Saturday, February 4, 2012

Carlos mini-series

I watched the French-German TV miniseries Carlos, about the terrorist, "Carlos the Jackal". It was great. Several hours long and you weren't bored for a minute.

I didn't realize there was so much sex and nudity on European television. It might have gotten an NC-17 rating in America. More full frontal male nudity than female.

Carlos walks around naked in his apartment. He admires himself in the mirror, and who can blame him. What was kind of amazing was that, later, Carlos lets himself go. We again see him walking around naked but he's put on weight. There's no way to fake that. It shows how dedicated the star, Edgar Ramirez, was. He put on 35 pounds to portray a somewhat older Carlos.

There was also a tremendous amount of smoking. I've never seen so much cigarette smoking in my life, even in the old TV shows that were sponsored by cigarette companies back when they claimed that smoking was actually good for you.

I guess it makes sense. It was set in the '70s. Today, you see smokers smoking a few cigarettes a day. Back then, it was two or three packs a day.

The violence in it----the violence seemed sort of like Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia in that it looked like all you needed was a gun and a willingness to shoot people. I guess they had some training, but, like the piano player turned action hero in Sam Peckinpah's old movie, it made it look like anyone could carry out an attack. In fact, Carlos recruits new people simply by asking them if they want to help.

This was in the 'seventies. The Israelis were carrying out murders and bombings throughout Europe. I've heard that western European governments tolerated this. The Israelis were supposedly retaliating for the Munich "Massacre" but all they did was murder Palestinian diplomats and activists. It's not surprising that others would adopt Israeli tactics.

As Carlos sets out on this course, his girlfriend accuses him of vainglory, of being a petit bourgeois playing "revolutionary" instead of doing serious political work.


When I was in high school, I was talking to an elderly Communist. This would have been around 1980. He had been a farmer. In 1917, he had a wagon load of lumber he picked up down at the train station when he saw a large group of American soldiers heading off to World War One. He climbed up on his wagon and spoke to them, telling them they had no business fighting John D. Rockefeller's war. For that he spent several years in Leavenworth. When he was released, he joined the new Communist Party. He went to the Soviet Union to work in the 1920s.

We talked about some current events and he handed me a pamphlet from the Communist Party called "Terrorism: Is it Revolutionary?" It seemed to be discussing groups like The Weathermen.

It said that these groups were largely inspired by The Battle of Algiers---by the movie, not the actual events. In the movie, a wave of terrorist attacks trigger the nationalist revolution in the city of Algiers, but the movie doesn't make it clear that this is part of a much bigger war of national liberation being waged by Algerians throughout the country. These groups in the U.S. thought their acts would spark a revolution. It would be led by black Americans just as Arabs led the Algerian revolution. They didn't take into account that Arabs were the vast majority in Algeria.

You saw what might have been an element of that in Carlos. When some of their people are arrested, Carlos launches a series of attacks "like Battle of Algiers" to put pressure on the French to negotiate their release.


A period film, several hours long, set in the '70s, in several languages, with a large cast and action scenes. Filmed in nine countries and three continents. And it was all done for a terribly modest $18 million.

Compare that to $15 million for Woody Allen's recent productions.

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