his job. He says that he abuses his journalist position and has become addicted to risk. He makes a “fetish” of his career, and “all relationships temporary,” if they hinder his zeal to get the story. Billy asks why can’t Guy give of himself, why can’t he “love.” Yet we saw at the bar that he wasn’t admitting to using Jill just for sex, and has true feelings for her.

Guy goes to docks wanting a source to confirm when the shipment of arms will come in. But he is warned that if he accidentally talks to a communist party member, he will be in danger. He does a lot of traveling with Kumar to find where the shipment might arrive. Kumar has them stop at what was an old Dutch villa to rest for the night, but Guy has a troubled dream about being drowned by Tiger Lilly (Kuh Ledesma), who runs the place. She earlier took a dive into a filthy swimming pool, showing how there is no escape from the squalid conditions in the country. His dream shows him psychologically experiencing the danger to him (and probably the people) in Jakarta. Earlier Kumar said that the communists might bring order to the country. Guy now realizes Kumar is with the PKI. Kumar admits that there must be violent change to raise his country out of its poverty and corruption. Kumar says Tiger Lilly is higher up in the PKI and there is a death list which Guy is on. Kumar so far has protected him, but says Guy must cease asking about the shipment of arms.
Back at the hotel, Guy tries to call Jill. Pete, blaring American rock and roll music, wants to celebrate with Guy because he has been assigned to Saigon, where the Vietnam War is heating up. He flaunts his money, and the blaring music, along with dancing with the local girls, show he has no respect for the population. He sees the situation only as a source of exploitation. A man there pulls out a gun and tells Pete and Guy to leave, the scene illustrating the anger at the foreigners’ selfish presence. The two men drive and are accosted by a gang of prostitutes. Pete wants to continue to take advantage of their poverty and leaves to go with the women, while Guy becomes repulsed by the scene, probably feeling guilty about the sordidness of what he sees around him and to which the foreigners contribute.

Guy goes to the British Embassy, but is told that Jill is not available. Billy walks to Ibu’s place but sees women dressed in white, the color of mourning in Asia. Ibu and a holy man are performing a death ritual. Billy walks away and sees a picture of Sukarno, but he is no longer showing signs of adulation. He sees people still fighting in the streets for rice, as children scoop it off the ground. He joins the journalists at the bar celebrating Pete’s assignment and talking about Sukarno’s arrival in the city. Billy mocks them, saying wherever there is misery that is where the press goes, but he says they don’t do anything to relieve the suffering. He has footage of the grain fights if they want it to show the plight of the common people, instead of just reporting the splashy news stories. Billy says they should tell the truth about Sukarno, who has also changed (as he said about Guy). He now sees Sukarno also as a betrayer, with his empty speeches, as he builds “monuments to his vanity” while his people are starving. Billy agrees that Sukarno uses his people as objects of pleasure. But, Billy accuses the reporters of doing the same, as he accuses Wally of exploiting young boys for sex and Pete indulging himself with young girls. They attack Billy, but Guy shows up and stops them, as Billy runs off.

Guy catches up with him, and in the background there is a car on fire and there is graffiti over Sukarno’s posters, with PKI written on them. A homeless man crouches in the corner. It is a hellish landscape. Guy says the story was too important to withhold to protect Jill. Billy says he would give up the world for her, but Guy, “wouldn’t even give up one story.” He says he believed in Guy, and thought he was a man of “light.” He gave him the stories to write because he wanted him to “feel something” about what was “right,” He says he and Jill gave him their trust. In casting himself as a type of god, Billy says to Guy, “I created you.” He gave Jill (like Eve) to Guy (his Adam), and now took her back because Guy doesn’t deserve her. He gave him the stories, to try to make him feel things, see what was right. He walks away in disappointment, feeling Guy has let them all down.

Back at his place, Billy cries as he looks at a photo of Ibu’s child as mournful operatic music plays, and he repeats, “What then must we do?” typing it over and over. At a reception, Guy confronts Jill, and he says he did the broadcast but made sure it was confirmed by the communists. She tries to excuse his actions, saying she knew he was a journalist when she told him of the arms information, but the hurt on her face is obvious, and she walks away.
Billy has lost all faith in his leader, believes he has harmed the woman he loves by picking the wrong man for her, and has seen the death of Ibu’s boy. He makes a Christ-like sacrifice to carry the sins of his country and others, including himself, to bring attention to the suffering of the people. He rents a hotel room and hangs a sign out of the window that reads, “Sukarno, Feed Your People.” There is a rush of police to his room, and after they break in, Billy falls out of the window. Guy is there after following the rush of people and covers Billy’s broken body. Billy smiles at Guy before he dies, as if forgiving him.

Guy finds Jill at Billy’s place where she wants to get his files before the authorities get there. Guy says he was murdered and Sukarno didn’t even see it, so he feels that his death was in vain. He tells her he didn’t want to hurt her by running the story, but doesn’t want to lose her. She is leaving the next day.

Over the radio there is news that the government has been taken over. There are troops that stop Guy’s car as he heads to the airport. They are near the palace, and he acts like he's going there as a journalist, but a guard hits him in the head. Hortono (Domingo Landicho), the driver, takes him to Billy’s place. Both of his eyes are bandaged as Hortono leaves to go with his family. Kumar shows up and says that the PKI failed, and the Muslim generals have taken over, making Sukarno a “puppet” of the right. This ironic statement reminds one of how Billy once thought of Sukarno as the “Puppet Master,” balancing the good and the bad. Kumar’s words show how Billy had misplaced his faith. Kumar says he himself is a dead man since the military is killing all of the known communists. Guy offers him a cigarette like a man smoking before the firing squad starts shooting. As Billy said how in another country Ibu would have lived well, Kumar asks Guy sine Kumar is not a stupid man, why does he live like a poor person all of his life when stupid people in Guy’s country live well? Guy can’t answer the question. Kumar says Billy was right, that Westerners do not have answers anymore, which is symbolized by Guy laying there, mute, and blind, useless. Kumar recites a Japanese saying about water from the moon, which means something you’ll never have. Guy takes the bandage off of one eye, risking blindness, and tells Kumar to get him to the airport and then Kumar can drive away to safety.
As they go through a checkpoint, they see the military lining people up and shooting them. After Guy shows his journalistic papers, the military luckily let him drive away, not risking an incident with a foreign correspondent. At the airport, the security guards confiscate Guy’s tape recorder, and he lets them have it. Jill is waiting for him in the airplane. He has made the choice to put the woman he loves ahead of his job, as Billy would have wanted.

Next time, short comments on four recent films.