whose hand Burke refuses to shake, maintains it is all a case of mistaken identity, and daughter Annie indignantly vows to do everything necessary to defend her father against this defamation. “We are speaking of evil incarnate,” Burke tells the judge when the case goes to trial. “My father is a good man!” insists dutiful daughter Annie. The judge is a Jew named Irwin Silver, and, though presumably not fond of Nazis, as scrupulously impartial toward Laszlo as the viewer is expected to be. The Music Box makes effective use of the courtroom’ as theater to advance the plot by providing us, as jurors, with drama within drama. Witness after witness testifies to the torture, rape, and murder committed four decades ago in Budapest by the man now sitting at the defendant’s table in Chicago. Annie is ex , tremely resourceful in discrediting the testimony, but the accumulation of loathsome detail is so devastating that the viewer arrives at a verdict long before Annie is prepared to accept the truth about her father. The Music Box, whose title derives from a Rosebud-like twist at the end of the plot, is successful at building and sustaining tension, but, though we know that many Nazis found not only refuge but succor within the United States, it is not entirely plausible. Costa-Gavras and screenwriter Joe Eszterhaz have stacked the deck with spades. An early sequence establishes that Annie is a hard-nosed, high-powered attorney, and it seems unlikely that, against the professional advice of all of her colleagues, she would take her own father as a client particularly in an area, immigration law, in which she is not a specialist. More importantly, it is hard to believe that she could be so naive about her father’s past. Obviously, Annie suffers from a degree of willful self-deception; she does not want to know anything but the best about the man she has loved more than any other. But the atrocities he committed, on numerous occasions, were so heinous and even bizarre, that it is impossible to accept that never during all her years with him did Annie detect any other manifestation of anti-Semitism, cruelty, or violence. What Laszlo did back in Budapest could not have been a momentary aberration. His repugnant attitudes, if not actions, would have to have come out, to his daughter if no one else, during almost four decades. The Mishka we see now is a weary old man whose chief delight is grandson Mikey, whom he wants to inoculate against doubt in the innocence of his grandfather. What do we know about our grandparents? Mikey has another grandfather, Annie’s former fatherin-law, and he, more than Mishka, is the major monster of the piece. Harry Talbot is a grey-haired patrician whose blood is as blue as it is cold. It is Grandpa Talbot, not Grandpa Laszlo, who tries to convince Mikey that the Holocaust never occurred. An enormous social chasm separates the Old World Laszlos from the Old Money Talbots, and Talbot condescends to Laszlo for his grandson’s sake and for the sake of ideology. Old Talbot is still a practicing attorney, with many influential friends in powerful positions, and he is able to persuade the reluctant Annie that he can help with the defense. “By the way, Mishka didn’t do it, did he?” he quips in afterthought, as though the question of whether the man exterminated Jews is irrelevant. After all, during earlier government service, Talbot had no qualms about consorting with Nazis to work against Commies. Laszlo, who once disrupted a visiting Hungarian dance troupe to protest the government in Budapest, is fiercely anti-Commu nist, and that, in the racist, fascist America that ,and so delights in rendering for us, is enough. The Art of Diplomacy Luis Valdez in Mexico City BY BARBARA BELEJACK Mexico City MEXICO CITY is good to Luis Valdez; it inspires him. The vibrations here are resonant, with echoes of “genetic memory.” The playwright, founder of the Teatro Campesino, director of Zoot Suit and La Bamba, was in Mexico City recently for “Chicanos ’90,” a festival of Chicano film and video sponsored by the National Council of La Raza and the Mexican government. Along with an entourage that included his brother Daniel, director Gregory Nava and producer Moctesuma Esparza \(The MiValdez zipped through an agenda that managed to mix the politics of art with the art of politics meetings with Mexican producers and directors; denunciations of Hollywood and Mexican stereotypes of Latinos promoted in exploitation films targeted at Spanish-speaking immigrants; meetings with the president, the mayor, the head of the ruling Institutional Party of the abrazos from Gabriel Barbara Belejack is a freelance journalist living in Mexico City. Garcia Marquez; mambos performed by Mexican actress Ofelia Median; and walks along the ancient Aztec Templo Mayor in the heart of the capital. Valdez’s visit coincides with the Salinas government’s emphasis on actively courting Mexican and Mexican-American communities in the United States. For the first time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has an office in Mexico City dedicated to “attention to Mexican communities abroad,” with plans for branch offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and San Antonio. Recently PRI President Luis Donaldo Colossio and several Mexican governors toured the United States and embarked on a “truth squad” blitz of California media in order to contradict some of the negative press the party has received from news correspondents in Mexico City. Colossio’s reception was somewhat less than enthusiastic. Valdez knows all this, but he also knows that you don’t get anywhere in this world by insulting the hosts. And so he sidesteps questions of politics, passing off oblique warnings that there are going to have to be a lot of changes in Mexico, that President Carlos Salinas de Gortari has only a few years to make those changes. He makes a bid to Mexican artists: “If you’re going to do things in this country, invite [the Chicanos] too.” Before a room filled with film buffs and film students, in the presence of Mexico’s real-life comic-book hero, a masked and caped self-appointed champion of the urban poor named Superbarrio Gomez, Valdez does what he does best: He performs. He recites refrains in Nahuatl. He tells stories of America: “Mexploitation,” “Aztec-nology,” Mayan and Incan prophecies \(“cocaine is the revenge of ing a cinema of triumph, realizing the manifest destiny of America through the manifest destiny of Luis Valdez, farmworker, mathematics scholarship student, actor, director, and filmmaker. “It always sounds strange to me to talk about a Mexican going from Tijuana to America,” he said. “Where’s Tijuana? In China?” The colonizers of the hemisphere, he continued, “robbed us of our heroes and discredited our leaders. First they tried to take away our right to call ourselves natives of this continent and then they declared themselves ‘American.’ I’ve since learned that the Mayas had another name for this continent, THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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