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September 01, 2004

A Hero is Born

In early August, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) protested the decision, by a silent theater in California, to screen D.W. Griffith’s landmark and controversial film Birth of a Nation. The protest was successful. The screening was cancelled.

(see 'Guardian' article)

For Birth of a Nation, this isn’t anything new. The film, first released in 1915, has been a lightning rod before. Debates have raged since its release about whether its technical innovations could, or should, be separated from its racist content. Recently, there have been attempts to censor the film to make it less offensive. Undeniably, it demonizes blacks and glorifies the Ku Klux Klan. Undeniably, it is a revolutionary piece of filmmaking that will forever hold a place in cinema history. My opinion on the subject is close to that of popular critic Roger Ebert who says, “If we are to see this film, we must see it all, and deal with it all.” In California, the decision was not to see it.

(see Ebert's Article)

How appropriate then, that a mere few weeks later the film that tops the American Box Office is another technically excellent film with a reprehensible message. This time, it’s a Chinese import. A colourful, vivid work of director Yimou Zhang that stars Jet Li and Ziyi Zhang. A film being hailed as a perfect by a plethora of criitcs. A fantastic, wonderful, and very pretty celebration of fascism. The English title is Hero. And it’s a film that only Mussolini should love.

At the centre of the story is Nameless, a master of martial arts whose goal is the assassination of a powerful warlord. This provides the story’s Frame, as Nameless recites various stories in order to move close enough to his target to deliver his fatal blow. But the film turns ugly at the end. And, without spoiling things too much, Nameless comes to the understanding that the life, values and opinions of any individual are always less important than the well being and optimum effectiveness of the State. In other words, “Mussolini is always right.”

(see Fascinating Fascism)

Hero damns us all. And, in that way, it is different than Birth of a Nation. Its message is egalitarian. We are all worthless. Equally worthless.

So, is it strange that there were no protestors at the theaters showing Hero? Not really.

Should there have been protestors, and should the screening have been stopped? No.

Should the screening of Birth of a Nation have been stopped? No.


Blogger Steve said...

As a dyed-in-the-wool liberal, I feel weird liking and recommending "Hero". I mean, yeah, it's propaganda. It's no less subtle or likable than "Triumph of the Will". But damn, if it ain't frickin' gorgeous. (I guess that's kind of the point you were making anyway...)

6:51 pm  
Blogger Quack Corleone said...

Well said.

I tried to review 'Hero' and basically struggled to express in way too many words what you expressed in a few. However, I'd also add that the story was a little underwhelming and the characters too cold and distant. Still, as you say, a visual treat!

Thanks for visiting my Blog.

7:09 pm  
Blogger Steve said...

Anyone endorsed by Scott has to be worth more than a look. :-)

12:46 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you seen Spider-Man 2? I would be interested in reading your review.

Spider-Man 2

3:49 pm  

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