[Marxism] Syriana

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Nov 24 07:17:41 MST 2005

>Please explain your characterization:
>"ex-leftist documentarian Barbara Kopple".
>What did she do to merit this description?

Kopple got the reputation as a leftist documentarian for "Harlan County" 
but that was 29 years ago. The last leftist documentary she made after that 
was the 1991 "American Dream", which was about the defeat of P9 and hardly 
the stuff to rouse workers into action. The subtext was that the trade 
union overreached. As I recall, the CP opposed that strike and perhaps 
Kopple's editorial viewpoint reflected that.

 From 1991 onwards, her attention turned to matters such as Woody Allen's 
clarinet-playing tour in Europe ("Wild Man Blues") and the 2002 miniseries 
on the Hamptons. She's currently working on a project called "The Edge of 
Madness", which IMDB.Com describes as  exploring "the experiences of a 
female war journalist Gaby Grebo, against the backdrop of a bloody war of 
ethnic cleansing in Sarajevo." Somehow I doubt that she will be using Diana 
Johnstone as a consultant.

Recently I have run into Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn near 5th Avenue and 
91st street, only 4 blocks from my building on 3rd Avenue and 91st. I do 
not say hello. Allen, the ultimate recluse, appears to be circulating in 
public more often nowadays. This was nearly impossible during the public 
relations debacle that followed word of his romance with Soon-Yi.

As a major part of his attempt to refurbish his image, Allen agreed to 
participate in a documentary based on a tour of more than a dozen European 
cities with his Dixieland revival band. Titled "Wild Man Blues", it either 
shows him and Soon-Yi at leisure in palatial hotels, or him playing 
clarinet with the band on various concert stages before adoring fans. As 
everybody knows, including Allen who admits as much on camera, nobody would 
pay a nickel to hear him if he hadn't become so successful as an actor, 
director and screenwriter.

What the documentary also reveals, however, is his growing malaise as he 
tries to come to grips with the fact that his recent films have been deemed 
critical failures as well as box-office flops. It is only in Europe where 
Allen--like Jerry Lewis--still has a hallowed reputation. Even Soon-Yi 
seems underwhelmed by his more recent films. Over breakfast she tells him 
that she found "Interiors" tedious. This is another meaning for the "blues" 
in the film's title. We are witnessing the fall to earth of a major artist.

What's remarkable is that the film's director, Barbara Kopple, had been 
best known for politically engaged films like the Academy Award winning 
documentary "Harlan County USA" (about miners striking in Kentucky) and 
"The American Dream" (meat packers striking in Minnesota). Since Woody 
Allen is relentlessly anti-political, this seems like an odd choice at first.

Perhaps not so odd considering that prior to making the Allen documentary, 
she made "Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson" in 1992 for NBC. 
Tyson was in jail, on charges of rape, when she started making the film. 
Allen's reputation around that time was about as tarnished and for similar 
reasons: preying on women.

Maybe plain old-fashioned pecuniary considerations influenced her decision 
to make a film about Allen, since these are not plush times for leftwing 
documentarians. Kopple has responded to the market by turning to other 
kinds of filmmaking. She's directed two episodes of the ABC series 
"Homicide," and even made some commercials, most notably the Reebok ad 
featuring female basketball star Saudia Roundtree.

full: http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/culture/woody_allen_jazz.htm  

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