[Marxism] Re: From Marxmail home (Clancy Sigal and Frida)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue May 3 07:48:07 MDT 2005

I got another email from Clancy this morning:

 >>Louis, I have read more Trotsky than is good enough for a growing 
boy.  Enough to tell me that if he'd come to power he would have been a 
more literary Stalin.  What authoritarianism!   A much less attractive 
character in person than most Trotskyists I've known.  Too bad you didn't 
like Frida.  We did.  all best, Clancy<<

I am sure that he will find Fred Feldman's take on his film quite 
interesting. Clancy, I want you to know, btw, that others on the Marxism 
list, where my review first appeared, did not agree with me.

>Has Clancy Sigal really been seething since 2003 about that review,
>which I didn't read or don't remember?
>I found "Frida" an enjoyable movie basically, a good performance by
>Hayek.  It probably helped boost knowledge about Frida Kahlo's talents
>and may even have increased interest in the Mexican muralists. (My
>personal favorite of the great Mexican painters is Orozco.)
>While the movie does try to build up Kahlo as perhaps a greater artist
>than Rivera, it is definitely fairer to his talents than "What's Love
>Got to Do With It" was to the disturbed bluesman Ike Turner. And Rivera
>does come across as a basically decent and fair-minded person. (Good
>work by Alfredo Molina, too, in my opinion.)
>Politically, however it is chopped liver, and chopped liver left in a
>warm place for a prolonged period.  The Trotsky portrayal is absurd and
>politically completely misleading. It is the standard liberal portrayal
>of Trotsky as the vanguard (rightly or wrongly) of anti-Sovietism. I
>could actually place the sentences attributed to Trotsky somewhere in
>his works but they are selected completely apolitically, and moreover in
>a way that effectively concealed his real politics, making him look like
>a third-camp opponent of the Soviet Union  motivated by intellectual
>snobbery toward and aesthetic distaste for Stalin, and preferring
>Hitler.  (Trotsky did think that Hitler was a more effective mass leader
>than Stalin, which is for sure a defensible assessment. But this is
>presented out of context as his approach to Fascism and the Soviet Union
>and so on.)
>I admit that the make-up artists, wig- and moustasche makers who created
>this simulacrum of Trotsky did a pretty good job, but the director and
>script writer screwed up, and the poor actor was left with nothing to do
>but act stiff and look silly.  I don't care whether Trotsky and Kahlo
>had an affair, but if Kahlo had an affair with THIS Trotsky, she was
>definitely trading down from Rivera.
>Even more unpleasant to me was the coverup -- it is hard to call it
>anything else -- of the May 24 assault on Trotsky's home (which was
>actually better handled in Godfather II, by pure analogy, than in this
>movie). The assault on the Trotsky household was led by the major
>muralist David Alfaro Siquieros, who is a character in the movie
>(portrayed as a REAL, HARD revolutionary in contrast to the soft,
>dilettante-ish Rivera.
>The assault resulted in one death, the murder by the attackers of
>kidnapped guard Robert Sheldon Harte. The tendency in the movie is to
>identify Siquieros' gangsterish leftism is identified with being a real
>But even though Siquieros is a character in the film, his participation
>in the Stalinst assault -- also portrayed in the film -- is completely
>suppressed, even though it is a proven fact.  And of course there is no
>hint of the Stalinist role.  Indeed, the possibility is left open that
>Rivera might even have been involved in the assassination because of
>sexual jealousy.  Everything about responsibility of the assassination
>-- and the the connections of Mercader with the Stalinist secret police
>became fully established -- is kept quite vague.
>The assault was actually better portrayed artistically in Godfather II,
>although I think the model here was more the attack on Malcolm X's home.
>The core of Michael Corleone's description of the assault "on my
>bedroom, where my children play" was, I believe, based on a quote from
>Malcolm's news conference on the assault.
>I am not trying to restart the Stalin-Trotsky debate here, and I don't
>care whether some list members think killing Trotsky was A Good Thing.
>(I don't care because they have clearly lost the historical battle. If
>anyone gets off on "ice-picking Trotskyites," and so on, they are free
>to enjoy their declining years accordingly.  It is merely the factual
>issues here that caught me.
>I was actually a little shocked that the author of Going Away produced a
>script so shallow.  He should at least Blame Hollywood, but apparently
>Sigal, not wicked and corrupt Hollywood, is to blame this time.
>By the way, I want to endorse Louis' indirect plug for Norman Mailer.  I
>really think that Naked and the Dead, Barbary Shore, and The Deer Park
>constitute a very powerful contribution to artistically grasping the
>United States in the first decade after World War II.  An accomplishment
>in danger of being lost in his subsequent career as Professional
>Celebrity (he was one of the creators of this role, by the way) although
>some things he wrote since then do have substance.
>Fred Feldman
>Marxism mailing list
>Marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu



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