Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Writer John Berger is nearly 80 years old. He doesn’t have time to waste, and in his new collection, Hold Everything Dear: Dispatches on Survival and Resistance, nothing is wasted. So when on page 85 Berger directs us to Pasolini’s obscure documentary montage La Rabbia (Rage), we follow…
"La Rabbia, I would say, is a film inspired by a fierce sense of endurance, not anger. Pasolini looks at what is happening in the world with unflinching lucidity. (There are angels drawn by Rembrandt who have the same gaze.) And he does so because reality is all we have to love. There’s nothing else.
His dismissal of the hypocrisies, half-truths and pretences of the greedy and powerful is total because they breed and foster ignorance, which is a form of blindness towards reality. Also because they shit on memory, including the memory of language itself, which is our first heritage.
Yet the reality he loved could not be simply endorsed, for at that moment it represented a too deep historical disappointment. The ancient hopes which flowered and opened out in 1945, after the defeat of Fascism, had been betrayed.
The USSR had invaded Hungary. France had begun its cowardly war against Algeria. The coming to independence of the former African colonies was a macabre charade. Lumumba had been liquidated by the puppets of the CIA. Neo-capitalism was already planning its global take-over.
Yet despite this, what had been bequeathed was far too precious and too tough to abandon, the ubiquitous demands of reality were impossible to ignore. The demand in the way a shawl was worn. In a young man’s face. In a street full of people demanding less injustice. In the laughter of their expectations and the recklessness of their jokes. From this came his rage of endurance."
At time when our media/political establishment is engaged in equivocations regarding the practice of waterboarding, it follows that narratives which mystify the fundamental injustices of the current, global dispensation (which are, as any Palestinian schoolchild can tell us social, political, economic and historical in nature) must be held to account, for we, like Berger, have no time to waste; we have only time for family and friends, for the for the children that suffer in innocence, for the poor, for the dispossessed, for animals harvested for food cruelly and wastefully, and for narratives that, in however small a way, resist the dominant culture. Many might disagree, but my feeling is that cinema (and fiction), at this historical juncture, must count for something.
I wonder whether we might still engage the films that matter, films like The Passenger, like La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc, like Radio On, like Lombardi’s Ojos Que No Ven, like Chris Marker’s Le Jette, like anything by Bresson, like Roeg’s Walkabout, in terms that abide, rather than mystify.