Spiritual cinema: From the Rolling Stones to religious war, these 5 flicks are enlightened and entertaining.
Hulu.com, the website where you can play TV and movies for free, finally has a foreign flick worth watching. (Actually, make that any flick).
Hulu just posted 9th Company, “9 Рота” in the original Russian — the first time that a mass American audience has been exposed to the best movie we’ve ever seen from the post-Soviet Union (and in that spirit, it’s a co-production with Finland and the Ukraine).
Yes, the movie does has subtitles. But think of it as the Rus version of Platoon with the nitty-gritty psychological naturalism of Stanley Kubrick’s Natural Born Killers. But it’s actually based on a true story.
Dateline, 1988: The Red Army’s boot-camp for paratroopers, which makes Navy SEAL 6 look like a Disney Jamboree. The squad deploys to Afghanistan for the end-game of the Soviet occupation of the stone-age Muslim state. As we’re drawn into this experience, we identify and sympathize with the characters — and then it dawns: Oh shit, this is our war. As in the Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts vehicle written by Aaron Sorkin, Charlie Wilson’s War. Meaning, the U.S. and its allies are supplying the other side.
Second level of awareness: These humble Russian peasant soldiers from Siberian cities like Krasnoyarsk are actually fighting our war, Act I — that is, Obama’s current war in Afghanistan. In the movie, the mujahedin are not politicized, 9/11-wise. It’s left to us to realize who they are: 9th Company was fighting Bin Ladn and the Taliban 13 years before the World Trade Center.
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2. Addiction: Stoned (as in Rolling Stones)
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards founded the Rolling Stones. Right?
Actually, the original leader of the group and most photogenic member, was Brian Jones. But by the mid-1960′s, he’d failed to record new music as fast as Jagger-Richards, and he abused his girlfriend — the German version of Catherine Deneuve, Anita Pallenberg. Jagger took over the band, Richards periodically took over Jones’ girlfriend Anita — and what happened to the real golden boy of the Rolling Stones is documented in cinema for the first time in the slyly-titled bio-pic, Stoned.
It’s a Tarentino-stylized piece of cinema that serves an investigative journalistic purpose: Empirically answers — without the help of courts and police, who were conned in this case — the question of who killed Brian Jones. The founder of the most famous band on earth.
What’s new about this ? If the movie had been about an America singer-songwriter (Johnny Cash), and produced by a Hollywood studio (Fox), it would have been as big as Walk the Line (Joaquin Phoenix). You can now watch Stoned for free on American TV (Showtime).
3. Social psychology: Gods [dioces]
Surprise, Peru actually has wealthy people instead of the shanty-towns we are always shown in the media. And they’re as hot as Monica Vitti in Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura. But they are also parasitically perched at the top of a supply-chain of wealth-creation that looks like this: Peru produces the coca base; Colombia is the CEO; Mexico, out-sourced transportation; and America is the end-market, the most addicted people on the planet.
Gods, the movie, shows how a person can coast to the top of Maslow’s famous pyramid showing the human hierarchy of needs with not much more than luck and beauty.
Reminiscent of Vitti’s movies from the 1960s, a bourgeois Lima family is living la dolce vita like Italians on the Amallfi coast: the maid marries the patriarch, and then has an Aha realizationl after she buys into — and then sees through — the narcissistic obsessions of the trophy wives who are her new best friends.
It’s not a new film but it’s new to us in North America. Best place to screen it: Virgin America, which just put Gods in the foreign film section of its on-board, movies-on-demand.
Released on June 14, 2011, this spiritual travelogue is by a Hollywood director but is decidedly not a Hollywood film. Demian Lichtenstein, who made 3,000 Miles to Graceland, does his own version of the 1979 film, Meetings with Remarkable Men, with some of the flavor of The Secret. In fact, Secret star Michael Beckwith is not only in Lichentstein’s Gift: he hosted a special screening at his L.A. church. But the film goes beyond prosperity preaching and also features the Dalai Lama, Ravi Shankar and Marianne Williamson’s work on A Course in Miracles. The theme is closer to that of a famous book that happens to have a similar name to this site, The Soul’s Code — psychologist James Hillman’s meditation on how to access the essence of your individual role in Being.
The newest release on our list is also the only thriller. If a tree falls takes its name from an existential koan: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to here it, does it make a sound? But the subject is eco-terrorism, not metaphysics. Based on a true story, the Earth Liberation Front is a modern-day version of the Weather Underground: it burns and blows up anti-green targets like timber companies, SUV dealerships, wild horse slaughterhouses, and a ski lodge at Vail, Colorado. The arsonists are captured in a post-9/11 crackdown by the FBI, which calls them “America’s number one domestic terrorism threat.”
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