Stalin’s Death as Farce and Burlesque

DATELINE: So-so Soviet

 

buscemi & tambor

Krushchev & Malenkov at Stalin’s funeral.

Maybe we missed the lesson of the Cold War in which the ruthless homicidal dictator killer was surrounded by fawning idiots like extras and operetta buffoons. The Death of Stalin makes a point that defies historical truth.

Indeed, the opening minutes may strike you as a Monty Python-style farce (compounded with the appearance of Michael Palin), with a posse of dunces dancing to the whim of Stalin. They must entertain him and do his bidding, lest they end up like everyone else:  on a hit list.

Their cruel inaction over the dying Stalin as he lay on the floor in his odeur is the nastiest of political satire. Jeffrey Tambor is Malenkov, the weaking second-in-command and under heavy pressure from Krushchev (Buschemi).

The film features endless background executions in a variety of appalling ways, carried out ruthlessly, to the gallows humor of men like Nikita Krushchev, played in thin fashion by Steve Buschemi.

Most of the Communist comrades speak with British accents, jarring at first, ridiculous in deliberance.

What starts as a black comedy set in 1953 becomes more and more disturbing, despite pathetic Vasily Stalin and sister Svetlana, horrified and fearful at what might befall them with their despot father’s death.

From the early antics of a Monty Python, the film devolves into The Godfather, as these small-minded committee commies become more frightful and violent. We can almost fully believe there is more political truth than satire here. This is Swiftian justice meted out by the Lilliputians.

The evolution of Nikita Krushchev from second banana to dangerous rival to the predatory Beria, Stalin’s child molesting henchman, is truly the centerpiece of this political free-for-all. Buschemi’s performance is ultimately a marvel to behold.

Fast-moving and surprising, it is a film to put on your viewing list.

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Silence Patton: Victim of Assassins?

DATELINE:  General Nuisance?

Patton

As the supposed first casualty in the Cold War, General George S. Patton is the subject of a 2018 documentary that raises the theory that he was murdered in 1945. He was about to return to the States as a whistle-blower on the ineptitude of the war strategy. This intriguing documentary is called Silence Patton.

A military truck, driven by a drunken soldier, hit the limo with Patton in it, as he prepared to return to the United States. He was left in a state of paralysis and soon succumbed (some say poisoned) in a German hospital.

What are we to make of this? Patton himself, as he was pulled from the wreckage of the accident, insisted that no soldier be blamed. He called it an “accident’”. He seemed intent of leaving this verdict. It seems a bit peculiar.

Why would anyone want Patton killed? And why?

The film certainly finds no shortage of enemies for the officer who slapped a soldier for cowardice (one, it appears, of many, as he used this as a morale technique). Stalin and the Russians hated him for his virulent anti-communism, and perhaps they wanted him dead. He wanted to expose American weakness for allowing Stalin to run amok.

He was prepared to expose Gens. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley as incompetants who let the Stalin forces take over half of Europe in the waning days of the war. He was horrified that the Russian soldiers raped and killed large numbers of German women in a genocidal take-over.

Yes, there is plenty of unpleasant actions behind and around the death of the great, opinionated officer. He was boorish, brave, and outrageous. It was his guts, but someone else’s blood that he shed. Yet, he was a man of his soldiers. The meandering quality of the documentary is unforgivable.

A steady stream of Patton apologists feel he has been wronged by history and by his contemporaries. How much can be believed? It an age of fake media and a blustery president, there may be some revisionism here. Trump’s name is never mentioned in this film, but he seems to loom over the proceedings as a disciple of Patton.