Chimera Song Mosaic
Sunday, May 18, 2003
I saw two great movies last weekend, both rented (we don't get independent films here in the Valley, except ones in Spanish): The Believer & El Crimen de Padre Amaro (okay, I could have gotten off my lazy butt and watched this one at the local theaters).

I saw these both in the same night. El Crimen is wonderfully agonizing--I almost stopped watching it twice, mostly because I am a feminist and an atheist, but don't let that stop you because the film is well worth it. It is potentially offensive to many different people on many different levels, but that can be the *hallmark* (stop exploiting your workers in the maquilladoras!) of a great film (see Happiness for more examples of this. A pedophile is one of the protagonists. Amazing!). Ultimately, I beleive the film to be both pro-Catholic and basically tolerant of corruption (which is an attractive, realistic/cycnical perspective). Not that corruption is inherent in Catholicism, but it is pro-Catholic in the sense that it witnesses corruption in all aspects of humanity; we cannot escape from it. I'm not totally convinced, but it is an interesting theory. See it and you decide.

The Believer is a mind-warp and an analyst's (the literary, not the psychological kind--but that too) wet dream. I think everybody who went to grad school loves to analyze things; I like to over-analyze them. There are planty of opportunities for this in The Believer, and the characters join in on every level. This film has the gimmicky basis of being about a Jewish Neo-Nazi. It is disgusting in a lot of ways and hard to get through the first 20 minutes or so. But this film essentially ends up being pro-Jewish--not just anti- Neo-Nazi (please, that's so obvious--and I don't mean this with any sarcasm; I am simply saying that being a Neo-Nazi or even a Fascist--voluntarily--is completely beyond my undertsanding). I don't know much about Judaism, and I question the idea of learning anything about it through a film such as this one (or any film), but in some ways, learning is what happens to the viewer. I guess that one can approach learning by way of a logical mind through the breaking down of and rejection of stereotypes, and this is what happens in this film, in a way. This is becoming too painful and too dangerous to talk about. This is a dangerous film. But not in the way you might expect.

Anyway, it was a profound experience to watch these two religious films in one evening. I wouldn't recommend it. They take time to digest (see them one at a time), and as you can see, I am not finished.

But I guess I can offer these tentative conclusions: El Crimen de Padre Amaro is an immoral film, and The Believer is a moral one. Not that morality necessarily has anything to do with cinema, and not that it should.

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