Last year, David L. Robb wrote a book called Operation Hollywood, in which he exposed how movie studios eager to borrow real military hardware for their explosive entertainments—not just from the Pentagon but from foreign armies, as well—will gladly make changes to their scripts in order to cast those nations and their fighting forces in a positive light. Naturally, when the army brass participate in the making of a film, they are looking at the film not as art but as a potential recruiting device, and the films made with their co-operation can safely be regarded as at least a mild form of propaganda.
As with the Pentagon, so with the United Nations. Although the UN building is over 50 years old, no film has ever been shot there before, despite requests from revered auteurs like Alfred Hitchcock. The powers that be have made an exception, however, for Sydney Pollack, whose first directorial effort in several years, The Interpreter, is now the first movie ever filmed in that building's General Assembly Hall and various other hallowed places. And as we might expect, the film is loaded with messages, some less subtle than others.
This, no doubt, is what attracted the increasingly self-serious Sean Penn to the film. Penn can be a remarkably good actor, even if there is something monotonous in the way he goes from one depressingly maudlin role to another, but in recent years he seems to have lost all sense of proportion, whether he is slapping Chris Rock's wrist at the Oscars for making good-natured jokes about Jude Law, or chastising reporters for offending against the very nature of art when they point out the parallels between Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver and Penn's own The Assassination of Richard Nixon. So to ...1
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