Corinne’s spirituality is perhaps best described as varied. She’s a former Roman Catholic who reads tarot and runs Jungian Shadow work courses. We sit down to talk about Michel Gondry’s fantastic 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind and talk about the importance of remembering and forgetting in forming relationships with films and with people, and ultimately recognizing the good and the bad and pressing on.
If Luis Bunuel’s Viridiana makes one salient point about individual charity (and it does!), it is in the observation that no matter what claims of humility are made, many people enact individual charity for selfish reasons. See the billionaire philanthropists are are spending just as much as they think will keep them out of the guillotine. Or just the fact that charity like that doesn’t work so well. Still I’ve met — or have been — young people who forgo established infrastructure in order to be a personal savior. People want to be known as the person who fixed a problem much more than they want to establish social policy that would eliminate the problem. Look at the Pro-Life movement: you get a lot of political currency from Pro-Lifers for saying you’re going to outlaw abortion — whoever does it will probably be US president for life — but no one involved seems to want to enact the social policy changes that would severely truncate the cause of abortion. “People are inconsistent” is hardly news, but maybe we could at least try to be better at working together to raise every person up?
We talk charity and social change on this week’s Lost in Criterion with Luis Bunuel’s Viridiana. Listen at LostInCriterion.com, on iTunes or Spotify, or wherever you like to find podcasts. and while you're at it, like us on Facebook or support us on Patreon.
Throughout six years of watching Criterion films with Pat I've often thought about starting a sister podcast in with a much more overtly religious/philosophical tinge. Religious movies fascinate me, not only from main stream directors -- the works of Dreyer, Scorsese's religious work, things like mother! or First Reformed -- but also the often much less artistic films from more overtly religious sources, like, say, Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas or God's Not Dead. I didn't want to make a bad movie podcast, though, nor one that only talked about prestige film as much of that would just rehash Lost in Criterion conversations.
So I've settled on Cinema Credo, a podcast where I invite anyone willing to talk to me about the film with the deepest religious meaning to them, however it is that they interpret "religion" or "meaning"
For Episode 1 I’m talking to Christian monk Br. Thomas Stama about The Last Temptation of Christ, Long time Lost In Criterion listeners may recognize that I shared some of Tom’s incite in our own episode on that film in 2014. He’s an old friend, and I’m grateful to have him for this first episode.
Since I'm letting my guests define the tone of the conversation, this may be the most explicitly Christian episode we'll have. Already on the recording docket are conversations on Groundhog Day, Death to Smoochy, and the 2012 Will Ferrel/Zach Galifianakis political comedy The Campaign. It's going to be an interesting ride.
Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy, love, peace; a time to set aside differences and celebrate together. But what do we do with that hope of peace in a time that seems so utterly broken, when hate is so strong, and the powers of oppression and racism are on the march. What does Christmas even mean in a time like this?
In 1973 against the backdrop of Vietnam, the Yom Kippur War, Pinochet and the Troubles Madeleine L’Engle wondered the same thing. “This is no time for a child to be born/ With the earth betrayed by war & hate” she wrote that Christmas in “The Risk of Birth”.
A hundred years earlier, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wondered as well, in the poem that would become the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”. His wife had died two years prior, and his son had been grievously injured in the American Civil War. What good was Christmas two years to the day after South Carolina left the Union in order to protect chattel enslavement of Black Americans. How can you celebrate when “hate is strong and mocks the song of ‘Peace on Earth, Good will to men’?”
You hold on to hope. You recognize that the incarnation of Jesus — God becoming man — that Christians celebrate at Christmas, is a protest against the status quo of humanity. Longfellow reminds himself that “God is not dead, nor does he sleep.” L’Engle reminds herself that while “The inn is full on the planet earth”, “Love still takes the risk of birth.”
A few decades before Longfellow, Adolphe Adam put Placide Cappeau’s Christmas poem (and Christian socialist anthem) to music. Reworked into English, we know it as O Holy Night:
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Hear the Angel’s voices: the joy of Christmas is a call to arms. It is a rejection of everything the powerful hold dear, everything that separates.
The century before that John Wesley wrote in Hark! The Herald Angels Sing! that Jesus was “Born that man may no more die.” A rejection of the status quo so great that it stands to turn the entire cosmic order on its head.
Christmas is good news to the poor, and bad news to those who oppress those poor. And that sentiment goes back to the very first Christmas song: The Magnificat, Mary’s Song, as recorded in the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke just after the Angel told her not to be afraid. She wasn’t:
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
No wonder in his 1968 musical adaptation of the passage Fred Kaan named his tune Sing we a Song of High Revolt.
Keep the Christ in Christmas:
x out oppression
x out out fear
x out death itself.
The main theme of The Virgin Spring is a conflict between Christianization and Swedish traditional religion. What Pat takes issue with in this week’s episode is that that is a pretty weird argument when Odin is literally a character in your movie and Jesus isn’t. The Virgin Spring is Bergman’s Rashomon, but not the story structure that that normally implies. Instead it’s a medieval tale of rape, murder, revenge, and more murder. And maybe some sort of redemption? Hard to say without Odin coming back at the end.
We talk comparative religion on this week’s Lost in Criterion with The Virgin Spring. Listen at LostInCriterion.com or on iTunes, where you could maybe drop a review of us? While you're at it, maybe like us on Facebook? Or consider supporting us through Patreon. We'd appreciate it.