LAFF 2008: Boogeymen are coming to get'cha!
No, not this guy. But he makes a better visual than the “stars” of the two documentaries I’m about to discuss. One is BOOGIE MAN, a story about the life and influence of the late Republican campaign manager Lee Atwater. The other features the closest thing to a real-life bogeyman, an honest-to-goodness unrepentant Nazi living in Spain, known locally as Pablo but actually named Paul Hafner. The movie is entitled HAFNER’S PARADISE.
Now, let be clear that I’m not saying Republicans are Nazis – I’m comparing FILMS about them. And I know using bullet points for a review is a lazy device. But it’s also fun to read sometimes, and we’ve still got seven days to go, so why not mix it up a little.
So: Boogie Man versus bogeyman. Here we go.
Atwater: smooth-talking Southerner who could play the blues very well, and, much like John McCain today, was well-liked by the press because he was nice to them and answered every question, even if the answers were total B.S. sometimes.
Hafner: Gentle old man who likes to go to the beach and play chess. Appears to have a clear conscience and a great bill of health at age 83; says he hasn’t been sick in 35 years and takes no medications.
Atwater: Strom Thurmond.
Hafner: Adolf Hitler.
Atwater: Karl Rove, both George Bushes.
Hafner: 99 year-old man at an old folks’ home who laughs when he remembers bombing Guernica.
Atwater: Had black friends, loved black music, and apparently thought of himself as an honorary soul bro. Then created the Willie Horton ad, to make people afraid of Michael Dukakis because he lets scary black men out of prison. Denied making ad. Only admitted years later.
Hafner: Believes in Jewish conspiracies, thinks Hitler had the right idea about them, yet denies any were deliberately mistreated. Says they were “perfectly happy” in Auschwitz, which was a “ten-star” hotel compared to bombed-out cities.
Atwater: Singing the blues.
Hafner: Pig farming; also invented a home appliance that makes yogurt.
Atwater: Michael Dukakis, whom we see puttering about his house doing mundane things, as if that’s the worst thing in the world. Also the American public, because Atwater was a huge enabler of Dubya’s interest in politics.
Hafner: Millions of Jews, none of which he’ll admit to.
Climax occurs when-
Atwater: Gets brain cancer. Film, seemingly tastelessly, brings up his quote about getting inside an enemy’s head. Turns out Atwater made the analogy himself. Rethinks life as pioneer of smear politics in the cable media age, and arguable spiritual forefather of Fox News, which he didn’t live to see.
Hafner: Invited by the filmmaker to sit down and talk with a Dachau survivor. He agrees.
Atwater: Atwater bloated by chemo drugs.
Hafner: Gratuitous shot of pigs fucking, to make the point that that’s what he thinks of race-mixing; numerous shots of the aged Hafner naked or near naked.
Atwater: Appears to repent on his deathbed; sincerity not clear.
Hafner: Living to a ripe old age and expects to live much longer because “I’m a living saint.” Leni Riefenstahl also lived a long time, as did Tom Hanks’ character in THE GREEN MILE, which was allegedly divine punishment. But every time Hafner blatantly denies the Holocaust, his body language becomes that of a liar, and he develops a psychosomatic toothache.
Movies overall –
BOOGIE MAN: THE LEE ATWATER STORY: Cinematically slick, and has lots of talking heads from both sides of the aisle. Fascinating to a political junkie like me who wasn’t aware of the game back then. Overly harsh in suggesting he deserved his terminal illness.
HAFNER’S PARADISE: Not incredibly technically well-made, but a fascinating document. One of those movies to see for content regardless of style. But again, did we need to see Hafner naked so much?
[I also saw the Shaw brothers movie 8 DIAGRAM POLE FIGHTER. And I still have no idea what the 8 diagrams are, or what the hell was going on during the opening 15 minutes or so. But once Gordon Liu starts training to be a monk, stuff gets amazing and stays that way. Tarntino is right about these flicks, so check it out even if you think Quentin’s an obnoxious loudmouth sometimes]
Get the Theater Newsletter
Get a rundown of upcoming theater events and ticket deals in Los Angeles.