.\\,1-1 and Associates E 1117 West 5th Street Austin, Texas 78703 REALTOR Representing all types of properties in Austin and Central Texas Interesting & unusual property a specialty. 65 477-3651 of whom Dinesen wrote, “No other nation than the English could have produced [him].” Of such bunk is history Streep’s Karen Blixen is half Artemis, half abject spouse. When she’s not beating off lions with a stick, she’s begging her husband or lover to stay home more often. The filmmakers, apparently bestride the current cultural confusion over women’s “roles,” can’t decide whether they’re making a Historical Romance or Heroine’s Biography, and under the circumstances you can hardly blame the men in Blixen’s life for being confused so is the audience. The contradictions themselves are possible one can see the mixture of selfmade feminism and petulant self-absorption in a character like Blixen’s but the film is unconvincing at making her character cohere, and one is left with the sense of powerful material incompletely rendered, an opportunity missed. And the largest miss is that of the Africans themselves, who form the most unforgettable portraits in Dinesen’s book but here are reduced to local color in an erotic fantasy. It may well be momentarily impossible, for good reasons, for a coherent Anglo-European film to be made about Africa. The current journalistic images full of starvation, tyranny, and rebellion are overwhelming to romance-centered Western narratives and in any case are the sort of stories that will eventually need to be told and filmed by the Africans themselves. Is it any wonder that the loyal Natives of our nostalgic fantasies look at us, shake their heads, and turn away? IWAS STRONGLY reminded of this in watching The Gods Must Be Crazy, a film by white South African Jamie Uys. “Gods” is a droll, slapstick romantic comedy which has inexplicably become one of the most popular foreign films ever released in America. Now a few years old, it yet reads like a farcical parody of Out of Africa: the romance of a bumbling but brave white scientist and a beautiful journalist-turned-bush-school mistress, set against the wild and passionate landscape on the outskirts of the Kalahari desert. It’s a funny and seemingly inconsequential comedy-romance, carrying with it in reductive form all the cinematic elements of white-man-meets-Africa: romantic primitivism \(the life of Kalahari bushmen as idyllic opposite to the African landscape and people as a testingground for white man-ly and womanof obvious and yet seemingly unconscious racism \(natives as human fodder for the white man’s good, or evil, embarrassed at my own enjoyment of the film how long can we go on taking pleasure in our threadbare cultural archetypes imposed upon somebody else’s paradise? At the center of Gods is the remarkable face and -figure of a Kalahari tribesman, who wanders into the world of the whites to return a bit of their detritus a Coke bottle and thinks first that they are gods, then that they are mad gods, and then, sensibly, that they are no gods at all. It’s a telling moral, but one that neither conquerer, colonizer, nor filmmaker ever seems to learn: frame by frame, we convince ourselves that we are the center and focus of the universe, given dominion over the land, the animals, and the peoples of the earth. Is it any wonder that, in increasing numbers, the loyal Natives of our nostalgic fantasies look at us, shake their heads, and turn away? Near the close of Out of Africa, Baroness Blixen pleads eloquently and successfully for a safe haven for the Kikuyu people residing on her nowbankrupt and abandoned plantation. It is a touching scene, well played by Streep, and yet one is troubled by the source of its emotion we are relieved to know that while the natives are to be moved, they are to be given arable land, not too far away no doubt to be called independent homelands. Such is the bounty of Empire. Like the retreating and defeated Indian in American Westerns, there is always an invisible Other watching these stories the White Man is fond of telling about himself. One can only hope that when that Other, here or in Africa, finally comes to tell his own version of the tale, he treats us not entirely as harshly as we deserve. Printers Stationers Mailers Typesetters High Speed Web Offset Publication Press Counseling Designing Copy Writing Editing Trade Computer Sales and Services Complete Computer Data Processing Services O P., , . ie FUTURA 7 TRADES 1:11;341 COUNCIL PRESS sriN TEXIO AUSTIN TEXAS ILIITIIJIPRitt 512/442-7836 1714 South Congress P.O. Box 3485 Austin, Texas 78764 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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