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Month
September
Year
1996
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Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
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Agenda Publications
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[1964. Directed by Mikhail Kalatozov. Cast: Luz Maria Collazo, José Gallardo, Raúl García. MosFilmsMilestone Films. Spanish and English with Russian voiceover and English subtitles. 141 mins.] 3r $ A Crttics wortdwide - govemmental and otherwise - have had a tremendous difficutty dealing with Mikhail Kalatozov's Am Cuba through these last thirty years. Kalatozov's cinematic hymn to the Cuban revo krtion has been troublesome for its critics precise ty because it does what it snould quite so wetL Workhg with writers Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Enrique Pineda Barnet - and master cinematographer, Sergei Urusevsky - Kalatozov crafted a visual tone poem of such conseq uence with Am Cuba, it was almost immediately shetved with disfavor by the Soviet govemment and scomed by Fidel Castro in Havana. Onty recovered after the collapse of Russian Communism, Kalatozov's masterwork has been recently reieased through the assistance of Martin Scorcese and Francis Ford Coppola. Essentialy a quartet of stories tJed together by the poetry of Cuban resistance, Am Cuba is more than mere propaganda. It's an attempt to paint the story of social heroismfrornself-abnegation topoi ticalresclutbn. As such, its characters are more archetypes thanthey are individuals. Yevtushenko'sand Bamet's screenplay celébrate the personhoods - student, farmer, laborar, factory worker, and intellectual - upon whose support the Cuban revolution rested in 1959. Th is fact atone wou ld have scarcety raised Soviet or Cuban censors' eye-brows. But when they gotagcodlookatthefilm'sfluidcinematography - a remarkably vivid tum on Dziga-Vertov's artful véritó - it was over for Kalatozov's project Toadd a finishing touch, the flm's mesmerizing Wend of folk mustc, ja", calypso, and martial airs ateo proved far too potent an aestheticfbr militant socialism to license indrscriminatety. Atter all, the stining sight of menartd women fighting for their freedom against overwhelming dictatofiaJ odds can have consequences for any govemment. No setf-appointed protector of public mores woukt ever lose stght of this significant truth. It 's therefore more a wonder that the film's negativas weren 't immediatelybumt By contrast, latter-day American film critics have derided lAm Cuba 's intent It was, admttted ly, crafted with a specific politica slant in mind. So it must therefore also be acknowtedged that Kalatozov's take on colonialism is manifestly one-stded. But one need not thoroughly understand materialist dialectics to grasp the concept of hegemony. Am Cuba is deariy the product of the two societies that created it. It's view of politics is no better, and certainly no worse, than any other such propagandized work of art Despite rts ideology - despite, even, rts singte-mindedness - I Am Cuba falte f avorabty in that same cont roversial lot of stalwartfictionalpoliticalfilmsasartfiofaAaöbn, 77 BaWeship Potemton, The BaWe of Algiers and Z Kalatozov's doggedly sincere Cuba sighs with an ache that soars straight to the human heart despite the occasional superfluity of its surprisingry mundane narraUve. But when the shouting is over, Am Cuba steadfastty reinf orces the indisputable fact that film is far too discriminating a social medium to bend unthinkingly to simpleminded potemical panegyrics. EMMA [1 996. Directed by Douglas McGrath. Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeremy Northam, Toni Collette. Miramax Films. 111 mins.] CLUELESS [1995. Directed by Amy Heckerling. Cast: Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Bash, Britanny Murphy. Paramount PicturesParamount Home Video. 97 mins.] Pettiaps tt's too much to expect films to gruw up ovemight But after a century , there might be some hope for the movies after all. With a stight nudge from that unlikety 1 9th century feminist - Jane Austen - two recent translatkxis of her classic Emma Ilústrale the power of motion pk turestodepictanddefuse" 'neyed stereotypes. Blond bombshelb have had a tengthy run in Hollywood. From the days of JeanHartow and Judy Holliday through Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Gotdie Hawn, the presumptjon has been that dumb and blond are close enough in alliteration to warrant facile comparison. Gwyneth Paftrow's and Alicia Silverstone's respective tums as Austen's sweetty self-centered central character of this 1816 masterpiece are decisive transitions from prior depictions of bubbtedheaded btondies. Both of these actresses retain their character's near-innocent narcissism without descending into the cloying stereotypes that have traditionally caricatured feminine wiles. Douglas McGrath 's Emma - the more faithfu ', translation of these two films- maynotbe the best adaptation of this recent spurt of Austenmania But he does capture what arry average audience might expect of gentrified England. The cadenee of nis screenplay has a warm relaxed tone that allows Austen's story to unfold letsurety. Emma Woodhouse, a matchmaking twentysomething, prevés to be as f etc hing a busybody as hereffortsarenear-disastrous. Emmacomestoage as she becomes fttfully aware of her remarkable powers of persuasión. As played by Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma hasnt a mean-spirited bone in her body; although admittedly, she can lapse into rnmaturish spite when thwarted. Emma's matching of seemingly every eiigible local bachelor and maiden causas pandemonium wtien she seeksto impose her values on f riends and family. Granted, ttiis isn't a particulariy enlightened perspectlve to work frora But Austen's - and McGrath 's by extensión - machinations are f ar too astute to lapse into parody . As Paltrow's subtly shaded performance reveáis to us over the course of the film, Emma Is Indeed capable of moral growth . And although she is bound to her social class boundaries, she's still intelligent enough to recognize the hurt she's inadvertentty fostered through her sometimes misguided efforts. Alicia Silverstone's Cher Hamilton in Oueless is by pointed contrast resokitety post-modemist chic. Arriy Heckerling'stakeon Austen isfartoointerested in poking fun at the image of the golden giri to take itsetf seriousty . As a result, Silverstone's Cher is ateo progresstve, but only because her growth is purely onherterms. Cher, like her 19th century Austenian counterpart, is busily matching her friends together, but her standards are informed by 2Oth century consumer fads. Cleverty winding her way through high school, she's essentially no more than a hipper, shrewder female Ferris Bueller. Using her wits to gain her interest, Cher matures as she belatedly recognizes the consequences of her actions. Both films use thtsgosling toswan metamorphosis as the basis of their plot And happily enough, each heroïne ultimately wins in both films. Emma through her heart 's winsomedesire and Cherthrough her wilfully intelligent lack of remorse. What Emma and Gfueessgive usare archetypetshattering modefsof femininity. By looking back and reconstructing the past, McGrath shows us the brilliance of Austen's social psychotogy. And if Heckerling is more subversivo than McGrath in her analysisofAusten'stextshe'saisocraftedthemore reientless heroine of the two characters. By looking forward, Heckerling shows us Austen was more than a bit of a modernist Working carefully through the conventions from which she wrote, Austen tums out to have anticipated many of the issues women face today. Thus the audacious brillance of Oueless. Working carefully through the psychotogy from whteh she wrote, Austen proves that Emma's probtems are most certainly perennial. Happily, so are both of these films Austen inspirad. RATING KEY ft Acting 0 Cinematography Direction 8E Editing d Narrative Sound Special Effects When a synbof appears fdlowing a tith, itimplies that the corresponding category is a strength oi the movie.

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