Hugh Hudson's REVOLUTION REVISITED
The Theory of a "R"evolution
Is the idea of a revisitation or a homecoming, recrudescence and memory somewhat proustian? Well, if yes, what about a resuscitation? Revival then? Too glamorous?
Well, maybe not. Maybe they’re very ultra indulgently narcissistic ideas of the self, especially on the very day of John Updike’s death. Yet, confronted with all that, and thinking about Revolution Revisited, I found myself having a Darwinian experience.
Wait! Before you accuse me of wondering off bounds, please allow me to expose my rather odd theory. Hugh Hudson’s Revolution was launched. Shortly thereafter it was shelved. And in this nowhere land it lived in a sort of coma for twenty years and became a defeated reel, a Darwinian logbook of sorts, drifting in virtual reality space of a well known vessel named the ‘Beagle’.
Yet, this bigger than life film, is now making a glorious path to its own freedom. But not without some bitter, very bitter smiles. I must explain.
If only Darwin had lived to see it perhaps he would have ended up in tears, sweet tears. Or, who knows, his original jungle manuscript would have read quite differently: “the survival of the defeatist”. Defeated is not only a relative theory but a painting in perspective. Why, would you ask. Well, certain things had better not be explained. Entropic events do happen for a reason. Revolution was meant to ‘not to happen’ when it was launched. It turned Hugh Hudson into a stronger (albeit a crustier and more bitter strong tasty malt) and Pacino into the star he has is used to being.
“Gosh!”, one evolutionary theorist may utter somewhere in the dark universe: “Had I known that a narration would add or subtract so substantially, given the proportions, it would have only seen obvious that the film would have been greeted as the greatest epic of its time or of all times.
Are we migrating into Hawking’s idea of “space-time” ? Uhhh! Hope not.
Why am I bringing in Hawkings and not speaking of Pacino’s magnificent performance? Because I’m not a film critic. I’m an artist with what they call a ‘broad view of history’ and…well, Hawkings and his singularity of the classical Big Bang models ruptures the region where “there is no further”. Ah, so! Hugh’s Revolution also ruptures the region where “there is no further”. Well, there it is!
In Hudson’s films the achievable becomes the exhaustible and, thus, the unachievable. Might it be fair to say that there is a singularity in Hugh’s works and the North Pole?
One cannot travel further north of the North pole, as there is no boundary there, if the world were flat. But the critics at the time saw the world as flat as they did in Galileo’s time or in the pre-Columbian era. It’s always a Jurassic struggle anyhow!
The WAR depicted in Revolution evokes not only the war of existence or ‘Resistance’ of man on earth or the war of Independence by the Americans against the English, but that of a filmmaker against his own producer! ‘Evoking’ may be the right word to describe this raw and mostly bloody Mary Queen of Scots of a revolutionary filmmaker who embraces the cause of the underdog.
While originally the no-boundary has always prevailed in this wild director’s mind, such an epic was bound to foresee its own foreclosure and give Hollywood a premature taste of scientific defeat.
Well, the world a ball and the Universe isn’t ‘closed’ and Revolution was given extra living forces from a quantum parallel by an extra lung coming twenty years later in the age of Obama.
Let us exercise, for the sake of it, our imagination from a historical inexplicable perspective. Rather, let us join the author with his creation. His creations, that is.
When we look at Hudson’s creations we tend to see a multi layer of beings portraying several other layers of struggles: class, casts, the desperate fight for the finish line. But one can, convincingly, build a Hugh Hudson “scale” of measurement, so to speak.
It’s indeed difficult (if not close to impossible) to attribute any great artist of voice and distinction a ‘signature’, a mercury signal by which to measure his guilt and size, his fragility and force before God, freedom or, perhaps even the most mundane of chores.
A Revolution can hardly be revisited but it certainly can be completed. It can also be re-orchestrated, being that the exercise of judgement, in as much as it is inevitable, perhaps reaches the summit of the human imbecility as well.
Yet, based upon this exercise, Gold Crest Films (in London), decided to order Mr. Hudson to deliver a baby, prematurely. Also based upon this judgement, 20 years later, Hudson’s unborn child will finally see the day of light in the form of a DVD release next May.
Unfair? Yes, Very. But, then again, I began the essay by quoting Darwin and the un-fittest or the triumph of the defeated. Rather, the survival of the latter. Better still, its stillness. The stillness of a revolutionary yankee who does nothing for his freedom or the safety of his own son, Pacino’s character that is, as it happens with most compatriots seizing the opportunism of the moment ends up caged in, imprisoned by his own America at war. Hudson was caged in and found himself at war yet again, skull alone, fists alone, blank board, to begin again, two hundred and some years past the Independence between the mother country and the rebel boy.
Hudson is one of a few author-directors in the history of film and art in general who champions the complete ‘invention of the human’ himself, all in one, all in him, as Bloom would have it. Through Shakespearean eyes, Hudson “takes arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them”, no matter whether the subject of the film is an Argentinean race car driver or an apeboy turned roverposh or an Olympian runner driven to psychological pleonasms of the Hamm-Hamletean existential dilemma as Beckettian as: ‘for to end yet again skull alone…’
Hudson and Samuel Beckett can certainly be on the same page and please do not be outraged by such statement. Defending arguments are about to come to a close fairly soon, fear not!
Oh, yes: Darwin….Hawkings….Beckett….Hudson: When the Beagle returned on 2 October 1836, Darwin was already a celebrity with a huge backlog of work, and there was with a danger of specimens just being left in storage. Revolution was in storage for 20 years and in danger of becoming a Darwinian specimen. Aha! Struck a note? Revolution was becoming a Darwinian wreckage! No way! It is the most brilliant film coming from a most brilliant director.
Revolution is, like everything else in Hudson’s work, a strong piece of broken Leitmotifs. If again broken into sections, a leitmotif will repeat themes well recognizable to the listener or viewer. Of course, the leitmotif was somewhat introduced by ‘meister’ Wagner in the overture of his operas. In Hudson’s films, however, they acquire the reasonable strategy of intemperance.
His ‘themes’ are different, yet similar in taste and colour. His temperament is furiously and diametrically ‘punishable by law’ (as Karl Maria Von Weber once said about Beethoven), yet the content of Hudson’s movies are often even didactic at times. It’s always the man, the author, the creator, the artist we see no matter which movie we’re seeing. But in Revolution, we’re seeing all the sides of Mr. Hudson, from the complete revolutionary to (dare I say it), a sometimes nostalgic Brit.
Surely that must trigger some anger, rage in the stomach of the stupid, the untrained or the envious. That must trigger all sorts of inner bitter intestinal revolutions. Beware: Revolution was boycotted ! Yes, it pierces through all the inner boundaries of our own constant mental revolutions and lives.
The leitmotif of Revolution Revisited is nothing short of an extraordinary experience. For someone who has seen, witnessed, studied this film in its various forms and formats, this version brings me to the epicentre of my consciousness as an artist. Why?
Because I must question myself and my art and my sponsors. Because I must question what art is and who it is made for. Who is watching it and what purpose it will serve or fulfil. If confiscated or ordered to be finished in a hurry and then – in a space shuttle ideology – be picked up again after 20 years, will I still be truthful to myself and my ideas? Will my audience still be there? Will the geopolitical situation of the world still be there to support my cause?
Hugh Hudson has managed to build his own mercury scale by which he will be judged. Few artists in history have gone thus far.
This film is certainly an homage to all the smaller than life kafka bugs, revolutionary or not, that have never been able to make it because of the nature of the game: war or filmmaking. It also celebrates Welles’s Rosebud and Felini’s masterpieces. Hudson’s symbolism is sometimes allegorical but, most of all, it affirms our feeble “moans and groans from the cradle to the grave”, with all the illegitimate wars that have emerged on the planet recently due to interest groups of simply Oedipean family matters: Bush in Iraq, for instance.
With Obama’s election to the White House, Revolution Revisited becomes the most important of movies ever. And Hugh Hudson oeuvre as a whole, (or in Hawking’s Hole) , the creator of a leitmotif becomes the avenger , even if we waited for 20 years for Obama’s swearing in on January 20th, 2009.
On that date not only did America become independent again but an imprisoned film is now ‘Free, Free at last’. Welcome back to the world Revolution Revisited. Welcome back Mr Hugh Hudson. What once was tarnished as historical mishaps or histrionics will, this time around, be most welcomed as the inexplicable perspective the ‘hindsight of oversight’. WELCOME BACK MR HUGH HUDSON .THE WORLD NEEDS YOU MORE THAN EVER !
January 25, 2009