I recall, during the same period, there was an ad shot for a Renault (the Fuego?) on upper Park Avenue, Manhattan. I remember arriving in that area to visit a friend, and realizing that every car in every parking place for as far as I could see was a red Renault Fuego. There were security guards on each corner with radios, and the cars were all under plastic covers, but that didn't really detract from the sheer oddity of the view. The ad, IIRC, was essentially a crossfade shot where the 'normal' Park Avenue traffic faded into a stream of identical red Fuegos.
But they were just driving along sedately.
Everybody hates us. That's just the way it is. - Bulcsú
Underneath the City, there is another world. One which winds between the roots and sinews of the world we build; one where the human obsession with authority over people, place and time is played out to the fullest. In the Underground, it all dances to the System's tune: people, trains, escalators, gates, lights, day, night, go, stop - all of it.
The Budapest Metro is the oldest in the world. It is a zoned system; for those of you who have never taken a zoned European-style subway, you purchase a ticket at entry, and (in some) pay a fare based on your trip when you exit. One thing is constant, however - you must retain your ticket or pass, or else you are subject to Kontroll.
There are inspectors in the subways, who rove the system and require passengers to present their tickets or passes in order to prevent what New Yorkers call 'turnstile hopping.' In the Budapest Metro, they are called Kontroll. Being stopped is being 'Kontrolled'.
In this world, they move in 'crews' - groups of five. We follow one in particular - a young man named Bulcsú. He isn't like the others - in the opening scene, we see him waking up to the flicker of massed flourescent lights as they ting on, his arms crossed in his leather jacket, his head against a pillar. He is sleeping on a Metro platform. As the first train of the day thunders into the station, he rises slowly and wearily, not noticing his slow nosebleed.
Thus begins Kontroll.
It's not a comedy, though it has hilarious moments. It's not a thriller, though there are chases, escapes, and confrontations. It's not a romance, despite a man and a woman finding each other in the System. It's not a mystery, despite deaths and killers.
It just is.
We watch Bulcsú and his crew - the Professor, Muki the narcoleptic, Tibi the new guy, and Lecsó - work the System. Rivalry with another crew takes its toll. The sudden rash of 'jumpers' in the system takes its toll. The passengers - the job itself - take a toll; we watch as the crew becomes more and more battered as the film goes on, legacy of scrapes, accidents, or too often assault. There is a tormentor in the system, who ambushes Kontroll with spray cans of shaving cream before running; he is their Unicorn, named Bootsie - none of them have ever caught him.
Bulcsú finds a young lady in the System - one dressed in a bear costume, unexplainedly. She dances in and out of his flourescent-flickered existence with a smile and a flick of a dirty, ragged stuffed ear. Although the primary rivalry is between Bulcsú's crew and that of another Kontroller, really, the tension is between the people and the System. We watch it work on each of them, through the film. Some are hiding in it. Some are fighting it. Some just exist in it, caught in its strands. In one excellent montage, we watch the various denizens of Kontroll talking to a company psychiatrist, therapy for witnessing a particularly nasty incident involving one of their own.
Bulcsú keeps seeing an owl in the System, unsure if he's hallucinating.
We watch him wander the system at night, sometimes alone, sometimes not. The dirty steel majesty of silent trains is juxtaposed with the imperfection and mystery of ventilation fans at the end of a tunnel. At one point, he walks slowly until he reaches the literal end of the line, before turning, moving steadily back into his maze world.
The System runs, and endures. The people inside it fight, move, hide, play, wander, live, and die. The continual low-level violence, even if it is manifested between people, is really the friction between the soft flesh of the human and the hard ceramic and metal of the System they move through - pachinko with blood.
Whether the Kontroll crews are part of the system or simply inhabit it is one of the questions you may find yourself asking. They live between the people and the System, it sometimes seems - subject to pressure from both sides. But do they mitigate the sharp edges for the people moving through, or do they amplify them? Are they paying a price in blood for what they do, or for where they are?
The soundtrack of the film is perfect. It's by the (now-defunct, apparently) Hungarian techno band Neo, and is both atmospheric and relevant. It fades in and out, intermingled with the screeches, moans and wails of steel, unidentified hums and clicks, sudden flickers of light and general inchoate roar of technological purgatory that is the soundscape of the modern subway system. If you do go hunting for it, you may be able to order the CD from Hungary (http://www.numero7.com may have it).1
The story, if there is one, progresses as we would imagine the status board of the subway system does, throughout the day. People move around the System, running towards and away from each other. Sometimes they meet at intersections. There are two plot threads that move, however haphazardly and with however many detours, towards resolution. We never leave the subway system.
The movie ends when it should, how it should.
I recommend it.
(International title: Control U.S. Release, 2005)
1 Warning: the "really kick-ass track" that can be heard during the crew's platform amble and Muki's Bruce Lee imitation (also in the preview trailer during the same scenes) is not on the soundtrack CD (filmzene)! It is the track "Everybody Come On" and is to be found only on Neo's previous album Lo-Tech Man, Hi-Tech World. The soundtrack CD is from Warner-Magneoton Hungary.
Pay careful attention to that $450 million of 'your' money.
Now tell me that isn't a truly fucking worthy rant. My hat is off.
My problem with this is that it seems to glance approvingly on this process. It tells us that this push back towards the center is adequate compensation for the wild and dizzy swing to the right after 9/11. I disagree vehemently. To take that position is to simply accept that the rule of law will drop into abeyance when drastic events occur - and I believe strongly that that is an improper position.
We should strive to ensure that the system does not swing out of line in response to catastrophic events. Allowing it to do so simply does, in fact, offer 'encouragement to our enemies,' Mr. President. All it takes is for one of them to decide that this constriction of our liberties, and hence damage to our way of life, is their objective, and you have created the ideal conditions for them.
I fail to understand how the Executive branch can think that this form of unilateral invasion of American citizens' privacy, arguably a flat violation of the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution, 'improves' our situation. I would argue that the damage done to our political system by that swing far outweighs the damage done in New York City - and I am a New Yorker.
Why? Think of the many times we have willingly spent lives and treasure to preserve our way of life - specifically, our political and civil philosophical ideals. Think of the resources marshalled to fight the threat du jour to those ideals (as well as, yes, to our prosperity - which may be linked). We seem to have decided, in each of those cases, that we were willing to risk, hazard, and ultimately spend the lives of Americans to preserve them.
Yet President Bush and his advisors decided, without consulting us, that even though we'd already paid the price to preserve those liberties and that Constitution, we wouldn't mind if they trampled them a bit for us.
Impeach them now.
Despite the fact that Google News, when you select the "U.S." header, current displays no sign of this story anywhere, despite having multiple-story categories for:
But of course whether the president thinks that is irrelevant, just as the discussion on how important this program is to the GWOT is irrelevant. The bottom line is that it was not the president's call, it was Congress's call, and this president decided to ignore the law and his duties under the Constitution because he was more afraid of Osama than he was of remaining loyal to the Constitution. And that is being generous.I would be less generous, and mutter darkly about ulterior motives involving the power of the Executive and the President's inability to admit mistakes, but that's me. Don't read me, go read the discussion.
"...a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."This would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to square with recent revelations about the Administration approving warrantless wiretaps- unless the targets weren't terrorists and the Administration knew that when writing the speech.
Now, personally, I favor an explanation of sheer bald-faced lying or complete stupidity in letting this quote pass over actual conspiracy. But I can't come up with any way that this can be spun to let them slide, and if the press doesn't at least force them to try, I will be...well, even more disappointed in it than I have been.
Note: the original of the speech, before I am accused of presenting a liberal link with an axe to grind, can be found here. This is the paragraph in question (paragraph 29) in its entirety:
Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
What a shock.
Think about it carefully: if it was legal under existing statute, why would those carrying it out need to be 'covered' by a (constantly revisited) Executive Order?
Er, except the Congressional Research Service doesn't think so.
Well, if they're willing to spend all that money buying press over there, and spend dollars buying stories on stuff like No Child Left Behind, why shouldn't they have the WP political editor bent over a table prison-style?
And that's just the ads in the left-hand ad bar.
This is in response to queries about a memo which has recently come to light which shows that the staff lawyers and analysts at the Justice Department who reviewed the proposed redistricting map unanimously rejected it as illegal or harmful to the voting rights of minorities in Texas. Politically appointed officials at the Justice department overruled this report and approved the plan.
What sickens me is how un-shocked I am.
Convict Tom Delay. Impeach Bush and Cheney. Indict Ashcroft.