This is more of a followup on Steve's excellent comments about my Hero post ... and while the relevant link is here, there are some spoilers if you follow the link, so be careful if you haven't seen the movie.
Salon gives us replies from two readers to Charles Taylor's review of Hero ... here are some mostly spoiler-free excerpts that admittedly do some damage to the originals in my attempt to remove the spoilers, but what the heck:
"Hero" is both a beautifully filmed movie and a really frightening piece of fascist propaganda. (No contradiction there -- one can admire the aesthetics of a Leni Riefenstahl film and loathe the message.) ... That the King is a violent, paranoid thug, bringing peace and unity only by the sword, is all but forgotten in the movie's rush to judgment that a unified China is a great goal regardless of the cost in human life ...And, for folks who don't read comments ... you should, some of the best stuff on this blog comes from readers ... here's an excerpt from Steve's original comments:
Peace is a great goal. So is patriotism. Having both without justice and freedom, however, makes one think of Hitler's vision of a unified Europe bringing patriotism, or Stalin's vision of world revolution bringing peace.... possibly the dreariest, coldest, most pessimistic message I've taken away from a movie this decade.
-- Lionel Artom-Ginzburg
The most damning thing about this fable and this movie is that it pushes the argument that to have peace in China, there needs to be a strong, autocratic figure. It supports and validates bloody and oppressive regimes that are in power. Better this, goes the reasoning, then to have chaos.
What this movie does not do is point out that this kind of peace is temporary. Futhermore, it closes any avenues for discovering whether it's even possible to have peace without all-centralized power and mass suffering. Because the filmmaker is pushing party lines, he is tacitly acting as an instrument of the government. The ambiguity that Taylor alludes to simply does not exist....
It's not just a good yarn. It's dangerous propaganda.
-- Jackie Yuen
But watching Hero in Hong Kong is a very frightening experience. All we get on a daily basis from our masters in Beijing is this bleating about the paramount, overriding need for "stability"--i.e., go ahead and make money by any means available, be as corrupt as you want, but never, ever challenge The Party or we'll shut you up but good. It's nothing more than the postmodern CCCP's version of the iron fist in the (garishly decorated) velvet glove.