Film Reviews

Woman in Gold (Two Americas; Tvy Österriechen)

You don’t have to watch The Woman in Gold (2015) with Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds to understand what I’m about to expound upon, but you should by all means check out this wonderful film which perhaps lets a few things kick around that it did not intend. The film is not riddled with under lying symbolic meaning or symbolism. Maria Altmann, the daughter of a wealthy Jewish businessman, fled Austria after the Anschluss in 1938 leaving behind most of her family and all of her family’s possessions. Her family that stayed was murdered and all her family’s property was either stolen or destroyed. Her aunt’s necklace found its way to Hermann Goering’s wife. The painting of the same aunt, Adele, was stolen by the NAZIs and after the war given to the Belvedere, the Austrian State’s national art gallery in Vienna. The film is about how Maria and her lawyer, Randol Shoenberg, fought a seven year battle to get five paintings, including the portrait of Adele, back. There’s tons of more detail that I’m not going to get into because I don’t want to focus on the plot.

            Instead this is about the exceptional screenwriting talents of Alexi Kaye Campbell, a Greek immigrant who has more acting credits that writing experience, and Brit director Simon Curtis who kick started a very distinguished TV career by directing Kenneth Brannagh and Michelle Williams in the outstanding My Week With Marilyn (2011). The script is normally the only thing that a film has unless it’s director and stars can save it, but when you have a good one it can still be sabotaged by bad directing even if you have great actors. Campbell and Curtis nailed the underlying issue of the problem of the Woman in Gold – A Portrait of Adele in three scenes describing the two existing Austrias. One was no longer a part of the NAZI past, but still saddled with it. The other was a younger generation of Austrians who saw the only way forward in their society was to recognize Austrian complicity in the Holocaust. These two Austrias are still at war and will be so for a very long time. The art world, despite being Bohemian, is extremely conservative. A hundred million dollars tends to do that to even the most ardent liberals.  Austria was fought to keep up the Woman in Gold because they saw the Klimt painting as something that exemplified them: it showed the world who they were as a cultured society. Instead what it really conveyed to the world was a society that was okay with keeping the property of murdered Jews. The audience can understand how young Austrians want to be proud of their country and feel the restitution issue is important to them for that purpose. I understand how Austrians feel and I have every faith that they can replace their bloody symbols with more nurturing works of art that were not taken in the middle of the night at gunpoint. I understand how Austrians feel divided because I am an American, and I feel divided.

            This is not about Native Americans or Antebellum Slavery or segregation or any of that, though that discussion has it’s place. I cannot deny those things happened but I do deny that my country is not a great country because of those things occurred. They are horrible, were done by horrible people, and we enrich our culture and the future of our nation by righting those wrongs.  No, this is about right now. I feel that there is a side of America which is okay with racism, okay with sexism, okay with xenophobia and misogyny and the hatred of gay people because they label criticism of their discrimination as ‘political correctness.’ There is an America that wants to return not to the 1950’s, which is an insult, but to the 1930’s, when no law in the land, despite the most liberal president in our history, could stop the lynching of a black man or a Jew, the murder of a poor child, the rape of a woman if she were married. There is a side of America that is okay with this. They’re okay with it and when you criticism them for it they say ‘oh, you’re just being politically correct.’

I am a life-long Republican. I went to college in the ‘90’s, which was not easy, at a liberal school who worshipped the ground Bill Clinton walked on…and it disgusted me. Suddenly it was fine to lie to federal grand juries, deceive federal judges, to sexually harass any woman you want… so long as you were a Democrat. So long as you were a liberal. So long as you were politically correct. So long as you were Bill Clinton and you were not Clarence Thomas. I aligned myself with a party that declared ‘character is important in choosing our leaders’ and whenever I was challenged on this by a liberal Democrat I always retorted with ‘then why isn’t Ted Kennedy President?’ Character mattered then, and I thought I belonged among a political consciousness that respected that. Boy, I was wrong.

            I see at least half of the Republican Party today say they don’t like Donald Trump, then they meet with him and endorse him. I see them say they think he’s bad for the party and then they make backroom deals to promote his candidacy ‘for the good of the party.’ I see intellectuals, very smart people, people I know personally, people I respect shake their heads and say ‘well, he’s better than Hillary.”

            What fucking nation are you living in?

            I hate Hillary Clinton. I think she’s slime. I think she’s in the Saudi’s pockets, she promotes the pharmaceuticals, she sat on the board at Wal-Mart for a decade. I think it’s a god damn travesty that she is going to be elected President this November – and she will be – but she will deserve it because most of America does not understand the sexist, racist, jingoistic, and xenophobic bullshit of Donald Trump or the party that shrugs and says ‘well, at least he’s not Hillary.’ If you think that way, if you rather have Donald Trump over Hillary, than you deserve Hillary, because you’re voting for her.

Much like the Austrians were not willing to let go of century old painting “just because the NAZIs stole it” there are millions of Americans not willing to budge on their ‘conservative’ views “just because deep down I hate blacks, Jews, Mexicans and women.” There’s two Americas, here, and unfortunately half of the Republican party, who has Latino friends but honestly thinks border security is a serious issue, is going get fucked. Half of the Republican party, which is under the age of 45 and have wives that work and daughters who need futures, are going to get fucked. Half of the Republican party is being told ‘vote for Trump, asshole, or you’re not a conservative.’

            Well fuck you, and fuck the GOP. I’m not voting for Trump. I’m not voting for a sexist, misogynist asshole who jokes about menstruation, calls Latinos murderers and rapists, calls women fat and ugly, and when you say “hey, dickhead, that’s over the line,” the reaction from him and his supporters is “oh, well you’re just politically correct.” Oh…because I don’t think you should pigeonhole all Latinos as murderers I’m politically correct? Because I don’t think it’s okay to make fun of menstruation I’m politically correct? Society is moving to the left, whether you like it or not. You can vote for a party that can moderate that shift by protecting the Second Amendment and securing our borders, or you can let it slide to Bernie Sandersville, who will make this country look not like Canada, but like the Soviet fucking Union in 1965. And if you want it to look like that, with rich people turning in their passports and businessmen fleeing to Cuba to escape the madness, bread lines and 50% income tax, then go right ahead and vote for Trump. All you’re doing is destroying the organized resistance against (not socialism, but) Communism. And you’re doing it because you think that someone who talks like Trump, has an outlook on life like Trump, is someone you think represents this country’s future. If you think that you’re fucked in the head. And I will not be voting for a party or a party’s candidate who thinks that way.

            For my entire academic career I was told by many people who know more than me that Austria was much worse than Germany. That Austrians passed the buck to the Germans, kept their distance and shrugged. “Ah, well, you know, we weren’t Germany. They invaded us, you know.” Right, and just like millions of Germans did NOTHING, millions of Austrians just NOTHING either. And I can’t believe I’m saying this but I think I’d rather live in Austria right now. They seem to reject fascist values in favor of recognizing wrongs and moving on. But I can’t say that about the Republican Party. I can’t say that about a group of people who choose someone like Trump or even if they didn’t vote for him, shrug and do NOTHING. Millions of Austrians made a decision on what kind of country they want to be. Millions of Americans make this same decision every four years. These collective decisions are going to lead to the complete destruction of conservative opposition and another seven decades of Democratic rule and all we can hope for is the party to break into wings like it did under FDR. All we can hope for is a wing of the party to stand up to the sinister shadows of the extreme left. All we can hope for is for Democrats to be more libertarian than the Republicans they replaced. Way to go, GOP. I guess that’s the best you can do.