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Something to cry for

Movies | Silver-screen Evita pushes totalitarianism Hollywood-style

Issue: "Chistendon's Kosher Allies," Feb. 15, 1997

Evita is a collaboration between Disney, the parent corporation for Hollywood Pictures; director Alan Parker, known for his MTV style; co-writer Oliver Stone, the historical revisionist; and Madonna, sex-goddess and glam queen. Put together all of these icons of today's pop culture with their characteristic weaknesses and you get Evita.

The new film version of Evita, based on Andrew Lloyd Webber's Broadway musical, follows the real-life career of Eva Peron as she sleeps her way to the top, finally becoming the wife of the dictator of Argentina, Juan Peron. The story, told in song as a pop-opera, begins when Eva is 15 years old and exhibits ambitions bordering on the maniacal. She attaches herself to a traveling tango singer, hits the &quotbig apple" (Buenos Aires), and begins her rise. Madonna morphs from a 15-year-old nymphet to sly dance hall girl to scheming social climber, glib radio actress, mistress, and finally, First Lady who boasts of her affinity for the poor and downtrodden while wearing ultra-expensive outfits that only the elite can afford.

Jonathan Pryce stars as Juan Peron, leader of the People's Revolution. Peron--who was actually the founder and brutal practitioner of a native-born South American fascism--is played as a perfectly bland bureaucrat. Antonio Banderas plays the Everyman narrator, Che, who delivers a little fire with his lyrics on the plight of the working class.

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The film retains the political illogic and shallow thinking that marks the liberal dogma of 20 years ago, when the musical first hit Broadway. Today's Peronistas, who tried to stop the filming in Argentina, idolize Eva Peron, declaring her &quotSpiritual Leader of the Nation," and submitting her name for canonization by the Roman Catholic Church (an institution she frequently snubbed and that her husband openly opposed). In contrast, this movie takes the worst spin that opponents ever laid against Eva. But her alleged misconduct is actually celebrated.

Eva's sexual conquests, vulgar manipulations, extortion, and self-centered supplications to the peasant masses are all treated as though her participation purifies the sin. At the same time, the politics of totalitarianism, repression, and redistribution of wealth--with all the fat going to government bureaucrats--is not only acknowledged but glorified. In the best socialist--and fascist--tradition, the end justifies the means: The poor receive &quotfree" shoes and basketballs while middle-class workers and businesses are coerced into paying their own way into poverty.

Argentina was devastated by the real Juan and Eva Peron. But never mind actual history, hard economic reality, or moral truth. For these filmmakers, good intentions perfectly excuse disastrous actions. Madonna's glamor, Mr. Stone's leftwing revisionism, Mr. Parker's hipness, and Disney's feel-good sanitation of reality likewise mask the totalitarianism of the Hollywood worldview.


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