January 10, 2006 [Munich]

Spielberg's hellish procedural, Munich, bounced me like an echo to In Cold Blood: Both of them "blast hair all over them walls"--and both make me wait, and wait, and wait, until I'm sick of waiting--and sick of myself for my impatience. Because after all what do I want but something awful: to see the murders and the murderers--but it is an old trap, an Oedipal one, in which we meet the enemy "and he is us."

But long before he feeds the appetite to see, Spielberg lays out nauseating dishes: poor Jim McCay back there in 1972 telling me as calmly as he could that just when you thought you could hope for the best you hear the worst.  And then the secret assassins that Israel sends to collect eyes for eyes, teeth for teeth: Their righteousness becomes cruelty, then thoughtless routine, like a career butcher doing his job over the dripping grate.  And Munich makes me peer down there below the butcher's feet, and it's an abyss with a reflection blackly rippling with just enough light to see myself.  As one of Munich's assassins notes, "All of this blood comes back to us."

And so then another echo-bounce: to Kubrick--or maybe a Hitchcock movie remade by Kubrick.  It's the cold hand refusing to let go of the back of my neck, forcing me to see--to give in to my desire to see--the details of execution, the careful preparations made and the tense, sad challenges faced by the--and which is it? Heroes? Villains? Whose movie has Spielberg made? His own? Kubrick's? Hitchcock's? Some devilish hybrid?  Maybe in the end it's more Spielberg than anyone, especially in the pity he invokes, so that the deaths are not just political but personal, not just inevitable but universal.
(And as I think back on the last half-decade, ever since A.I. Spielberg keeps finishing Kubrick movies--or remaking them as 9/11 movies, from Minority Report's fruitless urge to be safe to War of the Worlds' mad rush to devastation--to Munich's demand that we share a guilt that's as relentless as a corridor of blood we don't need the shine to see.)


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