Friday, July 15, 2011

Warren Beatty films

Recently I started paying closer attention to the artistic output of Warren Beatty. Either as actor or actor-director his movies seem to share a common theme - theme of the spiritual aspect of man's involvement in the world. In particular I am thinking here about "McCabe and Mrs Miller" and "Bulworth", partly also considering the "Reds" about the American journalist, Jack Reed, who got to play a part in the Bolshevik revolution. The main character in the film "Bulworth" is a US senator planning to unconventionally end his career. In "McCabe and Mrs Miller" Beatty's character, McCabe, is a young Western entrepreneur in Washington state of 1890-1900. "Bulworth" was directed by Beatty himself while the other film, made in 1971, is the work of Robert Altman.

In his story McCabe is a entrepreneur building an entertainment complex, complete with a whorehouse, in a city in the rainy Washington rockies to serve the needs of miners and loggers populating the area. He has some money to invest and gets to own a good portion of land in a good location. He is a danger to the interests of local established businessmen who are envious of his boldness and repeat rumors that he is a dangerous gunfighter who has killed a man and ought to be pursued by the law. McCabe receives overtures from a large company to buy out his land and investments - an offer that turns into a threat. He of course turns down the offer made by well-mannered representatives of a large East-Coast company in a unrefined manner of an uneducated man, while he still feels his right to pursue his life and his initiatives. His business is a great success, he gains a woman and a partner, Mrs Miller, who brings with her a number of prostitutes from Seattle and directs the operation very well. However, the threats against McCabe materialize in dangerous. He talks to a lawyer in a larger city nearby, a lawyer with political aspirations, who assures him that he, McCabe, is in the right, but also says that in the end no-one with stand with him to defend his rights. Despite all of that McCabe feels greatly inspired in his life - this is in the scene when he mutters to himself - "I got poetry in me" - him, an uneducated man. But the situation develops in an ominous way. The shady characters in town decide to follow their plan to kill him. At this point even Mrs Miller, who normally shares his bed, is gone missing. With all his "poetry in him" he fights his pursuers valiantly - but succumbs and dies alone, wounded and freezing in the snow.

The other story is of Senator Bulworth, a man who has been in office for a while and has served the interest of big corporations by skewing the laws to their advantage and getting contributions, gifts and sweet deals. At this point he is disgusted with himself and plans an exit. He wants to die. He pays some people to gets himself assassinated while getting an insurance company pay a life insurance benefit to his daughter. He also is planning to act rightfully as a politician and against the insurance industry doing what he believes is right and passing a clause in a law that mandates selling insurance to the underclass. Once the plan is set in motion he is free - he spends a weekend of freedom giving speeches explaining what he really thinks and getting in return applause and admiration. He becomes newly alive being truthful to the people around him and to himself even though he comes to and over the edge of insult. Now Sen. Bulworth desperately wants to cancel his assassination. This becomes quite comical and he tries to avoid his attackers by going into hiding among black people of the underclass. It turns out that his assassin's helper was actually the black girl who befriended him and was now helping him hide. She had stopped the plan's execution because of an odd feeling about Bulworth. She was strangely attracted to him because he appeared to be a man standing in his truth. When this is revealed along with other comical aspects of the killers being underpaid, assassination is miraculously canceled and Bulworth rides to a peak of popularity and approval and appears to have huge chances as political candidate of truth. With the hot girl at his side (Halle Berry) he triumphantly rides a limo in the spotlight and cameras. And at that moment a bullet strikes him down. This time organized unfailingly by the insurance industry he has double-crossed.

These two films of course share a common theme. That a man's mission is to bring his truth into the world. That is what brings out the best in him. For many it will be something great, for some mediocre, for some despicable and punishable by law. But each of us has to bring it out. Each of us has to risk life for our truth, perhaps meet death but probably just rejection.