". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Book Is Finished. I Went Shopping. We Watched a Movie.

The film Blaze is based (loosely? I've not read it) on Blaze Starr's memoir, My Life As Told By Huey Perry.

Paul Newman plays the role of Louisiana governor Earl Long (1895 - 1960). Newman was brilliant in the role. He so changed his voice and appearance you very seldom 'see' Newman at all, unlike any other role of his that I recall.

The role of Blaze Starr is played by the very lovely Lolita Davidovich. This was the summit of her film career. She continued acting, but not that much, and in nothing that so spotlighted her in terms of screen time or publicity and pr.

The film follows Earl during the last months of his life, in which he has a 'relationship' with exotic dancer, Blaze Starr. Additonally, according to this film, Earl was pushing for the passage of the Voting Rights Bill (1959) for Louisiana's population of people of color. The film includes Earl's people interning him in a mental institution to keep him away from the state capitol while the voting goes on. With Blaze's assistance / encouragement Earl escapes and charges into the legislative chambers. Newman proceeds to eat all the scenery in sight as he does, to my great delight at least, throughout the entire film.

Governor Earl Long's older brother was the Kingfish, Governor Huey Long (1893 - 1935), who was shot. In 1946 Robert Penn Warren published All The King's Men. In his novel the figure around whom revolve all of the characters is named Willie Stark, who stands in for Governor Huey Long. The b&w film version (1949) starred Broderick Crawford as Willie Stark. In 2001 the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (what about the novel?).

All the King's Men was re-made by Sean Penn, who started filming the year that the levees failed. Penn produced, directed and played Willie Stark. It was released in 2006, and fared not well at the box office. This despite the authentically heroic rescue work that Penn performed during the worst era of the catastrophe, and all the aid and assistance he's provided since for the victims of the disaster.

Nor did Blaze do well with critics or viewers. It was 1989. The film's dialog made very liberal use of the n word, which may have been part of it. Embarrassing for everyone in the theater. The actress playing Starr was very pleasant to look at and adequate in her part, but the critics found her performance less than stellar and inadequately compelling. Evidently neither critic nor audience wanted to be reminded of the harsh realities of that time, 1959, when Kennedy was running for POTUS, and, as Governor Long yelled at the state's legislators, "We got to get over this fuckin' em at night and kickin' em in the day."

If only for views of a lost and very compelling Deep South landscapes and buildings, Blaze is much worth seeing. Newman's accomplished performance is even more worth watching. And who, I ask, could object to seeing such a lovely woman strutting upon a strip club stage runway, and asking the assistance of besotted males in the removal of her gartered silk stocking?


Frank Partisan said...

See this.

K. said...

"If I could walk like that, I'd walk everywhere I went."

All The King's Men is a great movie and a great book. Robert Rossen directed the original film, with help from assistant director Don Siegel, who did the famous campaign montage.

Foxessa said...

Ren -- And, sooo ???

Love, c.