Directed by Stephen Spielberg
by Paul Murphy
Another of Spielberg´s confusions, München is a fast food extravaganza in which an array of juicy dishes are placed tantalisingly before us. The arch-villain, conspirator, organiser, Mr- Fixit, Salami, a fast food chain of Middle Eastern origin, organises a dumpling throwing orgy, when Israeli athletes are caught unawares, abducted and taken to München airport, pelted with white sausage and made to drink never-ending quantities of white beer all rounded off with lashings of sweet mustard, a München speciality.
Did we really need this and why did I bother going to see it? Its not worth considering the politics of the film which are stereotypical. A terrorist attack activates a cycle of violence (bicycles are evoked more than metaphorically when the Mossad agents mount an attack armed with pistols disguised as bicycle pumps, a critical point in the film when the urgency really is to leave the cinema and mount an attack of ones own on a variety Thai or Chinese foodstuffs.). Eventually the Mossad agents come to seem no better than the terrorists they pursue, individual members of their gang experience pre or post-Jungian moments of angst. The cinema verite credentials of the film are sometimes dissolved by the obviously highly paid attractive models congregating in seemingly endless crowds, throngs, groups, pairings throughout the film. It would be apt if they turned to camera, mouthing Í gave Steven a blow job for this bit part.´ Yes, we know all that, very interesting, but what about the FILM?
As a thriller the film is rather better than a political commentary or rant. It might be said that the film is good because it works on more than one level. The evocation of 1970s Europe is perfect, with locales in contemporary Budapest, (where fashions, styles are still rather similar to the period) and the film has a noirish edge (which is good to hear). The presence of Eric Bana (starred in the dismal Troy) should have rung some alarm bells but the rest of the casting seems destined to somehow fit the often edgy, distanciated material.
The film is introduced with period news flashes and cinema verite verisimilitude but subsides into a trip to the 1970s museum of fashion. Telephones from that era fascinatedly tipped as explosive devices then detonated (after the usual incident with the little girl). The electronics and mechanisms of remote control detonation evoke a fascination with the mechanism, construction and miniature art technology of films. Later the technology fails, ghastly immolations must be carried out heroically and personally with hand grenades.
The implication of München is that the attack in 1972 led to a cycle of violence, which, broadly speaking, was botched, this led to the attacks of 9:11. The final image of the film is of the twin towers and thus of prophetic destiny: agents of retribution become very like the people they seek to neutralise, have no right to commit acts of summary justice. There are too many mistakes and too many innocent people get involved, get hurt. This is a reassuring image\message, stereotypical and well-meant but ultimately hollow. Films like this necessitate a response in terms of political bias but their real meaning is in terms of the fake nostalgia that is hauntingly evoked, inarticulate yet omnipresent (and, in many senses, rather silly, hence the bicycle pumps\pistols and other images of 70s kitsch that are alternately endearing and grimace-worthy).
Paul Murphy saw München at the Duke of York cinema in Brighton.