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What made El Topo subversive enough to be deemed illegal in several countries was precisely the confusion between genres and modes of thinking, the incomplete allusions to allegory and myth, the heteroglot centres, the inclusion of the marginalised.
The conclusion of Adam Curtis’ three-part BBC series is that liberal democracies have diminished our humanity, not by deliberately setting out as the Communists did to make a perfect society, but simply by organising around an impoverished notion of freedom.
Connoisseurs can probably nail down what makes Stevie Wonder’s songs and Bach’s cantatas timeless, while Beyoncé‘s ‘Déjà vu’ was an ephemeral hit. Yet this distinction does not come naturally. An appreciation of music has to be fostered, perhaps by documentaries like this - alas, Goodall’s programme does not deliver.
Despite the abundance of death in film history, the intellectualisation of the concept of death and its cathartic power necessary to the creation of art is still essentially virgin territory for the medium. The London Film Festival showed that there are now serious attempts to make up for this.
Many films reek of the desperation of forty years spent trying to get the message across to these idiots. But perhaps PIFs are one of the prices we pay for being relatively free. Or, as governments might see it, the price authority has to pay for letting people remain free.
Cold Mountain is very much a product of its times. It is set during the final years of the American Civil War, one of the most important chapters in the history of the USA. It was a period of dramatic fighting between the North and South, and the Yankees’ victory led to the abolition of the slavery. Yet Cold Mountain is entirely indifferent to this grand narrative and the whole point of this momentous period.