Cinema is a Political Art, and it Has Plenty to Say About Trump - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Cinema is a Political Art, and it Has Plenty to Say About Trump

The Vice PresidentThink of businessmen in cinema.

I first picture the villain of front-runner for my favorite Akira Kurosawa film, The Bad Sleep Well.  In a flurry of exposition of hurried reporting voices, we hear about the suicide of a businessman under Vice President Iwabuchi.  The company doesn't matter, as most companies fail to matter in cinema, because they exist at the cost of human suffering.  So when we first see him, he's holding court over a collection of terrified businessmen, all afraid that the slightest movement against him will result in their untimely demise.

I jump back to the debate this week in Florida.  Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and John Kasich each try and push Donald Trump to lash out.  The minutes roll into hours and no matter how hard they try, he's keeping his composure.  Not unlike the visage of Vice President Iwabuchi, he knows he is working from a position of power.  No matter what these fleas may say, or scheme, he's going to plunge ahead with his agenda to make America great again.  Then I think of how Vice President Iwabuchi took an oath to protect the company and his superiors above all others, and the result of instilling the same fervor of that oath in others came in the form of the suicide of that poor man.

The man driven to death because of his need to protect greatness.

Then a cake is delivered with a single black rose poking ominously out of a window.  It was the window where the man leapt to his death, and a warning that his actions are being watched and judged.  Undeterred, Vice President Iwabuchi continues to preside over his daughter's wedding.  The image of a man lording over his daughter's wedding while he continues to do and receive direct warnings of the evil he's planted will be revisited in The Godfather, and, if we read his words as they are spoken, by Donald Trump with his daughter.

Donald Trump presides over his own evil while telling people he'd happily date his daughter (if she weren't his daughter).  This is the same man who recently said his supporters should attack a protestor if he's swinging his arms around.  One specific problem with this statement, outside of the obvious, he was happily walking out when a cowardly white man in a hat decided to punch the smiling black man who was escorted out just fine.  Then the security, police, or whatever the hell you want to call them, decided it would be more appropriate to immediately shove the victim to the ground instead of detaining the assailant.Businessman are as businessmen doSo, I have to wonder, with all the violence Donald Trump is inciting, with all the excuses he's making to push others in his favor - what will be his black rose?

Maybe it's Anthony Cage, the man who was attacked by Donald Trump's supporters and was left bloodied on the ground.  Or maybe it's the immigration activists who were beaten, spit on, then thrown out of a Donald Trump rally last October.  It could even be the most direct, and apparently effective in terms of motivating Donald Trump, when Barack Obama directly (and hilariously) refuted the idea that a black man leading our country is anything other than American.

The truth is, the bushels of black roses left in Donald Trump's wake would cover Flanders Field.  Trying to pick one out of the litany of offenses he's committed against black Americans is folly.  Each one is subject to Donald Trump's racism, his determination to win, and the antipathy he feels for those who will be crushed along the way.

But maybe, just to be fair, I'm wrong.  Maybe Donald Trump isn't the serious, soul crushing, ultimate failure of Akira Kurosawa's best villains.  Maybe it's better to think of him as a businessman in another cinematic mold.

Say, for example, the typical businessman in a Coen Brothers movie.The Hudsucker NewmanThe buffoon who sits behind his thick, mahogany table while others die for him as we saw in Miller's Crossing.  Or the country rustler who thinks he can get one up on a black woman while he manipulates others to make himself rich in their remake of The Ladykillers.  The one most appropriate, I think, is Paul Newman's Sidney J. Mussburger of The Hudsucker Proxy.  If you'll recall, he's the one who tried to get the hero committed to an insane asylum so that the stock of the company would go so far down that he could buy enough shares to be the controlling party.

Boy.  Empty rhetoric to depress others enough to gain control.  Just who could we think of that might fill that gap in contemporary business / politics?  To cut the crap, this is where we talk about Donald Trump's relentless assault on first Ben Carson, then Jeb Bush, then Marco Rubio, and now Ted Cruz.  The order may be debated, but the intent cannot.  What we're looking at when we see Donald Trump from the beginning then to date of the Republican primary is a man who smells weakness and works in the most absurd, yet direct, way to eliminate each from the competition.All business but no pizzazHow would the Coen Brothers film Donald Trump? Maybe when he made it painfully, with a touch of insecurity, clear he had a penis made for pleasuring his wife we'd see a shot / reverse shot  of Trump at a urinal with him later looking longingly at a woman with a straw.  Or, maybe when he turned his political victory speech into a rally for Trump Steaks, we'd see how he created the yuugest, most luxurious conditions for cows to be slaughtered in à la Anton Chigurh.  Ok, so there were some other products there too, but it doesn't mean they all came from Donald Trump.  Or, as the later revelations seem to obviously point to, any of them from Donald Trump.

It's funny, right?  Great to see someone so buffoonish get deterred in every way.  The cartoonish villains always lose in the end, even if it's in minor ways.  Worse folks get worse punishments.

I don't feel that way at all.White ignoranceIt's been hard for me to take Donald Trump's ascendancy as anything but a sign that the Republican party is in a dangerous downward spiral which will take as many innocent people out as it can.  That's because, as cinema has taught us, the evil businessmen are more than happy to create a cushion of corpses to make sure they survive the fall.  Even in the relatively comedic scenario of The Hudsucker Proxy, the film is built on the unexpected suicide of a prominent businessman.

We can't get that lucky with Donald Trump.  He's going to continue hurting as many people as possible to maintain the violent followers which surround him.  There's no dramatic cut to show how he's tiny against the overwhelming force of racism he decided to take hold of.  Nor is there a shot coming where he's going to be forced to acknowledge the human cost of the economic capital he's accumulated.  Life doesn't get to be that simple.  Nor does cinema.

For every The Bad Sleep Well, we get a Trading Places where the key to success isn't in destroying the existing system.  Instead you're supposed to find out a way to manipulate it to your advantage.  For every The Hudsucker Proxy, where big business can be destroyed with good intentions and divine intervention, there's a 99 Homes to show us how even the best expression of our morals will be ground to fine disposable dust.

But in the heart of all these movies lies a consistent idea.  The empty corporate heart which is more interested in egomaniacal gain and profits above all can be destroyed.  What means are needed to accomplish the goal are different depending on the situation.  So, when we're feeling desperate and want some image, some idea to give us strength to power through this, what do we get?

Hands, connected to humans jumping up and down in unison, singing, "We gonna be alright," just as a diverse group of protesters shut down the Donald Trump rally in Chicago.IMG_9355This is the first time I've really felt hopeful in awhile.  No one like Trump can take us over.  I have to keep this hope.  If our worldwide cinematic arts have taught us anything it's that the powerless may not stay that way for long.  Sometimes it just takes the right image, the perfect moment, and a movement in a beautiful direction.

Cinema has already judged people like Donald Trump and found him lacking.  But six seconds of so many different people jumping in affirmation shows us what we could be.  What I want to be.

I don't have the body I used to, I can't march in protest like I did in the Occupy Columbus, but I still have a modest platform.

Go out.  Support the protesters in your state.  Bring all of this to a stop.  Then, if you feel so inclined, watch a movie on the way home.  Maybe I'll see you in the crowd.  Maybe not.  But at least we'll be enjoying something together.

Just like those wonderful words.

We're going to be alright.

Posted by Andrew

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