Thursday, 29 August 2013

irish pov on the group

The sex lives of modern women ... fifty years on

FIFTY years ago Mary McCarthy’s novel shed light on It shocked readers then, but today it seems almost tame.

Allison Williams as Marnie Michaels, Zosia Mamet as Shoshanna, Lena Dunham as Hannah and Jemima Kirke as Jessa in Girls. Picture: Home Box Office Inc.
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When McCarthy published The Group in Aug 1963, just six months after Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, it painted a very different picture of the women of that generation.

The fictional group of eight best friends — graduates of Vassar College’s class of 1933, McCarthy’s own alma mater and graduating class — would have come of age right before Friedan’s peers from Smith College. Unlike the stifled housewives of Westchester, the women of McCarthy’s novel are trailblazers professionally, but most memorably, sexually. From love affairs to contraception to masturbation, sex drives the narrative of their fictional lives. 

The media panned one of their own as a cheap pornographer. (McCarthy was a respected writer for publications like The Partisan ReviewThe New RepublicThe Nation, and Harper’s.) In The New York Review of Books, to whose first issue McCarthy contributed, Norman Mailer wrote that the “little book so full of promise and quiver ends up soggy and damp.” The public, by contrast, gobbled it up: it stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly two years. 

Fifty years on, the sexual narrative remains a crutch for exploring women’s progress. Take the girls of Girls, whose awkward sex lives are highlighted more frequently than their frustrated professional ambitions. Or a recent New York Timesarticle that raised an eyebrow at young women at the University of Pennsylvania who’d rather hook up than date because their focus is on schoolwork and career ambitions. And for every Lean In [Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg], there’s a handful of Fifty Shades of GreysThe Grouphelps illuminate the roots of this imbalance of attention: while it skewers the political notions of “progress” that leave its protagonists unfulfilled, it’s the erotic parts that dramatise their true struggle. As McCarthy’s women are among the first to pursue careers, the society around them asks not how quickly they’ll be promoted but how their jobs might help them find lovers and husbands. Sure, they can get jobs, but can they keep a man happy in bed?

The protagonists, almost all virgins when they graduate, lose their virginity with varying degrees of conventionality. While some wait until marriage, Kay (based in part on McCarthy) is intimate with her fiancé while in college. One friend loses hers to a married man who is separated; another, Dottie, to a roué who tells her that love will never enter the equation. Still another, Libby, thinks her Norwegian baron beau will propose and invites him back to her apartment only to find herself being forced upon, dress ripped, wrists pinned to the couch, “his lips drawn back across his teeth like a wild animal about to charge.” Right before the pivotal moment, he asks if she’s a virgin; she says yes, and he retreats. “Oh, what a bore!” he admonishes her. “It would not even be amusing to rape you.” This riposte, and the women’s love lives, doesn’t seem so out of place on HBO or in the real world today. And tragic or otherwise, these women’s romantic exploits define them. 

McCarthy was writing fiction, but it was hardly a stretch from the true sex lives of women, so often swept under the rug in her day. She would know. Decades before the legalisation of contraception, McCarthy confessed in her autobiography,Intellectual Memoirs, “I realised one day that in 24 hours I had slept with three different men. And one morning I was in bed with somebody while over his head I talked on the telephone with somebody else.” She didn’t consider herself an exception to the rule. “I did not feel promiscuous. Maybe no one does. And maybe more girls sleep with more men than you would ever think to look at.” 

But sex is less liberation and more a Catch-22 in McCarthy’s vision. Sexual exploration in The Group rarely leads to happiness — even when men aren’t part of the equation. Lakey, the most glamorous, beautiful, and aloof girl of the group, is absent after the first chapter, away studying art in Europe. One wonders when we’ll be rewarded with tales of her romantic pursuits, surely more riveting than any of the others. When she finally returns, her companion is a swarthy, stocky baroness. At first, the group worries Lakey will “look down on them for not being lesbians.” When that’s clearly not the case, they begin to feel that “what had happened to Lakey was a tragedy,” and they imagine the intimacies of the relationship as “something of which they would not approve.” Ultimately, Lakey is defined by her sexual orientation. 

Not every aspect of the women’s stories still rings true, though, and some of it dates McCarthy’s novel. Dottie, the one with the uncommitted lover, is shocked when she climaxes on her first time and her lover, aptly named Dick, explains to her the birds and the bees. “Appearances to the contrary,” he says, “you’re probably highly sexed.” Dick also schools Dottie in several methods of contraception. When he tells her to get a pessary, she has no clue what he means.

As much as McCarthy showed great daring in pulling back the curtain on sex, she was troubled by the possibility of fetishising her characters. In a 1971 Q&A with theTimes, she said writing the book “became a terrible problem — partly a moral problem — not about sex of course. But I began to feel as though I was persecuting those girls.” She knew she couldn’t write a novel with sexual elements without it being perceived as a book about sex, and she knew her characters would be judged as harshly as their real-world counterparts. As Emily Nussbaum ofThe New Yorker recently pointed out about the legacy of Sex and the City, we still operate under “the assumption that anything stylised (or formulaic, or pleasurable, or funny, or feminine, or explicit about sex rather than about violence, or made collaboratively) must be inferior.” 

Il Grupo is 50! A Spanish celebration of Book & Film, inimitably translated by Google - 'Speak with tranquility...'

The Group / The Group

Note: ★★★½
The Group is thus a kind of precursor film about a generation, their world, their values, their dreams, their fears - About Last Night ... / About Last Night ..., The First Year of the Rest of Our Lives / St. Elmo's Fire , The Big Chill / The Big Chill, For the Rest of Our New / Peter 's Friends, What We All Loved Each Other in Either / Both C'eravamo Amati .
It is a beautiful, deep, serious, passionate, sometimes wry, sarcastic portrait of the generation of American (mostly, but also Americans, of course) who reached adulthood in the 1930s, amid the Great Depression, in the years leading up to Spanish Civil War, the rise of Nazism and the outbreak of the Second World War, and that much of the intelligentsia flirted with the dream of socialism.
Speak with tranquility, topics that were not yet discussed very openly in film at the time the film was made, in 1966, much less the time that action takes place: the loss of virginity, the lack of knowledge about sex and methods contraception, lesbianism.Besides all the references to the involvement of several characters with the Communist Party.
It is based on a magnificent, extraordinary novel - which has the same title as the film, both in the original and in Portuguese - authored by Mary McCarthy (1912-1989), great writer, one of the most fascinating figures of the literary universe of the twentieth century . And the novel has a lot of reality in autobiographical confessions, although, of course, a beautiful work of fiction, with remarkable characters, well designed - basically eight young women in 1933, to 22 or 23 years, Vassar graduate, expensive and prestigious university who at the time was exclusively for women.
Just like its eight characters, Mary McCarthy graduated from Vassar in 1933. Exactly how Strong Kay (Joanna Pettet), one of eight women who make up the South Tower Group, Mary McCarthy would marry soon after graduation, with a young actor would-playwright.
The novel was released in 1963 when Mary McCarthy, age 41 and has published eight books, was a writer and critic recognized and respected. Grupo stayed for nearly two consecutive years on the bestseller list of the New York Times .
The film production in 1966, was directed by one of the greatest American filmmakers, Sidney Lumet , who started his film career in 1957, after successes in TV and theater, with the beautiful Twelve Men and a Sentence / Twelve Angry Men .
Lumet and production chose to interpret several of the eight girls in the group and the men who were around them, a lot of beginners: was the screen debut of Candice Bergen , Joan Hackett, Joanna Pettet, Kathleen Widdoes, Hal Holbrook .
It was the second film by Elizabeth Hartman. And the third of Jessica Walter .
The gorgeous and great Shirley Knight , then 30 years and eight films in the curriculum, including Sweet Bird of Youth , was, it seems, the more veteran cast.
As it turns out, many of the names of the cast, none of them is someone who would be a big star - with the exception of Candice Bergen. Are good, great actresses - but not stars.
A movie now little known in Brazil, an author out of print
I may well be wrong, but the Group - both the book and the film - is now much less known than it should. It is perhaps one of the less heralded films of Sidney Lumet. Not available on DVD in Brazil, according to a quick search on the internet shows, and also had not been released on VHS, I see the Videobook of 2001, a publication absolutely reputable and reliable.
The film has now reappeared, however, thanks to the good taste of some programmer Telecine Cult. It was through this channel that I could review the film I had seen at the time of the launch in late Cine Lido de Curitiba, in 1/8/1967, as reported by my notebook. (If noted, beauty, if not noted, danced.)
However, much more still strange what happened with the film, is what happened with the work of the writer: for a sociological phenomenon which any explanation entirely unaware, Mary McCarthy disappeared from bookstores - at least the Brazilian.
The site's Bookstore Culture, for example, shows that there is available in Portuguese even a book author. Even Group , considered his masterpiece, was reissued in recent years.
I'll talk from Mary McCarthy later.
At the beginning of the narrative, while much information about the eight characters
From what you can tell, the writer (who was also the producer) Sidney Buchman tried to be very faithful to the book, the spirit of the book. To tell about the lives of eight young women over six years between 1933, the year of their graduation from Vassar, and 1939, the year of the beginning of World War II, the writer and producer Buchman and director Sidney Lumet made ​​a long movie, 150 minutes, two hours and a half in length. Although the duration much larger than many of the productions of the time, and today, however, the Group does not seem long. On the contrary: as all that is good, seems to be short lived.
But it is very easy for the viewer to capture very well at the beginning of the narrative, who's who in that great group of girls. Over time, the unfolding of the narrative, the figures of each are becoming clearer, but in the beginning we suffer.
The opening is extraordinary. Even before the special credits, the film gives us a general group of girls at university rich, well established, in which everything has the appearance of something that is not solid melts into air. Each has a vocation to an area - and we see each involved in some activity that is related to your area of ​​interest.
Lakey (Candice Bergen, with a beauty that loose sparks on the screen, to the left in the photo ), for example, is geared towards the arts. It is one of the two most millionaires group. Shortly after graduation, will embark on a trip to Europe to pursue his studies of art history - and will be there for several years.
The other more absolutely millionaire those years when the country plunged into misery of the Great Depression is Pokey (Mary Robin Redd). Like animals, horses, riding, wants to be a veterinarian, and wins the parents' little airplane to get around to the location of the school.
Libby (Jessica Walter) has literary ambitions. It's snobby, gossipy, finds special and want to work as a book editor.
Who else writes in practice, however, is Helena (Kathleen Widdoes), aims to be an instructor in kindergarten, but it is one of the group who writes endlessly about what is happening to each of the eight. Is it also the speech as speaker of the firm - a speech full of hope, speaking on the role of women in all areas of American society, a country, she says, that while mired in the economic downturn, has a glorious future for front.
Polly (Shirley Knight) comes from a family impoverished by the Depression. Shy, discreet, opted for medical sciences, will work as a laboratory technician in a large hospital in New York.
Kay Strong (Joanna Pettet) is another whose family impoverished. It is fickle, merely an interest to another; flirted with theater - where he met Harald Peterson (Larry Hagman), who will marry the very beginning of the narrative, shortly after graduating from Vassar in July 1933 - but will work at Macy's, a large department store, and develop a career in commerce.
Always open to new experiences, Kay is the first group to have sex. Harald fucks before marriage - something quite unusual for the customs of the families of the girls in the group.
Dottie (Joan Hackett, beautiful, great actress in the photo ), the traditionalist Boston, strictly religious family, who planned to work as a social worker, will be the second to decide to lose their virginity.And to choose a subject that absolutely imbecile, a painter friend Harald, named Dick (Richard Mulligan).
Priss (Elizabeth Hartman) is an idealist; vigorously supports the government of Franklin D. Roosevelt - had the parents of most of the group as too interventionist, almost socialist.
Socialist ideals, communism, the struggle against fascism are recurring themes in the conversations of the girls in the group, throughout the narrative.
The choice of the actresses did not take into account the physical description of the characters in the book
Sidney Lumet and his cinematographer Boris Kaufman use and abuse of traveling shots, the camera follows this large number of characters who frequent the large rooms on rails placed on the ground, cranes. Wonderful camera.
The entire cast is good, but in my opinion, Shirley Knight and Joan Hackett shine even more, an octave above the others.
I found it interesting the small detail that Lumet and his team the casting did not bother with the physical descriptions that Mary McCarthy does in the book. Thus, for example, in the book Libby is blonde, and film, the skin of Jessica Walter, have long black hair. Lakey, unlike in the book has black hair, and is played by Candice Bergen louríssima.
Here, the opinion of three critical
"Sidney Lumet transforms the novel by Mary McCarthy about girls in the class of 1933 at Vassar film carelessly handled, pleasant and full of energy," defined Pauline Kael, the first lady of American criticism, then to quote the names of actresses the great cast.
Leonard Maltin gave 3 stars to 4: "Uneven, but overall good adaptation of the novel by Mary McCarthy notch over eight graduates of a university type Vassar. (Shirley) and Knight (Joan) Hackett tower in excellent cast. "
The Guide des Films of Jean Tulard does, after a synopsis that this time it is not necessary, an analysis of long, thoughtful, bright, as almost always in French master guide. I'll report what he says text collaborator Guy Bellinger, without the worry of being literal, and therefore without quotes:
Lumet's film is not without flaws. It is very talkative, with its eight heroines who talk nonstop. In this he is no more than a condensation of the novel dense, long, Mary McCarthy, who designed hundreds of pages to describe the fate of eight young women over seven years. The film goes too fast, the scenes collide and barely have time to breathe in and begin a new dialogue on the field and reverse shot. What causes the viewer to lose a bit between all the characters. But Le Groupe, while not a perfect movie, is a work no less than seductive, first of all by the choice of its eight actresses: Lumet had hand particularly happy to gather a beautiful bouquet of talented beginners. The most beautiful is undoubtedly Candice Bergen, full of charm clever in his first role on screen. The most impressive is Shirley Knight ( pictured below ), which passes over two hours, and convincingly, the shy virgin young women mature and complete. The most exciting is Joanna Pettet, pathetically trying to compensate for the failure of his life. Another quality of Groupe is there are not removed disenchanted tone of the novel by Mary McCarthy.
Grand Guide des Films . What a beautiful analysis in a single paragraph.
Go ahead.
The first Brazilian edition, the ear was none other than Otto Maria Carpeaux
The Group , the book was released in Brazil in 1965, two years after leaving the United States, a year after the military coup.Out the Brazilian Civilization, at the time that the publisher threw all that milicos not like to see in bookstores. I won this book, a copy of the first Brazilian edition, February 1966.
The text of the ear is signed by none other than the great Otto Maria Carpeaux. It is a fascinating text that is hard not to transcribe entire:
"Mary McCarthy is now one of the first names, but the first name of American literature, and the Group is, for now, his masterpiece. Anyone opening this volume will soon find some of the pages boldest of all world literature, pages that would not only blushing a friar of stone, but the actual DH Lawrence: the scene of deflowering a girl, described with details of a merciless realism . But make no mistake: this work, which had huge success in the United States and worldwide, there is a pornographic novel, far from it. It is a profoundly serious study of American society today and all that is in it is rotten and alive, intelligence and stupidity, despair and hope. (...)
"It is a serious novel. So is a tragic romance. But the actors of this tragedy are not fully aware of the roles they play. Are struggling in their financial difficulties in their intellectual doubts in his amorous adventures or just sex as Mary McCarthy fish caught in the net of his creative imagination and can not find the exit. Their lives are tragic, but his gestures are unintentionally comical. No page, almost unbootable the reader a strong understanding and healthy laugh. (...) This is the hallmark of this highly intelligent Mary McCarthy sometimes seems the American sister of Simone de Beauvoir, and sometimes, a companion or Pratolini Moravia, the great Italian neo-realists. "
I can not understand how there are no books of Mary McCarthy in Brazilian bookstores
How to explain that Mary McCarthy has not one of his works in Portuguese available in bookstores?
I really wish I had an answer to that question.
Mary McCarthy did not belong to the party, but had sympathies for communism, in the second half of the 30s, however, went on to repudiate Stalinism after the Moscow trials that led to the purge of Old Bolsheviks. Was insistent defense of Leon Trotsky, and in polemics with American intellectuals and writers she considered sympathetic to Stalinism.
(The Moscow Trials, the persecution of Trotsky are themes of the book and movie references are made to it.)
Entered history its clashes with another grand dame of American letters, Lillian Hellmann, Mrs. eternal. Dashiell Hammett (though, as well as another couple of brilliant arts of the United States, Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn ever been married).
Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellmann remained faithful to communism until their deaths - he in 1961, she in 1984. Mary McCarthy whenever he could brave the lioness poked with a short stick. Once, on television, said: "Every word she (Lillian) writes a liar, including 'and' and 'the.'"
Lillian Hellmann went to court against Mary McCarthy demanding compensation for moral damages of $ 2.5 million. The cause crawled years in the courts, until the death of Lillian. Mary died only five years later in 1989.
The speech dreamy youth, repeated at the end of the narrative, shows immense disillusionment
The revolt against Mary McCarthy Stalinist purges against the Gulags beginning to undo the dream of a fairer society, is present with all the letters in the film. The sweet Polly falls for Gus Leroy (Hol Holbrook), a publisher of books communist.The neighbor from her, Schneider is a German refugee, he also communist but anti-Stalinist sympathizer internationalism Trotsky. When the relationship with Gus is already about to crumble, and Gus talks on the possibility of talking to Schneider, Polly warns that surely there would be much discussion among them about the Moscow trials.
Eight years after Sidney Lumet led the Group to the cinema, the eternal socialist Ettore Scola in his masterpiece In Which We All Loved Each Other So much, put in the mouth of one of his characters the phrase that sums up perfectly the disenchantment of who was watching Your idealism of young crumble over time: "We thought we would change the world, but it was the world that has changed."
Lumet and screenwriter Buchman synthesized disenchantment expressed on the novel by Mary McCarthy to the encore, after a journey of five years shown in 150 minutes of good cinema, speech full of hope Helena, the valedictorian:
"We, the class of 1933 are going ahead. In a time of economic crisis, in a time that demands that every woman of America plays a role in every sphere of national life. For this we prepare. In the arts, sciences, industry, the creation of our laws. And in politics, we believe all sorts of opinions should be heard. We believe, as we go our separate ways, it is only through our complete fulfillment we will achieve the goal of our education, and each of us will give their contribution to our emerging America. "
Great Mary McCarthy. Great Sidney Lumet.
Note in December 2011
The Group / The Group
Sidney Lumet, USA, 1966.
With Candice Bergen (Lakey Eastlake), Joan Hackett (Dottie Renfrew), Elizabeth Hartman (Priss Hartshorn), Shirley Knight (Polly Andrews), Joanna Pettet (Kay Strong), Mary Robin Redd (Pokey Prothero), Jessica Walter (Libby MacAusland) , Kathleen Widdoes (Helena Davison), James Broderick (Dr. Ridgeley), James Congdon (Sloan Crockett), Larry Hagman (Harald Peterson), Hal Holbrook (Gus Leroy), Richard Mulligan (Dick Brown), Carrie Nye (Norine)
Screenplay Sidney Buchman
Based on the novel The Group, Mary McCarthy
Boris Kaufman Photography
Music Charles Gross
Production Sidney Buchman, Famartists Productions
Color, 150 min
*** 1/2

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

'The Group' at 50 - now repackaged & de-politicised as chick lit

Mary McCarthy’s ‘The Group’ Is the Definitive Young Woman’s Sex Narrative

Fifty years ago this week, Mary McCarthy’s bestselling novel The Group was published. And 50 years later, people are still arguing vociferously about the legacy of the book. A couple of things are agreed upon. One is that The Group was a pioneer of the young-ladies-come-to-New-York-and-get-jobs-and-date genre that sustains women’s narratives from Sylvia Plath to Lena Dunham. It also blazed a trail for dismissive, angry, befuddled non-sequitur reviews from men who wanted to know what this girl stuff was all about, and why on earth anyone with a brain and some testicles might take it seriously.Norman Mailer wrote the most famous review of this genre in his “The Mary McCarthy Case,” which began:
It had to happen. It was in the command of all the ironies that there would come a day when our First Lady of Letters would write a book and lo! the lovers would stand.
For such a bold statement you’d expect a heavy hitter like Mailer to instantly begin excoriating the book, but instead we are treated to a long slog through more rhetorical flourishes before any kind of reasoning beyond “I disagree” is offered. You have to scroll down quite a way, actually, to get to the part where Mailer explains why the book’s “lovers” were wrong:
[The Group] tacitly states that a mixture of passionless goodness and squashed mendacity, precisely the lot of average nice rich bright young Protestant girls, is so regurgitative a violation of their nature that cancer or psychosis are now house percentage against any decent woman.
It is somewhat hard to say what Mailer actually means here. It seems he doesn’t like The Group‘s suggestion that women didn’t necessarily enjoy being encouraged to abstain from sex or honesty, for that matter. From there went into even longer set of ad hominem attacks on his target, which after all was McCarthy, a woman Mailer sometimes professed to admire. But his admiration was tinged with a clear sense of injury that the feeling was not reciprocal. To one of McCarthy’s biographers, Frances Kissling, he whined:
There was a remoteness about Mary. And element of noli me tangere. She was eleven years older than I was and there was always an element of the older sister.
How he quite squares the older-sister thing with the remoteness thing will have to remain in the grave with Mailer himself. But his particular brand of love-hate continues to plague the book’s reputation; every piece on The Group must begin, as this one does, by remarking on the man-on-a-mission slanderousness of it. The book had other detractors, too. Mailer’s review actually bumped another one the New York Review was to publish, by Pauline Kael, and she also turned in a pan.
So, you might ask, is the novel good? Well, happily, it is available in ebook form these days, and back in print so you can judge for yourself. The plot trajectory is now archetypal: girls, eight of them instead of the now-standard four, come to big city and are alternately titillated and disappointed by its professional and romantic possibilities. For my part, I think it is at its best when it is frankly depicting sex, a great talent of McCarthy’s traceable to her earliest short stories. As the critic Laura Jacobs recently argued in Vanity Fair, the chapter that burned itself into most women’s minds was the second one. In it, McCarthy gives one of her heroines an orgasm, and the particular metaphor she chooses to describe it is this:
… she seemed to explode in a series of long, uncontrollable contractions that embarrassed her, like the hiccups…
Which is definitely not how I’ve always put it. But it has its elements of truth to it, particularly in the mild embarassment one might feel in such circumstances without the proper introduction to the experience of sex. Like, say, The Group itself. These days we have real trash to accomplish this, the kind of thing we passed around in middle school, but when The Group came out that sort of sexual frankness was still more the province of men, if it was anyone’s at all. 1963 was still a little early in the sexual revolution.
Most of McCarthy’s snobby literary friends agreed more privately than Mailer that it wasn’t her best work, but the life of a book after publication isn’t always just about what is sometimes called “craft”; the way the story hits the ground also counts for a lot in the matter of crafting a legacy. This is particularly true in The Group‘s case, as women turned the book into a bestseller, the one real juggernaut in McCarthy’s hitherto modestly successful literary career. And as such it’s easy to read all the critics through the lens of their bewilderment at the book’s success — a kind of popular credibility that many of them, though they were excellent critics and novelists, would never quite enjoy.
If touching a popular chord can’t be and shouldn’t be enough for literary greatness — such a criterion would make a masterpiece of every BuzzFeed cat list — it ought, in some cases, to be enough to say that a book changed how we think about a certain kind of experience. Mary McCarthy was one of the first to declare that the life of a woman in the big city involved, well, sex, and lots of it. (Yes, Candace Bushnell has sometimes credited The Group with the inspiration for her oeuvre.) She got, as women who write about sex always do, more than her fair share of crap for it. But in the end, it’s her book I’m writing this post about, her book that can trace itself in most of the women’s zeitgeist of the half-century it’s been around. I’d say she won the war.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Film Review: “Hannah Arendt” by Ron Merk

Film Review: “Hannah Arendt”

by Ron Merk 
I will admit right away that this was a very difficult film to review.  There’s no question that the story of Hannah Arendt, and how she went to Israel to attend and write about the trial of Nazi Adolph Eichmann, and the terrible response she got from the Jewish Community and much of the world when she finally published a series of articles in The New Yorker, is a truly fascinating story.  The question for this writer is this:  Does this make a good film, and if so, how do you define good film?
The real Hannah Arendt
I have very mixed feelings.  As a film, I can’t say that I found it “satisfying” in a classically dramatic way.  Perhaps it wasn’t the intention of the director, Margarethe von Trotta, to make this a feel-good kind of experience for us.  Maybe she had the idea that we had to suffer along with Arendt as she attends the trial, postpones writing her articles for The New Yorker, and ultimately suffers the slings and arrows of the public and her friends after her very controversial reporting is published.  The most infuriating part of what she reports is that the Jewish community leaders in most of the countries taken over by Nazis, and during the deportations, was too co-operative with their oppressors.  Most readers assumed that Arendt portrayed the victims as perpetrators of their own misfortune.  Of course, this started a major controversy, and many of Arendt’s friends cut her off completely.
Margarete von Trotta - Portrait
This story is very well told, by the director and her amazing cast of German and English-speaking actors.  For me, the ultimate problem with the film is I didn’t know how to feel about what Arendt had written and her attitude towards Eichmann.
In the words of the term that Arendt coined, “the banality of evil,” there is something about Arendt’s view of Eichmann that both irked me and made me better understand that all monsters do not have horns and a pointed tail like Satan.  If this was the director’s intent, she was successful.  If she intended this film to be a cathartic experience for the audience, in that regard I believe she failed.
Barbara Sukowa as Hannah Arendt
As portrayed by German actress, Barbara Sukowa in an amazing portrait of Arend from which we see many facets of a very complicated person.  There was not one vision of Arendt that the other characters see, but many often conflicting views.  Made somewhat difficult by the fact that Arendt was not a warm and fuzzy person person by nature, but a true original thinker, and maybe somewhat prickly at times, Sukowa breathes life into her character in a cold, Teutonic manner.  Maybe that was the truth of the real Arendt, and maybe that’s what von Trotta wanted to show us.  If that is the case, then the film is a success.
The cast, the production team, and all the technical departments did a great job in putting this film firmly in the time the story took place, both in style and attitude.  It’s a first-class production that resonates with the questions posed by the life and writings of Arendt, questions I am still trying to answer.

An interview the Director of 'Hannah Arendt', Margarethe Von Trotta


Your films almost always offer an intense confrontation with significant historical figures: Rosa
Luxemburg, Hildegard von Bingen, the Ensslin sisters…. What excited you about Hannah Arendt?
The question of how to make a film about a woman who thinks. How to watch a woman whose main
action is thinking. Of course I was also afraid I wouldn’t do her justice. This made the cinematic portrayal
far more difficult than, for example, with Rosa Luxemburg. Both women were highly intelligent and unique
individuals, both were gifted in their capacity for love and friendship, and both were provocative thinkers
and speakers. Hannah Arendt’s life was not as dramatic as that of Rosa Luxemburg—but it was important
and moving.
To find out more about her, I not only read her books and letters but also tried to find people who had
known her. Through these many conversations, I gradually discovered what I wanted to say about her,
and which time in her life would best serve my intentions. Sometimes I was actually quite afraid of her.
She would suddenly appear so abrasive and arrogant. Only after the famous conversation with Günter
Gaus did I finally become convinced that Arendt was truly a charming, witty and pleasant person. After
watching them together, I understood what Gaus meant when he said later in an interview that she was
the kind of woman for whom you instantly fell.
Your exploration continued while working on the script with American screenwriter Pam Katz in
2003. By 2006, you decided to focus the film (then under the working title The Controversy) on the
four years around the 1961 Adolf Eichmann trial.
We wanted to tell Hannah Arendt’s story without reducing the importance of her life and work, but also
without resorting to the all too sprawling structure of a typical biopic. After Rosenstrasse and The Other
Woman, Hannah Arendt is my third collaboration with Pam Katz. We were therefore able to write the
script in a sort of “ping-pong” technique, continuously discussing the work via email, telephone, and in
person in New York, Paris and Germany. Our first question was: what should we choose to show of
Arendt’s life? Her love affair with Martin Heidegger (which many probably expected)? Her escape from
Germany? Her years in Paris or her years in New York? After wrestling with all of these possibilities, it
finally became clear that focusing on the four years where she reported on and wrote about Eichmann
was the best way to portray both the woman and her work. The confrontation between Arendt and
Eichmann allowed us to not only illuminate the radical contrast between these two protagonists, but also
to gain a deeper understanding of the dark times of 20th-century Europe. Arendt famously declared that
“No one has the right to obey.” With her staunch refusal to obey anything other than her own knowledge
and beliefs, she could not be more different than Eichmann. His duty, as he himself insisted, was to be
faithful to his oath to obey the orders of his superiors. In this blind allegiance, Eichmann surrendered one
of the main characteristics that distinguishes human beings from all other species: the ability to think for
himself. The film shows Arendt as a political theorist and independent thinker set against her precise
opposite: the submissive bureaucrat who does not think at all, and instead chooses to be an enthusiastic

You were able to incisively capture Eichmann’s “not-thinking” character through the black-andwhite
archival footage from the trial.
You can only show the true “banality of evil” by observing the real Eichmann. An actor can only distort the
image, he could never sharpen it. As a viewer, one might admire the actor’s brilliance but they would
inevitably fail to comprehend Eichmann’s mediocrity. He was a man who was unable to formulate a single
grammatically correct sentence. One could tell from the way he spoke that he was unable to think in any
significant way about what he was doing. There is only one scene with Barbara Sukowa that takes place
in the actual courtroom; and there, because it had to be an actor, you only see Eichmann’s back. We
filmed all the other courtroom scenes in the pressroom, where the trial was actually shown on several
monitors. This was a way of being able to use the real Eichmann, via the archival footage, in all the
important moments.

 But we had also come to believe that since Hannah Arendt was a heavy smoker, she
would have spent more time in the pressroom than in the courtroom. That way, she could follow the trial
and smoke at the same time. Many of the other journalists also watched the trial on the TV screens and
filed reports at the same time. By the way, long after writing this sequence, we were finally able to speak
with Arendt’s niece, Edna Brocke, who was with her in Jerusalem at the time. She confirmed that her aunt
had indeed spent most of her time in the pressroom because she was allowed to smoke there!
Hannah Arendt would not be a von Trotta film if we failed to also see Hannah Arendt as a woman,
lover and friend. And if we didn’t get to better understand the complexity of this great thinker.
The film is also about her life in New York, her friends, her love for Martin Heidegger—even if we were
convinced that Heinrich Blücher is was a far more important figure in her life. She called Heinrich her “four
walls,” meaning her “one true home.” Heidegger was Hannah Arendt’s first love, and she remained
connected to him despite his affiliation with the Nazis. At the very beginning of my research, Lotte Köhler,
Arendt’s only remaining living friend, gave me the book of published correspondence between Heidegger
and Arendt. But she made sure to let me know that Arendt had kept all his letters in her bedside drawer.
In a flashback, we show Arendt meeting him during a visit to Germany. This meeting actually took place,
although just several weeks before their encounter, she had written a letter to her friend and mentor, Karl
Jaspers, in which she called Heidegger a murderer. Arendt’s niece said that her aunt explained her
ongoing relationship with Heidegger by insisting that “some things are stronger than a human being.”
For the role of Hannah Arendt you again chose to cast Barbara Sukowa. Why?
I saw Barbara Sukowa in the role of Hannah Arendt right from the very beginning, and fortunately
managed to overcome any initial resistance to casting her. I would not have made this film without
Barbara. I needed an actress that I could watch while she was thinking. Barbara was the only one who
could be relied upon to meet this difficult challenge.
How well Barbara Sukowa succeeds is evident—among many scenes—in the eight-minute speech
at the end of the film. Not many directors would have taken the risk of trying to hold the attention
of the audience for so long. Why did you make this decision?
Many felt that a film about Hannah Arendt should actually start with a speech. But we begin with a
conversation between girlfriends talking about their husbands. We wanted the final speech to be the
moment where the audience finally understands the conclusions her thinking has brought to light. Only
after one has watched her as she gleaned her insights about Eichmann’s character, and seen how she
was so brutally and often unfairly attacked for them, are you then willing to listen to her for so long. By
then, one has fallen in love with her, as well as her way of thinking. And Barbara’s performance is both so
intelligent, and so emotional, it takes your breath away. We have moved gradually towards this moment,
slowly giving the audience the opportunity to understand the building blocks of Arendt’s complex thoughts
and to comprehend what she meant by the banality of evil. The speech is both the intellectual and the
emotional climax of the entire film.
The crew is full of powerful women: co-writer Pam Katz, producer Bettina Brokemper,
cinematographer Caroline Champetier, editor Bettina Böhler. Coincidence or conscious decision?
I didn’t plan it that way—it just happened. But then again perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence. But Hannah
Arendt was the opposite of a feminist and Hannah Arendt is also not a typical “woman’s film.” It is a film
made by highly dedicated and professional people committed to telling a story that does justice to her life.
According to Karl Jaspers, Hannah Arendt’s teacher and friend, “the venture into the public realm
is only possible when there is trust in people.” Each one of your films is such a venture. How
does this apply to Hannah Arendt?

In the spirit of Hannah Arendt, trusting the audience to move through ignorance and amazement to the
desire to understand, and ultimately to arrive at such an understanding.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Mary McCarthy is Bradley Manning: telling the truth about America's Barbaric Wars

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Report from Vietnam I. The Home Program

APRIL 20, 1967

Mary McCarthy

I confess that when I went to Vietnam early in February I was looking for material damaging to the American interest and that I found it, though often by accident or in the process of being briefed by an official. Finding it is no job; the Americans do not dissemble what they are up to. They do not seem to feel the need, except through verbiage; e.g., napalm has become “Incinder-jell,” which makes it sound like Jello. And defoliants are referred to as weed-killers—something you use in your driveway. The resort to euphemism denotes, no doubt, a guilty conscience or—the same thing nowadays—a twinge in the public-relations nerve. Yet what is most surprising to a new arrival in Saigon is the general unawareness, almost innocence, of how what “we” are doing could look to an outsider.
At the airport in Bangkok, the war greeted the Air France passengers in the form of a strong smell of gasoline, which made us sniff as we breakfasted at a long table, like a delegation, with the Air France flag planted in the middle. Outside, huge Esso tanks were visible behind lattice screens, where US bombers, factory-new, were aligned as if in a salesroom. On the field itself, a few yards from our Caravelle, US cargo planes were warming up for takeoff; US helicopters flitted about among the swallows, while US military trucks made deliveries. The openness of the thing was amazing (the fact that the US was using Thailand as a base for bombing North Vietnam was not officially admitted at the time); you would have thought they would try to camouflage it, I said to a German correspondent, so that the tourists would not see. As the Caravelle flew on toward Saigon, the tourists, bound for Tokyo or Manila, were able to watch a South Vietnamese hillside burning while consuming a “cool drink” served by the hostess. From above, the bright flames looked like a summer forest fire; you could not believe that bombers had just left. At Saigon, the airfield was dense with military aircraft; in the “civil” side, where we landed, a passenger jetliner was loading GI’s for Rest and Recreation in Hawaii. The American presence was overpowering, and, although one had read about it and was aware, as they say, that there was a war on, the sight and sound of that massed American might, casually disposed on foreign soil, like a corporal having his shoes shined, took one’s breath away. “They don’t try to hide it!” I kept saying to myself, as though the display of naked power and muscle ought to have worn some cover of modesty. But within a few hours I had lost this sense of incredulous surprise, and, seeing the word, “hide,” on a note-pad in my hotel room the next morning, I no longer knew what I had meant by it (as when a fragment of a dream, written down on waking, becomes indecipherable) or why …