What is Hollywood, you ask, dear children? A quorum of whores babbling endlessly on about fucking while the bordello is razed for a penny arcade -- Paul Bern

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Although the Algerian government has repeatedly been accused of exploiting extremist violence and even staging gruesome attacks and blaming them on extremists, it has been widely assumed that Xavier Beauvois’ film is based on true events – the kidnap and beheading of seven French Trappist monks from the monastery of Tibhirine in 1996. Despite the financing and production of the film coinciding with increased doubt about the assumed role of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and the revelation of the Algerian army’s possible involvement in the incident, the film’s narrative leaves no ambiguities as to who killed the monks. In 2009, the retired French general Francois Buchwalter, who was the military attaché in Algeria at the time, testified that the monks had been killed accidentally from an Algerian military helicopter during an attack on a guerrilla position and then beheaded after their death to make it appear as though the GIA had executed them. Although President Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to release vital documents, key papers deemed to be vital to state security have remained classified. However, with increasing public pressure and a request by investigative magistrate Marc Trévidic earlier this month, a French judge has agreed to reopen the investigation into the murders.

The heads of the monks of the Atlas were found, but not the bodies. Curious.

Interesting: This film was an unlikely hit in France. The values of cinematic humanism (read Republicanism) in the clash of civilizations come to depend on a band of explicitly Christian heroes. The "free" men against the "slaves" of Islam. Like Tay Garnett's Bataan or the many iterations of The Lost Patrol. Is this the bunker mentality of secular, existentialist humanism, lapsing as usual into martyrology and self-idealization? Also, if islamization is the post-colonial return of the repressed, (also, from the side of islamic culture, the de-repression of the paradise of Al-Andalus) then it also comes inevitably with a nostalgia for all things colonial.


Beauvois's film is interesting in that it is a musical, basically. And that its form is an orgone accumulator for certain conventional ideas, a mystique, concerning the West. And the most finely set contradiction of the film is that it champions a mild Christian fraternity over more noxious forms of religious ecstasy. But here is my warning... what defines the west is not Christianity, Humanism, or Rationalism, or Rousseau, or any of the other million fuzzy-headed candidates; what defines the West is its constant sublimation and subversion of tribal impulses. This rejection of the tribal can only maintain itself along with a blindness to the ways in which the West remains fundamentally a tribe, more vicious and adamant than others, the tribe that insists, as Latour says, that there shall be no tribes.

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