America lost its innocence in the sixties. The post-war dream of a wealthy, successful society which could be an example to the world, was shattered by Vietnam, race riots and political murders. Instead of a shining example, America turned out to be a ruthless, violent and unequal society.The country has never really recovered. The innocence and the optimism of the fifties and the first half of the sixties have never come back. Watergate, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Iraq, 9/11, Waco, you name it.'American Pastoral' documents this loss of innocence. The lead character, Swede Levov, is the archetype of the successful American. Handsome, rich, intelligent, successful, considerate: he is the ideal man, just as America was the ideal society. Or rather: he tries to be the ideal man, just as America tried to be the ideal society.But his life is shattered when his only daughter disappears. Slowly, Swede Levov has to come to grips with the notion that his lovely girl has killed several innocent people in a bombing campaign by a radical counter-culture movement. He starts an obsessional search for his daughter, while his wife develops mental problems, and his company is threatened by rioting, changing consumption patterns and competition from low-cost countries.It's not easy to get all this into a movie. That's probably why it took so long to get this project realized. Director Ewan McGregor does a decent job with this adaptation of Philip Roth's novel (which I haven't read). But it was all a bit too polished to my taste. That's surprising for someone who has risen to fame with Trainspotting, which is the complete opposite of a polished film. What I missed was something surprising, out of the ordinary, something with a sharp edge. A lot of it has to do with how the film looks: even the roughest scenes don't look really rough. The film lacked just a little bit of the roughness, the madness and the craziness that made Trainspotting such a great movie.
Seymour Levov, going by the nickname of 'Swede' in the Jewish community he was born into, was even more of an all-American than Douglas Fairbanks himself. He had just everything an American idol can dream of: not only was the tall muscular young man his high school star athlete but he married a beauty queen named Dawn into the bargain. And as if all this were not enough, Swede later became the successful manager of the glove factory his father had founded, which allowed him to live with his wife in a beautiful house in the New Jersey countryside. Well-mannered, always bright, smiling and positive, conservative but with a liberal edge, what bad could ever happen to him ? And yet... And yet this was reckoning without fate and its obnoxious irony, Swede and Dawn's nemesis manifesting itself in the person of Merry, their beloved daughter who in her teens unexpectedly turned into a violent activist...
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January 26, 2017 at 11:00 pm