- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

This Big Question is intended for Hollywood producers, writers, directors, actors: It is now more than a decade since the fall of the Soviet Union, surely one of the most sensational events of the 20th century. The sudden collapse of the U.S.S.R. occurred without war, without bloodshed. A powerful dictatorship has been transformed into a latent democracy.

The 70-year rule of the Soviet Communist Party was full of horror and inhumanity: the Moscow trials, the Gulag, Solzhenitsyn, the flight to the West of Svetlana Alliluyeva, Josef Stalin's daughter, the mystery of Stalin's death, the Tito heresy, the Berlin blockade and airlift, the uprisings in Eastern Europe, the millions and millions of Soviet citizens starved, tortured, executed by the Soviet secret police. So here is the big, big question:

Why does Hollywood avoid making films which deal with communist totalitarianism while films about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust are produced with regularity as major film fare?

By all means let Roman Polanski make a new movie about the Warsaw Ghetto and the Holocaust, one that I hope will rival the heart-rending "Schindler's List." But what about Stalin's victims?

True, Nazi Germany was a World War II enemy while the Soviet Union was a temporary ally. But the Soviet dictatorship endured for 70 years while Adolf Hitler's dictatorship lasted a dozen years. The Cold War, which began in 1946 and lasted for four decades, was a confrontation that could have led to Soviet aggression. In 1940, Charlie Chaplin made a hilarious satire about Hitler called "The Great Dictator." Who in Hollywood today would dare make such a film about Stalin or about Jiang Zemin?

I thought of all this the other evening after watching a TV rerun of an old movie, "The Counterfeit Spy," starring William Holden and Lili Palmer. It was all about the Gestapo, the SS and their victims. There is a gruesome scene in which an arrested Lili Palmer is dragged to a prison wall and shot while her imprisoned lover Holden, playing the role of a "neutral" Swedish businessman, watches helplessly through an adjoining cell window.

So I asked myself: weren't hundreds of thousands shot under Stalin? Wasn't the U.S.S.R. as much an evil empire as Nazi Germany? So why hasn't Hollywood made a single movie comparable to the 1994 Russian-produced "Burnt by the Sun," an extraordinary film about what Stalinism meant in practice? Nikita Mikhailkov dedicated his Oscar-winning film to "all who have been burnt by the sun of revolution."

In the recent National Review (Sept. 8-9), John Podhoretz, the eminent movie critic and polymath, asked, "Why have movies gotten so bad?" His answer:

"Movies today are awful because Hollywood no longer knows what a good plot is, what an interesting character is, or what genuine conviction is when it comes to telling a story."

In an earlier column, he had written that "this summer had been the worst season for films in Hollywood history." Why? The answer: "A century dominated by movies has left the movies starved for inspiration."

I think the problem goes deeper, much deeper than "inspiration." The problem has to do with Hollywood's left-liberal culture and ideology, which is still infected with Popular Frontism and anti-anti-communism. It is this kind of culture that made possible a horrendous pro-Soviet film like "Mission to Moscow." It would be impossible for Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Brian De Palma, Peter Bogdanovich, Martin Scorcese or Steven Spielberg to make a film like "Burnt by the Sun."

Oh yes, there has been the odd movie in which communism figured like Billy Wilder's comedy, "One, Two Three," with James Cagney. The locale was Berlin, East and West, which depicted a villainous capitalism plus Southern bigotry and a somewhat more villainous communism. This was the year 1961 when hundreds of East Germans were fleeing to the West and the Berlin Wall was built. And, yes, there was "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" back in 1971. But as an ungrateful constituent asked a vote-seeking congressman recalling past favors, "Yes, but what have you done for me lately"?

In the past decade we have seen tens of thousands of people in an unofficial global plebiscite against Marxist socialism fleeing their native lands. The voting in this worldwide plebiscite was not only by ballot-box where genuine voting was permitted but also by people willing to hurdle high-voltage fences, to sail in leaky tubs in the pirate-infested South China Sea and the Fidel Castro-infested Caribbean, to risk asphyxiation in crowded freight-cars, to fly in homemade planes, anything to get away. The Hollywood film-makers have not recognized this global phenomenon, let alone understood it.

So what is their solution to Hollywood's predicament? Foul language, flimsy plots. inaudible dialogue, skimpy bed-clothes, deep cleavage, eye-catching stunts and effects, fake orgasms, quasi-pornography, anything but intellectual honesty and meaningful content.

Bye-bye, Hollywood.

Arnold Beichman, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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