Paradise Now - Complications Ensue
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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Shekhar Kapur recommended this movie on his blog. Since he directed one of my favorite movies ever, ELIZABETH, I thought I should check it out. It's about a couple of young Palestinian guys, childhood friends, on the day they're told they've been accepted for a "martyrdom operation."

What I love best about this movie is that it tells a human, believable story about some people that, honestly, I'd like to see shot dead. You don't have to approve of a movie's hero. DAS BOOT was a compelling story about brave German submariners who were out in the ocean trying to sink my Dad in 1945. Neither PARADISE NOW nor DAS BOOT takes a side; on such a highly charged issue, it would make the movie almost impossible to watch.

PARADISE NOW works for me because it is not, as the poster says, a call for peace, in the sense of it trying to convince you that blowing up women and children is not a morally acceptable response to occupation. Nor is it a propaganda film in favor of "resistance," either. The film has admirable characters full of passion and conviction on either side. What the film is about is what is it like to be these guys? What drives them? How do they feel about what they're doing? How does a human being ready himself to blow up other human beings? What happens when he's close enough to do the deed?

The filmmaker, an Israeli Arab, did his research, too. He pored over transcripts of Israeli Army interrogations of would-be bombers who failed to blow themselves up, and talked to people who knew ones who did blow themselves up.

A film like PARADISE NOW is not a plea for peace in the sense of it saying, "hey, peace is good!" but it is a movie that Israelis (or I) can watch and get a sense of where these guys are coming from, without asking the Israelis (or me) to approve of what they're doing. And it is hard to make peace with an enemy when you have no idea where he's coming from.

Oh, it is also a beautifully shot, nicely directed movie with superb casting. Well-crafted in every way. Observant and insightful. Worth watching just as a drama, forgetting that it's taking you into a world you probably haven't been before and won't likely be visiting any time soon.

No doubt you can make too much of what you learn from a fiction film. Or, for that matter, a documentary. But I do think an honestly made narrative film of whatever genre gives you some insight into the culture it comes from that you can't get anywhere else. Eric Rohmer has his own issues, but you can learn a lot about the French from PAULINE AT THE BEACH. Hell, I think you can learn a lot about the people of Hong Kong from John Woo's BULLET IN THE HEAD.

Which is why, incidentally, I think it's important to support Canadian film. Not as a cultural luxury good. Not just because it tells us who we are. But because it tells people in other countries who we are. And I dare say people in other countries, starting with the big one down South, have a terribly vague idea of who Canadians are.

Go put PARADISE NOW on your NetFlix or Zip queue. Worth a couple hours.

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1 Comments:

What an apt entry to read while reading Ian Watts Rise of the Novel. The very first chapter pretty much goes into the differences of the realism in novels compared to older, traditional forms of literature that pretty much tell the reader how to think or, at the very least, support a dominant order of existence.

By Blogger The_Lex, at 11:28 AM  

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