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Sunday surprise: De Niro’s recommended reading

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — preferring Jarmusch’s Hagakure in Ghost Dog to Grovic’s Hesse and Sunzi in Bag Man ]
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In a film that the critics panned, Netflix offered, and I watched without much comprehension, Robert De Niro, playing the part of Dragna – “a dude who wears plaid jackets, thick glasses, and his grey hair in a swoopy high pompadour” who has assembled a motley team of killers in a seedy Bayou motel — educates John Cusack as his fav killer, Jack, by recommending he read certain books — notably Hermann Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game aka Magister Ludi:

De Niro goes Magister Ludi

De Niro goes Magister Ludi 2

Magister Ludi means Master of the Game.

Dragna apparently believes Hesse’s Game is best played by pitting assassins, here including cops, a “whore” and a dwarf as well as Jack, against one another in that seedy motel.. and is not altogether satisfied with the result, which shoots him shortly after he announces his own mastery of the game.

De Niro goes Magister Ludi 3

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Zenpundit regulars who lack my enthusiasm for Hesse’s Game — quite different in style and tone from the one writer-director David Grovic proposes in his film — may at least be gratified to see his other recommendation:

De Niro goes Sunzi

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I would have done better to re-watch Jim Jarmusch‘s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai with Forest Whitaker, with its extensive quotations from the Hagakure:

That’s what I’ll watch tonight.

DoubleQuote: Gen Sharif of Pakistan, Gen Devereaux in Siege

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — is this one of those times when life is imitating art, maybe? ]
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SPEC DQ Siege & Pakistan

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In the upper panel, we have the headline of an article from the Pakistani Express Tribune of January 2nd this year, along with their image of Army chief General Raheel Sharif who is quoted in the article as saying:

the establishment of special courts [is] not the desire of the army, but need of extraordinary times

Which keads inexorably to the lower panel, with its image and words of Bruce Willis as Gen Devereaux in the tour-de-force 1998 Edward Zwick movie, The Siege, written in large part by Lawrence Wright, soon after to be the author of The Looming Tower, still our most insightful account of Al-Qaeda and 9/11.

Devereaux continues, later in the same scene:

Make no mistake. We will hunt the enemy. We will find the enemy. And we will kill the enemy. And no card-carrying member of the ACLU is more dead set against it… than I am. Which is why I urge you… no, I implore you not to consider this option.

Okay, I know — similarity is not identity, any more than correlation is causation: but sometimes you just have to wonder.

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All this stems from reading Raza Rumi‘s piece Back in the Driver’s Seat today — highly recommended.

Paris: reminders

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — personally, i’d rather grieve than hate ]
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You can’t dull one mass of senseless pain with another, they don’t cancel out, nor are they additive — but FWIW:

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The last serious European Christian violence in response to perceived blasphemy that I recall was the rioting surrounding the release of Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988. I would have been 45 or thereabouts, and was friends with Scorsese‘s friend, the late film-maker Michael Henry Wilson, who was involved with the publicity for the film, and I remember the tension in the air as I obtained my tickets for an LA pre-screening.

In an earlier post, Of films, riots and hatred III: Scorsese and Verhoeven, I quoted The Encyclopedia of Religion and Film:

Overseas, at the September 28 opening in Paris, demonstrators who had gathered for a prayer vigil threw tear gas canisters at the theater’s entrance. Catholic clergy led rock-throwing and fire-bombing assaults on theaters in many French municipalities. A thousand rioters in Athens trashed the Opera cinema, ripping apart the screen and destroying the projection equipment.

and Wikipedia:

On October 22, 1988, a French Christian fundamentalist group launched Molotov cocktails inside the Parisian Saint Michel movie theater while it was showing the film. This attack injured thirteen people, four of whom were severely burned. The Saint Michel theater was heavily damaged, and reopened 3 years later after restoration. Following the attack, a representative of the film’s distributor, United International Pictures, said, “The opponents of the film have largely won. They have massacred the film’s success, and they have scared the public.” Jack Lang, France’s Minister of Culture, went to the St.-Michel theater after the fire, and said, “Freedom of speech is threatened, and we must not be intimidated by such acts.”

In the case of Last Temptation there was a potential for fatal violence, but no death. Today’s massacre at Charlie Hebdo was less spontaneous, more concentrated, carefully planned and executed, and deadly.

Smiley on defeating ideologues

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — with application to today’s tragic massacre in Paris, to IS, AQ, Breivik, whoever ]
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fanatic secret doubt Tinker Tailor
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That’s George Smiley describing Karla‘s fatal flaw, in the crucial scene from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the film version with Gary Oldman as George Smiley.

We are not so very different, you and I. We’ve both spent our lives looking for the weaknesses in one another’s systems. Don’t you think it’s time to recognize there is as little worth on your side as there is on mine? Never said a word. Not one word.

And that’s how I know he can be beaten. Because he’s a fanatic. And the fanatic is always concealing a secret doubt.

The Le Carré book version has it a little differently, FWIW:

And if you want a sermon, Karla is not fireproof, because he’s a fanatic. And one day, if I have anything to do with it, that lack of moderation will be his downfall.

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Bonus: Smiley on symmetry and asymmetry:

Smiley speaks to Karla<, wishing to turn him:

We are not so very different, you and I. We’ve both spent our lives looking for the weaknesses in one another’s systems. Don’t you think it’s time to recognize there is as little worth on your side as there is on mine? Never said a word. Not one word.

Camera angle: the place of aesthetics in analytics

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — suggesting that the ability to make “creative leaps” falls within the aesthetic realm ]
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Kiefer Sutherland asleep towards the beginning of the movie Dead Heat:

Kiefer Sutherland in Dead Heat ca 8.30

And Mantegna‘s Lamentation over the Dead Christ

Mantegna_Andrea_Dead_Christ

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I don’t think there’s much doubt that the film-maker Mark Malone, was influenced by Mantegna’s mise-en-scène.

What interests me here, however, is not the diference between the two narratives, one secular, one sacred, nor the question of influence, but the opportunity this juxtaposition provides for me to stress that resemblance, or more generally, pattern (as in “pattern recognition”), is an aesthetic skill, with the corollary that the richest and most illuminating congruences between items of cognition across disciplines or media are those in which the parallelisms or oppositions are most exact.

It is the exactness of the formal correspondance between two thoughts, images, or events that permits their divergences to become salient to us, and in our search for insight, it will be precisely those correspondences which most richly illustrate this principle that will offer us the greatest possibility of fresh insight — which can then be explored with all the rigors our critical faculties can contrive.


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