Hollywood’s Newest Age of Liberal Cinema

John Powers writes about the ‘Liberal Cinema’ of 2005, and puts up good numbers:

D.H. Lawrence famously said, “Never trust the artist. Trust the tale.” Reading Steven Spielberg’s platitudinous ruminations on cycles of violence and the need for warring parties to negotiate, you’d never guess that his political-vengeance thriller isn’t just exciting but perceptive — fraught with a stinging sense of tragedy: In knocking off the Palestinians behind the Munich Olympics massacre, the Mossad hit team feels it’s doing what’s necessary, even as its members are morally coarsened by their bloodletting and increasingly doubtful that they’ve made Israelis any safer. Predictably, the movie has been bombarded by complaints that Spielberg lacks a sense of evil (because he allows Palestinian terrorists to have reasons for their unconscionable deeds), and that he creates a moral equivalence between Palestinian and Israeli killing (in fact, we see the action through the eyes of a morally sensitive Israeli Jew). Such criticisms imply that the movie is somehow hostile to Israel, which would have viewers roaring with bitter laughter in, oh, Jenin. If Spielberg really wanted to go after Israel, he would’ve called the film Qibya and begun in 1953 with Ariel Sharon’s Unit 101 slaughtering dozens of innocent Palestinian villagers in a government-sanctioned mission that called for “maximum killing.”

The New World.
Terrence Malick’s movie is now 20 minutes shorter than the version I saw (keep cuttin’, dude!), and aside from the mortifying bits — all that romping in the grass — it captures with unmatched audacity the breathtaking encounter of Europeans and Native Americans, two radically alien civilizations. While Malick’s eye remains fresh, his thinking can be a bit musty. Time has come for artists to stop using women (in this case, an admirably complex Pocahontas) as symbols for entire continents, especially those that lose their imagined innocence to the presumably priapic West.