Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 27, 2020


Filed under: Black nationalism,Counterpunch,Film — louisproyect @ 3:57 pm


With striking parallels to the story Aaron Sorkin told—very problematically—in “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Steve McQueen’s “Mangrove” brings to life a much more obscure historical struggle against judicial injustice. This is the first in a series of five films McQueen made for the BBC about Black life in England. The Mangrove was a restaurant Trinidad immigrant Frank Crichlow opened in Notting Hill in west London in 1968, home to many other Caribbean immigrants who took advantage of coming from a former colony to start a new life. With no other aspirations except to serve up curry dishes and a congenial social gathering for fellow Blacks, Crichlow soon found the British cops bent on destroying his business and making life miserable for people of color. McQueen dedicated the film to George Floyd in open recognition of the black struggle internationally.

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  1. “For reasons I don’t quite understand, McQueen seems to identify drama with violent conflict.”

    Louis: Criticism is subjective. You are entitled to yours. But mine tells me not to go along with dubbing any of Steve McQueen’s work as “sadistic porn”. I understand his thinking like this. The entertainment industry has never stopped assaulting us with pointless violence and suffering. But we don’t feel it as our suffering or violence done to us. We are inured to it. Nobody really bleeds. We tend to see the cases pictured, the plunge of a knife or a multiple car crash, as clichés of storytelling. A character filled with bullets suffers no more than the dismemberment of a cartoon mouse. How to make viewers feel the pain? McQueen piles it on. Now we know that he will never succeed entirely. Film is film, not flesh and blood. But his attempt is sincere and honorable.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — November 28, 2020 @ 9:45 am

  2. Spot on review. I watched it last night (BBC I Player) and when I was talking to my sister on the phone a few hours ago. I said to her that it was a lot better than the The Trial of the Chicago 7, camera, shots, denser context and focus, the words, (bastard, nobody in the UK uses the ‘N’ word unless they are imitating the US) not to mention the politics. McQueen has produced a truly great film.

    But piling it on?

    My sister said she had not seen it yet. But she then said, she had been looking recently at photos from our old Primary school, just next to the North Circular in North London. She would have been there till a couple of years before the time of Mangrove, me, four years before. She said that she had been struck by how many of her fellow pupils were black.

    We were totally unware of the Notting Hill world. We knew about racism, used to have fights with the fash from my secondary school onwards. and no doubt black – Caribbean – people would have their different say. But believe me, the world of the Mangrove was remote from North London, Tottenham, Haringey Wood Green, onwards.

    Comment by Andrew Coates — November 28, 2020 @ 8:30 pm

  3. Andrew, when I said piling on, I wasn’t thinking of Mangrove but of Hunger (2008) and Twelve Years a Slave (2013). In these McQueen tried to make us feel real pain being undergone, and they are the films accused of being sadistic porn. Living in London while Bobby Sands was starving himself, I picked up the paper every morning where another day of his strike was noted like a football score. In a city then saturated with newspapers, I read nothing about the horrific conditions at Long Kesh prison that McQueen shows us in Hunger. Watched on screen, they were sick-making, but they had to be. Men were undergoing torture and violence in a society playing at being civilized and at peace.

    Comment by Peter Byrne — November 29, 2020 @ 11:11 am

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