rushthatspeaks: (Default)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
Okay, so I haven't read the book. But B., who has, was with me, and one of the things he mentioned before we watched the film is that, in the book, at one point an Amazon tribe who had come forward and said that they killed Percy Fawcett in the late nineteen-twenties later came forward and said that a Brazilian minister had asked them to say they killed him in order to stop people from sending innumerable expeditions into the jungle in futile search of Percy Fawcett. This rather stuck with B., as it was an interesting way to handle the problem, and I found it pretty striking as an anecdote. Note that both the 'we killed him, that's what happened' claim and the 'here's why we said that' claim were made decades after Fawcett's disappearance.

I suppose I should not have been expecting anything sensible from Hollywood racial politics, but for fuck's sake, don't the film people know what it looks like they're saying when they have Fawcett being Insistently Anti-Racist Person Who Insists Amazonians Are People Too, in the face of openly racist opposition, yet, all over the movie-- which from what I gather is also rather inaccurate-- and then heavily imply that he was not only killed but also eaten by natives without including the refutation which was right there in the source material for them?

This is also a film which comes down pretty heavily on Percy Fawcett being Right About Things, and I'm not even sure it was intentional on the writer's part. It's just that when the issues somebody has are things like 'is heavily overinvested in cultural conceptions of masculinity', you have to be very blatant when you demonstrate that those are actual issues, because our culture is so approving of extreme behavior along those lines that disapproval needs to be obvious in-text just to bring us to neutral. Sure, Fawcett almost certainly got himself and his son killed, but the film goes to great (and, from what I hear, also a-historic) lengths to say that maybe they just went off to live with the natives, plus the whole thing very much has an air of It's How He Wanted To Go He Was Following His Noble Dreams. Also, even when we see Fawcett doing things that are demonstrably pig-headed, sexist, and aggravating, he winds up getting vindicated by the narrative over and over again. We never see anyone arguing against his expeditions from the level of logistics on which I am assured they were bad ideas; we see people arguing against them because they are Bad People, or because they are his family and they want him home, which we are assured is understandable and tragic but just How It Had To Be.

In conclusion, I'm definitely going to read the book, because the film, despite a reasonable central performance by Charlie Hunnam (perhaps a bit too restrained) and a very fine side performance by Robert Pattinson (unrecognizable beneath layers of fuzz), some pretty cinematography, and occasional attempts at symbolism, comes off as racist, insultingly simplistic, and just not overall what you want Hollywood to do with a good source text.

Sigh.

Date: 2017-04-23 04:13 am (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
In conclusion, I'm definitely going to read the book

I do recommend the book. It's much more layered than the movie sounds like, by which I mean that it tracks and examines not just the way that Fawcett's disappearance turned into an event horizon of wild speculation and conspiracy theories but the way that the author himself, with the best intentions and forewarning, got sucked into the phenomenon himself, hence the book. I can understand how the most conventionally adaptable strand was Fawcett himself, but the nested obsessions (Fawcett with finding the city, posterity with Fawcett, the author with posterity and Fawcett) were what really made the book work for me.

I keep hearing good things about Robert Pattinson and I'm glad.

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