At the Film Forum last night, Violent Saturday, a sun-stroked DeLuxe Color noir mixed with Peyton Place-wrought melodrama from the 50s. Excellent location shooting in and around Brisbee, AZ, with some fine ‘Scope framing of the enormous copper mining operations that have ravaged the land there.
This is what bugged the hell ouf me. Hollywood only knows violence, in fact is so heavily invested in it that it must trump all other options. A subplot has an Amish farmer who, after saying he won’t resist evil with violence, takes up a pitchfork when his child is wounded by gunfire, easily giving way to vengeance. So much for his convictions. He’s got to be a man, at least as defined by Hollywood, and the 50s (and frankly, its not so different today). He harpoons the bad guy in the back before the baddie can finish off the wounded hero (a whack over the head wouldn’t have worked?). The movie tells us it’s natural, necessary, and damned good entertainment; we’re supposed to root for the holy man bought down to the animal level, the archaically unreal, “thee” and “thou”-ing types in black doing the right thing.
I was reminded of the Hutterites, a peripatetic sect that moved to our prairie states to escape being conscripted in the Tsar’s army. Come the jingoistic frenzy of the First World War, they stood by their faith again; and several were arrested, convicted, and sentenced for refusing to serve in the military; a couple were murdered in prison for their beliefs. The community largely moved to Canada after that. They don’t get many movies made about them, do they? And the shining example of non-violence, the Civil Rights Movement, when people stood up against the spit, rocks, fists, clubs, hoses, dogs, bullets, and bombs of the self-styled Christians and the agents of state terrorism defending racism? Perhaps a bio-pic here and an after school special there, but shying away from the implications of our voyeurism, our complicity with the narratives of force. That Malcolm X makes a better movie than MLK Jr is testament to the ideological point, one of so many things wrong with our entertainment system.