Sunday, May 24, 2009

Good and Bad

Listen to this piece of abject servility, glimpsed on CNN by Digby:

John King: are you ok with indefinite detentions and would that be here in the United States?

Barbara Boxer: I'll tell you what I'm ok with. I'm ok that the president of the United States says that our security comes first and foremost. I agree with that. But he went on to say, which you didn't show, that he's going to figure out a way to do this under the rule of law. So he is going to make sure that nobody is released into the United States who will be a threat to us and that these indefinite detentions will be somehow under the rule of law. And I want to give this president the credit for this. His wife said, one thing about my husband, he's not going to be afraid to change his mind or to nuance an issue. I applaud that frankly.

So the same policies--suspension of habeus corpus, eternal detention, near-total secrecy--that the Democrats opposed under Bush-Cheney are now being celebrated and defended. Not only that, but these policies are being celebrated and defended in the same language Bush and Cheney used: the Great Father of the People defending his children from Evil, security-uber-alles, etc. But all this is different, somehow, because it will all be "somehow under the rule of law." Right. But wait: the Democrats (with a few honorable exceptions) never did seriously oppose the Bush-Cheney torture and detention policies, did they? Surely it's time for a genuinely liberal alternative to the two "national security" parties.

Meanwhile, I'm very, very excited about this:

Jane Campion has put herself in line for her second Palme d'Or here at the Cannes film festival with a film which I think could be the best of her career; an affecting and deeply considered study of the last years in the short life of John Keats, and the ecstasy of loss which suffuses his love affair with Fanny Brawne – a love thwarted not due to illness, but to a pernicious web of money worries, social scruples and irrelevant male loyalties.

Campion brings to this story an unfashionable, unapologetic reverence for romance and romantic love, and she responds to Keats's life and work with intelligence and grace. Any movie about a romantic poet has to be careful how glowingly it depicts the great outdoors but this film looks unselfconsciously beautiful, and Campion and her cinematographer Greig Fraser never harangue the audience with their images. Poets, like musicians, need silence above all, and much of the film is played out in a deeply quiet calm.

I've always thought the story of Keats's life, particularly the anguished and beautiful story of his love for Fanny Brawne, would make an excellent movie. Jane Campion sounds like just the director to do it, and by all accounts it's a stunning film. You watch a few clips here; the cinematography actually carries the same lush, rich, luxuriant but sensitive atmosphere as a Keats poem. I can't wait.

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