Napoleon: Film Review

I would love to have been a fly on the wall for this one. Joaquin Phoenix effectively played the Joker part again in frozen stillness, only coming alive when he was playing the tactician of battles or rushing into the fray wild eyed and mad like Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia.

Joaquin Phoenix and Vanessa Kirby as Josephine has zero chemistry and she looked permanently surprised.

How did Ridley Scott not see that they were not a good match for the screen? How could he have portrayed them as such broken cardboard figures?

The point at which the film and I properly parted company was when Napoleon is in Egypt on campaign (as you do) and is told that his Josephine has a lover. He returns home and is accused of deserting his campaign. He, seemingly outraged, counter-accuses his accusers of deserting the governance of France. In a stand-off he runs off, gathers troops (who are of course loyal to him) and fights back and turns the tables.

So we have to believe that if Josephine had not had a lover then Napoleon would not have returned from Egypt and the consuls could have continued to merrily run France into the ground.

It may have been so as historical fact, but as a presentation of storytelling it was weak.

So, the plot: Napoleon takes over France under the guise of ending the Terror and has lots of battles that meld into one. He bites off more than he chan chew when the Russians have the temerity to burn Moscow to deny the city to the French and to save the Russian army. And to cap it all they refuse to come to peace terms despite Napoleon waiting weeks for the surrender.

By then the Russian winter is approaching and at that point Napoleon goes north to St Petersburg, against the advice of his generals. That will be his undoing, in Russia and when he returns to France.

The Russians beat the French in the battles of Tarutino and Maloyaroslavets, but neither is mentioned. We see that the winter forces him to retreat in defeat, but we see nothing of that horror.

Half of Napoleon’s army died in that retreat and we know the details of the frozen bodies on the road because it is all in the contemporary account, The Memoirs of Sergeant Burgoyne.

It is important to know because the survivors who retreated with Napoleon supported him again after the exile on Elba. Why was that? Was he a populist whom they preferred to the alternative? None of that is explained. And it should have been because it is important in understanding France of the period. This Boy’s Own version doesn’t give us an explanation.

Napoleon is exiled because of his defeat in Russia, so much is fact.

When he sails from Elba after less than a year in exile, his motley band of followers march with him. They meet the opposing forces and in one quick speech those opposing him change sides and join him. Just like that. And they march on Paris. Again – it might have been like that historically, but the way it was presented was a Monty Python version.

Then comes Waterloo.

I held my breath fearing that Rupert Everett as Wellington would not be able to hold a serious glance – but he did and he was great.

I came away thinking that so much money and time was spent on the reconstruction of the battles that there was no time to tell the story properly.

We hear Napoleon say that he wants to bring about universal peace. He fought everyone to bring that about. But countries changed sides. Allies became enemies and vice versa. Kings and emperors admired him, forged alliances with him and then betrayed him and defeated him.

Perhaps the message of the film was in there.

At the end of the film there was a tally of the dead:

He led 61 battles in his military career…
TOULON 6,000 dead
MARENGO 12,000 dead
AUSTERLITZ 16,500 dead
BORODINO 71,000 dead
WATERLOO 47,000 dead (one day)
INVASION OF RUSSIA 460,000 dead
1793-1815: over 3,000,000 dead

So what do we learn? That Napoleon was successful for a while but in the end he bit off more than he could chew. And in pursuit of his dream of peace under his banner he brought about the death of millions.

Killers Of The Flower Moon: Film Review

It starts with the burial ceremony for the sacred pipe as the Osage tribe realise their ways will not be followed by their children. And then a cute segue into the burial unearthing black gold and suddenly the Osage are the rich dudes enjoying everything the turn-of-the-century 1920s could bring.

And then there is a great slow pace development that places the central male character as a solder returning from the war, and the romance between the two lead characters – he and an Osage woman. Then it was ugly violence and I kept thinking that if it was not tinged by the romantic portrayal of the Osage Indians then would just be a gangsters versus civilians, and not much of a film for that. So, great potential but turned floppy.

The Taste Of Things: Film Review

Ostensibly the film is about food and the preparation of food and how people get on with each other while preparing food.

But I don’t think that’s what the film is actually about.

An important character in the film dies part way through and another important character mourns the loss.

And now take a step back and ask – how does a filmmaker or an author show the depth of the relationship that existed for which the loss is now felt, the loss of the wonder of the other person?

So I think that the concentration on the cooking of food, the technicalities of making food, the technicalities which showed the characters and skills and attention to detail – all of these were outward manifestations of relationship.

Long protestations of love are in the end just protestations, but the ballet of their movements together shows something deeper.

I don’t know if it’s a novel way, but it’s a clever way of showing the dual experience of the everyday and a more subtle experience. The everyday experience of cooking something that’s essential to life, and the higher experience of joining with someone. Through that we can feel that the relationship is deep, founded on solid ground, and meaningful. So we can believe the loss is real.

There was another thread, which was that the food preparation was very real. We see them pull the guts out of a fish, and then out of a chicken. We see them scald the skin off the blackened feet of the chicken and scrape the skin off a sole or turbot. No neatly presented packages of food from the supermarket, because the film was set at about the turn of the 20th century and mass produced food was far off into the future.

So we get to look into a more raw, more real, more elemental past and to be wistful about what we have lost in the modern world. I think that’s what the film was about. It was about loss.

Musk On Jews

There is a furore around Elon Musk’s tweet, with advertisers withdrawing their advertising.

Let me take you out into space a bit and look down on how the tweet came about. 

First came a tweet from Charles Weber who describes himself as a Jewish Conservative from S. Florida. His tweet contained a video advertisement of a father and son sitting in a car. The father has caught the son making antisemitic comments on social media and he tells the son how hateful it is and whether he wants to step out of the car to tell it directly to the group of Jews we can vaguely see through the windscreen.

The intent of the video advertisement was no doubt to suggest that some young people ought to think a little more before mouthing off.

I have seen the video before and when I saw it I thought it was taking a gamble. What is to say that those ‘young people’ at whom the video was directed wouldn’t imagine themselves in the shoes of the son and jumping out of the car and shouting antisemitic words?

Ah well.

So ‘The Artist Formerly Known as Eric’ responded. Before I paste in what he responded, you should know a bit more about The Artist Formerly Known as Eric

He is not antisemitic. He is more or a man who sees things from his point of view. For example, when a person who styles him or herself ‘being libertarian’ tweeted this about Osama bin Laden

You shouldn’t read Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” & become a sympathizer. You should read it to understand the motive and plan. In no way was 9/11 justified, but there were reasons besides they hate our “freedom.” They hate us being over there. And we haven’t learned

The Artist Formerly Known as Eric’ responded this way. He tweeted

You couldn’t apprase Bin Laden any more than you could Ibram Kendi, or Angela Davis. As far as they’re concerned, there is an infinite well of pain that’s owed to you.

I take that to mean the former-Eric looks at things from the point of view of the protagonists. In other words, that you should not seek to impose your narrative but to understand that there are different narratives. And recognise that our ability to do so is limited because we are not in their shoes.

That’s bollocks because in the absence of certain narratives the world is chaos. 

That’s my point of view.

So against this background, what the former-Eric said in reponse to Mr Weber’s endorsement of the video advertisement was this:

Okay.

Jewish communities have been pushing the exact kind of dialectical hatred against whites that they claim to want people to stop using against them.

I’m deeply disinterested in giving the tiniest shit now about western Jewish populations coming to the disturbing realization that those hordes of minorities that support flooding their country don’t exactly like them too much.

You want truth said to your face, there it is.

And in response to that, Elon Musk tweeted

You have said the actual truth

Oh, the Jews have been pushing dialectical hatred. They have the temerity to say this is right and this is wrong.

OK. So that’s a point of view. 

I’m not really concerned with it because the former-Eric is not the boss of X (Twitter) with the power to make the world reverberate in the way that Musk can.

So what do I think is so ‘wrong’ about what Musk said when he endorsed former-Eric’s tweet in reponse to Mr Weber?

The real poverty of thought in Musk’s comment lies not in whether he’s right, or whether he’s wrong, but the fact that he’s made an exception for one group and holds them to a different standard than other groups.

He’s in good company. The last high profile person to do so was General deGaulle, who when he was president of France said at press conference that the Jews were “at all times an elite people, sure of itself and dominating.”

The truth is that if Musk looked around with an unbiased eye he’d see that what he said is true of so many groups throughout the world.

The British class system is built on superiority and their narrative.

Colonialism is built on superiority and the narrative of the colonialists. There’s dialectical hatred in full flow.

Yes, probably some Jews and their narrative of world history and the transcendent are a little mixed up. You might do the same if your sense of worth was tested at the barbed wire of Auschwitz.

Certainly some Palestinians think they are superior and that their narrative and dialectical hatred is the right one. You only have to hear their description of Jews to know that.

Trump certainly thinks some people are superior and that his narrative is right, witness his comment at a rally recently when he talked about those who live like vermin.

Now tell me what group doesn’t have a strong element of thinking they’re superior and that their narrative is right? And by extension that the opposing narrative is wrong? There’s dialectical hatred. 

The problem with the whole world is in thinking about the issues and not about the people.

Perhaps just the poor downtrodden colonised masses who bow their heads; they might not think they’re superior.

Of course not all people think they are superior and not everyone by a long chalk spews dialectical hatred. And maybe we are learning. But there’s a definite strain of group superiority everywhere.

That’s what the human race is trying to get past and bring us all together. And in order to do so we have to join in a single narrative that join us above the supposed rightness of the issues that divide us..

Bottom line – not all narratives were created equal.

The thing is that Musk didn’t make a general point about all humans having different narratives and that maybe some people have better narratives. No, he singled out Jews.

We see it a lot; people who have made Jews and Israel their hobby horse. It doesn’t need me to say again how little attention those same people give to other events and other situations that would deserve their attention if ‘Jews and Israel’ merits their attention.

But the reason for antisemitism is not to be understood at the level of world events.

And Musk did it, because he did not make similar comments about other groups and other situations. And here’s the greater point. It’s not just that Musk made his comment at some point in time. He made it now – now when feelings are at fever pitch.

I ask myself whether Musk thinks all narratives are equal or whether maybe he really has bad intent.

Another Narrative

Another narrative has to take into account the possibility that Musk did not make his tweet at three in the morning when his ‘off-switch’ wasn’t functioning properly.

I listened to his biographer and I am not sure he is qualified to describe Musk. I did learn though that Musk is training his AI model on the contents of Twitter. And perhaps therefore Musk’s tweet was designed to give food and fuel to his AI-in-training.