Thursday, January 19, 2017

Seven Years in Tibet

Year 9, Day 19 - 1/19/17 - Movie #2,519

BEFORE: I already watched "Reds" this year, which had obvious ties to Communism via the Russian Revolution.  Tonight it's a film about a land that got occupied by Communist China - geez, that's an awful big coincidence.  And right about the time that we're wondering whether Russia has been planning to take over America, too...

Look, I don't know where you stand on this whole Russian hacking election scandal, if you're pro-Trump or anti-Trump or worried about what's going to happen after tomorrow's inauguration.  Maybe nothing, maybe all the fears are unwarranted.  But my boss is Latvian, and she's convinced that Trump's election will put a Russian puppet into the Presidency, and that this will lead to her homeland being absorbed back into Russia.  

Me, I've just had this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, the kind you get when you've had too much to eat at Taco Bell, just this gnawing ache that whatever's coming, it ain't going to be good.  We've seen too much craziness in the past two weeks alone, let alone the election cycle leading up to tomorrow, for me to be able to relax.  Conflicts of interest, ethics violations, electoral malfeasance, fake news stories, hot microphones, sexual harassment, verbal bullying, mocking of the disabled, non-release of tax returns, deplorable cabinet appointees, do I need to continue?  And the guy's term hasn't even started yet.  It's going to be a long four years - and while I haven't seen much lately about people moving to Canada, I think some people are going to find themselves in self-imposed exile, which means it's a great time to watch this film about the Dalai Lama. 

David Thewlis carries over from "Anomalisa", which I think is very sneaky on my part. 

THE PLOT: True story of Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian mountain climber who became friends with the Dalai Lama at the time of China's takeover of Tibet. 

AFTER: The cause of a Free Tibet was all the rage in Hollywood a few years ago, whatever happened to that?  Did it just not seem trendy any more, or did people get involved in other concerns?  I mean, I get it, people got busy with other things, then that person made a sex tape and Britney Spears shaved her head, Justin Bieber egged his neighbor's house, and then Ariana Grande touched a donut in a bakery or something.  So everyone was probably thinking, "Wait, what was that about the Dalai Lama again?  I got distracted by something..."

This is the story of a mountain climber who seemed to have a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He goes off to scale Nanga Parbat, a mountain in British India, just as World War II is declared, and since Austria no longer exists (thanks, Hitler...) he's treated as a German in a British territory, so it's off to a POW camp for him.  After several attempts to break out, he and four others manage to escape in a very non-PC way (it involves darkening their skin and wearing turbans, so as to blend in with the locals).  

He and his mountain-climbing partner, Peter Aufschnaiter, manage to cross the border into Tibet, but make their way to Lhasa, another place that's off-limits to foreigners.  They still manage to avoid being thrown out of the country, but they're reduced to being beggars until they learn that the war is over.  Fortunately the young Dalai Lama takes an interest in Heinrich and his shiny yellow hair, but once again it's WPWT, because Tibet gets invaded by the forces of Communist China in 1950, and all foreigners are once again not welcome.  

I stated that I might have been the only person to note the similarities between "The Hateful Eight" and "The Anniversary Party" - tonight I'm going to draw an analogy between "Seven Years in Tibet" and the boxing film "Creed".  (Kids, don't try this at home.)  Like Rocky Balboa and Adonis Creed, Heinrich ends up bonding with the Dalai Lama because he's a father who has never met his son, and the Dalai is a son who needs a father figure.  And we know that the screenwriter was thinking along these lines too, because they tried to cover it with a line of dialogue, with the young Lama saying, "I don't think of you as my father, Heinrich."  Gosh, what a giveaway that is - nice try.

I'm supposed to applaud the fact that Harrer uses his time in exile to become a better person, to get himself to a place where he's not so self-centered and able to be more than an absent father to his son.  I'm also apparently supposed to overlook that he was a Nazi - sure, they add all this stuff about how he's really Austrian, and bore ill will against the Nazi party, but Wikipedia says otherwise.  How many times are we going to allow old Nazis to say that they only joined the party because they had no choice, or that it was a "youthful indiscretion"?

And I'm not really into the whole Buddhist thing, because when I made my decision to reject the religion I was raised in, I chose to not replace it with anything, to reject all religions equally.  Because they can't all be right, so therefore it's likely that all of them are wrong.  I just can't get behind saving a bunch of earthworms because they may be ascending to a higher order, or the reincarnations of people I know that are now on some lowlier plane.  What a crock.  Like, I can't stand cruelty to cats and dogs, but I'd never extend that courtesy to bugs.  

For whatever reason, this film failed to capture my attention, I fell asleep about halfway through, and woke up during the Battle of Chamdo.  Rewind, try again, fall asleep again.  Repeated this until about 4 am, at which point I had napped enough to finish the film - but then I had to go to bed at 4:30 again, which makes it more difficult to get up for work at a reasonable time.  Sure, my bosses are used to me being consistently late because hey, at least I'm consistent, but I need films that will hold my attention if I'm ever going to break out of this terrible pattern.
In the long run, it may even be comforting to watch a film about Communist China, given our current circumstances.  Why?  Because Chairman Mao is gone, and that's a reminder that no dictator is in power forever.  Ivan the Terrible, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini - they're all gone.  Lenin, Stalin, Kruscvev, Brehznev - all gone.  Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Moammar Khadafi - all gone.  Castro held out for a good long while, but he's finally gone.  Sic temper tyrannis.  The Trump era too shall pass, and his days seem numbered even before they begin.  

Also starring Brad Pitt (last seen in "The Mexican"), BD Wong (last seen in "Focus"), Mako (last seen in "Robocop 3"), Danny Denzongpa, Victor Wong, Ingeborga Dapkunaite, Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk, Lhakpa Tsamchoe, Jetsun Pema, Duncan Fraser (last seen in "Unforgettable").

RATING: 4 out of 10 ice skates

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