Sunday, 26 April 2009

Il Divo

About four years ago, I watched director Paolo Sorrentino's "Consequences of Love". A cool, stylised Italian film it was; magnetic, intelligent. How about this for an opening sequence?

Or how about this scene for cinematic inspiration? You don't even need subtitles.

Two weeks ago I went to see Sorrentino's latest: "Il Divo". It won the 2008 Cannes Jury prize.

The movie is about the real character of Giulio Andreotti, who was prime minister of Italy three seven times, 1992 being the last year he was so. Andreotti is reputed to have had links with the Mafia, but despite numerous investigations in Italy, nothing has been proved, and he has been acquitted time and again. He is alive - 90 years old.

The film is a stylish, funny, energetic film about a man whose entire attitude to life seems to be tight-lipped, sardonic, wily. Andreotti is a shrewd man with a quick mind who seems to have studied his acquaintances, his peers very carefully. His every move is a chess move, designed to take advantage.

The film does a terrific job of mocking the man and the whole enterprise of power. Framing certain scenes in funny ways, ridicules the situation and the characters very effectively, without getting them to say ridiculous things.

I enjoyed it thoroughly.

An examination of his daily routines, that often started at 4am and involved a deep relationship with the Church.

The scene which depicts his supposed meeting with mafia bosses, an event never proven. Notice the subversion of the whole thing.

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Saturday, 18 April 2009

Letter to the Egyptian People

Egyptians love this poem. It's just perfect in Arabic, and it's an utter misrepresentation in English, but its message bears spreading. This is my quick translation.

From: Hosni Mubarak
To: The Egyptian People

Dearest people, dearest soulmates, dear babes, dear good, nice people that I carry in my pocket

My people, you smart-alecs, you empty-talkers, you who live in graveyards, patient and fine

You who eat anything, you impoverished worriers, you carriers of mountains

My people, you who sleep, who are lost in thought, who daydream, who drift, poor, and whose state is in a state

I love you just the way you are: drugged, happied-out, in-denial, dizzy and dizzied, in the clouds

I like you not-sweating-it, anodyne, compliant and deferential

I like those among you who are crooked, those who lie, those who are fraudulent and steal fortunes

I love those who see, who know, who fear, who say nothing, and keep mum

I love those who shut their eyes, the fools, the idiots, the jackasses

I love those who are content, who do nothing, those who 'just want to raise my kids'

I love those who've lost hope, those who're sad, those who're depressed, to whom everything is impossible

I like it when you travel, when you're distant, migrant, when you transfer your dollars and riyals

I like you drumming, yelling, clowning, for a football match, a film, or a column

I like it when you support, kiss-hand, flatter, concur, pretend, and lick-shoe

But when you think, plan, decide, engage, and open debate

When you trouble, make trouble, provoke issues, or ask questions

And when you want to enlighten, to develop, to make yourself special

Then, oh then, I will get you, never leave you, and I will make of you an example, a lesson

I will throw you around, humiliate your folk, and make your pain beyond tolerance

I will drag your distinguished self, disgrace you, respected sire, and shrink your withered honour

You'll get slammed a court case, be dead weight, and for the rest of your life, you'll live in isolation

So, dearest, if you accept, I will love you, if not, I'll slap you down, and whether you rise or you fall, you'll get my Gamal.

[Gamal is the president's son]

* By Ahmed Fouad Negm

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Friday, 10 April 2009

Obama's bow

In the Arab world, leaders greet each other with exaggerated gestures of affection all the time - and it means nothing. A leader will bow to another, a leader will kiss the forehead of another, etc. The late president Arafat was the best of them, he once kissed the Sultan of Oman nine times - pretty much everywhere on his face.

But it means nothing. If anything, I think Obama's bow (if it was a bow) shows a shrewd operator who knows how to win people over. Obama has out-Arab'ed the Arabs.

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