Sunday, May 06, 2007

Are you talking?

So I pretty much think that Julie Christie is a goddess, OK? I loved her in Darling, Far From The Madding Crowd, Petulia and Dr. Zhivago (which I just saw for the first time like a week or two ago.) I also thought she was the best thing about McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Afterglow (shut up, I saw it back when I was in my crush on Jonny Lee Miller phase). She even brought some class to Troy, a flick I enjoyed for more prurient reasons having to do with biceps and the like.

I am even really stoked to see her new movie, Away From Her, which I just saw the trailer for. It looked particularly good, which is not something I ever thought I would say about a Canadian romance about Alzheimer's. That's why I was sadly brought back to earth by a short piece in the recent New Yorker in which she made a statement that shocked me:

Told that she should see “The Lives of Others,” the award-winning movie about East Germany, Christie paused, then re-plied, “I’m not sure I can bear to see a film they gave the Oscar to, that tells you what awful people Communists are.” And with that she laughed, unlocked her bike, and pedalled off into the sunshine.

I was just flabbergasted. As with most actors, from her generation especially, I naturally assume that they're left-wing, until proven otherwise. You don't get to be Warren Beatty's paramour for 7 years in the 60s and 70s if you're OK with the likes of Margaret Thatcher, one would assume. But I am astonished that she so ardently still admires Communism, after all we know know of all the millions murdered and and such rampant abuses of power, and the total failure of it as a political system.

If Ms. Christie could be bothered to watch The Lives of Others as I have, she would have seen a frightening portrayal of what it is to live in a Communist state where lover is pitted against lover for political gain, where neighbor spies upon neighbor and reports to the Stasi, where there is no freedom of press, and where you literally cannot tell a joke amongst friends at lunch without losing your job. That is the life that she apparently wants for all of us; that's her ideal.

Also I think it's telling that she tacitly implies that in the Julie Christieverse, Oscars would be given to films based primarily on their political message, with "artistic" achievement apparently a distant consideration. As an aside, this just makes one wonder who the Oscars are really for? If Middle America doesn't go see the five Best Picture nominees, as has been reported, and the Hollywood gliterati are disappointed in who gets the awards, then who IS, outside of the winners, pleased with the films that get honored?

When I watched Dr. Zhivago recently, I was most struck at the end, when Komarovski and Lara leave on the sleigh for China, leaving Zhivago behind, and Komarovski comments that Zhivago is foolish for not leaving with them, to which Lara replies something to the extent of, "Yuri will never leave Russia." I had to laugh. Surely, the thought life as an emigré in Paris with Lara and their child was more torture than could be borne by Dr. Zhivago. Why leave Russia when you could starve AND freeze to death or be killed for asserting the right to live in your own property?

I mention this experience because I am amazed that after filming that movie, in which the ravishes of Communism were put into such relief, that Julie Christie would continue to see Communism as an ideal worth pursuing. Of course movies are not life, but if I was confronted day in, day out over months of filming with the realities of that era and had to participate in the re-tellings of such horrors, they certainly would have made impressions on me that were obviously lost on Ms. Christie. I guess in that sense, she 's never going to leave Russia either.

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