Tuesday, 22 November 2016

American Pastoral and Strangerland

American Pastoral and Arrival are two films released at the end of the same week in November 2016. I saw American Pastoral last showing on Friday 11th Armistice day and given the thoughtful and careful review by the British Institution of film critics  Dr Mark Kermode who admitted he had  not read the Philip Roth novel on which the film is rooted, I was surprised to find that I was the only person in the film theatre when I  arrived, remaining so, enabling the use of the light of my phone to note down questions on the back of the printed e-ticket, having forgotten to return a slim notepad to the inside jacket pocket, used earlier in the day for shopping notes made on a visit to Gateshead to shop and park at Tesco’s and on to Newcastle to collect coffee and buy winkles in the Grainger Market.

Because the film covered subjects of significant personal interest I immediately ordered the novel which I have now read and confirm the appraisal of Mark Kermode that this is a good directorial debut by Ewen McGregor.  I go further and say the film provides coherence to the story and a credibility of character that the book by Philip Roth does not and at which at one level is a well written rant,  bravely  attempting to communicate how at any moment our ideas and  feelings contain all our previous and inherited experiences, but I failed to be convinced that the characters are more than the ideas, views and beliefs of the author although I accept I was confused by the narrative time framework and because of having experienced the film first.

The approach of Mr Roth has much in common with what I understand to be one of the two central themes of Arrival, a multi-dimensional sense of time and which also uses an alien visitation to explain the nature of language and communication in an engaging and entertaining way. Arrival end the first week as top box office and American Pastoral per the British Film Institute was only number 19.

I also understand that American Pastoral is one of several books by Roth in which he uses a character as his alter ego, (that is a second self, different from his normal or original personality). I do not know if this is true as I do not know Roth,  but I  will say   that the starting point of his book is the  proposition  that  many American men believed in the American Dream, that  their nation was God’s special land and the greatest, and their values and standards of the highest order  and  where for many the 1960’s was a period of great awakening, when the Hollywood image of  the second world war was shattered in Vietnam (and as I have recently presented  when covering 25 years of Miss Saigon and the worldwide belief that an entry permit enabled automatic participation in the American Dream of equal opportunity to wealth and power and where the greater the  belief, the  greater the fall). The opening section of the 400-page novel is called Paradise Remembered, followed by the Fall and concludes with Paradise Lost.

I also have a very different but in some respects more important and lasting experience, a live relay from the Royal Opera House in London of the Offenbach opera Les Contes D’Hoffmann, the Tales of Hoffmann and this was followed by two films on Sky TV, Strangerland, a film set in a contemporary  Australian small town on the edge of a desert  and where there are important similarities with American Pastoral, as they are with American Beauty, followed by the delightful Spanish film  with its English  titled Living is Easy with Eyes Closed, aimed at the Oscars best film in a language other than English and which won the  Goya in 2014 for that category and several others. To complete the cultural experience of the past week I went to see Fantastic Beasts in 3D on Friday November 18th.  I also need to write up experiencing the stage musical The Glenn Miller Story with Tommy Steele for the second occasion, this time at the Sunderland Empire, previously, the Theatre Royal in Newcastle, and the films the Girl on the Train and Nocturnal Animals.

I also intend to make time to comment on a brilliant one off documentary about the Tyne Bridge, the moving series of  canal trips by Timothy West and his partner Prunella Scales, the remarkable Planet Earth II naturalist  the latest BBC four Saturday serial The Deep,  Humans and Westworld cover artificial intelligence,  the Missing and child  abduction and abuse,  the Young Pope -what is it about, the interesting Close to the Enemy and the yet to interest, My Mother and Other Strangers, Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor and the never ending -The Blacklist.

One interesting and challenging aspect of the book American Pastoral is its argument that we can make the right decision choice but this can have devastating life changing consequences. I will say more about the advice a parent gives his daughter, how he responds to an initiative from his daughter, followed by his reaction to meeting an emissary from his daughter and going into the kitchen before sitting down with friends for a meal and where despite the chronology set out in the film I am still unclear of the time frame when attempting to unravel cause and effect. I will also add the appearance of something, or someone is only one aspect of its reality

The main character of the book is not its author who in the form of Nathan Zuckerman, a successful published writer who tells the story of “the Swede”, (Seymour Levov) already a legend from being a great Athlete in American Football, basketball and baseball and a veteran of the second world war and who had attended the same Jewish High school years as the story teller. Nathan admits that he idolised the Swede the American Dream) when attending the same Jewish Newark, New Jersey High School with Jerry the younger of Levov’s two sons and who as a World War II veteran of the Marines took over his father’s quality glove making factory and who married a beauty queen with success graduating from city to state to the Miss America contest staged in Atlantic City, underlining the American Dream theme. The nickname Swede and ”The Swede” remained unclear until the book discloses his name is Seymour and Swede was a  tall blond rock of  a man compared to his short in stature wife and its only towards the end of the book is there reference to their discovery in private of passionate sexuality but which they kept within the bedroom and where sex  is  part of the shattering of his idealism and where how couples present themselves when being sociable with others is very different from the image they  wish to present and have within the marriage.

It was only when reading the book that the thought occurred that that Roth had created the Swede as the American Dream to explain that he too had been an idealist who had set himself great standards to have these shattered by the realities of life. As a young man, I developed an interest in Fundamental Freudianism where everything is based to procreation desire and sex and on aggression, violence and death and on the guilt of having wishes desires which parents, family, the local community, a religion, a church and its leaders, those controlling the one’s country society has declared taboo. I have learned that Roth was brought up in the Jewish belief and cultural system which draws as strong between themselves and as Catholicism of my birth father who I never knew but became a senior priest, my birth mother and my childhood and which there are many in the Muslim world, some Protestant and other religious bodies who also attempt to divide themselves off from others in what is a spectrum of belief within and between religions and which impact on behaviour. The statement there is more which unites than divides is meaningless in this context.

At one level Seymour is presented as a conformist but in one significant passage he declares that the faith and culture of his childhood mean nothing yet it is his Catholic wife who stands up to the father in law over an inquisition about her gather and how the children will be brought up. In this film, this happens in its chronology of events, maturing and individual development, in the book it comes almost at the end. The film uses the unravelling of the story line to engage our attention in contrast to Roth who spits out the key aspects of the story and then attempts to explain leaving the reader to knit everything together and made sense as they wish from their experience.

Although Roth is a war veteran he joined too late to see the blood and guts of war and although in film  (but less I thought)  in the book uses the  black v white rioting of Newark 1967  to  bring out that he is a liberal democrat where the majority of workers at the family owned business are black, the  blood and guts of the rioting is  only alluded, and this is also true for the, Vietnam and the anti-war protests and it is the film that there is the more vivid impact of the bomb which destroys what  we  in England would called the  village store with  post office outlet. The American Dream is a device to cover those who disassociate themselves from the realities of life until it is brought home to them directly. A home break in a car accident or break down, a storm, an expected death all of which I have experienced added to which there are the floods, the earthquakes and most of all the wars and I have met no one who has experienced night after night bombings even as a very young child who not affected, in my instance it was the far of the adults as they prayed with their rosaries which communicated to me and I have still. 

Roth is also not the conformist his younger brother accuses nor is he weak in giving in to pressure from parent or daughter although he respects both parents. So, he agrees to his future wife a Catholic being questioned by the parent, something I experienced when going out with a girl for the first time at the age of 17 and she was16 and in returning to her home from the pictures and invited in and faced an inquisition from mother father (a civil servant) with a bemused older sister who I knew from a cycling club who arranged the date after her sister and come to one of our Sunday outings. My  humiliation was great because the dread question what does  your father do I could only mumble dead  because I did not know and  did not believe the cover story given to me a couple of years before,  was possibly given  an opportunity some years late, but could not cope with at that time and then was told just before I was sixty that he had been a priest, and only to learn from subsequent efforts that he had had been  number  two to a Bishop and acting for the Bishop and  awarded the  O.B.E.

Seymour’s other defiance against parental pleading was to buy a large house in the country with 100 wondering cows and a romping free bull, the Count in a solid Republican community with a Klu Klux Klan history.  Father warns about getting to and the farm to the nearest station in winter and getting to work at the business and Seymour explains about the good train services which goes on into New York with Parlour cars in the morning, the USA first class lounge dining car with bar but on two levels with a small cinema.

The more I age the more I appreciate that how others view as history or an art or entertainment experience set in costume and period, events which have understand from the perspective of having lived through the time, and sometimes with direct experience. Before starting to write I try and check my memory with the available facts.  In this instance, I had not appreciated that Newark. the largest city still in New Jersey state, is a short commuter train ride from central New York about the same distance in travel time as my former five  childhood and young adult homers in Wallington, Surrey from central London when I became an anti-war campaigner a few years before the daughter of the Swede, so the parallel comparison between the reactions of her close and extended family to mine are fresh as I have commenced to write again about my experience and its impact on the rest on my life, and my closed and extended family network.

In book with words, and film through pictures, we gain some knowledge off Newark post second world war when the town had a population of some 400000 but commenced to rapidly drop with the 1967 Race Rioting with up to 80% of the Whites leaving and the 2010 census putting the city total at about 275000. The African origin American population has also dropped from a high of 58% to 52% and with of Hispanic and Latino combining more recent populations from Portugal and Brazil to form the second largest grouping, leaving the Whites at under 25%.  The Democratic candidate for president has won the state since 2000 and did so again this year by a significant majority of the votes casts with the Green Party gaining 1%.

There were 80000 Jews living in Newark at one point, the city where Philip Roth grew up with his parents and based several of his novels many of the successful business merchants, as the Levov’s had already moved away from the city centre concentration of cold water flats, before the 1967 rioting when most pulled out. It is normal hat when first arriving ethnic groups living together in area with privately renting housing is available, quickly establishing speciality food and services, together with junior and high schools.

This is a subject where I have some direct knowledge as seventy percent of the twenty thousand predominantly Catholic population of Gibraltar were required to leave their tiny almost island homeland at the southern tip of Spain as World War II commenced and were sent and lived in neighbourhoods to a number of countries, including one part of London if they did not already have an extended family living in other countries to taken in as happened to mine, coming to England and not to the USA, or North Africa where there were other close relatives. Although I went to a Catholic school the emphasis was on integration as there was no prospect of returning to the homeland when the war ended for my birth mother and six of her seven sisters.

Going to work in central and outer London, then becoming an activist and then going into adult education, I quickly became aware of the singularity of the Jewish world even when families lived in neighbourhoods of mixed ethnicity and this culminated in my sixth decade when undertaking an assessment for allocating funding  to a business enterprise it was necessary to call at home of an applicant whose family was at one end of the Jewish belief and practice spectrum where contact was not allowed with others, and where it was evident the children  came in and out of the room just to see what someone who was not one of them was like and because the applicant was a woman and  could not be in the presence of a male without a chaperone,  her partner was present but declined to communicate directly on religious grounds. This contrasted with a girlfriend of a short time where Jewishness was not central to her being and outlook and to the number who were members or supporters of communism, socialism and activists for against weapons of mass civilian destruction.

The core of the book and film is the relationship between Seymour and his one child at that time, a girl, Merry, who becomes a verbal and direct actionist extremist as a teenager against the Vietnam War, against the system, the everyday of family life and their apparent acceptance of the way everything is. Roth is good at using a sentence to communicate an era or the context opening the second chapter with reminding that after the second world war the USA governed 200 million other people in Germany, Austria, Italy and Japan. Back home in the States and in Britain. In the book, what remains uncertain in the film. What the book, and film does not attempt to do is to explain why Merry normal adolescent rebellion against parental, school and religious authority graduated from nonviolent to violent protesting, a subject with interests me especially as later or she becomes a convert to the extreme end of non-pacifism- Janis and which influenced Gandhi in his activist approach of Satyagraha

The film Strangerland has a very different setting and time but also uses disappearance of a 15-year-old daughter (and her young brother) who appear to have gone off into the Australian desert on Walkabout just as a sandstorm engulfs the area. Walkabout remain a seminal film starring Jenny Agutter who finds herself with her young brother in the desert after their father shoots himself and where they are rescued by an aborigine boy who is undertaking his solo rites into manhood. There is moment in Strangerland where I hoped an indigenous resident would come to the aid of the family and can find both children alive. It is after the two children go missing in that we learn the facts of why the family, he is a dispensing chemist, moved into the town and an extraordinary blunder like that which Seymour Levov makes. We also experience through both films the full extent of their culpability for what happens, in part because of parental denial and the inability of the parents to intervene in a constructive way. Both mothers end up walking into the local town centres naked which says something of their sexuality and guilt although the daughters take very different routes in expressing themselves, reacting to the unbalanced marital relationships and the cultural mind set in which the parents have themselves been raised and appears to them to have accepted without questioning.

The reaction to Jerry Levov’s revelations about his brother is for Nathan to start to revisit the location of the homes, the business of the Swede and to look at press records in the local library. He meets someone he once took on a hayride who as a teenager had refused to let him undo her bra him undo her bra, not because she was sexually shy as such but because if he had become her boyfriend that he would have discovered the nature of the family set up which she did not want others to know. This quickly leads to one of the key passages in the film and which McGregor includes although in a modified version, and centres of the Freudian understanding of the sexual development of girls in relation to the attachments they have with their father seeking genuinely at times to replace their mothers as where it is also not uncommon   for a son to also say to his mother that he will marry her when grows up without understanding the implications of what he is saying.  Roth has the father responding to this situation as most fathers would at that time but also with understanding the potential impact of the rejection on the daughter and moreover also imbuing the daughter with an insight into her general behaviour of pushing things over normal limits with the consequential reactions of those involved.  The problem is that pushing to the limits allowed is normal behaviour and that this another aspect where both sets of parents are found wanting.

In Strangerland, the teenage girl is seduced by a teacher at the school with whom she had developed an emotional attachment, the crush which teenage girls and boys will develop for teachers who are themselves flattered by the attention, if they are not predators on the lookout for such a situation. Freud and several generations of Freudian enthusiasts accepted his argument that the wish of the child for the death of a parent, the death of a parent or sibling or having an embryonic sexual relationship, depending on their knowledge of marital relationships at the time can have just as strong and devastating impact on their behaviour because of guilt than had the situation developed into one of physical reality.

The different between those who think and feel and those who also act, or respond in destructive and often self-destructive ways is my main issue of interest because of my own experiences and have been undertaking research in preparation for rewriting experience in relation to opposition towards weapons of mass civilian extermination.

The first quarter  and first section of the books ends with the daughter as a  rebellious 16 year old, staying out over night with her radical friends, at constant war with her mother who sees the behaviour as adolescent rebellion against everything, using language most foul in order to bring  about  a desired reaction,  the stutter as a weapon, reminding of my own confrontations although I was able to insist on freedom to  as well as freedom from, earning  an income and with a monthly train season ticket which enabled to me to  travel to London at weekends  or stay on after work and where I cannot remember eating much if anything.   However, it is the father, in desperation, fearing his daughter is becoming more and more involved with the activities of the extremists in New York, poses the challenge to her to try and influence the local community and bringing the protesting locally, unaware of how this will be interpreted by the daughter and her friends with disastrous consequence for everyone- the law of the unintended consequence with paves the way to hell with good intentions.

Both book and film focusses on the visit of a young look University student seeking information in the glove making industry and where the Levov family business is known to provide the best handmade gloves in the country. This open the second section of the book headed The Fall. The book quickly reveals the student is an agent for the disappeared daughter whereas in the film only later is the truth self-revealed. I wondered why it was necessary for the history and nature of glove making industry to present in such detail until author explain through Seymour his opposition the approach of profit before everything and cutting corners, using the expression stealing time. The younger brother Jerry accuses his older of only knowing the business of making specialist gloves and when the market drops because of changing custom and overseas production it provides another reason for the world of Seymour to collapse further. It is only after Seymour has taken the young woman through the process of making her a pair of bespoke gloves that she reveals she is an emissary for his daughter with requests that items are brought to a secret location. Rita, the young woman, refuses to disclose where his daughter is, declares that Merry hates him and would like to see him shot.

He defends against inaccurate references to the upbringing of his daughter and she counters his attempt to challenge the accusation that his child murder by referring to the number of civilian deaths which occur because of the bombings by the USSAF and ground forces. He knew he should have reported the contact to the authorities but his wife persuaded him to continue with their only link providing her with a briefcase full of ten thousand dollars in bills. They meet for this in a hotel room where she offers herself crudely and which is also featured in the film. I had a similar experience when aged 21 or 22 with an 18/19-year-old subsequently murdered, which I rejected and which Seymour also rejects, bolts from the room and report to the FBI as I was to do to police after the death.  In the book, we move on five years and accounts of all the bombings and not coming to terms that the daughter has killed three people. Roth reflects on the course of the war and on the trial of a Black Communist Sympathetic Professor at ULCA, Angela Davis’ about the same age as Rita the girl Seymour is confronted by. Later it is Rita who writes telling him where Merry is claiming she had been under the power of Merry and acting as she had directed to the extent she pretends Seymour had used her sexually for Merry to accepted the cash and her continuing involvement.

The book looks back to how the community responded to the allegations with the highlight the disbelief that such a multi-talented school girl who never challenged authority was responsible for such deadly acts.  Someone her school mention she talked a lot about the Vietnam War, lashing out in one instance because of view expressed strongly opposed her own and one of the teachers was said by the FBI to have provided valuable information. There was incomprehension that this has happened to such a family

On the 1st September 1973 Seymour received the letter from Rita in which she says but she cannot cope anymore and his daughter needs urgent medical help. She provides the assumed name and location in Newark advising him to wait outside until she appears. His wife had twice been in hospital because of suicidal depression and she blamed him for marrying her, for having their child when all she wanted to be was a teacher, when being pressured to become a beauty queen but where she did not reach the final ten at Miss America contest in Atlantic City. We learn that in 1969, two years after her daughter disappeared she was back in hospital coinciding with an invitation to the 20th anniversary of leaving High School. He funded a trip to Geneva for facial surgery but this was not for him or her it is later revealed. The farm and grand house are sold and something smaller in a different area acquired, and his where several new versions of what are given, we are also taken further back in book and in film to events immediately after the bombing when he had gone to see the owners of the store and post office concession and the widow of the man killed who understood that the impact would be worse on the parents as they had a supportive family and community to help her and her child to cope.

He waits outside the Cat and Dog hospital dilapidated building where his daughter has been said to work in what had become a grim part of the city. She come unrecognisable in terms of clothing   body project and her covered face but it is her. She has become an adherent of the ancient Indian religions which I had also considered but came to quickly understand aspects   were not for me. Jainism is a total way of life based on passive inaction and a belief that all living things are beings with souls and with those who fully embrace accept poverty, chastity, truth and honesty without exception and the level of renunciation and noninvolvement which most find impossible to achieve or maintain. It is not only the opposite of what she had but what for a short while she has become. He found her condition distressing, especially her acceptance of squalor and deprivation. She had been there, close by for six months.

She tells the story of what happened after she admitted carrying out the bombing. She had spent three days at the home of the speech therapist who had arranged for her to enter an underground of places and people, some fifteen aliases in two months. She details how she became Mary Stoltz working for a year in the kitchen of an old person’s home. A minister who had befriended advised her to immediately sending to a commune in another part of the country but arriving in Chicago on her way to Oregon, she was raped, held captive and robbed. The film does not detail more, or if it does I do not remember.

She gets a casual job, was raped in another situation. She made her destination Oregon and became involved with two further bombings. She killed three people. She fell in love with a woman at the commune. The woman was married and a situation developed where she to leave. She worked in a potato field and commenced to learn Spanish planning to travel to Cuba, believing a revolution would never take place in the USA, she made her way to Florida. She had become parotid about the FBI on the lookout for her and came across an old woman begging who taught her trade and with whom she moved in until the woman died. She had commenced to learn about religions at the public library.

Hiss reaction to her story was deny she his daughter because his daughter could not have done the terrible things she had admitted.  He could not bear her as she was and pleaded with her to go with him whereas she pleaded to be left alone as she was. The book and the film then covers the impact of the riots on his factory, the neighbourhood he community. Seymour also tells his brother he has found his daughter and what she had done, the brother confronts Seymour with the reality of having become some the product of his father, the country and its system without having a separate identity with his daughter challenging in every way that she can, forcing him to accept the reality of who he is. What Roth appears to be demonstrating is that one brother has been passive, accepting what happens, until challenged in some fundamental way while the other has always been aggressive, accept my as I am or not at all with the implication that our basic inherited nature will only change when challenged by something out of the ordinary or by someone. Whether Roth had knowledge about how new humans are created, their gene structures, the neurology of the brain which I have only now commenced to learn the language to be able to understand, is a good question

But as fundamental to this, that there are significant differences to the platitude there is more that unites than divides is what seems to me the message of this book  is that education and parental upbringing should be about enabling each human being  to develop a sense of individual identity and thought process which does not accept what they given, including by parents and teachers without questioning and challenge and this today applies most of all to politicians and  mainstream media, and to experts  who  pretend objectivity, and  I also include the pure scientist in this who pontificates on subjects broader than their area of study. The phone exchange between the two brothers ends when Jerry reminds that Seymour had been an instructor in the Marines but still could not cope with the brutality of what could be human behaviour, his daughter had become a murderer and the reasons were only secondary in determining how society should treat her once guilt has been proved or in this instance admitted.

The third section of the book is headed Paradise Lost back at the time of the Watergate hearings which they would listen to and reflect on at the end of day to when they and the cows and then farm was being sold more ruminating on has been and which is also where I argue that one of the simplistic message of Arrival is a major feature of this important work of fiction because Roth repeatedly makes the point that when thinking and reacting to the present  we drawn what  has happened  before not as a chronology but in terms of relevance to our mood, our feeling, the person we have been, are and still hope to become.

But another aspect of the he books which is again explored is hate, the hate of things not understood, threatened, changing, he same kind of hate which his daughter and her associate had expressed. I now turn to two of the events mentioned in book which centre on our sexual awareness as children, of our sexuality as adults in relationships, to sex as a means for procreation, as giving and submitting to power as well of personal enjoyment plus the sense of betrayal leading to violence which can also result. I was unsure at first of why Roth included the situation where after Seymour and the daughter spends time together on a camping expedition on advice of a talking therapist she acts out the Freudian urge to replace her mother as his wife and he understandably is horrified and his responses crushes her although she has the insight and ability to communicate to admit that she tends to go too far. It his failure to understand and protect which appears to affect him more when learns she has been raped on two separate occasions. 

In Strangerland, the daughter becomes the town anybody’s who takes an interest which leads father to acts of continued aggression against the teacher who seduced her and those he finds have used in her the town. Just as it fathers who tells the daughter to protest within the community, the father in Strangerland admits at the end of the film to his wife that he had watched her go off at night with the younger brother who tends to go night walking and decided not to intervene to teach her a lesson, hence the great panic when the dust storm arrives, the son is fund barely alive   the daughter is not.  In American Pastoral, we know the daughter survives as she attended the funeral of her dad dead from prostate cancer aged 67 whereas in Strangerland we are left with the assumption she has perished from lack of water and sub alone in the desert. The audience reaction to both films, I assume American Pastoral for as mentioned I saw it alone, is to sit and working through their emotional reactions when the credits roll.  By contrast in Living is Easy with the eyes shut both the adolescent school boy who runs of from his dictatorial father and a young pregnant girl are known by the audience to be safe with prospects for a potentially good life when the film ends.
 In American Pastoral Seymour walks into the kitchen as they prepare to sit down for a meal with friends to find that the man from one of the couples is taking his wife and from her comments this is not first instance.  Later he learns she had the expensive facelift in Switzerland to please this man who she runs off and marries.  He backs off then but not when he finds that the talking therapist at the same meal with her husband had looked after his daughter for three days immediately after the bombing. She explains that because of the professional relationship she was bound by secrecy even when she knew from the TV what the girl was alleged to have done. What hurt Seymour most is that she did not tell him, the woman with whom Seymour had an extra marital affair, he later remarried with two sons. His back and white father could not understand his children in this respect, especially Jerry who has divorced three times with four wives all nurses and with an increasing gap in their age difference. What children  always find difficult to accept from their parents is the reality of life compared  the fairy stories of childhood  until he children  themselves grow  and have children of their own, and then sometimes too light they begin to see that their parents were always doing their best  but the best is too often not good  enough .I was struck  by this  thought to day when reading an article in Times by Melanie Phillips  headed Royal sense of duty may die with the Queen with the sub text that our present head of state could be the last to believe in a  higher cause than family or personal desires. I think not given the vast numbers of everyone everywhere try and balance their duty to themselves and their families with concern and action in relation to others.

Monday, 14 November 2016

The Accountant a film at many levels

The Accountant is a film which can be appreciated at several levels although the mixture will not please everyone who want every film to have one storyline, one approach or message. The film is entertaining as an action movie, a thriller with a conclusion which is always in doubt, a black wry comedy and an attempt to improve understanding about the nature of autism, Asperger’s’ and those who function best when appreciated and supported for being different and for what they are. The film is likely to have a greater ‘educational’ impact because it attracts the mainstream cinema audience and therefore does not just appeal to an already receptive or converted audience.

The Australian television series the Code, where its second series concluded its six episode showing on BBC  Four last night (November 5th 2016) has a  similar approach with the main character at the genius end of the spectrum, dependent on his brother for the greater part of his life but now has an adult relationship with a woman who finds that he meets her different needs sufficiently for her accept the implications of his inability to fit within the box which the state wants him function if he is to be allowed to repeatedly cross the line. More on the main storyline of the Code later and where I have previously covered the first three-episode story line which centred on child abduction and trafficking for sexual exploitation.

The main story of the Accountant is the need for Raymond King played by J K Simmons, the Director of Financial Crimes at the US Treasury Department, to learn the identity and location of the Accountant before he retires from the service and it is only midway during the film that we learn of the incident when the Accountant had a gun to his head and decided not to pull the trigger because he had answered convincingly in the right way to a question about whether he had been a good parent. Film is best medium for demonstrating that the appearance of something is not its independent reality and included in the first week of cultural experience is the original 1938 film version of the Agatha Christie’s   The Lady Vanishes and where I also viewed another approach to a lady on a train, The Girl on the Train and to different perceptions of the same repeated event in the new Sky Atlantic HBO series Westworld which covers the use of synthetic humans and which is also the subject of Humans the second  Channel Four series which explores  the issues of artificial intelligence and robotics and which the creative genius is warning humanity about the dangers involved to its future.

The Director of Financial Crimes recruits a brilliant young analyst in his department to find the identity and location of the Accountant for him and to do so within the few weeks left before his retirement from the service, and he does this by blackmailing her having discovered she has effectively lied on her application to become a public service official which is an offence likely to be punished with a term of imprisonment. Because the film is already underway and engaging I did not immediately say “hey, hang on a minute, why is he only doing this now,” and “why if she is the right person does he need to blackmail her?” And any way “why pick someone with a past that they must want keep private and remain vulnerable when he retires?” The answer to such questions is not just crucial to understanding this film but to understanding how democratic governments operate in getting and using people to do things, break laws, break rules, which are not allowed because it is a democratic state, and rightly so, but needs to do in the interests of the state, and which can also be in the public interest and becomes one of the exceptions, to prove the rule.

Cynthia Adda- Robinson as Marybeth Medina solves the mystery but in the final scene as she appears to become the new Director of this government service or at least on a rapid rise to doing so, she agrees not to disclose the identity of  the Accountant, or pursue with a view to capture, prosecution and imprisonment, but allows his continued freedom to do what he does, which includes killing criminals and people employed to protect criminals, because of the information which he provides through his assistant, a computerised female voice- the Voice, and which has led to solving a number of high profile public interest financial crime cases over more than a decade. 

This part of the film is about how the state uses creatives (not psychopaths) in peace time as well as in war. Moreover, Marybeth Medina is portrayed herself as a creative. Throughout my writings and comments on other people social media writings I have tried to explain the difference between creatives and psychopaths. Creatives have strong moral codes, lifelong loyalties, care about the implications of what they do and are not therefore psychopaths who have no standards, no loyalties, are egocentric and do not care about the impact of their behaviour on others. However, the creative does not always recognise the laws and rules of the state, his employers of where he or she is and this is also the subject of the second six-episode Australian TV series shown on BBC Channel Four, the Code which came to an end on Saturday and which will be reviewed separately, having in previous recent writing mentioned the issue of child abduction and trafficking for sex which was one of the storylines in the first three episodes.

There is often confusion in the public mind brought about by such films as the Dirty Dozen, convicted murders released from prison to do mission impossible behind enemy lines with the promise of a pardon in the unlikely event of returning home alive. In the same way, factually the F.B.I and what is now known as Homeland Security in the USA did arm’s length deals with the certain Mafia bosses and crooked union bosses during the second World War and which affected what happened to them when the war ended.

 A crucial feature of this film is the connection between the Accountant and the government, centred on the Gambino Family, one of the five Italian original crimes families that used to control politicians, public officials and crime in New York. The five families (Bonanno, Columbo, Genovese and Luchesse the others) still function with two heads in prison and this aspect is one of several in this film which helps explain why the USA is the strongest, wealthiest and most powerful nations on the planet, with half the population of its prisons sentenced because of involvement with drugs.

It is noteworthy in passing that the President of Columbia is visiting the UK to meet our head of State and Prime Minister following the peace treaty with its revolutionary guerrilla socialist army which has exploited the production of cocaine to meet the needs of USA citizens, fuelling capitalism and political corruption, and where there are parallels past and present with the involvement of the I.R.A and  guns for drugs, and now protecting the ongoing peace process and when the peace treaty has been rejected in the referendum with Columbia People using the Referendum to protest about several aspects of government and their own position in that society, bur where the President, who has recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize he is confident he can renegotiate a different  form of treaty which the people will agree in a second referendum, something which the UK Prime Minister is desperate to avoid because attempting to do would split the Tory Party, force an early general election and create mayhem on the streets as threatened by Nigel Farage with his warning made on Andrew Marr on Sunday akin to Enock Powell’s  rivers of  blood speech.

One other new film released last week was Nocturnal Animals which provides another reality insight to present day USA and which I will see before staying up to find out which of the two wealthy and creative politicians will the country elect as its next president.

The Accountant in this film is Christian Wolf, played by  Ben Affleck,  who himself is a larger than the average life  former child actor, now director as well as  continuing lead actor in a wide range of genre from Batman to Argo, from Gone Girl to a documentary on disabilities, to political activism as a Democrat and helping out with  a food bank, to promoting charitable work in  Eastern Congo to owning a  number of  homes including an estate, to marriage with three children but also high prolife relationships with internationally known women Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez. His family background and his life to-day are extraordinary for a man still in his forties.

The film provides the backstory of the Accountant as a child with challenging behaviour, and devoted brother with whom he can communicate and his parents divided over how best to bring him up resulting in his mother leaving.  I have always disliked labelling people although saying they are on a spectrum has some validity if it helps to identify an early need for special measures to enable everyone to develop their innate and acquired abilities to their maximum potential. Too often assessment and labelling is about monitoring, management and control, of the state deciding how to make use of and then discard when the use is no longer needed.

There is need for more general public awareness of  how babies are made in terms of their neurology and physiology and where there has been some widening understanding in relation to the spectrum of sexuality and its implications with the government right to resist the proposed blanket amnesty in the recent Private Members Bill in the House of Commons for all those prosecuted for sexual offences when the law punished homosexual and lesbians for involvement in sexual activity at an age when heterosexual activity was not a crime. The government correctly pointed out the need to exclude those where prosecuted for offences involving someone then a minor in law.  It all remains a grey area subject and where I was interested in the programme on Channel Four on Sunday 6th of November on how Prince Phillip came to marry Queen Elizabeth with Earl Mountbatten deciding that his protégé should groom the princess when she was 13 and he 18 years.

The father of the Accountant is in the military, a qualified  psychologist in intelligence, who has a simple philosophy as most military people come to have, of dividing  everyone between winners and losers, survivors or victims and therefore arranges both his sons to be trained to become experts in the use of weapons and in the martial arts of self-defence and  in my judgement it is not possible to assess and judge this film without understanding its context of the USA psyche and its developed varied sociological extremes unlike here in the UK, where the move since the 1970’s has been towards  a centrism which has tolerated the extremes of capitalism, fascist and intolerant regimes with which we trade but attempted to end political activism communism and socialism, the latter led by Tony Blair (see Gay Johnsons e-book. Unlike in the USA where there has been successful foreign venture after its failures in Korea and Vietnam, and compounded with the failures of 9/11, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Libya, the UK has had the success of the Falklands War which out the great back into Britain after the humiliation of Suez and the loss of the Empire. While the survival of our head of state and the Brexit vote and anti-Russian activity is being exploited to promote a unifying national identity, Donald Trump is offering to make the USA great again without spelling out precisely how he plans to do this without spilling more of his country’s young blood, just as Hilary Clinton talks of healing divisions while promoting centrist capitalism as Teresa May is also attempting to promote.

The mother of the Accountant wanted him to attend a specialist residential centre for those at the socially disabled Asperger’s end of the autism spectrum and where both wanted to protect their son from the bullying and hostility from those whose response to something they do not understand and who feel threatened by is to attack. It is on his visit to this centre that Christian communicates with someone who continues not to speak directly throughout the rest of her life and where during the film we learn lives at such (or the same) special centre now funded by Christian and uses the best state of the art computer communicator. Because she has the computer power to engage with all other computers Christian has the intelligence and mobile information capacity to undertake his day jobs without capture and to communicate with the vehicle for achieving justice, in this instance, the Director of Crime Investigation at the US Treasury. In the Australian TV series Code the creative lead character is involved with Cyber protection and control nationally and who in turn work closely with the USA and UK cyber intelligence services. among others

One reason that the UK Government restricted what is now the Jay Inquiry to one aspect of the past abuse of  children and to England and Wales using the nonsense of different legal systems and devolved administrations to exclude Northern Ireland and Scotland and limit its broader international dimension is that just as with the use of international crime organisations during World War II and the use of illegal drug substances to both finance make use of  government  or insurgent  forces in off the books interventions in other countries (Ireland, Columbia, Afghanistan come immediately to mind) is the issue of Child abuse abduction for sexual trafficking, for slave labour and for body parts) a feature of Code but not sure about the Australian Royal Commission and which has now come to the fore with allegations re Hilary Clinton as the USA Presidency election comes to a boil and where Donald Trump appears to be surviving the allegations of misogyny.

The front occupation of the Accountant is a small-town practice in which he helps local ordinary people beat the system and which has echoes of the recent film Hell or High Water, in which two brothers set out to beat the bank that ruined their family. The Accountant lives locally in a deceptive ordinary middle class suburban home but he also a large lockup with a small metal mobile home in which he keeps a substantial amount of cash, an original Jason Pollock and an impressionist work (I forget the painter’s name) together with standby weaponry, and where he says it takes only few minutes to hitch to vehicle and set off to a new safe destination, and one which I suspect he has already arranged, thus signalling the potential for a sequel film.

Although there is great wealth in this trailer it is only a fraction of that he has accumulated by the rest of his accountancy practice which concentrates on unravelling cooked books where crime organisation discovered that their accountants or senior members with a knowledge of computerised accountancy have cooked the books to siphon fortunes for themselves and where payment for work undertaken includes  the  million dollar artwork which he is able through Voice and her computer to sell to private collectors.

Voice can detect the appointment and work of Marybeth Medina and suggests to Christian that he take up the offer of a contract from Living Robotics, a company seeking to go public which provides the latest aids for the physically disabled, and where one of its employed accountants has detected activity which indicates a siphoning of financial assets.

The firm is owned by Lamar Blackburn, his unmarried sister Rita and their friend in establishing the company. The Accountant arrives on the first day of the contract, having requested copies of all the accountants for the past 15 years during which the company has taken off in production and financial prosperity and he request that all the associated paper work is accessible. He finds the in-house accountant asleep having worked through the night to prepare the information requested and she anticipates that she will be expected to work with him. The offer is rejected but they do meet outside the offices when eating their packed lunches separately and there are the beginnings of a potential connection. Again, working overnight Christian fills the room with figures from wall to ceiling as a visual representation of the way of his photographic mind and to be able to demonstrate what he has found to Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick - The twilight Saga and Pitch Perfect films) who has his kind of obsessional persistence as well as social isolation. He back story suggest that her life has been marked by social reject from peers as a child and teenager but she has led a quiet worked centred life and no attempt to function out the box set by her parents, teachers and employers. The one act of rebellion is to purchase an expensive dress to be worn once, to feel good and be noticed. There is a similarity between her character and that of the student who became the female partner of the creative in The Code. While the Accountant works outside the law, the autistic heroine of the Danish and Swedish drama series Bridge works as a senior police detective as does the French female lead officer, another on the autism spectrum in the first series of Missing.

Just after 24 hours of work Cristian advises Rita Blackburn (Jan Smart) that he knows who as well as how and the amount the fraud ($61 million) and goes off to write his report. Rita following consultation with her brother immediately ends the contract with a payoff. and does required his written report, which frustrates and goes against his natural his determination as a Completer Finisher. At this point I introduce myself into these notes as an assessed Creative and Shaper with Completer Finisher management qualities. The reason for doing so is that I attended one the top international general management course for existing directors in commercial organisations with a handful of places taken up by those in organisation where shareholder profit is not the principal focus.  The role of genius creatives (I am not at the genius level) in generating wealth creation was covered and the challenges they can pose if they are caught crossing the line between what is legal or not and the activity in question cannot be made to go away.

In such an instance, it is essential for the organisation involved to have in advance the means to distance themselves from any wrong doing which has become, or is likely to become public.

Over recent decades the best way to use such individuals is for them to be self-employed contractors who are off the  books and the recently reviewed film 13 hours  based on recent events in Libya  which led to the  killing of the US Ambassador is one  example of using self-employed contractors in terms of the provision of intelligence and security,  but they can  also be used to ensure there is no record of someone who has  crossed the line for their own  purposes as  has occurred in Northern Ireland and which explains  that the formal inquest into some death will not take places for one or more decades in the future. In several recent action films and series there is the involvement of international private security as well as on and off the books state security and intelligence operatives with the Australian TV Code series and a Danish Sweden three series the Bridge also relevant.

In the Accountant, as in the cinema adaptation of Dan Brown’s Inferno and Jack Reacher-the Return, both recently experienced and reviewed, the fictional off the books clean up squads are led by a highly trained and martial arts specialists and assassins. The Accountants ends is the kind of” in all the Gin Joints of the world (Casablanca) you enter mine” moment!  

In the film first the male partner in the firm is made to appear the company fraud villain, when he commits suicide by overdosing on insulin as an alternative to his wife being violated and killed, and when the Accountant questions this and goes to question the sister he finds her shot dead and becomes aware the assassin has ability to match his own. He is forced to attend the home of one of the couples locally to where he lives who he has helped because they are being held at gun point to make him visit. He rescues the couple and kills those sent to kill him. He realises that if he is being targeted because of his involvement with the Robotics firm then so too will Dana and he is just in time to stop a four person kill team.  He takes Dana first to the lock up for cash where her curiosity results in discovering his paintings, money and weapons. He then takes her to an expensive hotel suite while he uses Voice to help find the location of Lamar who is obviously the person behind the attempts on his and Dana’s life.

Meanwhile Marybeth Medina has located the small-town premises used by the Accountant and visit his suburban home discovering the digital and weapons protection which he has installed at the property but not immediately the secure lock up base.  We learn the circumstances which led the Accountant to serve a term of imprisonment because of an incident at the funeral of his mother in which the father take a bullet for his son and dies. It is when in prison that the Accountant is shown how to survivor in prison by his cell companion who happens to be the former accountant and fixer from the Gambino crime family.  The man had recruited as an informer by the US government to bring down the Gambino family and upon release from prison he is captured and tortured to death.

The Accountant seeks revenge on the family on learning of the torture and death of his prison mentor and it is when on his revenge killing spree that he encounters Ray King that he poses the question which stops his murder and leads to the information about wrongdoing fed to the government by Voice on behalf of the Accountant.

The Accountant also begins to explain something of himself and why he made the effort to save the life of Dana because he has recognised in her something of himself in terms being considered different and being alone to the point of isolation. She, understandably sees him as her saviour when first she appreciates that her work became the trigger for the death of two of three owners of the company and the attempted assassinations of the Accountant and herself.  But the Accountant is a man of honour and a code and as no intention of abusing the relationship opportunity which he has always longed for and he leaves her making it clear that that he is potentially on a one-way mission to settle his account with Lamar and end the attempt on their lives.

He is right to not to assume the outcome of the venture, even having gained access to the digital surveillance system which is also something which occurs during the final two episodes of the Code. The place is heavily fortified and the Security leader warns that their foe cannot be underestimated despite the superiority of their armed manpower. A feature of the way the Assassin has functioned is his way of coping with stress and where in depth digital sound and voice analysis led to his detection. It also becomes something which prevents the Robotics hired Assassin team leader to pause before using his superior ability when the Accountant is wounded during the process of killing or disabling the rest of the security protect member.

Another aspect of his self-preservation regime has been body building, coping with loud music given his previous sensitivities, coping with physical pain and self- treatment of injury. It is important to stress that his murderous villainy is nothing to do with his inherited and challenging personality but the outcome of the psychological condition insisted upon by his father from the best of intentions and which was also rational in terms of the everyone able to carry and use gun culture of the United States.

I say this because of that of the gin joints in the world moment when Christian realises that his adversary is his brother Braxton who was required by his father to follow the same use of arms and martial arts programme as his brother. The two men do fight for a short time but this has nothing to do with their respective assignments or the requirements of that moment. Braxton has remained furious because Christian had not only attended the funeral of the mother who had abandoned them, but had asked his father and not him.  Christian explains that he had wanted to protect his brother, hence not attempting to find and make contact and that he regretted that the decision to attend the funeral had led to the death of their father.

Braxton stand by while Christian executes Lamar and the two brothers agree to meet on a regular basis again signalling the potential of a sequel This also become evident after Voice relays to Medina the information necessary for the bureau to take the credit and close the Robotics case and at the typical USA media conference Medina signals after deliberation that she accepts the role chosen for her by the retiring Director speaking of their success team effort.

Christian is seen motoring off with his trailer attached leaving the lock up bare like the basement prison in Thirteen or the Bunker in Missing although in both series a torn passport and a receipt left behind are the only potential clues discovered and given a significance.  Before departing on the mission to kill Lamar Christian has left a note for Dana and with mission success she can return to her home, remedy the destruction the assassination attempt on her created and rebuild her life.  Two delivery men arrive, as the two assassins had done before. They present a heavily framed and packed large picture which she realises is just the cover for the Pollock below. This signals that Christian has resettled and that their connection is not necessarily at an end. touch.

It was evident from the audience reaction that everyone enjoyed the film and laughed with the film and not at it. I had no means of knowing if some of the aspects I have raised were also shared. I had intended to continue covering the final part of the Code and the Bridge and to include something about the foul-mouthed comedy Grimsby which is also about two brothers leading very different lives with one working for government an undercover assassin. I am stopping however because of the arrival of John Carlton’s, book -Don’t you hear the B Bombs Thunder? about the involvement of young people on Tyneside in the late fifties and early sixties in politics and protest movements especially the CND and Direct Action. This is now my next priority and I still also need to write about Gay Johnston important new work and where she was responsible for my speaking at a Labour party conference fringe meeting with Barbara Castle, Dr David Owen and David Ennals the other speakers.