Just finished viewing, for the umpteenth time, one of my favorite films, Chinatown ( 1973 ), directed by Roman Polanski and starring Jack Nicholson. At the end of the film, when the bad guy, played by John Huston, gets away with his criminal shenanigans, it made me ponder a bit. I thought back to another of Polanski’s classics, Rosemary’s Baby ( 1968). Sure as hell, at the end of that film the bad guys, the Satan worshippers ( and of course the devil himself) get away with their evil deeds. Then I continued to ponder another of his films, Ghost Writer ( 2010) and wallah, the evil ones get away with their deeds as well. Now in all of these films there were diligent heroes who took the time to investigate whatever hunches they had, all to no end. So, the old adage of ‘ Evil triumphs when good men do nothing’ just did not fit, because too many ‘ good men’ just couldn’t give a shit!
Why would Polanski choose to take on three such storylines? Well, I wish I could interview him for my radio show, but for creative license allow me to extrapolate a bit. In all three scenarios it seems that the ‘ forces of evil’ were so powerful ( in one case the devil himself) and had so many minions serving their interests, that truth alone was held hostage. The ‘ bad guys ‘ always get away with it! Sad but true. Yet, and this is the painful and obvious truth: if the ‘ bad guys ‘ did not have so many minions working for their interests, then perhaps the ‘ good guys’ would triumph. (The question then is whether humans truly enjoy free moral will, as Catholic doctrine claims, or the whole thing is an illusion, or just a pre-ordained script in which good and evil play their eternal games using us as their mindless chess pieces…but that’s another story.)
Screenplays as metaphors
In Rosemary’s Baby it was ‘ cut and dry’ that not enough of the public at large was awake to such a diabolical threat. After all, how many of our fellows out there would even contemplate the existence of the devil? Remember the old saying ‘ The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.’ ? Nuff said on that. However, in the case of Polanski’s next film on this subject, Chinatown, the uber rich guy, Noah Cross, had so many connections, and so many minions in his employ, that his evil deed went unpunished. At the end of the film, when JJ Gettes, played by Nicholson, is shouting to the cops about what Noah Cross has been conniving as to the city’s precious water supply, they turn a deaf ear. His partner says to him ‘ Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown!’ Finally, in Polanski’s powerful third film in this trilogy about evil, Ghost Writer, the hired ghost writer to a former British PM does his homework and discovers the evil of our Military Industrial Empire. He connects the USA’s Deep State in manipulating the Brits in our quest to control the Middle East with our illegal invasion of Iraq etc. The film ends with him, as he is about to publicize this whole can of worms, being run over and killed in the street.
Was Polanski just cynical to a tee, or maybe too honest? I choose both possibilities. To this writer, the real gist of it all is not so much the presence of evil doers. No, the real skinny of this is the legion of devil’s disciples who serve “Him” so well. Remember, that in the late 1930s, when many here in the US knew of the horrific treatment of the Jews in Germany , only 9% of people polled thought that we should let the refugees into our country. Or better yet, watch this administration and Congress in action. The minions are working so well to serve this evil empire. How many in both the Congress and the mainstream media stood in line like good lemmings and supported our pre-emptive ( and illegal and immoral ) attack and occupation of Iraq? Fact is always being skewed into half truths and fabrications for the suckers… sorry, the public, to ingest. As with the public in all three of Polanski’s films, the cloud of obliviousness seeps down. Reminds one of the old Twilight Zone episode ‘ To Serve Man’ , when the myriad of good folks are on line to get into the spaceship with their new alien friends. This guy runs up to the main character and says ‘ I finally was able to figure out the real meaning of their book ‘ To Serve Man’… It’s a cookbook!’
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