ΑρχικήΨηφιακή ΒιβλιοθήκηΆρθραΆρθρα (Αγγλικά)Troncarelli, Fabio- "Anatolian Smile"

Troncarelli, Fabio- "Anatolian Smile"

Anatolian Smile


Fabio Troncarelli



Ezra Pound wrote in a poem:


I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman -
I have detested you long enough.
I come to you as a grown child
Who has had a pig-headed father;
I am old enough now to make friends.
It was you that broke the new wood,
Now is a time for carving.


We could say the same about Elia Kazan. We have hated him without measure after loving him  without shame. We are like sons  grown up, who can be distant from our tragic fathers. Kazan is the man who has discovered Marlon Brando and James Dean. But he is also the man who has betrayed his companions and he has denounced them during the McCarty era. Ambiguous, conflicting, fascinating: fascinating because ambiguous and just conflicting. And for this reason first beloved and then hated. Nevertheless Kazan had been clear: "Don’t trust  me…". So said Stavros, the hero of America, America, an alter ego of Kazan himself.  What does it mean? It is true that this man is a liar, a traitor, almost  a criminal, always disappointing   his public, his fans?


We try to analyze America, America, namely the scene about which we have spoken: impressive, tender, dramatic, a key to understand both Kazan’s personality and  Kazan’s secret.  America, America tells a great story. In the year 1896  Stavros, a Greek boy, born in one small village of the Anatolia, must accomplish a mission to obey to his father’s command: he must emigrate, to  earn money and save the family, in order to escape from the persecutions of the Turks. After a long travel, the boy tries to settle down in Istanbul, but then decides to go to America: he always dreamed to go there and to escape from his terrible country. After dramatic adventures, such as losing all the family’s money, to be arrested, to kill a man, to betray every men and women he meets, the young boy eventually succeeds to establish himself in America, carrying the family with him. But, during the travel, he loses for ever innocence and dignity. 


Just in the centre of the film, in a special position, there is the scene that we remembered.  After thousand adventures, Stavros is on the point to marrying Thomna, one rich, but not beautiful girl. The father of Tomna, a rich merchant of carpets, has bought, in great secret, one house for the spouses, perfectly furnished with all the bric-a-brac of the past century. Stavros and Tomna are brought in front of the door of the new house and then leaved alone in this small Paradise that soon will be their home. We listen to a sweet music by the great Greek composer Hadjidakis, a song that exalts the young virgin who soon will become a young bride.


  Μια Παναγιά μιαν αγάπη μου έχω κλείσει…


 The girl goes around like a dragonfly, astonished and glad, grazing with the fingers the dishes and the laces, the furniture of the house in which she will  soon act as a  of Queen. Terrified and dark Stavros, is watching around mistrustful, like a wild animal in cage. And he begins to speak, with a strange voice. He praises Tomna’s father, the house, the young future bride. But in his voice there is a shake, in his words a gloomy accent. The girl perceives it. She interrogates him. She listens to him. Little, little, the two boys confess their true feelings. And the anguish, hidden behind the idyllic atmosphere, eventually appears. Stavros reveals to Thomna that he will not marry her and that he will go to America. But also Thomna reveals her fears: she’s afraid to be not enough pretty and to disappoint his spouse.


The girl tells to the boy a terrible dream: a child sucked her breast with greed, but mammal was empty. This child was Stavros himself. Stavros is chocked. He felt himself guilty. And at the same time it is full of anger and frenzy Hunger, violence, terror: he has endured all and he is ready to endure all again, to arrive in the country of his dreams and being able to satisfy his father expectative. With a broken heart, knowing to break the hearth of somebody else, he says to Thomna: "Don’t trust me!". 


We stop  here. At the first glance, one would say that we assist to a dialogue deprived of hope between two opposite characters: the show of a cruel and cynical boy, who smashes the illusions, the innocence and the affection of a sensitive girl. If so, is not strange that Stavros, in a moment of sincerity, says not to trust himself. Nevertheless the things are not like they seem.


To understand it the scene must be examined with the help of the psychoanalysis like a dream.  In this its nearly-dream through the figure of Stavros, Kazan reveals to us what he thinks about himself:  his "conscious" point of view, the first, superficial meaning of the story told in the dream. He thinks to be a cynical one, without  any, ready to take advantage of  everybody, especially of an ingenuous girl.   The same idea of himself that he reveals in many pages of its boasting, melodramatic, daring autobiography, entitled A life.


But this image, as it happens in the dreams, is a mask that hides the latent meaning. The two protagonists of the nearly-dream are not in fact real beings who meet in the life, but two manifestations of the psyche of the same individual who has dreamed all: Kazan, He is the one who has conceived the entire scene; he is the boy, as well as he is the girl; he has felt the feelings of both the characters.


Kazan is therefore also his "feminine" part: a weak, sensitive, scared, gentle, naïf girl, concealed in the body of a man. Kazan is the woman who does not succeed to feed the eager child whom she has generated; she-Kazan must disappear, destroyed from the narcissistic fury of the dark side of Kazan himself.


Stavros himself, who seems so cynical, it is less cynical than he appears. He says that the father of Thomna seems a "king". And that the life that is ready for him could be beautiful. And that for him is not important if Tomna  is beautiful or ugly: he would love her with all the heart, because it puts the heart in all the things he do. For this reason, for his boldness,   for his generous nature, he has learned to defend himself like a snake, to freeze the heart, to be  pitiless. Therefore, paradoxically, while he confesses to be cruel and cynical, the boy reveals of being sensitive and tender.


Sensitive. Tender. Vulnerable. This  words are  not beloved by Kazan. For him to be vulnerable is to be weak. Also smiling means to be weak. Kazan said,  in many occasions, that the "Anatolian smile" is a stigmata of his soul of slave, a mark written on his face like on the faces of all the Mediterranean minorities such as  Greeks and  Jews. The same idea is expressed in several passages of the novel America, America, that was transformed into a film. "The Anatolian smile masks your rage" he declared to Michel Ciment (Kazan par Kazan. Entretiens avec Michel Ciment, Evreux 1973, p. 242).


The problem with Kazan is his claim for the truth. Kazan is always playing the role of the good boy who would like to be sincere and is compelled to lie. He outlines always  the necessity to be "true" and to express what is hidden and secret, covered by the rules of the society, so often only social hypocrisy. Kazan’s generation and Marlon Brando’s generation were involved in a big conflict between Tradition and  Individual Talent, that was, mainly, an ethical conflict between sex repression and freedom to fuck. It was the era of Beniamin Spock’s spoiled children, an era that started with Doctor Kinsey  Reports and lasted until our strange days, the days  of the Sex Pride for Mommy and Daddy. For the protagonists of such performances "outing", in any sense, seems the only way to be "true" or "sincere".  I know that now "outing" often refers to taking someone "out of the closet", that is, publicizing that someone is secretly homosexual. But, in general, "outing" is used to mean publicly disclosing other personal characteristics, such as political affiliation or religion, that someone wishes to keep secret. The point is that "outing" could be another way to conceal.  The  struggle for freedom is often  a mask. This great ecclesiastical zeal to "confess"  to the others is quite different from the capacity to admit something about yourself that you want not to admit. Let’s come back to Kazan. I have a question. It is true that smiling is a problem? I think that Kazan was ambiguous and insincere about this topic. For instance, in  an important moment of America, America, smiling has a very different value. Stavros, the hero of the novel,  can  fulfil his dream to escape from his land and go to America thank to a lady. He seduces this lady and, at the same time, she  seduced him: they have an affair while the lady’s husband is sleeping or absent. Well, in this occasion, the lady wants that Stavros smiles, because she likes his smile… This lady is the opposite of  the tough Stavros’ Grandmother who despised Stavros’ smiling and encouraged him to fight against the Turks with a knife. As a matter of fact, the weapon to win Turk’s oppression and go to America, is not the knife, but the smile: the seductive, erotic smile of this  innocuous, harmless boy is better than the knife that the Grandmother gave to him to slain the Turks.


I repeat my question: it is true that smiling is a problem? My answer to this question  is another question: it is true that a true man is so strong that smiling or crying is a problem?


If so, the young boys we meet in Kazan’s movies, such as James Dean in East to Eden, or Warren Beatty in Splendor in the grass are always wrong. In their fury of living, we are not struck by an  exhibition  of aggressiveness, but by the open  vulnerability of their hearths. Should we believe that Kazan was always wrong? That his  True Self was the Self he showed to the public?  Was he really the tough guy  he pretended to be, rather than an adolescent,  delicate, subtle, warm?


  If there is an author who has comprised the dramatic dilemma of the adolescence, with its conflicts and its failures this has been Kazan. In his movies there is no wisdom. The wisdom implies the maturity. But the hero of Kazan is perpetually unripe. Therefore, in every gesture, also extreme, he is  never definitive.


It is enough in order to trust to these antiheroic heroes and to trust to Kazan himself?  I do not know how to answer to this question. I only know that Kazan, like the Greek tragedy for Aristotle, is for me terror and mercy: a terror and a mercy that will not perhaps carry us to any catharsis, but that perhaps will carry us to speak again and again about him.


Years ago in Rome I have known him. He made a speech to the students of the University. He was small, clever, electrical. It held in his hands the public, teasing it, provoking it, answering with irony, intelligence to any question. He was a leader, a true leader. Fascinating. Cordial. Human. Shining. When it ended all, I approached him and I said to him that I admired him. It was stopped to chat, like an old friend. He started speaking with me like to an old friend. Then, suddenly, he told me: "Can you help me to get some money for my next movie". Like an old Don Juan in the hospital, who tries to seduce a nurse, he tried to seduce me, to get money: like an adolescent who will never have the money of his father and live on relief. He was touched. He was painful.  I tought to  the Arrangement, when the old father goes to the bank to have some money and is ridiculous, tragic and ridiculous and would be humiliate. Yes, the father is humiliated: doesn’t exist for Kazan, who was humiliated by this authoritative father such as Stavros in America, America. Kazan wa prisoner of his Oedipus complex, like an adolescent, unable to grow up, full of anger and frustration. For him the father cannot be a father:he is a tyrant or  an uncle: very nice and human, but without authority. It is not a chance if the story of America, America is the story of Kazan’s uncle.


Kazan like a beggar, asked to me money and  I had no money for him. No money: only words. Words and understanding. All useless things, as it said to me with a smile.  Also now I do not have other gift to offer to his memory but words. Yes, but I ask you if the "Word", what the Greeks like Kazan called once Epos, is really useless?                                                


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