Political Film Society - Newsletter #140 - August 1, 2002



August 1, 2002


 

PUCCINI ADVANCES THE CAUSE OF DEMOCRACY & HUMAN RIGHTS
When the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens was issued in Paris in 1789, the scope of applicability was not limited to France. The declaration was intended to apply to the entire world, or at least to Europe. When Napoleon Bonaparte conscripted Frenchmen into the army, the objective was to topple the monarchs of Europe, who had been responsible for frivolous wars and heinous denials of human rights, in order to install democratic republics in their place. Among the countries eventually liberated was Italy, where a Roman Republic was established when he was merely commander of the French army in Italy. After overthrowing the Directory and establishing the Consulate in 1799, Napoleon defeated the Austrians in 1800 at the Battle of Marengo, Italy. With this historical background, Victorien Sardou published a play in 1887 about an opera singer in love with a painter named Mario Cavaradossi. Mario in turn seeks to aid a Republican, Angelotti, who escapes from prison and thus eludes the Baron Scarpia, the counterrevolutionary chief of police who is purging Rome of all dissident Republicans. Giacomo Puccini, while working on La Bohème, was invited by librettist Ferdinando Fontana to make an opera out of the play, Tosca, about fictional events taking place in June 1800, and his masterpiece premiered in 1900. Although there have been several films of Tosca over the years, most recently in the 1970s, French film producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier followed up his production of Madama Butterfly (1995) and Carmen (2001) by entrusting the adaptation of Tosca to director Benoît Jacquot, whose version has now been released commercially. Those expecting a pure operatic version should be informed that the performing singers and orchestra are occasionally presented in black and white, and the actors lip sync the singing. The actual sites in the opera are reproduced in some cases through antiqued photographs, with sets erected as background for the actors. MH

HAWAIIAN CULTURE DOMESTICATES A MONSTER OR TWO
Lilo & StitchThe Hawaiian word ohana means "family," a family in which "nobody gets left out or forgotten," according to the animated tale Lilo & Stitch, codirected by Dean Deblois and Chris Sanders. In the prologue to the film, naughty Six-Two-Six (voiced by codirector Chris Sanders) has been banished from the galaxy, but while being escorted to a galactic Siberia, Six-Two-Six escapes.

The Grand Councilwoman (voiced by Zoe Caldwell) then orders Jumba (voiced by David Ogden Stiers), a galactic prisoner due to his creation of Six-Two-Six, to capture the monster in exchange for his freedom, but Pleakley (voiced by Kevin McDonald) goes along to assist. Meanwhile, orphaned five-year-old Lilo (voiced by Daveigh Chase) is at a hula school on the island of Kaua`i. Rather than waiting for her big sister Nani (voiced by Tia Carrere) to drive her home from school, she walks home and locks herself inside. When Nani finds that she is not waiting at school, she rushes home. But along comes a social worker, Cobra Bubbles (voiced by Ving Rhames), for a home visit, which proves to be a disaster, so the social worker warns Nani that Lilo may have to be removed from her guardianship. That night Six-Two-Six lands not far from Lilo's home and ends up at a pet shop. The next day Nani allows Lilo to adopt any pet in the store, and Lilo chooses Six-Two-Six, claiming that it is a dog; for $2, Lilo gets a legal document indicating ownership (rather than adoption)! and she names the creature "Stitch." Although Six-Two-Six was created to destroy, Lilo is amused and likes Stitch. However, its misconduct not only costs Nani her job but no employer will hire her after seeing Stitch's destructive antics. Next, Jumba and Pleakley fly to the island (though the island of Hawai`i, according to their map!) in order to capture Six-Two-Six but bungle the assignment. The Grand Councilwoman then arrives to reclaim Six-Two-Six, but Lilo presents a legal document indicating ownership, so she demurs. Then a turnaround occurs, the inevitable happy ending, with Stitch adopting the aloha spirit and rebuilding the house that it earlier destroyed; meanwhile, Nani gets a job due to a tip from her surfer friend David Kawena (voiced by Jason Scott Lee), and the social worker goes away. Native Hawaiian activists, of course, are loudly criticizing the film as not depicting the true Hawaiian culture. Lilo and Nani, however, bicker with each other in a manner quite similar to the complaining activists. David, more stereotypically, is a firedancer with a sweet personality who is content to surf in his spare time. There are many scenes of white tourists enjoying the beach and other attractions, including David's firedancing. And, to remind adults of an earlier era when Elvis Presley favored the Islands in Blue Hawaii (1961), his music is featured throughout. Although the thrice-repeated definition of ohana is clearly the main message of the film, the lesson on Native Hawaiian culture is obviously oversimplified and rather syrupy. MH