Monthly Archives: August 2006

Movie Review: The Swing Kids

The Swing Kids is a period piece set between 1939-1940 exploring a particular sub-culture that emerged in Nazi Germany. Teens frustrated with the claustrophobic and sclerotic structure of their day, rebelled by listening and dancing to American Swing. Their protest is captured in their mantra: Hey! It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. Do wah, do wah, do wah, do wah, do wah.

The tragedy of the film, is that of course it does not end well. The Second World War does start, and the Nazi’s really do kill six million Jews, and the Russians really do occupy Poland for 45 years. The protest these children are engaged in is a silly expression of youthful rebellion. Nothing is affected. Nothing changed because some kids in Berlin and Hamburg listened to Benny Goodman.

The film at no point suggests that these dancing kids actually were able to do anything of any substance. What it explores is their reactions as their bubble world collapses. How do they react to the Nazi regimes attempts to squeeze out this tiny bit of non-conformity. Some refuse to live on or play the game, killing themselves. Some join the Nazis. And some when confronted with the choice of playing on or fighting choose to fight.

And somehow that last little bit of rebellion at the end of the film is the most tragic: Long past the point when anyone could have listened to their rebellion, the swing kids rebelled. And the futility of that gesture is captured by the Gestapo agent played by Kenneth Branaugh: So much passion wasted.

The story of the Swing Kids is really a story of how bored rich children wanted to rebel and how their pointless rebellion became a political protest as the choice between compromise and death became apparent.

As a film, it’s the music that steals the show. The music is so great, and the characters so obviously in love with it, that you can’t help but keep tapping your feet. In fact, the music is almost too great. The film at times becoming a music video for swing.

From the actors Kenneth Branaugh steals the show. The lead, Robert Sean Leonard, had his moments, but he did not carry himself like a German. Which is the same problem with the other leads, who at no point convinced me that they were Germans. The supporting cast and the extras did a great job convincing me that they were Germans.

Noah Wyle also has a bit role in the film.

The directing is well paced. The cinematography decent.

Fuck Landis. Fuck him and The Tour De Tricheurs.

So it turns out that Landis’ miraculous ascent was chemically enhanced.

Was he a fool? A moron? Or both? They had just thrown out the 2005 top finishers from the Tour thanks to the Spanish affair. Did he think he could get away with it? Did he think that they would not test him? Did he think?

And as for phonak… Are we really expected to believe that the team had no idea what was going on? This is the Tour not some amateur race. The atheletes have more doctors and masseurs pampering them than patients in the Intensive Care Ward of hospitals. This is not credible that somehow Landis was able to inject himself with drugs without the team medical staff knowing about it.

So fuck Landis, and the entire sport of professional cycling. The lack of personal integrity on the part of the cyclists is appalling. Perhaps if sponsor’s were criminally liable for the cheating of the athletes we would see this sport clean itself up.

But in the meantime. Fuck Landis, Fuck the Tour, Fuck it all. In one appalling year Landis, Ullrich etc have managed to destroy what Armstrong built in 7 years. Damn them all.

As for me, I’ll stick to basketball, football, and hockey. At least there we do not maintain the pretense that the Athletes are clean. We admit it’s a form of entertainment, where the personal integrity of the players is irrelevant.

Book Review: Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

What if the Devil showed up and no one believed he was the Devil?

Starting with this rather absurd premise Bulgakov explores Moscow, faith, religion, politics, the world at large and religion. Reading the book you are struck by the wierd thought that Bulgakov must have known that the book would never be published. This book must have existed for his own personal entertainment. And so it’s almost like exploring the author’s brain as he ran through different streams of conciousness.
Which brings me to the thought that the most famous quote in the book: Manuscripts don’t burn was an attempt to convince the author that eventually at some point the story this book would be published.

The book oscillates between the sublime, such as when he is describing the first arrival of the Devil, the surreal such as when the author describes the Devil’s ball, and the fascinating during the long sections when the author describes daily life in Moscow under the Soviets.

My favourite section, by far is when Woland does his little magic trick in front of an entire audience and spreads chaos and mayhem throughout Moscow. And everyone assumes it must be anything but the Devil. The money changing into random coins, tricksters and liars, the empty suit something bizarre in the atmosphere, spontaneous dancing and singing a group dementia.
The book ends well, even though it was never polished.

This is not an easy book to read and requires a substantive personal investment of time and effort.