Tuesday, 15 January 2013

A Letter to Elia: Scorsese’s tribute to Kazan

Above is clip from A Letter to Elia, Martin Scorsese’s tribute to Greek-American film-maker Elia Kazan, most known for Panic in the Streets, Viva Zapata!, On the Waterfront, East of Eden and America, America; the latter being a reincarnation of his family’s journey from Anatolia to America, a journey that Kazan mythologises as one taken from slavery to freedom. Kazan’s espousal of this central myth of America, that it is a land of liberty and progress whereas the ‘Old World’ is a place of oppression stifled by tradition, is problematic and, in his work, only really affects America, America and, I suppose, to some extent, On the Waterfront; and, indeed, it’s difficult to know the degree to which Kazan believed in American ideology – in the documentary Kazan says criticism of America makes him ‘bristle’ – or whether he adopted it in order to justify, to himself as much as anyone else, his notorious decision to name names during the McCarthy communist witch hunts. For all its noisy championing of individual liberty, America places a higher value than Europe on conformism and a lesser one on dissidence and radical critique, which you would have thought a country as weird and destructive as America badly needs, especially from its thinking film-makers. 

See entire film here.


Hermes said...

Given what we know of Communism and Stalinism today, his decision to name names was entirely justified. Although, his love of America is problematic. Also, his best work was done after the McCarthy trials suggesting it boosted his creativity.

It is sad that the Greek film industry has had to suffer under the Left wing autocracy that Kazanjoglou warned us about for the last 35 years. Let's hope that things improve from here on. The death of the tyrant Angelopoulos might also help people find their true voices again.

John Akritas said...

I don't have a problem with Kazan naming names; it's his view that America = freedom and the Old World = slavery that bothers me. It's a theme that permeates America, America, which otherwise I like a lot.