Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Raul Julia's last film: "Down came a Blackbird"

Last week, I saw a movie listed to be on TV that looked interesting and so I Tivoed it. It was, 1995s "Down came a blackbird" with Laura Dern, Vanessa Redgrave and Raul Julia. It is about torture victims at a clinic for their type, by a Dr. who is a holocaust survivor.

I find interesting, stories about political intrigue and its ramifications. Perhaps as a way to stay conscious of what can happen, anywhere. Because, with some of the things we are seeing in our on country, the "Land of the Free, home of the brave", I've seen too many instances of our rights deteriorating, our freedoms suffering restrictions, to the popular interests of the fearful, the uneducated, the powerful and the greedy.

A few quotes from William S. Burroughs. Why? Because it shows a certain thought process, or defective way of thinking, ones that we are prone to do, ones that we tend to flock, to as a mob:

* A paranoid man is a man who knows a little about what's going on.
o Quoted in Friend magazine (1970)

* There is simply no room left for 'freedom from the tyranny of government' since city dwellers depend on it for food, power, water, transportation, protection, and welfare. Your right to live where you want, with companions of your choosing, under laws to which you agree, died in the eighteenth century with Captain Mission. Only a miracle or a disaster could restore it.
o Cities of the Red Night (1981)
* Most of the trouble in the world has been caused by folks who can't mind their own business, because they have no business of their own to mind, any more than a smallpox virus has.
o "My Own Business" in ‪The Adding Machine : Selected Essays‬‎ (1985), p. 16

* This is a war universe. War all the time. That is its nature. There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games. All games are basically hostile. Winners and losers. We see them all around us: the winners and the losers. The losers can oftentimes become winners, and the winners can very easily become losers.
o "The War Universe", taped conversation, first published in Grand Street, No. 37 (1991)

* After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it. I sure as hell wouldn't want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.
o Grand Street, no. 37 & The War Universe (1992)

Back to the film...it starts with Dern in South America as a journalist with a partner doing the job that those types tend to do in a country such as they were in. They were picked up and tortured by death squads and only she made it out alive.

She met the Dr. (Redgrave) who survived the Nazis concentration camps as a child and the Dr. asks Dern's character to come to her clinic, because she needs it. But Dern refuses and needs a reason, the reason being, she see is enticed by the possibility of a very good story in it. But is she really doing it for the story, or because deep down she knows she needs it, but can only do it by fooling herself?

At this point, I had forgotten Raul was in this film. He had always been one of my favorite actors. I never thought much of him, until I saw him in "Kiss of the Spiderwoman", another film about political abuses in a South American country, with William Hurt as a gay prisoner; Raul, being the exact opposite of Hurt's character. It is an affecting story, at times, difficult to watch, just as it was as a stage play, powerful, disturbing, affecting.

So, when Raul turns up in the movie, finally, it was a shock in...several ways.

After Dern arrives at the clinic and settles in, Raul's character arrives, suave in a way, secretly paranoid, but with a real squad from his homeland, trying to track him down. When Raul appeared, I was stunned at his appearance, because he was so gaunt, so weak looking. I couldn't understand it until I looked the movie up on IMDB and discovered this was his last film before he died in 1994; the movie being only released in 1995.

I think, it is a tribute to Raul, as a man and an actor, that this should prove to be his last role. I would have perhaps, preferred, that his last role had been a happy character, as in "The Addams Family" film, when he played Gomez; one of my favorite TV shows of the 60s.

Regarding this last role of Raul's life and film career...whenever I write horror stories, it is as an attack against what I am fearful of, of what I am against in life, about those injustices in the world; in order to make people think, to make them rail against what is bad and evil and wrong. A woman once read a short story of mine, one of "social horror" as I like to call it; and she said after, with a look of horror on her face: "You don't, see things that way, do you?"

Of course, I don't. That, was the point.

I see things, in the exact opposite of the story's main character. I wrote it that way so that YOU will understand what is horrible, to see what evil sees, to realize the narcotic powers it has over some, to fear what is bad in life, then to feel motivated to fight against it, to recognize it, to refuse to put up with it.

This film was a very interesting story, at times, difficult to watch and difficult to listen to. But a powerful tale and one that gives us a better understanding of what torture victims live through afterward, but more importantly, what it is that goes on. What goes on in the way of anyone, doing this to someone, or allowing it, to happen to someone.

Has America ever done this, or allowed this to happen by third parties? Have we tortured, or set up people to be tortured? "Waterboarded"? Terrified? Humiliated? Have we ever redefined what the word "torture" means in order to allow us to be justified, to be able to do it? Do we, as citizens have any responsibility in our government having done this? IS it justified? Is ANYTHING to be justified in the process of national security? Perhaps, at times, the answer is yes; still, we then have that blood on our hands, too. Do you find that...unsettling to think of?

It is strange and curious in the way we Humans can be. One thing that kept sticking in my mind through nearly the entire film, that I really hated Laura Dern's hair style. Funny how we will latch on to something when we are uncomfortable, in an attempt to try and allay in any way possible, our fears, our embarrassments. To be able to do what needs to be done. To misdirect our attention, to complete an uncomfortable, or disagreeable task. How do the torturers rationalize their behaviors, their jobs, when they go home at night, to family, friends, even their religion?

"Sing a Song of Sixpence", a Nursery Rhyme:

Sing a song of sixpence, a pocket full of rye;
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened, the birds began to sing;
Oh, wasn't that a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in his counting house counting out his money,
The queen was in the parlour eating bread and honey.
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes
When down came a blackbird and pecked off her nose.

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