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Saturday, April 21, 2012


     russell crowe and al pacino

Saw a 1999 film today, Russell Crowe and Al Pacino, THE INSIDER. Straight-forward simple story so complex it took 2.5 hours to tell it. It wrung my guts dry. The drama amounts to a man faced with the only way forward is to bottom out (from near the top), ride the momentum of loss until nothing is left, and hit reset. Pacino played a slick-dick fast-talker from the tv show 60 Minutes, whose job was to convince people it's to their benefit to wreck their lives on national tv. Crowe is fired from his job as next in line to the CEO of Brown and Williamson tobacco corporation. Simultaneously, he is seduced by Pacino's character to go on 60 Minutes and blow the whistle, challenge the tobacco corporations that had so much money they even ruled the tv networks. He has a confidentiality agreement to honor, but the Corp threatens him a little too far and gets a little too mafiosi with him. He loses wife, house, kids, him a man who identified with money. When he lost his money, the people attached to him fell away---he lost his magnetic appeal.

The story itself is another whistleblower event beset by corporate power, life threatened, destroyed, sometimes ends up dead, stories that illustrate corporate power in our world and the corporate indifference to all but money. Like yakuza and mafia, step out of line with them and you're in for it. Surviving a yakuza assault on one's life makes a good Japanese adventure film, guns and black cars galore. I found that I identified with the Russell Crowe character at the very beginning. Kind of like when I watch a football game on tv. In just a minute or two I know which team I pull for. I don't have a conscious reason for one over the other. I let the "subconscious" decide. I just pay attention to which team I find myself leaning toward. I leaned toward Crowe's character right away. He was assaulted by all the reasons I have held all my life to refusal to be subject to corporate hierarchy. Corporations promote the worst music and produce the worst movies, and are the mind of television. Another reason I stay away from television, I don't want corporate-think in my head. I especially don't want it becoming my way of life. It's hard enough living in a culture of people who live television (corporate) culture.

I liked Crowe's penetrating and fast intelligence. I began to see early on that when he was threatened he did what I do, a martial arts technique called "hunt the snakes." When somebody comes at me in an aggressive way, I say to myself, "hunt the snakes." That is telling myself to stand my ground and turn the momentum of the aggression away from me around to the one projecting it. It's based in the principle that when something or somebody starts chasing you, you turn on them and charge them. One hundred percent of the time the other will turn and run. Dog, human, what have you, it works. It works physically and it works mentally. It's a good kata to use mentally to avoid the physical. The martial arts are not about fighting. They are about avoiding fighting. You have the knowledge that you can easily kill a challenger with just a finger. Turning on hunt the snakes mentally, the one challenging turns and exits. Like you're walking down a dirt road and a dog comes running at you. You run toward the dog and the dog will turn and run.

Whenever someone attempted to back Crowe into a corner, he came out hunting the snakes. The first time he was trapped like that, my automatic thought was hunt the snakes. And he did. It told me the script writer understood the philosophy of the martial arts. I came to see the film as a martial arts sparring match with about everyone around him. In every case he refused to let the other corner him, coming out every time making the other back away. It seemed like that was the flow of film, periods of aggression thrown into his face that he turned into a mental sparring match with the opponent. It may not be said he ever won any of the mind matches, but he didn't lose any. He was able to block a mental kick and turn it to a chance to kick opponent. He was a kind of Steven Seagal character in a mental way instead of physical. He is attacked by several opponents through the course of the story, and prevails at the end. He did it all playing hunt the snakes in martial arts combat---even though the martial arts are not about fighting and cop training. Crowe had as many sparring matches in the course of this film, Insider, as Seagal has in the course of his films. One was mental, the other physical.

That was the part I liked most about the film. The part that wrung me up in knots was the pressure from Pacino, who is telling him to please ruin his life, it would make a great 60 Minutes show. Crowe doesn't want to listen, doesn't want to play the game, wants to honor his agreements. Pacino keeps at him and keeps at him to the point I came to have serious resentment feelings toward Pacino's character, telling him to shut up, leave the man alone. I was feeling Crowe's tension with people around him making absolute demands of him all the way through the story. I respected him every step of the way, hanging onto his integrity and self-respect while everything else was being taken from him. He couldn't stop externals from being taken away, but nobody got inside him. By the end of the story, it comes down to his integrity and self-respect, and he prevails. The film is an action movie of the mind that takes place in upper-middle class living rooms, office spaces, cars, much of it over cell phones and land line. The picture above illustrates the action in the film. It was very much like a beautifully made kung-fu movie like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The Insider was an American corporate story of mental sparrings, the sort Jet Li and Jackie Chan do physically.


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