January 11, 2001
Raw, rough and remarkable - THE COMMENTARY
By Joseph Planta
A bit of housekeeping before the main Commentary. As I type at deadline, it’s been learned right across the country that Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard will announce his resignation this morning and at the same time step down as leader of the embattled Parti Quebecois. As this story is developing and I’m running on mere speculation and unconfirmed television reports, I’m going on a limb and say that as much as the press and politicians will blame it on his government’s poor showing, it probably has more to do with personal matters rather than political. One year ago, exactly around this time, in a column I had written, I documented Allan Fotheringham’s prediction that Bouchard would be gone by June 2000. Well, Dr. Foth was a bit off, but the reason he gave was that his young, American wife Audrey Best has been against Bouchard being in politics. So much so that she and their two sons live in California parts of the year. This will certainly deliver a blow to the separatist cause and coupled with the lackluster showing of the Bloc in the last election - all the more indication that separatist fervour is (as Trudeau used in another situation) going out with a whimper rather than a bang. The implications however of the cessation of a major separatist force will further exacerbate the status quo, which in frank actuality will be detrimental to the nation as the federal Liberals will claim it was their doing and that the nation’s unity is no longer an issue
I’m sorry to see M. Bouchard go. He’s a good politician and one that amid the controversy has taken up a cause that was the “destiny” for many of his constituents. (As an aside, I happened to receive a Christmas card from his office... for whatever it’s worth.)
Regarding Monday’s column on Finding Forrester, Brian Nguyen, a reader, writes in asking me to go in-depth as to how the movie (according to me) provided lessons in literature and life. I guess he’s seen the movie and begs to disagree. However in the interest of answering his question, I was struck by the relationship portrayed by Sean Connery and the young Rob Brown. From a prose standpoint, it is neat to see a neophyte learn from a pro. On a more deeper level, Connery provides a performance that shows a writer casting writing away as he’s sick and tired of people interpreting his work. In this case it’s a masterful book that is heaped praise and at the same time dissected by academia. Forrester wanted nothing of that and after writing one book he stopped. We see the emotion he has for writing and the passion once prevalent, has now become stifled and cranky. The arrival of the young lad opened up that passion, if not old wounds.
As with life, most movies are about life. This film spoke to me about young and old meeting up and the magic that that can incur on the human spirit. It also portrayed how fundamentally wrong the mantra ‘time heals everything,’ is. It does not. One puts stuff on the back burner and eventually it will return to spurn you. Hopefully that clears it up, Dr. B.
VANCOUVER -- United States Senator Orrin Hatch recently had to fend off criticism for his appearance in Steven Soderbergh’s latest picture, Traffic. The senior Senator from the state of Utah appears in a cameo in the movie and even with frequent displays of violence and drug use, he said he agreed to appear in the film because of its anti-drug message. I guess at its core there is that underlying message telling those to simply “Say No.” Yet, at face value Traffic is chock full of images of the free-basing of cocaine and other illicit drug tendencies.
Steven Soderbergh’s films have a quality that is matched by no other. He takes from an intricate story to craft a panorama of images that are both raw and emotional. Based on an Brit miniseries of a decade’s prior, Traffic puts four stories that have all to do with drugs. The unacceptability of drugs is drawn in the Michael Douglas portion as he crusades against the proliferation of drugs in American society. Plucked from a state supreme court, he is tapped America’s drug czar. His task is to crack down on the illegal trafficking of dope from America’s neighbour to the south, Mexico. There we are treated to the Benicio Del Toro portion of the film. His story is an integral part as throughout the film Mexico is portrayed as the perpetrator of drugs in American society. Del Toro is a vigilante type cop who wants to stamp out drugs. Whatever it may be for, ego or whatever, he succeeds. Del Toro, who is superb, plays his character with the machismo that is regarded as normal for those characters south of the border.
In another story, Catherine Zeta-Jones plays a San Diego socialite whose husband is picked up at their home by the DEA. It seems their financially secure life has been supported by the trafficking of drugs. Little did she know. She’s sort of the emotional female character that shakes emotion out of the cold, dark world of illegal activity. She succeeds masterfully and we soon see a woman with no alternative but to get involved for no other reason than the upkeep of the life she’s grown accustomed to. All with her balls and the lawyer Dennis Quaid’s elan.
The fourth storyline revolves around Michael Douglas’ daughter. Successful at scholarship, she begins experimenting in cocaine and other corruption’s. It provides a difficulty for father Douglas, as he is also the United States’ drug czar. He muddles through and he sees first hand the reality he is summoned to Washington to beat -- drugs. It’s a war on drugs and he’s fighting it on a national level, yet encountering it so close to home. Dramatic sparks in Douglas’s performance.
These stories are weaved ever so well through Soderbergh’s direction. Like previous outings, The Limey, Sex, Lies and Videotape and Out of Sight, Traffic benefits from sharp editing and the rough cinematography that the director employs. The cinematography, as a digression, is worth noting as much mood is derived from it. The hot and humid Mexico has it’s own feel, as do shots of Georgetown and the autocratic abodes of Douglas’ elitist character.
The stories end and while not to spoil those conclusions, the film is a remarkable and frank view of drugs and the degree to which mere substances and affect the lives it draws. Shot with raw emotion, Traffic tugs at your gut bearing witness to an incomprehensible and futile war. Traffic is winning raves from critics everywhere and is making the rounds of many a ‘top ten’ lists as one of the best films of 2000. It deserves the attention and certainly deserves a look.
Questions and comments may be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
An archive of Joseph Planta's previous columns can be found by clicking HERE .