[Marxism] The Mafia as the Capitalist Avant Garde: On Scorsese and The Irishman
mdriscollrj at charter.net
Sun Dec 1 12:49:02 MST 2019
Louis Project wrote
I watched this yesterday. This is a good review, except that it and all
the reviews I've seen so far miss what is to me a crucial point,//that
could and should have been extended as major in the plot line of the
film (along with the connections to "higher-ups" and the relationships
between corporate, political and mob crime) - maybe was more adequately
dealt with in the book, I don't know - - that The Irishman , depicted in
the first frames as shooting a couple of helpless, unarmed Italian POWs
in cold blood and casually walking away, is simply following orders,
convenient to the "higher-ups." This follows throughout the film. He is
a guy conditioned by his war experience to simply follow orders, from
"higher ups," without question and without feeling. And walk away,
except for the largely unexplored but ubiquitous PTSD. And reject
religious expiation because he can feel no remorse; except for his
daughters, his nuclear "family," and the Mafia, his extended family. To
one of his daughters, his explanation is simply and lamely that he was
protecting them because "there's lots of bad guys out there."
In the beginning of the film this aspect of following orders without
question as extending from Sheeran's military conditioning should have
been emphasized, drawn out and alluded to frequently. Thereby the
millions who will watch this star-studded, Academy award-prone high
point of Scorsese's career would have had the point saturated within
them as they reflect on the message.
This message could also bring home the US's increasing dependence on
raw, remote, technologically driven military weapons, peddled to
dictators and proxy ruling families and rained indiscriminately by the
US military on whole populations foreign and soon probably domestic, to
preserve threatened US hegemony in consequence of the waning of legitimacy.
The message underplayed, that the military takes draftees and the poor
and uneducated, teaches them to hate other hapless people and then
teaches them to kill those people, without conscious feeling beyond
hatred of the other, calls to mind the footage made notorious by Chelsea
Manning and Julian Assange of the helicopter-borne US military war
criminals mowing down unarmed, clueless Arabs, with pure loathing and
with complete official impunity. And like the "soldier of the King" Lord
Jeffrey Amherst, "looking around for more when they were through." And
finding their more in the rescuers and children in the van, who come to
haul away the dead bodies.
That's where we seem headed, increasingly. This is a Roy Cohn world,
unbridled. We've certainly been there all along and not just with Trump,
but never before with the intensity, lethality and potentially
devastating consequences we face now.
As I recall, in the discussion among the principals following the film,
Scorsese alludes to the effects of The Irishman's WW2 experience as a
major element, but he seems to have decided to dismiss it, largely
because I gather the major actors were so well-known to the audience,
and he couldn't extend the anti-aging technology back to do any detailed
treatment of that period or plausibly use a younger version of the
iconic De Niro, played by a younger actor./
I think, given the possibilities available and obvious, eliding this
element is a major flaw of the film which could have greatly amplified
/From the review:
"The Irishman is the mob film for the era of Trump, not to mention
Netanyahu, Erdogan, Bolsonaro and the many other “world leaders” with
unhidden connections to the criminal (not so) underworld.
Like Buffalino, he dies alone, with no family but the church.
The previous films were about the Mafia supplying a need to American
society and were critiques that addressed the audience of the eighties
and nineties, one still presupposing a formal separation between
organized crime and the ruling class as a whole.
it is implied that perhaps the mob was involved in the Kennedy
assassination but this is an afterthought. The point of the inclusion is
again counter-intuitive. Buffalino and Sheeran, mob middle management
and soldier alike are mournful in spite of themselves, but Hoffa, if
anything is happy. He refuses to fly the flags at Teamster headquarters
at half mast.
They inevitably turn to the church, the last refuge of the scoundrel.
The Irishman//is the end of the mob film as statement, the end of the
figure of the Mafia. This signifier no longer has the power it once had,
as it fades into the ruling class itself. Fading away is what these
figures do. The classical tragedy is not how it ends, but its
inscription of tragedy rightfully onto this tragic history of gangster
involvement in the labor movement, forcing Sheeran to think he can play
both sides. For a time both sides really are inseparable. He was after
all first approached by a mobster with a sign of solidarity, helping
with a problem with his truck. And he couldn’t help but feel that sense
of solidarity, even as he violated it. Of course he outlives everyone
else and wears his Teamster hat to the end. It is here, not with Hoffa,
that one sees the victory of business unionism, as conjured up by Scorsese."
The Red Wedge looks like a promising journal. From their editorial
statement: "...we enter the hidden abode of cultural production from a
wide variety of standpoints and a shared commitment to the communist
project." Much needed, to infuse the socialist message much more deeply
into the potentially profound realm of cultural production. Where have
we been since Salt of the Earth?
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