We cannot ever be certain how many people live in a place. Article I, Section 2 of the US Constitution mandates that the Union count it citizens every so often, as to get an accurate number of Representatives from the individual states to Congress. In the 228 years since the first decennial census, the Census Bureau, now housed in the Department of Commerce, has conducted 22 of these surveys – each one attempting to coalesce on the actual number of people who live in a place, and certain characteristics about them. The hope, we hope, is to strive for a count of people close to the actual number of people; these two numbers have (probably) been close for some time. The decennial census direct order to the governing institutions from the United States’ governing documents.
It is still voluntary.
People, (probably) in the low-millions range, fall through the thin comb but these people still drive cars or take buses on roads provided to everyone, breathe clean air regulated by strict pollution laws, and reasonably expect clean water to be delivered to their homes, and dirty water taken away. No representative exists to hear their voices because their voices, statistically speaking, don’t exist.
Expanding this logic, thousands, if not more, Travis Bickles roam public streets and the Internet, free to exist, essentially detached from reality. They consume apple pie and drink coffee out of a misanthropic ritual. They subsume pornography because sex is violence, and violence is normal. They drive or walk or bike around, almost aimlessly, not out of academic nihilism, but out of actual desperation that is too distinct to classify, and unfair to study. We have no way to help them, because they don’t exist; but they think, and they plan and they plot, …sometimes. We can’t know. Taxi Driver is an innocuous enough title for a movie about a man angry at nothing and everything at the same time – so he drives a taxi to unwind. Continue reading “ Taxi Driver”
Can a film be considered a religious text? Yes: if it openly professes a love for one’s gods and saints, openly proselytizes for the purposes of religious conversion, or maintains a strong interpretation of a written or oral religious text. In a tech-dominated world it is a means of spreading the Word visually. In other words – a modern world where information is more valuable by the second than by the sentence. It is too simple to say that our attention spans are shortening and that the only way we learn is force-fed through television. It is too simple to say that the only way to teach is to show and not tell. It is interesting that in a world with more choice, the options for information transmission have shrunk.
No: a film isn’t a religious text. How can it be? For a film to be successful it has to enrapture; tell a story, but not preach; fulfill character and plot narrative. A successful film has to draw from and reflect back its creation onto its audience – a religious text is instructional and a one-way guide to Salvation and Surrender. Or: can it be up to interpretation? Can a film be slick enough to work as a religious text for visual learners and a narrative for those who choose to see religion as a plot point and not an instruction manual? 1986’s The Mission comes close.
The Mission is a quasi-retelling of the betweenmath of the Treaty of Madrid that realigned Spanish/Portuguese political borders in Central South America at the expense of native peoples homes and livelihoods. In the center of this realignment are Jesuit priests, who have successfully(?) converted a tribe to Christianity bringing with them industry, housing tenure, and service to a higher power. The Jesuit priests, led by Jeremy Irons’ Father Gabriel, and eventually Robert De Niro’s Captain/Father Mendoza, seek to retain a relationship with the native tribe in spite of differing attitudes from the colonizing envoys – the Spanish are laxer than the Portuguese. They (Jesuits) see their purpose as one direct from God, by way of salvation and prosperity. They (envoys) see their purpose as one direct from God, by way of salvation and prosperity. Continue reading “ The Mission”
“Boxing” films traditionally mythologize the ring as place sacrosanct. When a fighter steps through the soggy void between the semi-taut ropes and onto the mat, a particularly delicate “outside” struggle dissolves and the fighter refocuses on beating his or her opponent to a pulp. Bloody eyes and broken noses replace bleeding hearts and shattered minds, if just for the half hour. No ambitious souls have yet made a film documenting a well-adjusted boxer, as the metaphor is so obvious that as a motif, the damaged fighter, has nearly outlived its storied and well-respected history. The audience knows as much and often will seek out a “boxing” film as a place to witness redemption; the ring is both dangerous battleground and safe haven. The ring is anger and the fighter is pure punches. What makes Raging Bull a cut above the rest is the manner by which the audience connects to the ring through cinematography.
Director Martin Scorsese wanted the audience to feel Robert De Niro’s overwhelming life as real-life boxer and champion, Jake LaMotta. Raging Bull, as a rightful torch-bearer for 1976’s Rocky, demonstrates boxing mythos through tried-and-true means: Jake is a man of few words, but when he speaks the world seems to rattle. He finds no inner peace in the ring, per se, but the canvas mat and attending ropes become a home through which he can channel his pervasive anger. And the audience feels this: the steady punches – tat, tat, pumpf, the off-center angles, close-ups and pan-outs, all timed as though in 7/8 time. Raging Bull is a musical without melody, thump, thump, snatch, spin. Crash. When the bell rings, skulls rattle. Continue reading “ Raging Bull”