Monday, March 12, 2018


Over the weekend I saw The Death Of Stalin, a film about the aftermath of the Soviet tyrant, as the top men maneuver for position. Instead of straight drama, it's played as farce.

It's directed and co-written by Armando Iannucci, who created Veep and also directed and co-wrote the well-done political comedy In The Loop.  The cast includes Steve Buscemi, Michael Palin, Jeffery Tambor, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friends, Jason Isaacs and Andrea Riseborough.

During the end credits, there were photos of the players as their characters, some of them scratched out.  That was how it worked in the Soviet Union.

Then I realized something.  While I would never compare Stalin's era to anything in America (though too many facile comparisons have been made already), it occurred to me that one of the lead actors--Jeffrey Tambor--has become, in real life, a non-person.  He's been accused of bad action and fired from his job.  For years he was one of the busiest character actors around, and now, whether he can be employed again, or even show his face at a Hollywood gathering, in is doubt.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I don't think it's necessary to say Harvey Weinstein is Hitler, or that over the top MeToo players are Hitler, I'm not so sure the comparison is a facile one.

That someone prominent falls on hard times, self imposed or not, is one thing. Making them a non-person is something else, and non-trivial.

12:13 PM, March 12, 2018  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

I hadn't heard of The Death of Stalin (film) before your post, but I know something about the death of Stalin (real life). After Stalin's death, Malenkov and Beria were the most powerful men in the USSR, with Molotov and Khruschev also in the mix. Beria was tried and executed a year later.

Per the Wikipedia page, the film, says that Beria was found "guilty of treason and of sexual assault" in a kangaroo court and executed. It's certainly true that Beria was a monster; during Stalin's reign he enjoyed having his men grab girls off the street and bring them to his office where he would rape them, saying "Go ahead and scream -- every policeman on this continent reports to me."

But the reason Beria was assassinated was that his foes (and allies) feared he would seize absolute power, and they didn't want another Stalin. The official charges at the pseudo-trial were for treason, terrorism, and counter-revolutionary activity -- standard accusations in Soviet purges. He was not accused or convicted of "sexual assault". Sounds like this film wants to make things more relevant to the twenty-first century?

I felt the same way when watching The King's Speech. It was an excellent movie, but it engaged in historical revisionism when it suggested that Churchill forced Edward VIII to abdicate because of Edward's pro-Nazi sympathies. There is no doubt that Edward was (in 1936) at least soft on Nazism, and that (after 1936) probably worked with the Nazis. But that wasn't why he had to abdicate. Makes it a better movie -- but not a truer one.

12:01 AM, March 13, 2018  

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