MOVIE CRITICISM GROWS OUT OF THE BARREL OF A GUN

The phrase "red ink" takes on an entirely new meaning, courtesy of a Maoist publication

Sleepwalking into the St. Louis Bread Co. on South Grand one morning recently, what should I discover atop of a stack of copies of the more predictable West End Word but something called MIM Notes? A hammer-and-sickle emblem at the top right of the publication should have been a tipoff, but the subtitle nonetheless explained the name: Official Newsletter of the Maoist Internationalist Movement. Best of all, it was free. Long live the revolution.

Yes, despite the current orgy of capitalism, Maoists are afoot, even on South Grand, or at least one fellow traveler bothered to dump a stack of "MIM Notes" amid the bourgeois trappings of a franchised coffee-and-sourdough cafe of a national chain staffed by overworked and underpaid -- oh well, never mind. Readers more attuned to "News of the Weird" and similar, lighter fare in their free publication might need a pot of coffee and significant downtime to machete their way through these Maoist treatises, er, articles. But it's certainly worth the effort to bend over and reach to pick up MIM Notes. (And let's face it -- with free publications, that's all the reader has to do, so why be so persnickety as to complain about content? Really.)

In the masthead it's explained that bylines are not used in MIM Notes articles because the publisher is an "underground party" that doesn't publish the "names of its comrades in order to avoid state suppression that has historically been directed at communist parties and anti-imperialist movements." Guess U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy isn't dead enough for these folks. Instead of a true byline, "By MC45" appears under a piece on the earthquake in Turkey titled "Unnatural Disaster of Imperialist Proportions." There's even an article by "MC5, " though the members of that band would hardly have written about the observation that "New York Times notices that science production is political."

If the articles are a bit much, at least the headlines are intriguing. "On Focoism and the Lumpen Proletariat," tops a piece on focoism, which concerns small cells of armed revolutionaries who "can create the condition for revolution through their actions." But no, "Lumpen Proletariat," doesn't refer to overweight South Side blue-collar types with too much cellulite. It has to do with the "Lumpen Proletarian prisoners," the lowest of the lower class in capitalist society's eyes.

The newsletter, though entertaining, is only a preview of what's in store on the MIM Web site. At www.etext.org/Politics/MIM, you get access to back issues, the full text of articles from MIM's theoretical journals and, of course, your handy Maoist film reviews. New, old, popular and obscure, it's as if Gene Siskel's death led to "Mao Zedong and Ebert." For example, A Bug's Life is seen to have a good side and a bad side. The good, the review by MC206 states, is that "it portrays the successful collective struggle of the apparently weak oppressed and exploited, in this case an ant colony, against the apparently strong oppressors and exploiters, in this case a band of grasshoppers." The bad side? "It never directly ties its oppressors, the grasshoppers, to the biggest oppressors in the real world, the imperialists." How Disney missed this obvious connection is not made clear.

Capsules of older movies are offered, including Steven Spielberg's 1993 Holocaust epic: "All the Jews on Schindler's List would have died anyway if millions of people, principally from the Soviet Red Army, had not died stopping Hitler's Eastern conquest. A fitting Amerikan eulogy to one benevolent capitalist who saved people by putting them to work in his factory." So working in a capitalist factory is only slightly better than death. In other cases, merely the headline is sufficient. Martin Scorsese's film on the Chinese invasion of Tibet, Kundun, is summarized thusly: "Slavemaster Dalai Lama has his say." Even Trekkies take a hit: "Star Trek: Insurrection fails political test, and is boring." Hollywood clearly is not on the shining path.

Give us your feedback by e-mailing "Short Cuts" at shortcuts@rftstl. com, faxing 314-615-6716 or calling 314-615-6711.

 
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