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  •  REVIEW: PROFIT MOTIVE AND THE WHISPERING WIND

    Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind

    Deadly dull

    "Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind" is an unwatchable film showing tombstones of left-wing heroes from American history for no stated reason whatsoever.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    There's a breed of filmmaker who demands purity in documentaries. There is to be no narrator playing the voice of God, telling you what to think. There are to be no experts, imposing their arrogant opinions upon you. There is only the camera, observing reality for you. I've been in seminars where people say this and there's general approval all around. All hail the brave, pure filmmaker.

      
    PROFIT MOTIVE AND THE WHISPERING WIND
    Directed by: John Gianvito.
     SCHEDULE
    Anthology Film Archives
    32 Second Ave. (at Second Street)

    It's nonsense, but this dogma finds its most perfect expression in "Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind," which dispenses with the crutch of spoken words altogether and puts American history entirely into pictures. And not just any pictures, but almost entirely pictures of gravestones, historical plaques, and windblown vegetation.

    The poverty of this approach is clear at the very end, if it wasn't already, when the images end and the film is said to have been "inspired by and dedicated to" Howard Zinn's book "A People's History of the United States." Alas, the arrogance of the expert, the tyranny of the word, reimposes its deadly grip! The words just don't happen to be included with the movie — they're sold separately.


      
    If you can't handle an hour of unexplained cemetery videos, maybe you just don't appreciate art. Maybe you're not worthy.  

      
    And that's the catch — to know anything about what the movie is showing, you have to go and look it up in the book yourself. The filmmaker, John Gianvito, isn't about to just supply you with the facts — you're just supposed to know them, all of them, when you walk in. From the grave of Sagoyewatha to the grave of Elizabeth Cady Stanton to the grave of Emma Goldman to the grave of Rachel Carson, if you don't bring a vast knowledge into the theater with you, you are not ready to see this movie. If you don't know Ida B. Wells' married name, nobody's going to help you. You are pathetic.

    And that's too bad, because there is a central idea in the movie that's worth at least stating, if I may be so presumptuous, in words. The idea is: America is not only a country of presidents, generals and industrialists; it is also a country of dreamers and doers, radicals and reformers. And, the filmmaker seems to say at the end, through footage of protesters at the 2004 Republican Convention and elsewhere, you can honor the greats of the past by showing a little love for the radicals of today.

      
      The deeper problem is not that "Profit Motive" is a movie nobody will want to see. The problem is that it's the same simpleminded form of baby history that it seems to oppose.
      
    Okay, so that's a decent message. Presented unwatchably, yes, but if you can't handle an hour of unexplained cemetery videos, maybe you just don't appreciate art. Maybe you're not worthy.

    The deeper problem is not that "Profit Motive" is a movie nobody will want to see. The problem is that it's the same simpleminded form of baby history that it seems to oppose. It's merely an exercise in hero-worship, with George Washington and Andrew Jackson replaced by Sojourner Truth and Eugene Debs. Gianvito wants to be admired for the correctness of his particular heroes, or maybe just for where he's been. He has made a film with the ethic of the vacation video — "Look! I was here! And here!"

    Good history is not about making a list of heroes. It is about insights and interpretations. It is very much about voices talking, humans arguing, the "arrogance" of people thinking they have something to say. If Gianvito had something to say, he should have come out and said it.

    AUGUST 1, 2008
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK



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