Jun 1, 2013

There is a great moment in a not very

Good documentary film called Two for the Wave that stands for one of the two political poles that I will always be switching back and forth between, truly torn.

Two for the Wave is a documentary about Francois Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, their friendship, and how it was fractured, and completely fell apart.

After Truffaut and Godard busted up the 1968 Cannes film festival, ending it prematurely in order to show solidarity with the rioters and strikers all across France in May '68, Godard made a conscious decision to only make Maoist Socialist motion pictures from then on in his career.  Truffaut, who was on the side of the angels, but did not make "political" pictures per se, kept on making the same type of pictures that he always had.

Godard was never big news at the box office, and Truffaut only did a smidgen better.  (Melville crushed them both, one of the reasons prob that Truffaut and Godard both dissociated themselves from someone they had once thought of as a personal hero.) But, when Truffaut finally had a giant box office smash with Day for Night, Godard lashed out at him in a very lengthy personal letter, lambasting Truffaut as a counter revolutionary sell-out hack.  Truffaut's response was near as long, but much more elegant, and prob much more to the real truth that made the middle of their opposing positions.

The beautiful moment is in that letter Truffaut wrote.  (I am seriously paraphrasing here.) Truffaut wrote that Godard should stop seeing every work of art through a class system prism.  Consider Matisse, Truffaut suggested.  Matisse was one of the world's treasures who had lived and worked through the Dreyfuss Affair; The Great War; the Soviet Revolution; the rise of Fascism in Germany, Italy, and Spain; WWII; the Holocaust; the atom bomb; and the beginning of the Cold War.  And yet, Matisse continued to paint flowers, water lilies, window sills, gardens, portraits of beautiful women, and never let the absolute horror of all the things he had seen in his life intrude upon his art.

But, there is another great moment in an excellent documentary, The History of the Eagles (much more on this film in the near future) that absolutely captured the other side of the spectrum, the Godard side, for me perfectly.  It happened when Glenn Frey is describing why he believed the Eagles first record was such a smash, a record whose two biggest hits were Take it Easy and Peaceful Easy Feeling.  Frey suggests that after the Vietnam War, the assassinations of 1968 and the Democratic Convention of the same year, and Altamont, the Manson Family, Kent State, Watergate, whathaveyou, that all American wanted to do was take it easy, man.  Well, fuck you, buddy was my first thought when I heard that.  I was furious. The Eagles are actually on the side of the angels, too.  Frey later fired a member of the band because he was not gracious to Senator Cranston and his wife after playing a fundraiser for him.  But, like Truffaut, the Eagles preferred to separate their lefty politics and their art.

Those are the poles I will always be torn between:  The one that insists that every single act, incl art, is a political act, and the notion that art and politics are almost always best left to be independent of each other.


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