The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism


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There is an interesting book called

The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism

By J. Hoberman available at google books.

Here you will find his full review of the film We the Living. It contradicts some of the ARI statements about the film. Evidently the Fascists approved of the Nietzschean elements, the Nazi's main concern was that it was not tough enough on the Communists, and Mussolini was not blindsided by its supposed anti-authoritarianism.

Edited by Ted Keer
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Ted,

I tried your link to the Google book, but it did not open up properly. When I e-opened in Google Books, the pages that it allowed to be shown did not refer to the WTL film (I guess to see more, I would need to pay a fee).

Anyway, from what you described, the author sounds like he is saying what was in a Liberty magazine article from the early 1990's (I don't have the copy immediately available, so I can't give you the exact reference), where the reviewer made similar claims that the story that the film was immediately suppressed by the Italian fascist government was somewhat exaggerated. As I remember, the evidence presented was somewhat weak, and not conclusive. Perhaps the author of Red Atlantis was drawing from that article.

But, so what? The production of the film was pirated and Rand was not consulted about its development. Whether the fascists actually suppressed or it just died due to lack of appeal to its intended audience, does not seem to say anything one way or the other about its artistic merits.

Of course, if the ARIans are promoting it by exaggerating the initial reaction to the film in Italy, that would not be surprising, since they tend to overlook any criticism of anything attached to Rand.

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Ted,

I tried your link to the Google book, but it did not open up properly. When I e-opened in Google Books, the pages that it allowed to be shown did not refer to the WTL film (I guess to see more, I would need to pay a fee).

Anyway, from what you described, the author sounds like he is saying what was in a Liberty magazine article from the early 1990's (I don't have the copy immediately available, so I can't give you the exact reference), where the reviewer made similar claims that the story that the film was immediately suppressed by the Italian fascist government was somewhat exaggerated. As I remember, the evidence presented was somewhat weak, and not conclusive. Perhaps the author of Red Atlantis was drawing from that article.

But, so what? The production of the film was pirated and Rand was not consulted about its development. Whether the fascists actually suppressed or it just died due to lack of appeal to its intended audience, does not seem to say anything one way or the other about its artistic merits.

Of course, if the ARIans are promoting it by exaggerating the initial reaction to the film in Italy, that would not be surprising, since they tend to overlook any criticism of anything attached to Rand.

Odd, the link above works for me fine. Try manually searching the key words "we the living is aelita" in google books. They are the first four words of that chapter of

The Red Atlantis: Communist Culture in the Absence of Communism

By J. Hoberman, which begins on p148. You should be able to read the whole chapter (a few pages long).

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Ted, Thanks for the corrected link. That worked.

I read the chapter that contains the WTL review. The author strains to imply (but never directly states) that Rand may have authorized the Italian production. This is in opposition to what other accounts have stated, that the book was pirated and that Rand had no role in the sreenplay or its production. Indeed, in 1950, the Italian government paid her $35,000 in compensation for the unauthorized production of the film. It is not likely that they would have done that if she had previously authorized production of the film.

Although on second thought, that raises an interesting question: why would the post-war Italian government feel in anyway obligated to pay anything in compensation for a pirated film that had been produced under the earlier fascist government?

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I didn't take away from it the implication that she had perhaps authorized it. I'll have to reread the entire review.

What struck me was the fact that while the film necessarily followed the first edition (1936) text, it was implied by ARI that the movie became pelicula non grata because of its strong anti-totalitarian nature in general. But the 1936 edition had Kira saying to Andrei things such as while she disapproved of his goals, she approved of his methods. (Mayhew calls this "metaphorical"?!) While it is a line that Rand herself disowned, it would not have been a line to which the fascists would necessarily have objected.

The movie was shown favorably at the Venice Film Festival. It debuted only 11 months before Mussolini's fall. And it was produced by Vittorio Mussolini, son of the dictator! This all makes highly suspect the notion, put forth since the 1988 rerelease, that the movie was somehow made under the radar of the Fascists, and then banned only after they realized its criticisms applied to them as much as to the Communists. Are we to believe that the Fascists objected to the 1943 movie based on the text of the 1959 edition of the book?

I remember upon its release reading that the movie was strikingly close to Rand's intention, and that all that was necessary was for a rewrite (clumsily dubbed) to correct some Fascist propoganda in Andrei's closing speech. I wonder? I certainly do not remember reading that an hour and a half had been cut from the film. Is that film still in existence? I'd love to see a summary of the differences between the 1936 and the second edition, and to compare that to the original and the re-edited film.

Why do I get the impression that the estate might not make publication of such a comparison possible?

Edited by Ted Keer
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> I certainly do not remember reading that an hour and a half had been cut from the film. Is that film still in existence? I'd love to see a summary of the differences between the 1936 and the second edition, and to compare that to the original and the re-edited film. [Ted]

It was two films, "Noi Vivi" and "Addio, Kira". One would have to go to Italy and try to find the films in some studio or theater basement?

I had the sense watching the edited film that too much had been cut. I wanted more detail about some of the characters, more character development. I didn't care if they had the right philosophy, but I did care about the story-telling.

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I had the sense watching the edited film that too much had been cut. I wanted more detail about some of the characters, more character development. I didn't care if they had the right philosophy, but I did care about the story-telling.

Agreed. If one is allowed to enjoy Hugo in spite of his altruism, why not Rand in spite of her adaptors?

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I haven't read all of Hoberman's book, but I am rather intrigued about his selection of movies. I had never heard of Red Plant Mars! And I thought I had seen all of the shlocky cheap scifi/horror movies that Peter Graves made before he hit the big time with Mission: Impossible! Now I feel something was missing in my mis-spent youth!

From the parts that I did read, Hoberman seems to have missed quite a few anti-communist themed movies. What about Big Jim McLain, with John Wayne and James Arness as investigators from the House UnAmerican Activities Committee! How about Woman on Pier 13 with Robert Ryan fighting the Communist Party in the longshoreman's union! Thomas Gomez really hams it up as the Party Boss indistinguishable from the stereotypical Hollywood portrayal of a gangster! Hoberman missed this? It's earlier title was "I Married A Communist!," how could he have missed that?

What about "The FBI Story" with James Stewart, in which fighting commie subversion plays a big role? Or Richard Carlson, breathlessly, nervously, playing Herb Philbrick in the TV series, "I Led Three Lives" (citizen, Communist, FBI counterspy). All of these were made in the 1950s.

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