Our Favorite Communist Films

Let's create "A Revolutionaries' Pocket Guide to Blockbuster" -- step by step.

First, we'll start with this list of "communist films." The question naturally comes up "What defines a communist film?" But without yet settling that question... we do have the beginnings of a list.

Second, we also need to add films that are just loved by revolutionaries -- and are worth checking out for various reasons....

Third, we will need a simple two-or-three sentence review of each film -- what's it about, why is it worth seeing, what else is worth knowing about the film or its filmmakers.

Question: How should we eventually organize such a pocket guide? Chronologically? By "topic"? Alphabetically?

[BTW: we previously published a Socialists Guide to Science Fiction.]

Mike E:

Burn (Queimada) 1969 Pelle the Conquerer (Danish/Swedish, 1987) Breaking with Old Ideas (revolutionary China 1975) Yol (Turkey/kurdistan, Yilmaz Guney, 1982) Spartacus (U.S. 1960) Battleship Potemkin (1925 USSR, and other films by Sergei Eisenstein, but not Ivan the Terrible).

Red Flags:

The Matrix (1999) Reds (Warren Beatty 1981) Land and Freedom (and others by Ken Loach) Lone Star (1996, and others by John Sayles) Les Chinoise (1967, and others by Jean-Luc Goddard) The Shining (1980, and others by Stanley Kubrick)

 

la_commune_filmDr Zaius:

La Commune (2000, 5 hour film about Paris Commune, Peter Watkins) Matewan (1987, also by John Sayles) Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006 also by Ken Loach) The Wall (click for video of Yilmaz Guney making this 1983 film, aka Duvar in Turkish) Bethune: The Making of a Hero (1989, Phillip Borsos, and starring the communist actor Donald Sutherland)

Soairse:

Affliction (1998, and other films by Paul Schrader) 1900 (and other films by Bernardo Bertolucci) Dawn of the Dead (1978 version and other films by George A. Romero) The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (ditto Luis Buñuel) The Cook, the Thief, the Wife and Her Lover (1989, Peter Greenaway) Audition (1999) and Visitor Q (2001, Takashi Miikei) Hostel 1 (2005) and 2 (2007, Horror films by Eli Roth

JP:

wind-that-shakes-the-barleyMarat/Sade (1963 play by Peter Weiss, 1967 film adaptation directed by Peter Brook) Berlin Alexanderplatz (14-part German 1980 television series by Rainer Fassbinder) Gospel according to St. Matthew (1964,  directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini)

Miles Ahead:

Rome, Open City (1945, Roberto Rosselini) Salt of the Earth (1954, Herbert Biberman) Modern Times (1936 Charlie Chaplin) The Great Dictator (Chaplin) Metropolis (F. Lang) Dr. Strangelove (Kubrick) Our Daily Bread (K. Vidor) Point of Order! (1964 de Antonio & Robert Duncan–documentary of McCarthy hearings) The Front (1976 M. Ritt) Guilty by Suspicion (1991 I. Winkler, based on play “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, see also his 1996 film "The Crucible") Shadows (1959, J. Cassavettes) Woman Under the Influence (1974, John Cassavettes) The Informer (1935, John Ford) La Soldadera (J. Bolaños) Land Without Bread (Bunuel)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._Strangelove

 

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  • Guest (gangbox)

    John - the original "Planet of the Apes" novel was written by Pierre Boulle - it was originally published in France in 1963 - I read an English language American edition of the book in 1980, when I was in Junior High School. I do remember that it was quite racist - I remember that quite vividly.

    "Brother From Another Planet" - even more evidence that John Sayles is incapable or unwilling to develop three dimensional African American characters (and, NO, John gets no extra credit for "good intentions" - remember, that's what they paved the road to hell with!)

    As for "They Live" - it did have a populist edge to it - but then again, that's a common theme in professional wrestling (just look back at the Stone Cold Steve Austin/Mr McMahon feud storyline in the WWF in 1999-2000) but populist is not the same as revolutionary.

    And seeing rich people as dangerous aliens who aren't like us has a strong national socialist streak about it (remember how effectively that argument was used in Germany by Hitler and the NSDAP to target the "Jewish bankers")

    Populist and revolutionary are not the same thing!

    Bottom line, I do not look to Hollywood producers to educate the working class on the necessity for revolution - Hollywood is a $ 10 billion a year industry that is an ideological bulwark of Corporate America and US imperialism, and we should never ever forget that!

  • Guest (entdinglichung)

    <a href="/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIo3NMpH-84" rel="nofollow">Eat The Rich</a> (1987)

  • Guest (Freddy)

    @Miles Ahead:
    "<i>The scene with footage of Che’s anti-imperialist U.N. speech, and the famous quote from Che that (to paraphrase) “we won the war, the revolution starts now” kind of leaves you hanging and doesn’t explain much. Then to simply segué to Bolivia (Part II) might even add more to some confusion. IMO–All the complexities in and around Che were not satisfactorily portrayed, although I do applaud the making of this film as an attempt to show Che in a more favorable light.</i>"

    The movies are adaptations of Che's journals. They're not meant to be some sort of "biography" of Che. If "it leaves you hanging" you should read some books. It's a movie, after all and at 2+ hours each they are long enough... In order to tell "the whole story" they should've made something like a 30-episodes series... Nobody is going to do that, at least not at hollywood. Soderbergh had enough problems funding this one and, given the subject it's an impressive feat.

    As for the movie focusing too much on Che's physical condition, it doesn't. Or, more precisely, the movie is about Che, not about the Cuban Revolution. And Che had asthma and did have a lot of problems because of this condition, especially as a guerrilla fighter in a sub-tropical jungle. Come to think of it, a man suffering from acute asthma attacks marching days and nights through a jungle, fighting a guerrilla war is extraordinary. Consider that any national army (such as the US army) doesn't allow recruits with asthma or similar conditions. If you read his journals and other writings from his comrades about that period, about Che's training before the events depicted in Part One, you'd see that his "asthma problem" was serious in the context of events. And, above all, it makes Che into an ordinary man, not some hollywood crap superhero warrior.

    Together with Motorcycle Diaries, they give you a good overview of Che. It's more than enough to get someone thinking. If "Part I left a lot of questions unanswered" and you want more you could go to something like http://www.pathfinderpress.com and order some cheap books and read the rest. And this goes for the rest of you who'd expect Che Part One and Two to tell you everything. Think of it as an appetizer. The rest you have to do read it yourself.

  • Guest (hegemonik)

    FYI:

    Missing in all this is the excellent <i><a href="/http://www.sleepdealer.com/Landing.html" rel="nofollow">Sleep Dealer</a></i> just released last year, which takes some of the cyberpunk elements of the <i>Matrix</i> but adds a great deal more "red" depth – mainly on themes of imperialism, exploitation, and alienation.

    Also, re: <i>They Live</i> and Vince McMahon: I believe Gangbox confused that film with Hulk Hogan's disastrous box office bombs (in which he got a production credit which should be hung around his neck).

    As for John Carpenter's "populism": PUT ON THE GLASSES.

  • Guest (lightning louie)

    Gangbox writes:

    <blockquote>Most American audiences didn’t get the sophisticated satire in Starship Troopers – they saw it as a pro war movie! The same way that American audiences saw Rollerball – both the original and the 1990’s remake – as movies promoting bloodsports, rather than condemning them. A lot of that film theory stuff does NOT translate to mainstream American movie audiences AT ALL – the folks at the Angelica Theater might get it, but not at the multiplex!&quot;</BLOCKQUOTE>

    No argument. If a movie has no intent to convert the masses, does that make it ineffective as a satire? Maybe.

    Verhouven is a proud cynic. He wants to keep making movies and the way to do it is to make successful potboilers. Spielberg alternates potboilers and 'tombstone' flicks [the literate, do-good ones that usually sputter at the box office]. The difference is that Verhouven goes after US culture with a firehose shooting acid while Spielberg makes the audience comfortable.

    Verhouven does not seek a better world, but he rocks the cradle, Brecht-style.

    Rollerball was more libertarian than emancipatory.

  • I'm reminded of a story told by a comrade working in the coal mines... when one of the preachers he knew came up to him and started talking about the new disco song "<a href="/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS9OO0S5w2k" rel="nofollow">YMCA</a>" (by the village people), and was gushing that "finally!" there was a song about something decent like the young mens christian association.

    In some ways, you can't blame the artist or a nuanced piece of art -- if there are people who by inclination or training don't get camp, or satire, or parody (or sly humor generally).

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    Gee Freddy...maybe my read of Part I was superficial, but I am one person you don't have to advise to pick up a book. And I am also someone who has always been supportive of Che overall, even with all of his complexities and contradictions.

    <i>Perhaps</i>, what your basic reaction to my comment points to is the evocative power of art, be it movies, books, a painting, et al. and how passionate people <i>feel</i> about certain works of art that touch human emotion in a way that most propaganda and agitation can't.

    My sop to this film is somewhat unfair, since I only saw Part I but I went to see it with a very progressive, staunch feminist friend; someone who knew little about Che, except as a revolutionary icon, and she was left hanging even more than moi.

    I don't necessarily think that the viewing audience was left with the same sum up as you regarding Che's medical condition. Perhaps you're right re "you’d see that his “asthma problem” was serious in the context of events," but not so much in terms of "And, above all, it makes Che into an ordinary man..." I don't think Che was just an "ordinary" man, nor do I think that Cuban revolutionary Haydee Santamaria was simply an ordinary woman. And while Carlos Franqui was later exiled and became a dissident, he wrote a wonderful book in his earlier years called "The Twelve" which explores other less famous revolutionaries in Cuba, who were also extraordinary in their own right. But we are talking about Che...so I digress.

    But I do very much agree with you, that a film (or any good art) is not intended to incorporate every damn detail, tell you everything, etc. IMO good art is more nuanced than that, and should (and does) spark people's imagination, while also hopefully exciting them to investigate further, their interest, as well as think for themselves, etc.

    So let me ask you, was Part II based on Che's "Bolivian Diaries"?--which I read about a year ago; which diaries in parts I found disturbing--mostly around some <i>understandable</i> frustration of Che's, but in terms of his frustration being expressed as antagonistic to the Bolivian masses. And did Part II explore Che's relationship with deBray and the <i>foco</i> theory?

    While formerly I did agree that a particular film, etc. should not reveal "everything" about its subject, I also think that this was an opportunity to give some more details and not just assume that the viewing audience--who obviously were interested in Che and what he represented--were able to put things in some of the context that you referred to.

    What I did think was a particular strength of Part I was--the revelation of Che's internationalism, and that an Argentine doctor would sacrifice much (including his health) to be part of the Cuban revolution. And yes, I do agree that Soderbergh's making of this film was a feat, and that it wasn't some sentimental portrayal was even better.

  • Guest (saoirse)

    I would also add to Mike's comments that people often have contradictory consciousness and art is an expression of this. During the 80s I would frequent after hours discos in Brooklyn. There would be dancing drinking and gambling starting around 3am until 1pm the following day. Coke and crack were the drugs of choice but that didnt stop the dance floor from being packed when the anti drug song whitelines came on the wheels of steel. We'd knowingly laugh as we chanted the lyrics. We were fully aware of the destructive nature of cocaine. Similiarly I know many US Marines who love to quote amply from Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket, identifying with both Private Pile and Sgt. Hartman and can talk at length about the dehumanization that takes place during bootcamp and in war.

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    Coming off of the little dialogue around “Che Part I &amp; II”, and although mentioned previously, I would like to re-emphasize the 1964 CBC documentary made about Dr. Norman Bethune—the one that has actual footage from his days during the Spanish Civil War and during China’s revolution.

    Bethune, a true people’s hero, and someone not as well as known as he should be. A very good post on Kasama (from March 2009) which not only refers to the CBC documentary, but other films about Bethune.

    <a href="/http://mikeely.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/norman-bethune-who-makes-the-wounds/" rel="nofollow">Norman Bethune: The Wounds of War </a>

    And if people want to do some further reading, I suggest the classic “<a href="/http://www.amazon.com/Scalpel-Sword-Doctor-Norman-Bethune/dp/0853453020" rel="nofollow">The Scalpel and the Sword: the story of Norman Bethune</a>”—a book that will truly inspire.

  • Guest (Jay Rothermel)

    Here is a list of movies mentioned on Marxmail's list over the weekend. Some titles are duplicated from those above, others may be new.
    Sadly, no supporters of "They Live."

    Norma Rae

    Silkwood

    Che, parts 1 and 2

    Motorcycle Diaries

    Fidel (Estela Bravo)

    Stagecoach

    The crime of mister Lange

    The Organizer

    The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

    Burn!

    Terrorists in Retirement

    For Queen and Country

    Glory

    Thunderheart

    One Man's Hero

    Matewan

    Spartacus

    The Last Detail

    Il Postino

    Battle of Algiers

    Lion of the Desert

    Joyeux Noël

    Bread and Roses

    The Blood of the Condor

    El Norte.

    Rosie the riveter

    Heaven's Gate

    Bert Brecht's Kuhle Wampe

    G.W. Pabst's film of Die Dreigroschenoper.

    La Patagonia rebelde

    Quebracho

    El rigor del destino

    El camino a la muerte del viejo Reales

    Las aguas bajan turbias

    El trueno entre las hojas

    La Redada

    The Take (Sin Patron)

    The Last Supper (1977)

    Memories of Underdevelopment

    Ladri di biciclette

    Mama Roma

    Watch on the Rhine

    --

    Jay

  • I'll throw in a few that I don't think have been mentioned -

    Dead Presidents ('95) - Takes place in the early '70s and depicts a black Vietnam vet coming home, trying to deal with his experiences in the war and the life he's returning to, who gets involved in a big robbery attempt. (2 great soundtrack cds from this, if you like black music from this era)

    Killer of Sheep, by the great director Charles Burnett (1977) - again, black life in the ghetto, this time Los Angeles, but an extremely different film -- very little plot, focused on some very ordinary tasks, events and family life, but one of the most beautiful and moving films I've ever seen (on the basis of my memory of one viewing, many years ago), with some music on the soundtrack -- again black popular songs of the era -- that adds to the feeling greatly.

    But I have to ask (as others have in different ways), what we're trying to bring out under this rubric of "communist films." Obviously films have political and social content, and I don't disagree that many many films have (have had) political value (or disvalue). But delineating what this is -- If you say it's the "message" of the film, then how do you arrive at what that is? This thread has some very conflicting views on what various films are "saying." To whatever extent evaluating films in this way (their "message) is a valuable approach, it's clear at any rate that this is not a straightforward matter.

    I think a better approach would be to talk of the social content of a film, which will be multifaceted and often nuanced (if the film is well-made), and not be much easier to analyze than the social dynamics that give find expression in them. (What makes us think that content and meaning can be read off from the filmmaker's intentions? This premise has been critiqued in literary studies since 50 years ago.)

    Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets (1973)

    Terence Malick's Badlands (also 1973 - the early '70s was a great era of filmmaking in the US)

    In films like these -- depictions of rather self-destructive characters within particular social settings -- I want to say that a large part of what brings these films to a level of greatness is both the beauty of the filmmaking (these are both very beautiful films, in very different ways) and the living, vibrant, strongly felt way in which the contradiction and tragedy are shown and played out. How does this relate to politics? I don't know, precisely -- but I do think that if political evaluation is carried out in such a way as to devalue, or -- worse -- suppress these sorts of qualities, a very impoverished politics will result.

    Brazil (1985), by Terry Gilliam - Here we have a very dystopian vision, but like a lot of such visions, this is brought out and shown in such an incredible vibrant, funny, creative way, that the film belies the pessimism of its overt content. This bears on the question of beauty and creativity and their "political value."

  • Guest (Freddy)

    @Miles Ahead:

    Gee, American McGee... maybe I was talking in general, about people trying to "get it all" from this movie, and not about you in particular. It's a defect of the English language that "you" is a personal pronoun and the only "proper way" sounds pompous and academic ( "If “it leaves one hanging”, one should read some books." ??)

    "but I went to see it with a very progressive, staunch feminist friend; someone who knew little about Che, except as a revolutionary icon, and she was left hanging even more than moi."

    Good, then tell the staunch feminist to pick a book because there's nothing Soderbergh or anyone else could do without turning it into Havana Dallas or C-Team with Juan Almeida as Mr T. Again, the point is that this is a movie about Che, not the Cuban Revolution. About what Che was, what kind of person. It is narrative only in so much it presents an aspect of Che.

    It's not the film's fault the viewers are ignorant. I guess reading in advance about Che so you know something before seeing the film is too much for most of the viewers. It's not transformers, it's not suppose to "entertain" you (though there's nothing entertaining about that crap and all movies like it). Also, it's not some sortof Cuban version of Discovery Channel or Commie Geographic.

    Already, in about 2 hours it packs quite a lot, an entire military campaign and the making of a great person and "cultural icon" (though I'm not sure about what culture are we talking about, because "Che, the bearded guy on all the t-shirts" is not "culture). It sets aside time for each of most Che's comrades to do something relevant to their character, it has action etc.

    "I don’t necessarily think that the viewing audience was left with the same sum up as you regarding Che’s medical condition." Again, the audience's fault. The very little anyone could do, with 0 effort is to find out about the "other" Che movie, Motorcycle Diaries, and see it before seeing Soderbergh's films and have a head start. Again, 99.9% of people go with their (girl)friends to eat popcorn and be entertained. Not the film's fault.

    Also, even without reading or seeing anything about Che, it doesn't take the proverbial rocket scientist to understand how hard it is for a person with asthma to march day and night, under constant pressure in a jungle and fight in a war... But I guess most of the audience is used to seeing arian 'murikans war heroes gun down entire divisions of commies/terrorists/aliens/demons so some shitty commie fag from Cuba with asthma dragging around in the woods coughing his guts out looks pathetic... Again, social distortion caused by your culture.

    "I don’t think Che was just an “ordinary” man"
    Yes he was, in respect to what "legendary warriors" are portrayed in american movies. He doesn't gun down 100 of Batista's gunships.

    Che Part 2 is very dark, and quite bleak. But it's intentional. About 15 minutes into the film a sense of hopelessness settles in and never leaves until the final scene with Che's body wrapped up, flying in a helicopter over the Bolivian mountains. Basically Soderbergh shifts the blame for what happened on everyone but Che... I mean, it's an adaptation of Che's Bolivia diaries, but, unlike the previous part, there are far too many pieces missing for the casual viewer.

    In many aspects it is the inverse of the first part. An unknown Argentine doctor, plagued by asthma attacks ventures with Castro in into Sierra Maestra and emerges as a popular "cultural icon" after an incredible adventure. In part two Che is "El Comandante", the hero of the Cuban revolution and the Guerrillero who bravely fought in Congo, smuggles himself in Bolivia to re-create the Cuban Revolution. Part one had the beautiful Cuban landscapes bathed in sunshine, now there's mostly cloudy, dark Bolivian jungle. In part one the people were Che's allies, his victory came with the aid of the people of the land. Here the people are Che's enemy. Bolivian peasants are so poor and lacking of.. everything that they either get in the way of Che's goals or actively work against him. It's really sad, at the end, when the young guard in Che's makeshift cell ask him if he doesn't believe in anything to which El Che replies "But yes, I believe in people..." It was his unshakable belief in people that got him killed.
    There's a stark contrast between the character of Che's comrades in part one and some of the dumb Bolivian rednecks who supposedly fight at his side in part two. The peasants he encounters can't even read so, when some of Che's comrades take some food and leave money and a note from a house where there's nobody at their arrival, when the owners get back they call the authorities believing someone stole their food, unable to read the notes. The ending is sad, but filled with hope. Near the very end he tells the bolivian lieutenant (?) who asks him why save the peasants who gave you in "Maybe our failure will wake them up...".

    Overall, it's not a movie to take your girlfriend to, no matter how staunch feminist she is.

    Btw, I recommend buying / downloading the bdrips and seeing them both quiet at home. The scenery is beautiful and the DTS sound in the bd version is incredibly rich and well done.

    I'm waiting for reviews and opinions from actual Cubans and for Saul Landau to interview Castro, Raul and the rest of Che's comrades that are still alive and ask them what they think about the films...

    Also, if there are any South Americans here who are familiar with the regional dialects spoken in the region, can they share their opinion on how the actors sound in the movie? Do they "sound" authentic or have a fake accent?

  • Guest (gangbox)

    Hegemonik - for the record, ALL World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment wrestlers who work in motion pictures are REQUIRED to have Vince McMahon as an executive producer on their movies and to give the WWF/WWE a piece of whatever they make in motion picture work.

    It's written in their contracts - and that's been Vince McMahon's standard business practice for many years.

    And yes, that includes Rowdy Roddy Piper's work on "They Live".

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    IMO--John Steele in Comment 152 (!) raises and reiterates some pertinent questions. The post started out with this—as sort of a guideline to the criteria:

    <blockquote>First, we’ll start with this list of “communist films.” The question naturally comes up “What defines a communist film?” But without yet settling that question… we do have the beginnings of a list.

    Second, we also need to add films that are just loved by revolutionaries — and are worth checking out for various reasons….</blockquote>

    I would say, with the exception of films like “Breaking with Old Ideas” or Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin”, both made under very different circumstances and developing socialist societies, coming up with a “communist film” has been difficult. On the other hand, some sort of straight-jacket criterion hasn’t stopped people (nor should it) from listing films that are both “loved by revolutionaries and worth checking out for various reasons.”

    Lifting parts of what John said:

    <blockquote>I think a better approach would be to talk of the social content of a film, which will be multifaceted and often nuanced (if the film is well-made), and not be much easier to analyze than the social dynamics that give find expression in them.

    …and the living, vibrant, strongly felt way in which the contradiction and tragedy are shown and played out. How does this relate to politics? I don’t know, precisely — but I do think that if political evaluation is carried out in such a way as to devalue, or — worse — suppress these sorts of qualities, a very impoverished politics will result.

    (Re—"Killer of Sheep")—“...but one of the most beautiful and <i>moving</i> films I’ve ever seen…(M.A.’s emphasis)</blockquote>

    Seems to me that most films, whether we love them or not, do have social content—some films positive, some negative. Whether or not we choose to analyze that social content is something else. (And why or what “moves” people, as part of their human spirit?)

    While some people think they are simply going to the movies to be entertained, or to unwind after a gruelling day, I don’t think that is always possible if you are a socially conscious sort, or to simply escape from some message, and not be affected by some film—by both its form and content, even one that is seemingly more benign. That is part of the power of an artistic endeavour.

    At the risk of repeating myself, there is a very distinct and continuous battle going on in the cultural sphere—as part of the ideological struggle—but we as communist/revolutionaries are not at the helm of this struggle. However, do think it is important to unite with many of those cultural workers leading the charge, who may be expressing in part some of our desired goals but not necessarily the whole ball of wax. And as our expanding list attests to, many commentators have been able to glean progressive, socially and politically conscious elements within various works.

    When John raised the points above, I thought about one of my all time favorite films. I was hesitant to list it because I was going back and forth in using some sort of “revolutionary-minded or communist” yardstick. But in reviewing the vast list of films mentioned, there are many that have social and political value just maybe not in the strictest sense.

    And there are lots of different forms that are valid (John’s example of “Brazil” was one.) There are the muckrackers, the exposés, satire, some with a view of social relations, even personal relations that are more indicative of the society at large. There are those who reveal the machinations of different classes within a particular society. These are valuable both to us, as revolutionaries, as well as to a larger audience; for one thing, it enables us to better understand all classes in society, and at the same time, may help raise (political or social) consciousness among a broader audience, albeit often times in more subtle ways. (Michael Moore's muckraking films--"Farenheit 9/11, Bowling for Columbine" and "SICKO" were not subtle, although they played a very positive role in exposing important political issues.)

    The film I was formerly thinking of was one of Fellini’s first movies: “Nights of Cabiria.” IMHO, one of the most “moving, beautifully made" <i>film noir</i> I’ve ever seen (I’ve seen it countless times, and it never ceases to move me). On the surface, it is about a prostitute, Cabiria, with a heart (sounds cliché but really isn’t). But moreover, it says a lot about what people from the lower strata (especially women) are forced to go through, their aspirations to rise above their status, their isolation from as well as their need for kinder human relations, etc.-- and in particular the toll taken on women from this strata in heterosexual relations within paternalistic society. The prostitute is no longer objectified sexually, and the ultimate humane one is Cabiria. I happen to love many of Fellini’s films, and he circuitously addresses the “woman question” in some of his other movies, like “Juliet of the Spirits.” He also has a constant theme throughout many of his films—which is anti-religion (in particular Catholicism), its hypocrisy and exposes the psychological and “spiritual” hold the Catholic Church has over millions. He also often times exposes the decadence of the ruling elites—e.g. “La Dolce Vita,” “8 ½” (which also gets into the dilemma many creative artists face.)

    But Fellini as a blatant revolutionary filmmaker— guess not; however, as an extremely imaginative, creative artist, ultimately on the side of the people--and understands them, who has found other ways to express some of the very things we want to expose, most definitely.

    As to Freddy’s further remarks in Comment 153: would like to say that obviously you appreciated and understood “Che” better than I. So in light of that, I will try and see it again, with some of your comments in mind. But where I think we have an underlying point of departure is – :

    <blockquote>”It’s not the film’s fault the viewers are ignorant. I guess reading in advance about Che so you know something before seeing the film is too much for most of the viewers.”

    “…In part one the people were Che’s allies, his victory came with the <i>aid of the people of the land.</i> Here the people are Che’s enemy. Bolivian peasants are so poor and lacking of.. <i>everything that they either get in the way of Che’s goals or actively work against him.</i> It’s really sad, at the end, when the young guard in Che’s makeshift cell ask him if he doesn’t believe in anything to which El Che replies “But yes, I believe in people…” <i>It was his unshakable belief in people that got him killed.</i>

    There’s a stark contrast between the character of Che’s comrades in part one and some of the dumb Bolivian rednecks who supposedly fight at his side in part two. The peasants he encounters can’t even read so,…” [italic emphasis – M.A.]</blockquote>

    First of all—how do you know that the “viewers” of this highly political film are ignorant? (Some of your other remarks surprised me because they sounded so contemptuous of the people/viewing audiences.) Seems to me the interested audience in "Che"(which just like society, is on different levels) is different than some philistine who sees the world through “The Transformers” eyes.

    I tend to side with the playwright Tennesse Williams on this point--that it is the responsibility of the artist/writer, etc. to communicate with his/her audience, and not to blame the audience if those ideas are not communicated particularly well.

    Re the illiterate and poor Bolivian peasants—it certainly isn’t their fault that they didn’t immediately glom onto “Che’s goals.” Guess what? I uphold Che, and don’t dispute his underlying “belief in the people.” But I think your saying his “unshakable belief in the people [was what]that got him killed” divides into two. It was also his romantic revolutionary side, sans a more thoroughgoing analysis and understanding of the circumstances, particular conditions and scanty roots among the Bolivian people, his following a focoist line, wherein he went there to make revolution with a handful of people, his underestimation of the Bolivian bourgeoisie and the sinister CIA, that greatly contributed to his being murdered. And there was a defeatist message from the bourgeoisie in displaying his corpse—if you’re thinking of following in Che’s footsteps, think again.

    The fact that it took the Cuban government 40 years to rescue his remains, shows yet another sinister side to the ruling classes; however, it also shows that they are well aware of the potency of Che’s ideas and example, and why it is he has become such an heroic symbol and martyr of revolutionary struggle, most especially but not exclusively in Latin and Central America.

    As far as some Che t-shirt simply being – “Che, the bearded guy on all the t-shirts” is not “culture)”—when Mexico’s reactionary government expelled Cuba’s ambassador a while back (while further cozying up to the U.S.), the next day, and during the week’s following, many many people (from different sections of the people) donned their Che t-shirt in symbolic protest. The Cuban and Mexican people have a long history of unity and support, and interestingly the Mexican government was forced to retract their anti-Cuban words and action. And alongside Mexican heroes, such as Zapata, Villa, Morelos, you will find huge portraits of Che, painted on the walls of many Mexican high schools and universities. Che—for different reasons—has in fact, become part of the cultural fabric of many places and among many peoples. If nothing else, he symbolizes just whose side you're on.

    As far as your question:
    <blockquote>”Also, if there are any South Americans here who are familiar with the regional dialects spoken in the region, can they share their opinion on how the actors sound in the movie? Do they “sound” authentic or have a fake accent?”

    Re Part I—I live in a Spanish-speaking country and have for a long time. (In the country where I live, accents and vernacular, modismos, etc.—just like in the U.S.—are different in different regions.) And although many of the actors in Che were Mexican, and Benicio del Toro is a native puertorriqueño (playing an Argentinian—whose accent is way different than say Spanish spoken in Mexico or Puerto Rico—much softer and almost sounding like a Brazilian version of Portuguese), the Cuban accent was excellent and very believable in Part I.

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    Sorry, forgot to turn off the blockquote:

    <blockquote> ”Also, if there are any South Americans here who are familiar with the regional dialects spoken in the region, can they share their opinion on how the actors sound in the movie? Do they “sound” authentic or have a fake accent?”</blockquote>

    Re Part I—I live in a Spanish-speaking country and have for a long time. (In the country where I live, accents and vernacular, modismos, etc.—just like in the U.S.—are different in different regions.) And although many of the actors in Che were Mexican, and Benicio del Toro is a native puertorriqueño (playing an Argentinian—whose accent is way different than say Spanish spoken in Mexico or Puerto Rico—much softer and almost sounding like a Brazilian version of Portuguese), the Cuban accent was excellent and very believable in Part I.

  • Guest (Freddy)

    @Miles Ahead

    I think you greatly misunderstood what I meant:

    <cite>First of all—how do you know that the “viewers” of this highly political film are ignorant? (Some of your other remarks surprised me because they sounded so contemptuous of the people/viewing audiences.) Seems to me the interested audience in “Che”(which just like society, is on different levels) is different than some philistine who sees the world through “The Transformers” eyes.</cite>

    The point is that this is a *movie* that is going to be released in cinemas. Most people go to the movies to be entertained. It's simple statistics that most of the people who will go to this movie and see it in a cinema are "casual" moviegoers and, yes they are ignorant. I got my hands on the screener for Part One about the same time the critics got it and shared it around on anarchist/communist networks so the people that "get" the most of the film already saw it.

    My comments were vis-a-vis the fact that this is a movie that is being released into "normal viewing circuit" and such, it will be viewed by "apolitical" people, if you will. I'm sorry if my remarks sound "contemptuous" but the vast majority of people are ignorant of such matters. For them Che is the guy on the t-shirt that wanted to nuke America with that crazy commie dictator, Castro. Period. I work with 50 people at my current job and, when I shared Che Part One &amp; Two nobody wanted it because it "sounds like propaganda"... So, at the risk of sounding "contemptuous" most people are, in fact, ignorant imbeciles.

    The main point is that, except for political people like us, virtually everyone out there know Che from the crap Discovery/NG mockumentaries with tyrannical commies. If you don't believe me, go out and ask 100 random people about Che. Also, if you don't believe me, watch all the "mainstream" documentaries on Che, the ones that are "allowed" on stations like Discovery, PBS etc and try to draw a line.

    <cite>Re the illiterate and poor Bolivian peasants—it certainly isn’t their fault that they didn’t immediately glom onto “Che’s goals.”</cite>
    What are you? 10?
    I was presenting the general message that some casual viewer will get from viewing Che Part Two.

    <cite>But I think your saying his “unshakable belief in the people [was what]that got him killed” divides into two.</cite>
    No, actually it did. If he didn't trust poor, oppressed people just on the basis of being poor and oppressed it wouldn't ended up like that. There's no "romantic revolutionary side" of Che that got in the way. We can debate all year long what happened in Bolivia but the point is, and the point of the movie, I'd venture to guess, that it takes the will of the people to turn things around. It's clearly visible in Part One, in the positive way and clearly visible in Part Two in the negative way. For whatever reasons, and this is not the place to debate them, the Bolivian peasantry was so miserable and disfranchised it didn't want to fight. Again, for the Nth time, I'm debating what I believe is the underlying theme of the two films.

    <cite>As far as some Che t-shirt simply being – “Che, the bearded guy on all the t-shirts” is not “culture)”—when Mexico’s reactionary government expelled (...)</cite>
    Blah blah blah again, preaching to the converted. Again, the point is that, in the west (ie America and Europe) Che IS the bearded guy on the t-shirt and nothing like the man depicted in these films. Here skinheads who beat minorities and gays wear Che t-shirts because "it's cool".

  • Miles - Thanks for mentioning “Nights of Cabiria.” It is indeed a beautiful and moving film, and this is one where struggles and impulses among the people, in a devastated environment, are really the subject of the film.

    Your mention of Fellini also made me think of Orson Welles. Obviously he's a very different kind of filmmaker, but virtually all his films (imo) have the bringing out of social forces and contradictions as a major aspect - some (Citizen Kane, Magnificent Ambersons, The Stranger) in a fairly obvious way, but far more interesting in this respect are, for example, Mr. Arkadian, Lady From Shanghai, Touch of Evil.

    Are any of these "communist films"? Honestly, I have no idea what this would mean. And to the extent that I can think of any meaning for the phrase (for example, "films that put forward or embody communist principles"), I don't really think it's a useful category, either politically or aesthetically.

    What I keep coming back to, in thinking about films politically, and in terms of films that I value highly, is the way in which films, as expressions and vehicles and sketches of social life, can portray or express social dynamics and contradictions, and especially among the masses.

    Finally, one more film to add to the list (whatever the list may be called) - "Monster" (2003) -- what a magnificent portrayal by Charlize Theron, and a great film, whose subject is surely some sharp social contradictions and particularly the oppression of women. (Theron also starred in North Country (2005), which is a more conventional -- but very good -- story of a woman's struggle, in this case retelling a true story of a case which changed the law on sexual harrassment in the workplace.)

  • Guest (hegemonik)

    @Gangbox:

    <blockquote>ALL World Wrestling Federation/World Wrestling Entertainment wrestlers who work in motion pictures are REQUIRED to have Vince McMahon as an executive producer on their movies and to give the WWF/WWE a piece of whatever they make in motion picture work.

    It’s written in their contracts – and that’s been Vince McMahon’s standard business practice for many years.

    And yes, that includes Rowdy Roddy Piper’s work on “They Live”.</blockquote>

    There's a couple holes here:

    1) Vince's record as a producer is exhaustively listed on <a href="/http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0573093/#producer" rel="nofollow">IMDb</a>. It doesn't include <i>They Live</i>.

    2) What you say may hold up – but Rowdy Piper wasn't with WWF in any capacity the year that <i>They Live</i> was released. Piper had his infamous angle against Adrian Adonis 1987, then quit wrestling to pursue acting on his own.

    3) Don't bother bringing up trademark issues, because Piper started wrestling under the "Rowdy Roddy Piper" name before joining WWF (in fact, he predates the WWF itself!) and presumably has the trademark in his own name. It's only after the WWF/WWE became dominant that Vince became so big a fan of intellectual property and thus gave every incoming wrestler a new name and persona (hence, why Dwayne Johnson became Rocky Maivia/The Rock) and why he made sure he made a buck off of every movie that credited him under that name).

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    John...think we are on the same page. And your point beforehand, of dismissing a film because it wasn't directly or particularly "communist" really nails the problem. At first I kind of bristled at this vague criteria and couldn't help but flash on the "socialist realism school."

    I for one am so happy you mentioned Orson Welles...not just his classics, i.e. "Citizen Kane," "Magnificent Ambersons"--which have whole cult followings--but "Touch of Evil"--a highly suspenseful political drama...based on reality! (Ironically Charlton Heston--Mr. NRA--was a lead character (Mexican no less).

    But Orson Welles is such an interesting artist ... Since I am nowhere near 10 yrs. old, as Freddy asked, and neither are you (John)...do your remember the huge hoopla (and panic) when Welles and John Houseman went on radio, broadcasting basically enactment of another Wells, as in H.G.'s "War of the Worlds"? Houseman and Welles worked on many projects together, and it is notable that Houseman hired so many blacklisted actors, promoted and sometimes led such endeavors as the Federal Project Theatre (WPA--but concentrating on the "Negro" Theatre Project--promoting Black actors and their leadership) and with Welles formed the Mercury Theatre--an alternative to mainstream theatre.

    With the examples of Houseman and Welles (and even Fellini) I maintain it is also important to look at the tenor of the times (and context)in which these artists were active.

    To add to "Monster", I think "The Accused" with Jodie Foster is worthy and a part of this genre. Rape--who are the perpetrators and who are the victims--center stage. "Two Women" with Sophia Loren also a tearjerker, and classic. As to posing sharp contradictions around the oppression of women--more in the psychological realm, think Cassavettes "Woman Under the Influence" with Gena Rowlands has to be one of the most powerful films made on the subject. (I originally listed it in fact.) But I have often wondered if Marge Piercy got some of her ideas from "Woman Under the I." for "Woman on the Edge of Time." If I ever meet Piercy, think I'll ask.

  • Guest (Jay Rothermel)

    "Rio Bravo" (1959)

    1. People working together in a constructive way to solve a problem larger than themselves.

    2. The anger, frustration, and worry of guiding comrades in arms through a difficult time without whining: using humor and not a little compassion and solidarity.

    3. Standing up against a rich landowner for what is right.

    4. Characters are named: Chance, Dude, Stumpy, Colorado, Feathers.

    5. Self-deprecation as way of negotiating interactions with others.

    6. Score by Dimitri Tiomkin

    7. Screenplay by Leigh Bracket and Jules Furthman

    8. Directed by Howard Hawks

    9. Greatest moment: Chance and Colorado when the potted plant to come through the hotel's front window.

    10. Second greatest scene: Dude pours the shot glass of whiskey back into the bottle, his hands finally steady as a rock.

  • Guest (Jay Rothermel)

    There are some Indian films also which have dealt with Marxist themes,
    especially from the southern and eastern states of Kerala and Bengal (which have elected Marxist governments). I'm giving below some of the names of films from Kerala (language Malayalam) and of Hindi films which I am familiar with. Perhaps some one could add the names of Bengali and other Indian language films dealing with leftist thought?

    - Arabikatha (2007) - Language - Malayalam
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabikatha Deals with differences within the Communist movement, produced against a background of real-life splits in the ruling Communist Party in Kerala.

    - Ningal Enne Communist Akki (1970) (You made me a Communist) -Language -Malayalam
    http://roughinhere.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/ningalenne-communistakki-1970-malayalam/
    Portrayed the transition of an elderly man from a conservative upper-caste Hindu into a Communist.

    - AKG (2002) - Language - Malayalam
    http://www.cinemaofmalayalam.net/documentary_inner2.html
    Docu-fiction on the life and times of A.K. Gopalan, one of the pioneers of the communist movement in Kerala

    - Lal Salaam (2002) (Red Salute) - Language - Hindi
    http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/movies/review/6910/index.html
    On the naxalites (militant leftists) and how they influence and get popular among the tribals.

    - Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa (1998) (Mother of 1084) - Language - Hindi
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazaar_Chaurasi_Ki_Maa
    Deals with the life of a woman who loses her son, a Naxalite (leftist
    militant), to the violence that is a result of his adopted ideology.

    - Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2005) - Language - Hindi
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hazaaron_Khwaishein_Aisi
    The movie tells the story of three youngsters, one of them a militant
    leftist from a upper class family, in the 70s, when India was undergoing
    massive social and political changes.

    Rohan D'Souza posted these titles on Marxmail and I wanted to make sure they were included.
    http://www.marxmail.org/msg64954.html

    What a rich legacy of movies we're uncovering...

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    Many (certainly not all) of the films by Pedro Almodóvar have been ground breaking in the exploration of transsexuality, the power of "sisterhood" and feminism (a theme concurrent in many of his films--and mainly women emerge as the stronger of the sexes), sexual liberation (and the onset of AIDS), religious satire, in post-Franco Spain; plus some are sheer comedic genius, and theatre of the absurd.

    These are some of my favorite Almodóvar films:

    "Labyrinth of Passions" (1982)

    "Dark Habits" (1983 (anti religion)

    "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (1988--a classic)

    "Tacones Lejanos" (High Heels) (1991) (also an exploration of mother-daughter relationships, transsexuality, androgeny, male chauvinism)

    "Volver" (2006)

    One of the most beautiful neo-realistic films that explores a working class mother/daughter relationship is "Bellissima" with Anna Magnani, directed by Visconti (1951). But not just mothers/daughters/women but class differences.

  • Guest (Adrienne)

    Well, I can see I've definitely come late to this party. So many great films already listed that there's not a lot for me to add. I've seen Potemkin listed, but has anyone mentioned Eisenstein's <em>October?</em> That's a great film.

    Also, I do want to reply to Miles Ahead regarding these comments:

    <blockquote>Seems to me that most films, whether we love them or not, do have social content—some films positive, some negative. Whether or not we choose to analyze that social content is something else. (And why or what “moves” people, as part of their human spirit?)

    While some people think they are simply going to the movies to be entertained, or to unwind after a gruelling day, I don’t think that is always possible if you are a socially conscious sort, or to simply escape from some message, and not be affected by some film—by both its form and content, even one that is seemingly more benign. That is part of the power of an artistic endeavour.</blockquote>

    Very well said, and allow me to add: Yes, Yes, Yes! You have nailed it here in my view. To me, this is the Power of Art: that all kinds of thoughts, ideas, and emotions can creep into peoples consciousness through this vehicle. Indeed, I believe that art possesses an incredible and unique power that can (that does, and has already) help(ed) to change the world. Best of all, it can do so consciously yet effortlessly, and forcefully, but without any bloodshed.
    As the old adage goes: "A picture paints a thousand words." I think that while this a definitely a hackneyed cliche, it is also an extremely truthful one. And, I'll go even further and say that I think that this can be true of all art that has the ability to strike human beings on a deep, non literal level.
    So, not just films, but music, and photography, and painting, and printmaking, and graphic art, and computer imagery, etc. etc. These forms of culture possess the power to reach out and engage peoples minds and hearts in all kinds of different ways, in my opinion. Therefore, I've always thought that communists should very thoughtfully, consciously, and with great sophistication and skill learn to use these art forms to their best advantage whenever and wherever possible. Quite obviously the capitalists and imperialists have certainly have done so -- and to our great <em>disadvantage<em>. Isn't it long past time we play catch-up?

    <blockquote>At the risk of repeating myself, there is a very distinct and continuous battle going on in the cultural sphere—as part of the ideological struggle—but we as communist/revolutionaries are not at the helm of this struggle. However, do think it is important to unite with many of those cultural workers leading the charge, who may be expressing in part some of our desired goals but not necessarily the whole ball of wax. And as our expanding list attests to, many commentators have been able to glean progressive, socially and politically conscious elements within various works.</blockquote>

    I couldn't agree more. Yet when you say that we are "not at the helm of this struggle" it reminds me of McCarthy and HUAC and makes me wonder why we still haven't really recovered from that era in this particular nation.
    Honestly, I really do think it's time to step up, pull our tails out from between our legs, and really start to take a stand.

    <blockquote>When John raised the points above, I thought about one of my all time favorite films. I was hesitant to list it because I was going back and forth in using some sort of “revolutionary-minded or communist” yardstick. But in reviewing the vast list of films mentioned, there are many that have social and political value just maybe not in the strictest sense.</blockquote>

    I'll be honest here: I feel that when leftists talk amongst ourselves we should always toss away the yardsticks. In fact, for every list of "Official Communist Films", we might make another list of films -- ones which we suspect might teach communists something we need to learn, or give examples of areas we need to consider and explore. I'll give just one example: <em>Sullivan's Travels<em> written and directed by Preston Sturges. A classic comedy/satire film made towards the end of the Great Depression that is riddled with class themes and makes the claim that watching a mindless Disney cartoon can not only placate, but actually alleviate the suffering of prisoners sentenced to hard labor.

    Btw, I have to admit that I'm a little bit amazed to read that <em>Reds</em> isn't considered communist enough for some folks here due to speculation that maybe Warren Beatty wasn't/isn't the real deal. I think that's BS. Why on earth would an actor/filmmaker spend over ten years trying to make a film about John Reed and spend years on end interviewing all kinds of ancient leftists in order to splice them into the film without having some serious commitment to telling his/their particular stories and anecdotes? In other words, even if Beatty doesn't call himself a commie, he's got to be close enough for socialist work, no?

    <blockquote>The film I was formerly thinking of was one of Fellini’s first movies: “Nights of Cabiria.” IMHO, one of the most “moving, beautifully made” film noir I’ve ever seen (I’ve seen it countless times, and it never ceases to move me). On the surface, it is about a prostitute, Cabiria, with a heart (sounds cliché but really isn’t). But moreover, it says a lot about what people from the lower strata (especially women) are forced to go through, their aspirations to rise above their status, their isolation from as well as their need for kinder human relations, etc.– and in particular the toll taken on women from this strata in heterosexual relations within paternalistic society. The prostitute is no longer objectified sexually, and the ultimate humane one is Cabiria.</blockquote>

    This was a film I was actually going to contribute to this list, until I saw that you mentioned it. (You rock Miles!) <em>Nights of Cabiria</em> definitely ranks on my list of all-time favorite films. Every time I've seen it, it simply wrecks me. From my perspective, it is without a doubt, and most emphatically, a communist film.

    <em>I happen to love many of Fellini’s films, and he circuitously addresses the “woman question” in some of his other movies, like “Juliet of the Spirits.” He also has a constant theme throughout many of his films—which is anti-religion (in particular Catholicism), its hypocrisy and exposes the psychological and “spiritual” hold the Catholic Church has over millions. He also often times exposes the decadence of the ruling elites—e.g. “La Dolce Vita,” “8 ½” (which also gets into the dilemma many creative artists face.)</em>

    Indeed. Fellini's <em>La Strada</em> is also amazing.

    <em>But Fellini as a blatant revolutionary filmmaker— guess not; however, as an extremely imaginative, creative artist, ultimately on the side of the people–and understands them, who has found other ways to express some of the very things we want to expose, most definitely.</em>

    As with Beatty, Fellini may not have been a revolutionary, but surely he was close enough for socialist work! :^)

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    Spike Lee's "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts."

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    Adrienne...just so you know, I have been trying to write a response to a small part of what you said practically all friggin' day--and just as I think I've gotten somewhere, my computer shuts down. For now wanted to reiterate that I've been thinking seriously about what you said.

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    Would like to <i>attempt</i> to speak in small part, and to only part of what Adrienne was raising—but said response is not etched in stone. Unfortunately had tried this earlier, but my computer went bonkers.

    Adrienne:
    <blockquote>I couldn’t agree more. Yet when you say that we are “not at the helm of this struggle” it reminds me of McCarthy and HUAC and makes me wonder why we still haven’t really recovered from that era in this particular nation.
    Honestly, I really do think it’s time to step up, pull our tails out from between our legs, and really start to take a stand.</blockquote>

    IMO, the cultural sphere, while having its own particularities, is not exempt from some lingering, as well as more pervasive dogmatism that permeates many spheres, lines, Marxist-Leninists-Maoists organizations, etc. that we are struggling to both come to terms with and change—a fresh view toward both history and the future. I see the struggle against dogmatism (as well as sectarianism) as a big part of our being able to move forward on many fronts, including of course art and culture.

    But some of the ways dogmatism manifests itself in the cultural sphere is not all that simple to detect. Art in its many forms touches millions because it taps into a very human side of the very people we want to see liberated, as well as the human complexities within ourselves. People and life itself are a whole lot more complicated than some evident “truth.”

    And much of the way that some communists, or revolutionaries have dealt with art, film, music, etc. in the past (as well as the present)has been very stilted. On the other hand, there are those, in retaliation to say the “socialist realist movement” who go to another extreme, wherein they may tail after some rebellious-sounding cultural group, who may be very nihilistic, etc., because that group may have gained some notoriety and appear to be rebels.

    The way I think many of us try and view more “political” or socially important films (as well as other cultural forms) is to look for “new shoots”, try and examine what is below the surface, decide if there is something worthwhile to uphold and even promote, what “moves” us and other people, some universality, etc., in an historical context, and not just use some “Marxist” handbook. If the latter is our guide, then what John Steele said in comment Nº. 156 is more meaningful:

    <blockquote>”…but I do think that if political evaluation is carried out in such a way as to devalue, or — worse — suppress these sorts of qualities, a very impoverished politics will result.”</blockquote>

    Lenin himself read Chernyshevsky’s <i>novel</i>, “What is to be Done?” (written in the 1860s) 14x. Why was that?

    As to Adrienne raising the HUAC era, and us “breaking with old ideas” in the cultural sphere, think we can’t ignore some of the influence of the CPUSA, which did have some very real sway during that epoch. If we read “The New Masses”, and other publications, or investigate what was considered “politically correct” think we will see that the CPUSA flip-flopped all over the place—socialist realism to blatant economism, and some pablum thrown into the mix. At the same time, there were those within the cultural wing of the CPUSA (some members, others fellow travelers) who wrote and filmed some wonderful works in spite of the doctrinaire CPUSA (e.g. Richard Wright, Upton Sinclair, Abel Meeropol, Langston Hughes, Jessica Mitford, or Herb Biberman who wrote and made the film “Salt of the Earth.”) Seems the struggle over what constitutes art has existed for a long time, most likely because it is one that is part and parcel of the ideological struggle and the superstructure.

    But how the CPUSA treated various cultural workers (or viewed their art) is to say the least uneven. A real eye-opener is the life and struggle of Paul Robeson. He was both “used and abused”. Below one can find his autobiography, as well as an outstanding documentary on P.R. And not unlike Zora Neale Hurston—who Alice Walker resurrected—Robeson pretty much died in obscurity; physically broken, steeped in debt, but even so, until the end he maintained his solid internationalist and socialist stand.

    I don’t think we, as rev. communists want to repeat the “use and abuse” machinations of the old CPUSA. IMO it is not so important, nor is it really possible under capitalism, for “us” to be at the helm of this struggle, or calling the shots. And I am not convinced that we should necessarily be at the helm even if we and the people are successful at making socialist revolution in the future. Art may be considered higher than life, but it is not above life in the strictest sense. And as society develops, so too will art in its myriad of forms. I think the way to step up to the plate on this front is have some appreciation and respect for the various filmmakers and artists who are in fact revealing the different contradictions in society, who are attempting to be a voice for alternative views, even if they are not down with the “whole program.” They are our potential allies, and fact is they are going to continue to wage their own battle of expression whether we like it or not.

    Paul Robeson--(get ready with a box of Kleenex handy--and what's wrong with that anyway?)

    <i>Here I Stand</i> book (autobiography) by Paul Robeson (1958)
    http://www.amazon.com/Here-I-Stand-Paul-Robeson/dp/0807064459


    Documentary “Here I Stand” by St. Claire Bourne with interviews with Harry Belafonte, Ossie Davis, Uta Hagen, etc. and actual footage of Robeson.
    http://www.amazon.com/Paul-Robeson-Here-I-Stand/dp/B00000JLTO

  • Guest (Useful Chamber)

    Perhaps it would help our analysis to create categories of films. Just a way to explore the concept of "communist films".


    ++Agit-Prop -- Movies that present a problem without a resolution. These are intended to make the viewer so angry or anxious that when the movie ends they feel like they have to do something.

    ++Movies made within revolutionary societies

    ++Historical Movies about important revolutionary situations

    ++Biographical Movies about individual revolutionary figures

    ++Movies w/ role models -- Movies that have characters that provide compelling models of how revolutionaries should act. This could include models of organization, rebellion, leadership, education, media, lots of things.

    ++Movies that "dig deeply" into the life of the people, particularly marginalized or oppressed groups.

    ++Movies that dig deeply into the working lives of people.

    ++Movies with a liberatory utopian vision.

    ++Movies with a remarkable internationalism.

    ++Movies that confront, mock, or undermine reactionaries.

    ++Movies with a strong spirit of rebellion.

    ++Movies that revolutionaries just like for all sorts of reasons.

  • Guest (Adrienne)

    Miles Ahead, I fully agree with the majority of what you wrote in your last post, although I think I may take exception to this comment:

    <blockquote>IMO it is not so important, nor is it really possible under capitalism, for “us” to be at the helm of this struggle, or calling the shots. And I am not convinced that we should necessarily be at the helm even if we and the people are successful at making socialist revolution in the future.</blockquote>

    I actually think it would be fantastic if we could find common cause with comrades who currently hold any kind of clout in those creative cultural areas and would thus have a significant ability to telegraph leftist ideas and messages to a large sections of the population. Although I agree that under capitalism it is completely impossible for rev communists to hold complete control, and that it would be an absolutely horrible idea during, or after a socialist revolution for us to even attempt to hold total sway over the people in those realms.

    Yet, there are a large number of highly creative and inovative leftists out there who have much to say, and plenty to contribute in a wide variety of mediums, and to me it seems extremely important that all of us do so to the best of our abilities wherever and whenever possible.
    In fact, it seems there are a bunch of creative people currently sharing their thoughts right here within this website -- including you and I Miles, since we're both artists. I think it would be a really great thing for Kasama to become known as a truly creative leftist group, not just as pertains to communist theory and practice, but also in the production of all kinds of culture, don't you?

    For me, one of the problems with being a leftist artist living under this capitalist system is seeing art treated as though it's nothing but a commodity. And of watching the way that artists are promoted within such a commodified hierarchy as "Art Stars." These days it's really hard to even point to specific art movements where artists are willing to work together in order to explore specific ideas or themes -- because instead artists are expected to act and to create as lone wolves. And the same thing seems to be true in many creative fields such as filmmaking -- although this doesn't seem to be nearly as much the case within music. Since I know it doesn't have to be this way, I've always believed that leftist artists (of various stripes) have an opportunity to come together and work together in order to broadcast an avalanche of powerful statements -- artistically, sociologically, and politically -- to the masses.
    I really would love to see this happen one of these days, and I would love to be able to contribute myself, if possible.

    <blockquote>Art may be considered higher than life, but it is not above life in the strictest sense. And as society develops, so too will art in its myriad of forms. I think the way to step up to the plate on this front is have some appreciation and respect for the various filmmakers and artists who are in fact revealing the different contradictions in society, who are attempting to be a voice for alternative views, even if they are not down with the “whole program.” They are our potential allies, and fact is they are going to continue to wage their own battle of expression whether we like it or not.</blockquote>

    Yes, and I fully agree that we should seek out potential allies. Yet I also think that communist artists shouldn't be afraid to raise their own voices and seek to draw attention to their own views and expressions -- whether we do so when working strictly alone, or in collaboration with other comrades.

    PS. to Useful Chamber, the idea of such a categorized list does seem like it would be very useful for a careful analysis of all these films.

  • Guest (Timo)

    A lot has been posted here since I last checked this topic. I have not had the time to read all of it yet. However from skimming over the responses I have not seen any links to any of the films. Here is a link to where you can watch Breaking With Old Ideas if you have not yet seen the film. http://www.archive.org/details/Breaking_With_Old_Ideas

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    Thank you Adrienne for your additional thoughtful comments. One note--I agree we need to raise our voices more. I guess what is a turn off to a lot of artists is when their work is so scrutinized by the "we" and put through all sorts of p.c. filters, often times rendering their original work so much less profound.

    Think in our list we should add Ken Burns' wonderful documentary on Jazz-- http://www.pbs.org/jazz/ Someone already mentioned the film that talks about the effects of jazz and swing in Nazi Germany.

    While there is some patriotism in within Burns' encompassing doc., historically it is extremely valuable, especially the segments about WW II. Even with a segregated U.S. army, it was Black music and jazz that served as a great impetus to cross color lines, et al. and shows how subversive this music is and was.

    A segment with Dave Brubeck, where he actually started to cry, was so poignant--and he told a personal story as to why he has fought racism his whole life, being one of the first (besides Benny Goodman)white musicians to integrate his band. This was totally accepted by the soldiers at large, and when he and his band returned to the U.S., went to a diner in Texas, it was more than appalling when the Black musicians in his group were told to go 'round back to get their food.

    There is a lot about "The Duke"-Duke Ellington, as one of the giants in jazz and music overall. But what was really interesting was during the Battle of Stalingrad, Ellington held a wildly popular concert at Carnegie Hall, playing his opus "Black, Brown &amp; Beige", and all proceeds went to Soviet relief and specifically for the people of Stalingrad; and moreover, the audience knew exactly where the monies were going.

  • Guest (jp)

    The Ken Burns documentary is worth seeing - his budget and fame gives him access to all sorts of materials - but is seriously lacking in its treatment of jazz after the 50's, when the music and musicians played major roles in promoting black nationalism, pan-africanism and cultural and political internationalism - yes, and even socialism.

    Burns was/is extremely beholden to Wynton Marsalis for his interpretation of jazz history, which sees the musical explosion of the 60's black avantgarde musicians negatively.

  • Jp - Yes, exactly right. In the '60s, jazz changed greatly, becoming radicalized both politically and in its artistic content. I'm thinking of Max Roach, Abbey Lincoln and "Freedom Now Suite," Archie Shepp and his work during this period, including "Attica Blues," the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM)in Chicago and all that came out of that, especially the Art Ensemble of Chicago with Roscoe Mitchell, the late Lester Bowie and others.... This interrelated with the "free jazz" initiated by Ornette Coleman and then Albert Ayler, whose life was cut off so short, and then the incredible (and continuing) work of Anthony Braxton.

    Well - I could go on, there are many more - obviously I'm very much a fan of all this. But what I mean to bring out is that these developments in jazz (a term which was greatly problematized by some of these same musicians) are so intertwined with the liberatory currents of the 1960s, and all that came out of that (with all its contradictions) -- this is a rich subject, in terms of the interrelation of art forms and social content.

    Wynton Marsalis, on the other hand, with his neoclassicist approach, and with the power he wields at Lincoln Center, has had a very conservative, even reactionary effect, not only aesthetically, but (I believe) politically.

  • <a href="/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babette%27s_Feast" rel="nofollow">Babette's Feast</a> -- this is the story of a woman, who is a refugee from the crushing of the Paris Commune, arriving in a small rural Danish fishing village. The clash of her world and this one is remarkable.

    This is a village of suppressed pleasure, soaked in the self-denial of fundamentalist Protestantism. And this woman of the world, a revolutionary and cook, plows right into it. Come hungry, plan a great meal afterwards.

    In many ways, this is a story of the relationship of sensuality (in this case food) and radical change. Or (put another way) the subversive nature of physical sensuality in a world of rigid, repressive conservatism.

    While we are talking: I thought the review posted here on the new Harry Potter movie got it wrong on such matters -- with its rather dismissive and cranky approach to the teenage sexual tensions of "Half-Blood Prince." I wondered if someone (i.e. our friendly neighborhood reviewer) had just forgotten what it is like to be 16, and from their vantage point can't imagine why a movie should explore that or why an audience would love it.

    In a non-related segue -- I was amazed to read the <a href="/http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/28/health/28well.html?_r=1&amp;ref=science" rel="nofollow">crudely puritanical and very American complaint piece</a> promiently featured as an article in the New York Times -- fuming that the kids ere drinking "butterbeer" and getting tipsy in this Harry Potter movie (and in the book), and scolding that this was a hazard for children viewing it. And portraying this as a challenge for (you guessed it) responsible parents and the parenting values of 2009.

    In a remarkable exhibition of blind American self-centeredness, the Times writer kept calling this "underage drinking" -- even thought this film is set in England, a place where people don't shiver, quake and call the police if 16 year olds are spotted with a mug of beer. For Europeans generally, people drink wine and beer with meals starting in the teenage years -- there is generally no such thing as "underage' drinking. I'm still amazed that this critique of a film was featured on the front page of the NYT <em>Science</em> section -- presenting their views as objective medical concerns.)

  • Guest (jp)

    John Steele, we are on the same wavelength here. I would want to stress the major role of John Coltrane, who lent his fame to promoting the new music and musicians, and whose influence was monumental in that era, musically and personally. A very interesting contemporaneous account of that scene is Frank Kofsky's Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music, republished as John Coltrane and the Jazz Revolution of the 1960's.

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    And I think where I agree most with John S. is when he says:

    <blockquote>“…this is a rich subject, in terms of the interrelation of art forms and social content.”</blockquote>

    But the development of jazz, starting decades before the 60s, contains so much more than just the more “avant garde” elements like Lester Bowie, etc. The music has changed in form and content over the years, and is more of a reflection of some changing times, as well as – and I would say in the main – a true expression of the African American experience over the course of time, including slavery. And the music is apt to reflect those different eras.

    Having said that, throughout the history of jazz there have always been those who could be counted in as part of some vanguard, with their departure from what became more mainstream, and those in the forefront were not always accepted or respected. (Neither was Galileo—but that’s a whole other story.)

    There have been many pioneers along the way. And many of those that both John and jp referred to, even Coltrane, used the music of their predecessors as building blocks in the development of the music—plus they were also living in different times. (The lesser known but still great Charlie Christian’s guitar playing affected the “Gypsy” guitarist Django Reinhardt. And while Coltrane was indisputably one of the greatest jazz saxophonists and musicians of all time, in our quest for understanding the relationship between form and content, do we dismiss “A Love Supreme” because Coltrane veered into a spiritual direction? I think not.)

    But jazz to me has always been more subversive than lots of other forms of music—starting with its ability to cross racial lines, but at the same time unlike a lot of rock ‘n roll, it is the Black musicians, innovators and their African roots, that has always been upheld and at the forefront. (And BTW, I’m not using Ken Burns as some guide. I am not some total aficionado, but was raised in the world of music and more specifically jazz from birth, and it has been my life blood.)

    But to give a few examples of some building blocks and development – Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie introduced “Be Bop”, went in a whole other direction in the early to mid 40s; more improvisation (faster tempo) for one thing, but also capturing a more “frenetic” sound. The Bird and Dizzy weren’t basing their new form on nothing. They had been inspired by, for one, Coleman Hawkins, who dared stray from what had become the more accepted “norms” in jazz in lots of his solos, and one example of that was his playing of “Body &amp; Soul,” which interestingly enough was <i>co</i>-written by white composer/lyricist Johnny Green. And while Miles Davis was, as a teen, part of Parker and Gillespie’s original Bebop group, he then developed jazz in a new direction, starting with “cool jazz.”

    Then of course there’s Dizzy Gillespie himself—who along with such notables as Chano Pozo and Mario Bauza, developed, promoted and made popular Afro-Cuban jazz. There was an internationalist message in Dizzy’s Afro-Cuban music, and he is still revered in Cuba, as well as throughout Latin America, to this day.

    As far as Monk goes—when he was first starting out, if it hadn’t been for Lorraine Lion Gordon, who knows how long it would have been before he was “discovered”, appreciated, and for his new direction to be accepted. Lorraine Gordon (who first was married to Albert Lion—who with Frank Wolff started Blue Note Records—two German immigrants no less), then married Max Gordon who opened the famous Village Vanguard in NY. She discovered Monk—and had to beg her husband, with much persistence, for Monk’s initial audition. And thanks to Ms. Gordon, and her foresight, Monk had a home at the VV, and his illustrious career "took flight," ('round 'bout midnight).

    (BTW—Lorraine Gordon wrote a fantastic book—“Alive at the Village Vanguard”, and although she is close to 90, she still opens the Vanguard’s red doors to this day. Politically and socially she is forever irreverent—even having gone to North Vietnam as part of a women’s exchange and brigade, and before Jane Fonda, p.s.)

    Musically, amongst the myriad of movers and shakers in jazz, Wynton Marsallis’ art is <i>not</i> at all one of my favorites, but think he has to be given his due, i.e., around his organizing and popularizing, and the resurfacing of New Orleans Jazz in the aftermath of Katrina.

  • Guest (jp)

    Miles Ahead:
    Nothing in my post can be interpreted as a slight to jazz prior to the 60's; I would essentially agree with your building block analogy. (A good treatment of earlier jazz is Finkelstein's Jazz: A People's Music.)

    My comment was to note the deficiency in Burns' treatment of jazz history, which comes from Marsalis. I agree that Marsalis is not a villain, and he's a fine musician who has done some more progressive work recently, but his disrespect of the free jazz era has had the reactionary effect John Steele noted.

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    Thank you jp. Your explanation duly noted. What I do think is exciting is your, Steele's and my love and reverence of jazz...of course obviously our love of jazz is not limited to the 3 of us, which is even better.

    I just wrote down the title you referred to--Finkelstein's Jazz... for future reading. And while I realize these aren't films, have just a <i>few</i> books to recommend (among hundreds to choose from):

    Bill Evans: How My Heart Sings
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0300097271/

    A Jazz Odyssey, autobio. by Oscar Peterson (no link available)

    The Making of Miles Davis/Kind of Blue--
    http://www.amazon.com/Kind-Blue-Making-Miles-Masterpiece/dp/0306809869

    Several books on Ornette Coleman, including "A Harmolodic Life" by Litweiler.

    "Lush Life" a bio on Billy Strayhorn.

    and a fun one--"Seeing Jazz"--various visual artists interpretations of jazz, with an intro by Clark Terry.

  • <b>moderator note:</b>

    <blockquote>"What I do think is exciting is your, Steele’s and my love and reverence of jazz…of course obviously our love of jazz is not limited to the 3 of us, which is even better."</blockquote>

    uh, could we find a series of musical posts to share? (like his nattiness Archie Shepp, or Coltraine, or....)

  • Guest (jp)

  • Guest (Dr. Zaius)

    There's a new George Romero zombie film coming out later this year for anyone who's interested called "Survival of the Dead". Its supposed to follow after "Diary of the Dead" and follows a group of survivors on an island who fight off the zombie hordes while hoping for a cure.

    There's not a whole lot written about it yet, except that it is supposed to reflect some of the present world situation in the post-Bush years and is going to be shown at the Toronto Film Festival.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1134854/

  • Guest (Dr. Zaius)

    Severance--a horror film from the UK I think about a group of office workers who go on a team building excercise in Eastern Eurpoe. They work for a huge arms manufacturer/distributor and start to run into problems with some locals that may have a literal axe to grind about some of the companies past activities in their country.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0464196/

  • Guest (Miles Ahead)

    "Caracoles" New Paths of Resistance (Caracoles: los nuevos caminos de la resistencia)

    (Spanish with English subtitles, 42 minutes, 2003) Made by the Chiapas Media Project.

    Although this film/and making of a documentary was made in 2003 it is worth a watch to give its viewers some insight into the autonomous indigenous pueblos of Morelia and Oventik, in la selva de Chiapas, and the people's integral relationship with the Zapatistas. There is great emphasis on the role of women in the course of the path of resistance.

    It is a bit odd, because even though there was a guion (script / screenplay) the players (villagers) talk about some of their reluctance with acting, etc. since this was an actual portrayal of their lives.
    http://www.chiapasmediaproject.org/cmp/carcoles/caracoles-synopsis.html

    All 5 parts shown tonight on TeveUNAM
    and following "Caracoles"--"Burn." Better than Cinépolis.

  • Guest (Jay Rothermel)

    I wanted to let comrades know that on Oct 1 Turner classic movies is starting a monthly festival of "*0 years of movies about the Great Depression."


    http://www.tcm.com/thismonth/article/?cid=252903 />
    Thursdays in October

    excerpt from program notes:

    Throughout the Great Depression, Americans flocked to the movies as an affordable form of entertainment and social interaction. For a quarter or so, customers could forget their troubles with glitzy musicals (Gold Diggers of 1933) or screwy comedies (My Man Godfrey, 1936), while rubbing elbows with others who were temporarily escaping harsh realities. Still today, movies are considered a recession-proof industry; the tougher the times, the greater the need for escapism.

    Yet many Hollywood movies of the 1930s were more than mere entertainment, offering an examination of hot-button topics of the day including socialism (Our Daily Bread, 1934), vagrancy (Wild Boys of the Road, 1933) and the role of financial institutions in the country’s woes (American Madness, 1932). To mark the 80th anniversary of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, our festival includes The Crash (1932), in which a wealthy couple struggles to survive its losses.

    The Depression left such a deep mark on the country that filmmakers over the decades have continued to examine this turbulent time. With his screen version of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1940), John Ford dramatizes the plight of Dust Bowl migrants. Sydney Pollack’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) looks at the grueling dance marathons of the period, while Hal Ashby’s Bound for Glory (1976) tells the story of Depression-era troubadour Woody Guthrie. In a lighter vein, Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) blurs the line between reality and film fantasy as a movie hero of the ’30s steps out of the screen to romance a lonely young woman. Joel and Ethan Cohen’s boisterous O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), proudly presented in its TCM premiere, follows the misadventures of three escaped convicts in the Deep South of the Depression.

  • Guest (saoirse)

    Surprised no one has written about the upcoming remark of the 80s jingoist classic Red Dawn now filming in Michigan with a cast of hollywood tweenies. This time China and Russia jointly invade the US.

    The films site is up and content is pouring in each day.

    http://www.reddawn2010.com/

    And here's the classic 80s trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_I4WgBfETc />
    Question: is it okay to admit you like the original if you root for the "bad guys"?

  • Guest (Timo)

    Some excellent films on the lists people been putting up, but I haven't seen "The Battle of Algiers" on here, and it wasn't coming up in a search. The film should be mentioned if it hasn't already.

  • Guest (Timo)

    My bad its been mentioned, it didn't come up in a search becuase it had * before the t in the.

  • Guest (Richard S.)

    Hi. I've been meaning to get back to this post... Thanks to Jay Rothermel above for linking to the post on my Indian film blog regarding Ningalenne Communistakki (and by the way, I'm used to seeing this as only two words, but I would guess that where you separate these words is somewhat optional).

    I have linked to Kasama before from my mostly political blog, but it's this one, the Indian film blog, that really gets read, and I'm happy to share my passion for these films. I have no Indian background myself and I grew up in New York City, but there are reasons why I have taken so much to Indian films, especially those from the 1940s and '50s, i.e., the Golden Age and the films slightly before. (The Malayalam film I mentioned is actually from the early '70s, but Kerala is a special situation.)

    One reason is the fantastic combination of leftist or socialist politics and real popular entertainment. I see that Jay appreciates this combination too, which he shows in another comment, in reference to Hollywood films of the Great Depression...

    A good number of the filmmakers and actors in Bollywood during the '40s and '50s were passionately committed socialists or communists, and they could be overt about these political beliefs as well. The director Mehboob Khan used the hammer and sickle in his film company logo, and his films were huge blockbusters, with the most popular songs and lots of wonderful dance. (And by the way, some of the most popular of these, with that proudly displayed logo at the beginning, came out at the same time that Hollywood was being plagued by anti-communist blacklists.) Raj Kapoor, the biggest Bollywood director (and actor) of them all, made films with overtly socialist or anti-capitalist messages (and for this reason, he was actually very big in Russia too). Bimal Roy was known for his socialist movies also, and a very popular actor, Balraj Sahni, wrote repeatedly about how the ideas of Karl Marx profoundly affected him and guided him in his career. Meanwhile, over in Pakistan, the widely (and deservedly) revered singing star Noor Jehan leant a lot of artistic support to the socialist poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, with whom she also became great friends. (And ten years earlier (just before Partition), Noor had been a big star for Bollywood, especially in some films made by Mehboob Khan.)

    Kerala might be the best place, even to this day, if you’re looking for films that discuss communism overtly by name (and I do love many of those films). But once again, socialist and anti-capitalist outlooks were obviously an important ingredient in many of the enormously popular and hugely entertaining films of mid-20th-Century Bollywood, and I find that to be a very exceptional situation in cinema history, especially as compared to the recent history of popular (vs. very marginalized) cinema in the U.S.

  • Guest (k.sudhandhira kumar)

    halo to everybody im not good in english but i just gone through your thoughts i saw a procommunism movie anbesivam its a tamil movie from india pls watch it and its done by kamalhasan the only actor in the world who did ten characters in dasaavataram its also a tamil movie and please tell your opinion i will be happy.

  • Guest (Public Domain)

    The final lines in the first Matrix, by Neo:

    "I know you're out there. I can feel you now. I know that you're afraid. You're afraid of us. You're afraid of change. I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin. I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you."

  • Guest (Seditious)

    "When you know the nature of a thing, you know what it's capable of." -- Blade : ).

    Vamps aside, here is the most communist movie that none of you probably have seen: A Bug's Life. Yeah, yeah, it's a cartoon/Pixar for kids. And it has Frank Kappa written all over it, but in a great way. But honestly, it is amazing in the way it presents the ruling class minority depending upon the masses' labor, while tricking the masses into thinking they need the elite. It tackles issues of leadership style, what is leadership worth, hero-as-intelligentsia vs hero-as-advanced prol... And it doesn't resolve until our hero gives amazing sharp agitation just as he is about to be killed by the ruling class leadership -- kicking off fierce battle.

    Admittedly, I rarely watch movies, plus most of this thread kinda put me to sleep. But I think folks, if they don't already, should know this film. It's runner-up as far as "family" movies of serious social/political commentary, is "Spirit," the animation about wild horses being rounded up by the U.S. Army out in the old West, as they seek to connect the country/Union via the railroad. The horse Spirit finds the only humans they should align with are the Native Americans. And for a cartoon, he kicks some seeeerious Army General ass.

  • Guest (JF)

    * <em>The Founding of a Republic</em>
    <a href="/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHsOLhRqeW8&amp;feature=related" rel="nofollow">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHsOLhRqeW8</a> (part 1 of 14)

    * <em>The Legend of Bhagat Singh</em>
    <a href="/http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vTvyQOQUoc" rel="nofollow">Movie Trailer</a>

  • Guest (FrenchStudent)

    It's "La Chinoise" from Godard. Thanks.
    "Le petit soldat" is also a revolutionary film.

    I disagree with Ken Loach film "Land and Freedom" which brings a trotskist point of view, romantical and revisionist.

  • Guest (Nitin Gowda)

    Hi,
    I think you list of left oriented films miss great films like Mother, Underground, When father was away on business, south of the border, chasing che, Dr.zhivago, three songs of lenin, lenin in 1918, lenin in october, man with a movie camere and good-bye lenin. Though Dr.Zhivago is not completely left-oriented but in these films a various aspects of human life under bolsheviks has been analysed. Though i am not much into neorealistic movies, if i have commited any mistake relating to the above list which i have mentioned, then pls pardon me comrades.

  • Guest (Nitin Gowda)

    hi Jay Rothermel,

    as per your post on Indian left oriented movies, I would like you to watch "avaste", a kannada movie.

  • Guest (just ice)

    Notably absent: The Official Story, The Bicycle Thief, West Beirut, The Ruling Class, The Rules of the Game. (a bit of a stretch) Man Facing Southeast.

  • Guest (Vinod Moonesinghe)

    You have missed one of the greatest of them all, 'High Noon', an allegory about the McCarthyite witch hunt.
    The original version of 'The Day the Earth Stood Still'.

    If you want TV series', the original version of 'V' - about the Reaganite/fascist takeover of America.
    'When the boat comes in' started out as a wonderful series about working class struggles in the North of England, but later degenerated somewhat.

  • Guest (pirater)

    Thanks for any other magnificent post. The place else may anyone get that kind of information in such a perfect approach of writing? I've a presentation next week, and I'm on the look for such info.

  • Guest (duko)

    full metal jacket -paths of glory -over the egde- modern times- the long march -all quiet the western front

  • Guest (feudeprairie)

    Great. Here is our own review: http://feudeprairie.wordpress.com/filmographie-gauchiste/ Maybe you'll find some interesting ones.
    And about Godard, it's "La" Chinoise ;)

    D.

  • Guest (duko)

    Little Big Horn-war party-fist full of dinomite-heat of the night-spook behind the door-exsape from sorieborge-Daybreak-solvet green-stepford wifes-The Omega Man- the masses killed the fucker chuck at end hehe

  • Guest (duko)

    Salvador-Under Fire-Coming Home -uncle sam is a 1996 comedy-horror film directed by William Lustig. The film is about an extremely sadistic and patriotic American soldier named Sam Harper who is killed by friendly fire in Kuwait during Desert Storm. He is brought back to life on the Fourth of July, as THE Uncle Sam! He then proceeds to wreack havoc on the unsuspecting, yet unpatriotic citizens of his hometown.

  • Guest (armchairmaoist30)

    Godard's "Tout va bien" A wildcat strike leads to the warehouse manager being taken hostage as well as a journalist and a film maker. I love the scene in which the rep. from the Communist Party demands the workers go back to work for the sake of harmony and relations with the corporation- Criterion's version is exquisitely remastered.

    Godard's Masculin Feminin: the dedication at the end of the film "for the Children of Marx and Coca Cola" pretty much describes this film. It's not a 'serious' political work, but it's really great. A young revolutionary falls in love with an up and coming pop singer. Favorite scene: when Paul shouts 'Trotskiest!' at a guy in a movie theater. What a funny anathema to throw around- today you'd just get laughed at, or no one would know what it means.

  • Guest (HitnH)

    No love for revolutionary spaghetti westerns? Compañeros, A Bullet for the General, and A Fistful of Dynamite are all very good...

    Someone mentioned "Pan's Labyrinth"; I think "The Devil's Backbone" is just as good.

    "Gojira" is also a pretty subversive piece of pop culture. Lots of anime films have interesting political subtexts; for example, Hayao Miyazaki's "Laputa".

    There are of course many more.

  • Guest (armchairmaoist30)

    the Pinochet Case (2011)- the documentary on Pinochet's arrest and detainment in Britain during the 90's after a lawyer for Amnesty International built up enough material to initiate a trial against the former general for torture and massacre. Of course many if not all arrested under Pinochet were a communists, largely poor farmers, college, and in some instances high school students. You really need nerves to hear survivors, especially the women, recount how they were maimed and traumatized by Pinochet's cronies. There's a haunting moment in the film in which one of the survivors describes how a 16 year old communist from a farm was whipped with chains and mauled to death by German shepherds, simply for trying to unionize, but the abuse took a long time because the boy refused to go quietly, and the female prisoners began singing to him from behind a fence as he lay dying to comfort him in some way. It was a spectacle the military performed to weaken the resolve of the other prisoners.

    You're probably wondering why I'm listing this film- I think it really reminded me that the cost of being a communist has been very high in different parts of South America where politics are life and death issues. I gather it's still that way in some places.

  • Guest (Red Fly)

    Maybe I need to see it again but from what I remember <em>La Chinois</em> is a really terrible film. And I say that as someone who adores Godard generally. Godard's usual playfulness was replaced by a leaden didacticism. Contrast the dull dialectical screeds here with, say, Godard's approach in Week-End, where he gives his anarchistic sensibilities free reign, and you realize that when it comes to <em>Professor</em> Jean-Luc, less is definitely more. The nadir of this approach comes in <em>La Gai Savoir</em>, which is about as joyful as a root canal.

  • Guest (mark glass)

    Thanks for the suggestions, many i havn't seen. Disagree with Metropolis,(it's been awhile since I watched this but as I remember) there is no revolution, the rulers and the slaves end up making love and kisses because the rulers are just so nice.

  • Guest (Jenise)

    Cradle Will RockYour text to link (Mark Blitzstein, 1999)

  • Guest (Barbara Joye)

    Can't believe no one's mentioned Bertolucci's "1900" and "Salt of the Earth."
    As for "communist film," I'm a democratic socialist, not a communist, so I don't really care how you define it. I'm interpreting this list as basically a list of films of interest to people of the left for various reasons, which makes it valuable enough.

  • Guest (swampwiz)

    I think that the recent movie "In Time" should be included. The movie is about a dystopic future where genetic engineering has made it so that folks grow up to age 25, and then don't age from then. Of course to keep the population for overpopulating, and to force the working class to labor away for the rentier class, everyone has a built in clock, such that the person dies when he is "out of time". Time credits are basically the currency - paid to laborers, and used to pay for stuff. Of course, for the working class, the system is designed for the cost of things relative to the pay at the factories to be so high that folks are always running out of time, with dead folks lying on the street a constant remainder of the brutish society the poor live in. The main character (played by Justin Timberlake) basically becomes a Robin Hood, with his final heist being a million years that he gives to all the folks so that they won't have to slave away anymore, thereby eradicating the feudal system.

  • Guest (brushfire7)

    Hi, first post here.

    A couple of good documentaries:
    F.T.A., the 1972 documentary of the Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland anti-war revue . The footage of local militant protest for context is invaluable, including a march by what I believe is the Communist Party of the Philippines.

    Underground, Emile de Antonio's 1976 look at the Weather Underground. Far superior to the 2002 documentary on WU.

    What I haven't seen mentioned much yet is the genre popular in the late 1960s and 1970s broadly described as outlaw, revisionist-western, and existentialist. Cool Hand Luke, Bonnie and Clyde, Billy Jack, The Wild Bunch, Emperor of the North, Easy Rider, Sometimes a Great Notion, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Convoy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and I'm probably forgetting several. These have a far more radical subtext than is apparent at first glance, though I wouldn't call them "Communist films" by a long shot. They *are* flat-out an indictment of the United States. Even though the rebellion they depict is often of an individualistic nature they celebrate the outlaw and carry the message that it's right to rebel.

    For a couple of good plots involving radical armed uprisings in the U.S., check out Zabriskie Point and The Final Comedown. Both came out in the very early 1970s.

    Panther, a 1996 film purportedly dramatizing the Black Panther Party, IMO isn't that good and gets lost muddling up the real story of the Panthers with conspiracy theories about the drug trade and peripheral liberal issues like stoplights, but may be of interest anyhow.

    The Red Detachment of Women hasn't been mentioned yet either. One of the model operas from the Cultural Revolution. The 1970 film version is downloadable on archive.org.

  • Guest (GB)

    Strike (dir. Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
    ¡Que viva Mexico! (dir. Grigori Aleksandrov, Sergie Eisenstein, 1932)
    Salt of the Earth (dir. Herbert J. Biberman, 1954)
    Black God, White Devil (dir. Glauber Rocha, 1964)
    I am Cuba (dir. Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964)
    The Battle of Algiers (dir. Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
    The Hour of the Furnaces (dir. octavio Getino and Fernando E. Solanas, 1968)
    Burn! (dir. Gillo Pontecorvo, 1969)
    Medium Cool (dir. Haskell Wexler, 1969)
    Z (dir. Costa-Gavras, 1969)
    Ice (dir. Robert Kramer, 1970)
    Punishment Park (dir. Peter Watkins, 1971)
    State of Siege (dir. Costa-Garvas, 1972)
    The Spook Who Sat by the Door (dir. Ivan Dixon, 1973)
    The Last Supper (dir. Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, 1976)
    The Battle of Chile (dir. Patricio Guzman, 1978)
    Bush Mama (dir. Haile Gerima, 1979)
    Ogro (dir. Gillo Pontecorvo, 1979)
    Duvar (dir. Yilmaz Güney, 1983)
    Camp de Thiaroye (dir. Ousmane Sembene, 1988)
    Guelwaar (dir. Ousmane Sembene, 1993)
    Panther (dir. Mario Van Peebles, 1995)

  • Hey, did anyone see that new Italian flick "the Great Beauty" ? It will remind you a lot of great Italian films, but it's closest to la Dolce Vita. An aging gossip journalist in Rome takes inventory of the city in late capitalism, its decadence, moral breakdown, class, etc. The "death of the left" is a subject that pops up through the film. There's this funny scene where a bourgeois communist says something like "Italy is the only place Marxism has ever existed. Rome is pure collectivism." and she's eviscerated by another bourgeois who, at least, does not take refuge in safe illusions. It reminded me of Hardt/Negri's writing about imminent communism a lot. I really like this film- I don't know if it makes the revolutionary cinema list but it's a damn good film and deals both directly and indirectly with political themes near to many of us.

    Comment last edited on about 3 months ago by AndyP
  • Guest (Cameron)

    I just watched Metropolis, and it doesn't really seem to belong on this list, IMO. First of all, the workers were completely non-agents; they were like thousands of gumbys to whoever happened to be speaking to them at the moment, the closest thing to an organizer was a non-human, later described as a witch, and the resolution of the film was to have the capitalist shaking hands with the foreman, who somehow now represented the workers. Apparently, workers and capitalists just need to "get along and understand one another better"? A cool film, but certainly didn't seem to possess much communist thinking. Lang himself apparently later regretted aspects of this film, at least partially, perhaps, because it was lauded by a few self-professed Nazis.

  • Guest (Cameron)

    The Wind That Shakes the Barley, on the other hand, a beautiful film that left me in tears.