There are spoilers in here, but you’re actually safe. As far as I see these two films, the endings don’t really make them what they are – the ideas and overall presentation do that. Also, you’ll never see the first one, and probably won’t see the second.
1. The Fall
A photographer calls a modeling agency to get a model – Anna – to advertise his “peace dress.” He photographs Anna looking “sexy,” a state she seems to question briefly – “How do you be sexy in a peace dress?” Soon the model and the photographer/director are living together, sleeping together. This isn’t really the story; no dialogue really spells this out. Just images for inference amongst a fray of others. I await my writing credit.
The photographer is in fact The Fall‘s director, Peter Whitehead. As he lives with her, she _______s the primary narrative he tries to make for his film with her dancing sexuality and kissing sex. The attempted narrative is a documentation of New York City in 1967 and 1968, experiencing protest, chaos, and the growing pains of changes under conflicts at home and abroad.
The verb to fill in the blank above is either “interrupts” or “sells.”
2. The Bleakest Choice Is The Truest One
Does the narrative of a sexy, dancing, naked little romance interrupt the narrative of protest / America under siege? There’s a purity to the sole presence of revolt, without the histrionics of sexuality, nudity, additional desires thrown in. I’m looking at you Vancouver, BC. Does stylized sexuality interrupt the narrative of protest et al, even if its presented narrative was spotty or nonexistent? This is subjective for whoever is making/presenting the narrative. News networks (papers, websites, TVs) sell things during their coverage of protest (if they’re covering it). Sex helps do this, both during commercials/ in ads and in the news itself. Is this good or bad? Either way is a subjective, narrative-based position. Or is it…?
From Daily Mail
From a commercial break during Occupy coverage or whatever who cares:
Which leads to the other hand. Does Whitehead really need a sexy girl and her tits to sell peace? His camera is jumping around wildly all over the city, zooming in to different cultural figures, fuckers, and experimenters – speakers, poets, performance artists, along with Joe Protest and Bob Kennedy. To say nothing of the psychedelic passages. The protest bits are dynamic as Hollywood, it just doesn’t have a graspable narrative; its relative ungraspability is relative to the relative stupidity of everyone. So for better or worse, present is the romance narrative.
Is the point that their love life together, their sexual domesticity is an analog to political protest for peace? I hope not. If it were so, it’d mean protest occurs every moment of every day. It doesn’t. Heyyy maaaan, it’s the 60s, when Love & Peace movement were wuuuun. But not won. And what, do I have to stoop to hippie narratives to dissect this aspect of the film? I love the time and the people and have read up, and there’s a reason the movement was snubbed around the end of the decade, just like they’re snubbed around the end of the film, and I don’t want to suggest it was a narrative that didn’t jibe with eternity, but.
Two people making love isn’t a political protest and political protest is loving, but not that kind of love. I choose to think Whitehead knows this. He needs Anna to be “sexy” to sell his peace dress. His word. For her in his peace dress. And in his peace movie. Personally, I feel more like rubbing one out more than throwing bricks just writing this entry, much less watching The Fall. Which is fine, but where’s a protest movie that makes me clench my fists???
3. Rude Boy
I had depressingly little experience with Occupy Wall Street. But was its littleness depressing? Maybe not for Occupy: shortage of bodies wasn’t high up on their list of biggest problem. As for me, the most contact I had was falling in with a march going down Broadway. It moved slowly, was confined to the sidewalk by police. Boring! Where’s my instant grad?
Anthology Film Archives is screening The Fall as part of a bunch that are in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street this weekend. The movie that should be shown in the bunch is Rude Boy, flick with The 1978-79 Clash. It has some commanilites with The Fall with its cinema verite, filming events over a year, and whatnot. But unlike The Fall, it’s married to its narrative, which is comparatively more conventional. It is not ostensibly about protest… but it is nonostensibly about protest.
Super condensed: Ray wants to break the mold of his boring life working the dole and manages to get a roadie job with the Clash, who want to break the mold supporting the left while making a living on music. Meanwhile, the fascist cops do a sting on a black pickpocket. Meanwhile, there are elections approaching of Labor V. Fascists.
Several scenes pepper the first act of the film of protesters “clashing” with police. Once or twice they actually clash, but mostly they just… show up and stand around. The scenes are often god-awfully long. They’re perfect. The stiltedness, lack of action, and lack of consequence and result are parts of the reason why “White Riot” isn’t the daily occurrence. The one march I really took part in was short lived because I got bored. I’m clearly a stupid coward for feeling this way, but I’m obviously a courageous genius for admitting it.
The common way “protest” is put into practice often holds no action, violence, and harassment, nor will the lens through which one view the world flying around chaotically, adventurously, psychedelically, or sexily. This is why Ray feels a deep forlorn. He wants to revolt, but why trade languishing here for languishing there. Both are for someone else’s purposes. A decade earlier, Lou Reed cries “Look out! The world’s behind you!” but the world is too slow and boring for Ray. Political protest is all around him, but it just means being a body in a controlled group, peaceably and collectively saying, “Yuck, no thanks!” to what’s protested, then going home. Ray’s looking for the dynamic – Rebels don’t stand on the street staring down a cop, they rock the fuck out, or at least drink with those who do. And Ray loves his beer.
4. End Of Decade Is Beginning Of New American Century
If you’re watching, and into the narratives the film is laying down (read: if you can follow it) then the ending is the biggest downer in history. If you don’t agree, you may be a conservative and/or an idiot.
A. Ray fails at having a job as a tag along. He’s too drunk and too narcissistic; drunk on the self-image of rebeldom. He has a hard time seeing anything outside of himself. He tells Joe Strummer that their music shouldn’t be political. He offers no substitute, because he has none to offer, and because there isn’t one – it’s not The Clash without the political ideals. Ray languishes – The Clash at least revolt the only way they know how. Or so it only appears.
B. The Clash win because the band wants to be an artistic success, and they rock it and rocket to the top. But they don’t win – they didn’t in 1979, and they don’t for history thus far. They end up as corporate pawns. Don’t scoff at me; this is in fact the unsympathetic narrative of the film. They’re abandon Ray and thus abandon those looking for a way to revolt. They’re there for their art and themselves, seeing to their ascent.
We all end alone.
They continue believe in the left, in movements, in ideals, but they must compromise to reach a wider audience, and ultimately the juxtaposition will implode them. More on this later, because I love it. But in Rude Boy / 1979, they’re just stuck. “I’m fucked,” says Strummer, because his form of revolt holds no victor either, just like Ray. He doesn’t know the half of it. But he knows how to revolt against even that deeper futility of his own revolt. It’s to the best of his ability, as it should be for you. And in the film, it’s “I fought The Law and The Law won.” Cathartic; but the fatcat makes another milli. Read on:
C. The black kid fingered for pickpocketing is put away. This is a side plot so extra that it feels it doesn’t belong. But it attempts an interesting idea, so it’s okay in my book. The idea is that being an actual outlaw to survive gets you thrown in the clink, especially if you’re black living under a white patriarchy. The Clash on the other hand, white bread with merely an outlaw image, do indeed get in trouble with the law, but a) it’s for shooting pidgeons, and b) they have their aforementioned ascendance into corporate success. True revolt against societal law brings jail, faux revolt against angst (MAYBE) brings fortune. As I said: unsympathetic.
D. Thatcher becomes Prime Minister. Meanwhile: Reagan takes the throne in the U.S.A.
Sucks. But that’s how it is, in the end. The Fall ends similarly, but overall it has more inherent optimism. It believes in its more uplifting elements; believes they map onto real life. Like the hippie narratives mentioned way above… I don’t know that they do. Given my rhetoric, it’s clear what I believe.
But I see why it’s shown in the spirit of Occupy Wall Street. Occupy has a kind of optimism to it; it’s not as wildly sexy as the hippies, but hey, this ain’t the 60s. It has an optimism in the 21st century. Perhaps that’s how it’s inviting, how it spread. Perhaps that’s how it doesn’t seem to stand for any unified thing. Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t revolt with it. It’s the 21st century. There’s always the possibility of the future.