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Arthur Meiselman

All The King's Men

I saw a film, again, last night, Steven Zaillian's All The King's Men. Fine production, fine direction, fine script, fine acting (Sean Penn at his best).

If you think that D. Trump's brand of populism is a new phenomenon, read Robert Penn Warren's book (the basis for Zaillian's film), read Hitler's book, or go back over 100 years and read Èmile Zola's novel, Germinal, and look at Claude Berri's film of it. Trumpism is a staple that continually bubbles to the surface of the cabbage stew in human societies.

The key character in Zaillian's film is Willie Stark, loosely based on Huey P. Long, a raging populist in the 1930's who scrounged the governorship of Louisiana, became a U.S. Senator and made a move to run for the presidency, then was assassinated. His legacy is still evident. Wiki him.

The film is set in the 1940s-50s. Penn's book in the 1920s-30s. Their timely relevance to 2016-2017 gapes the jaw, bubbles the stew.

Zaillian gives Willie Stark some poetically stark, gripping speeches. This one seals the issue:

    "They fooled you 1,000 times, just like they fooled me. But this time, I'll fool somebody. I'll stay in this race. I'm on my own and out for blood. Listen to me, you hicks! Lift up your eyes and look at God's blessed and unify-blown truth. This is the truth! You're a hick. Nobody ever helped a hick but a hick himself. Listen to me, listen to me! They were going to use me to split the vote. But I'm standing here now on my hind legs. Even a dog can learn to do that. Are you standing on your hind legs? Have you learned that yet? Here it is, you hicks! Nail up anybody who stands in your way. Nail up Joe Harrison! Nail up McMurphy! If they don't deliver, give me the hammer and I'll do it. Nail em up! Nail em up! Nail em up! Nail em up!"

Sound familiar?

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Arthur Meiselman is a writer and the Editor of Scene4. His latest books include The Lyriana Nocturnes and Of Modigliani in Midnight Mourning. He also directs the Talos Ensemble and produces for Aemagefilms.
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For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2017 Arthur Meiselman
©2017 Publication Scene4 Magazine


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December 2017

Volume 18 Issue 7

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