Wednesday, September 19, 2007

MAY 6th (A film Review)

You’ve heard of Theo Van Gogh, Great Grand nephew of Vincent. Theo was shot by a radical Islamist back in 2004. Theo was a columnist and a movie director, a career that doesn’t seem to have much of a parallel in the United States unless you count Sean Penn’s trips to the Middle East. Theo was a supporter of Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch politician himself gunned down two years before. They both wanted restricted Muslim immigration fearing that Muslim fundamentalism was slowly changing the liberal landscape of Holland. But Pim Fortuyn’s killer was an eco-terrorist, one who prayed at the other great multicultural religion, the environment.

May 6th is the day the Pim was shot and the movie is about the forces behind the killing. Our hero is a tabloid photographer outside a radio studio shooting cheesecake shots of a model while unbeknownst to him Pim is inside giving his last radio interview. Pim is shot leaving the interview and our photographer’s proximity gives him a lot of accidental evidence about the scene of the crime, ala BLOWUP (1966). Since going to the cops is never any fun, our hero instead tracks down the people in the photos one by one and tries to solve the mystery of what happened that day.

Unfortunately, what happened borrows heavily from the Oliver Stone JFK approach. Find some dissent from orthodoxy in a politician’s record and low and behold, the secret cabal is standing by waiting to cut his throat. Here the greenies are just dupes for businessman who put them up to it. How are the Dutch ever going to have an independent film culture when they keep borrowing Hollywood villains?

Despite the hackneyed conspiracy theories this is a solid picture with a lot of fine smaller performances. Our hero’s detective work moves at a good speed, less so than Hollywood breakneck and yet not so slow as to lose the viewer. Instead of aha scenes where Charlize and Denzel study the same paper and look at each other and say, “does this mean. . . ?” our hero is solitary in his search. Other people seem slightly amused at his obsession or indifferent and when the bad guys turn up they don’t wear $2000 suits and have half page of dialogue to clue our guy in real good. The heavies act like people, more powerful than our hero, but still semi-unsure of themselves in a situation they didn’t anticipate.

The best attribute of the movie is the hero’s journey. You follow and root for him throughout and I was sorry to see the thing end, because so many of the ancillary problems are left unsolved like real life. says that Van Gogh’s work has received scant worldwide critical attention although he was praised inside the Netherlands. If MAY 6th is representative of his work I hope they release the rest of his filmography. Netflix has one other Van Gogh title and I will cue it forthwith.

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