Tom McCormack on “Dziga Amuck: Daffy Duck and the French New Wave’s Marxist Spaghetti Western”

the wind from the east

 

Interesting piece by Tom McCormack of The L Magazine titled “Dziga Amuck: Daffy Duck and the French New Wave’s Marxist Spaghetti Western”

Wind from the East is, like Amuck, Farberian, Brechtian and Greenbergian, by turns. Writing in the New York Times when the film had its stateside premiere, critic Vincent Canby summed up the movie’s disorienting formal strategies by writing that “consequences precede actions and effects give birth to their causes.”

Wind was made as Godard and Jean-Pierre Gorin were still riding their high from May ’68, and the idea for the film was given by a leading light of ’68, Daniel Cohn-Bendit. Cohn-Bendit’s original concept was more of a standard Western—accounts make it sound something like High Noon for hardcore Althusserians. What Godard and Gorin ended up making is rivaled in its genre revisionism only by Andy Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys. Stunning tableaus are set to didactic pontifications regarding the nature of class struggle. Anne Wiazemsky, Godard’s wife, an actor in the film, and the one who got Godard and Gorin in touch with Cohn-Bendit, had reservations about Wind’s political efficacy. Viewers today might feel something similar—one can almost laugh when the voice-over declares, “don’t represent the problem abstractly,” since that seems to be precisely what the film is doing.

But it’s become easy, and fashionable, to dismiss this era of Godard and Gorin’s work. They were, after all, plotting a revolution that never came about. But one should keep in mind that their revolutionary antics were inspired by the tidal events of ’68, and Wind is really an attempt to make sense of and come to terms with that very real and very concrete instance of workers’ unrest and bourgeois resentment. In that sense, the film might still be very relevant. In an age when Sarah Palin can hijack the rhetoric of solidarity to perversely say that “We are all Arizonans”—when she’s actually talking about the exact opposite of that sentiment—it could be a balm to remember the signs that were carried around during May ’68: “We are all undesirables,” “We are all German Jews.”

I have to admit that I HATE Wind from the East. In fact, I consider it to bad exploitation cinema for late 1960s, quasi-intellectual Utopians. It is full of garbled Marxist platitudes, lacks any sort of coherent flow, and its inversions of the western are unimaginative and obvious . . .  lets just say that Sergio Corbucci (at his best, 1966-1968) turns out to be a more brilliant filmmaker than Godard. But its greatest sin is how it exposes its actors and director. The film is exactly what it looks like: a group of pretentious, preaching, prancing youth out for a picnic. Compared with A Bullet For The General, this is self-indulgent child’s play. In other words, this movie insulted me. I have watched all of Demofilo Fidani’s, Gianni Crea’s, and Franco Lattanzi’s films and not felt insulted . . . both those directors and the audience (in this case, me) know what these movies are all about. Being bad is alright. Being pretentious and bad is not. Eventually, I will review the film on the podcast. As of now, I would give it a rating of 2 of 10.

 

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