Live Wire

“A senate, Time’s worst statute, unrepealed,” exploded on a sip of H20 not water, and very nearly the bomb disposal expert’s wife’s lover among them.

“Hoked up,” as Variety used to say, and thriving in every crosscurrent of thematic modulation like an actor in the Method working a tough crowd delightedly.

The philandering senator’s (Ron Silver) unaffordable home is literally insulated with millions. The mother-in–law encourages her daughter (Lisa Eilbacher), the husband (Pierce Brosnan) furiously rifles the senator’s kitchen for bomb fixings to defend the lout on the spot against assassination, the comedy is endless.


The Assignment

The Assignment is to imitate Carlos the Jackal so as to fool the KGB into killing him as a traitor who has sold out to the CIA for a fortune.

The assignment is to create a very, very, very bad film that is to be understood in the same light.

The approach is strictly from hunger. Renny Harlin’s Driven is similar above all in its application of computer effects to the fore and sterling actors in the rear. The redundant and inconsequential camerawork makes the bulk of a directorial response, with “slo-mo” for heightening.

Strange to say, Ebert liked it, Holden did not. Such a difference of opinion is a dead giveaway, perhaps. The price of admission is repaid in the first brief scenes of Sutherland and Kingsley at a Paris café and an Israeli safe house, respectively. The problem of identification with the object of execration is accepted sacrificially, Camus is satisfied ultimately with an oblivious film that “arrived early”, as Borges has a poetaster say.


Extreme Ops

A Yugoslavian war chief, skiers and snowboarders. Reviewers thought it made no sense at all, Sarajevo didn’t occur to even the chiefest among them.



Hitler: The Rise of Evil

In Hitler, the will to power took a simple form: Jews were out, he was in. His perhaps unhappy childhood is shown as blackouts under the credits (this structural idea is taken from Frank Oz’s The Score). His failure as an art student is feckless, and eventually he blames the Jews.

The decisive moment occurs in the trenches of France, when the German army is ordered back just when he thought it was going to reach Paris. This, the economic disaster and the Versailles treaty, coupled with his own miserable existence, implode his mind.

He joins the National Socialists as an army spy, then leaves the service to embrace politics and lead a weak left-wing fringe party (whose “platform” is Bavarian independence) into the thickets of his mania.

His first attempt at seizing power fails because of a juvenile miscalculation: his reliance on the old-guard faction of General Ludendorff at the crisis. He’s arrested and sent to prison, where he writes his memoirs. After his release, he takes careful, ruthless steps and becomes Reichskanzler.

The parallels to America’s situation since the Vietnam War are plain and simple. Hitler even complains that traitors back home have betrayed the army on the threshold of victory. From the burning of the Reichstag to the bullying of the opposition and the abrogation of civil liberties, his course is decidedly familiar within our recent experience, down to the armed soldiers at the train depot and the suppression of privacy rights in telephone or telegraph communications. All that remains is the beginning of his wars of conquest, which the film does not cover.

The peculiarity of his book, My Fight (which only sold 5,000 copies, the film says), is that it prefigures the kind of faux think tank literature promulgated in a flurry by an amalgamated publishing industry, and equally to be dismissed as tinkering rubbish.

Nonetheless, one journalist (Fritz Gerlich, played by Matthew Modine) has met Hitler early on and recognized the psychotic in him. Modine’s performance must take the place of nearly all the sanity in Germany at the time, and it conveys the embarrassing pain at Hitler’s trial for treason when the little nut rises to speak and the ghastly thing occurs, the court is swayed, the people are moved.

Robert Carlyle’s representation of Hitler is evidently a close creation with Duguay, the hinges of which are the collapsed personality that’s always there in any difficulty faced by the shattered persona, and the megalomaniac gesticulations of his delusionary rise to power, which are here translated into English, as it were, with meticulous craftsmanship. The first and second fingers are joined together and raised to represent the leader, then the curled fist slams into the palm to represent the crushing of his enemies, etc.

Peter O’Toole as President Hindenburg depicts in a few minutes how the old general was outmaneuvered by the Nazis and finally succumbed to blandishments and infirmity.

The CBS film unit was then emerging, all too briefly, from its very darkest days, for a long time it seemed that every Sunday night was a character-building ritual of shotgun-murders and Smucker’s. When Ed Gernon directed Shirley MacLaine in Hell on Heels, he was able as an experienced producer to create a sustained work of art. Here, as producer, his concern is with the monumentally detailed production on location in Europe, but Duguay has a plan. In front of the camera his structure is solid, and his editing plan avoids the cloying and frozen. Its quickness allows him to unobtrusively cite The Godfather in a few seconds of political murders cut into Hitler’s Reichstag speech. Not since Escape from Sobibor or Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank has so much vivid subtlety been conveyed in a TV movie, unless you count Michael Ritchie’s The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, or possibly Duguay’s own Joan of Arc.