Saturday, January 07, 2006

Bulworth breaks through

Halle Berry, the woman I love, in Bulworth

Last night a film on one of the commercials managed to grab my attention. Warren Beatty played the eponymous hero, Senator Jay Billington Bulworth, in a satire directed by himself. Bulworth is a veteran Democrat, but a conservative one, or seemingly so to judge from the television speeches and ads – it’s election time – we observe at the outset, in which welfare cuts and the elimination of affirmative action programs are touted.

However, it turns out that Bulworth is profoundly depressed, presumably at least partly because the views he espouses to get re-elected aren’t really his own. He contacts a hit-man and puts a contract out on his own life.

So, released from earthly cares he ‘cuts loose’, speaking his mind while wolfing down the free lunches at various speaking engagements organised by his increasingly anxious minders. Much of this is quite funny, and there are some telling observations (echoed by Paul Krugman in his The Great Unravelling, which I’ve recently read), such as that the real reason ‘privatisation’ is so profitable compared to public ownership, for example in health insurance, is that private companies decide to keep 24c in the dollar of premiums paid, compared to 3c in the dollar for government health schemes. Don’t know if it’s true but it sounds convincing. And more of the same is served up, on corporate media ownership and the lameness of the press, on campaign funding, on the real importance of the black vote and such-like.

From his first speech in a black church, a group of young black women hook up with him, and somehow osmotically transform him, by the end of the film, into a white black dude, complete with classy yank wide boy clobber, an obsessive interest in mother-fucking and those endearing hand gestures that drive women as insane as they do me.

Released just as the 2000 presidential campaign was hotting up, it’s a film with even greater relevance after five years of GOP hegemony. And where it’s self-indulgent, it’s forgiveable to a mid-life-crisis-ridden-wannabe-libertine male like me. I mean, I’ve never seen Halle Berry in a film before, but she was totally rivetting here (but it must be said that she conforms to a certain pattern of successful black actresses who look and sound more white than the blacks around her – she was apparently raised by her single white mother), and her machine-gun speech on the reason for a lack of contemporary black leadership was as delicious as her dirty dancing. A worthy late-night distraction.



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