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cnical Fall and `a lm Date’ Ot v Loom j Pets Welcome fir 1423 11th Street 411, ‘ Port Aransas, TX 78373 1 call for Reservations ,,,f o pro 1100 ‘9F woo…16 . Available Icy private parties 1.1 0 Oak Unique European Charm Anno.sphere Kitchenettes Cable TV Heated Pool beside the GuifolMexiee on Mustang Island t4″ N44%. Sea Horse Golden Gate,Yellow Peril BY STEVEN G. KELLMAN GOLDEN GATE Directed by John Madden T0 22-YEAR-OLD Kevin Walker \(Matt Francisco was the place to hold it, and Kevin revels in the freedom of a city that never seems to sleep, at least alone. A decade after the end of World War II, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and other North Beach Beats were creating Paris on the Pacific. Yet the opening sequence of Golden Gate conveys the exhilaration not of artistic ecstasy but of patriotic vocation. Just out of law school, Kevin celebrates his birthday on the first day of his job as an FBI agent. Armed with a fresh degree and a government pistol, the new recruit is avid for adventure. The world is his beat. “Little yellow men are now actively trying to infiltrate our borders,” warns the agent in charge of Northern California operations. are assigned to San Francisco’s Chinatown, to root out Asian leftists said to be plotting against American democracy. For immigrants from Red China, if life is a party, must its chairman be Mao? Kevin and Ron are unable to find evidence of subversion, but, to please their boss, they contrive a specious case against a laundry worker named Chen Jung Song ing money home to his mother in China, they convince a jury that he is ringleader of a scheme to finance Beijing Bolshevism. Kevin wins in court, but he loses Cynthia life at the end of his first day of work. “If law and justice were in conflict,” she asked before committing herself to him, “which would you choose?” Law or justicethe choice hangs heavily over David Henry Hwang’s screenplay, but in the film it is a false dilemma. When Kevin frames Song, he spurns justice, but he also perverts the law. Political persecution is neither just nor, according to the American Constitution, lawful, but director John Madden tries to frame a conflict between the two principles. Instead, his film is itself an unresolved clash between bitter documentary and tender allegory. “There once was a man who transformed himself into an angel,” announces the voiceover that opens Golden Gate, as though it were a Steven G. Kellman teaches comparative liter ature at the University of Texas at San Antonio. fairy tale. The speaker is Marilyn Song \(Joan is sent to prison. She is a young woman in 1962, when Song is released and only to be pursued again by Kevin. In 1968, she is a law school teacher who helps organize a campus campaign to restore her late father’s honor. By this time, Kevin regrets his villainy. He befriends the daughter of his victim, and the two become lovers, until Marilyn discovers Kevin’s role in her family’s misfortune. Kevin attempts to atone for his misdeeds by betraying the FBI to the student demonstrators who despise it. He makes the kind of final dramatic gesture you would expect of an angel, or an actor obliged to fly on the wings of Songforced to enact a politically correct fable of righteous vindication. Imagine. Eichmann in Jerusalem, ordained as a rabbi.. “Being a regular American can be downright embarrassing,” complains Kevin, who wfts born in ColumbusW, Ohio. Even more embarrassing is the ritualistic self-abasement of a Sinophobe magically converted to Sinophilia. Golden Gate joins The Wedding Party, The Joy Luck Club, -Heaven and Earth, Farewell, My Concubine, M. Butterfly, Indochine, and even Rising Sun among recent theatrical releases providing employment for Asian actors and unconventional images for American audiences. Though screenwriter Hwang established himself, in 1981, with The Dance and the Railroad, the most lauded theatrical piece about Chinese experience in the United States, Golden Gate is remarkably insensitive to the complexities of that experience. The residents of its Chinatown are either launderers or restaurateurs, and all are the undifferentiated Other, whether born in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Oakland. Marilyn joins an all-purpose Asian-American student association, and her own marriage to a Japanese radical is handled much more casually than Coppola or Scorsese would treat the union of an Italian woman and an Irish man. One prosperous suspect, attempting to convince the G-men that his people are the natural children of Adam Smith rather than Karl Marx, quips: “You take away greed from the Chinese people, you take away everything that makes us great.” It is an intriguing thought, one that defies cultural stereotypes about Asian hordes versus Yankee individualists. But the film does nothing to follow up on the notion, or to transcend stereotypes into archetypes. “I hate due process,” growls an FBI official, but his historical counterparts were more subtle, which made them more insidious. Sure, Saul the Christian persecutor became Paul the Christian zealot \(and persecutor of version from Hooverism is less convincing as a genuine change of heart than as machinery for cinematic polemic, for persuading Bubba that intolerance is un-American and self-destructive. The movie’s student demonstrators are movie student demonstrators, its feds heavy-handed models of heavy-handed feds. Golden Gate softens its indictment of actual iniquity by tempering it with whimsy. Hwang sublimates his rage over injustice toward Chinese with fantasies of the mythological Woman Warrior. But the hybrid does not satisfy as either magic or realism. Movies that took their titles from landmarks used to be a celebration of place. Both Manhattan and New York, New York are love songs to a metropolis that is hard to like but easy to love, while Meet Me in St. Louis offers winsome reasons to gather in the Gateway City. You went to Casablanca for multiple municipal charms not the waters. Recent, ironic titles verge on civic libel. Philadelphia exposes homophobia in the City of Brotherly Love, and Paris, Texas is a study in desolation. In Golden Gate, American society glitters with pyrite. An engineering marvel has become a springboard to self-destruction. 20 FEBRUARY 11, 1994