Underground Film Journal

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Movie Review: Ratcatcher

The other week I had to unsubscribe myself from a New York Green Party email listserv. I joined the list about a year and a half earlier after I had registered with their party when I moved to NYC.

Having joined the Greens, I had wanted to learn as much as I could about them and possibly get activated in their party. I didn’t want to randomly start calling myself “a Green” and mindlessly vote for Green candidates without totally understanding what they stood for.

However, since I’m usually very reluctant to get involved with anybody in anything, I was very cautious with not only the Green listserv but with the Green organization in general. I used to get flyers in the mail for local Brooklyn Green meetings, but would come up with convenient excuses not to go, e.g. I think the meetings were on Wednesday nights which as any true geek knows is STAR TREK: VOYAGER night. I couldn’t very well go out on VOYAGER nights now, could I?

But also, I never knew if any of the people who were sending me the flyers and went to these meetings were on the email list. There weren’t very many people I liked whose emails I read on the list. The listserv generated a lot of posts and my AOL bin was filled with anywhere between 20 and 100 emails a day. And most of that was annoying bickering.

I think it was a very small percentage of the Greens who belonged to the listserv and each of them seemed to have their own little agendas. Some would almost exclusively try to besmirch the credibility of the other Greens on the list they didn’t like and rarely post anything positive.

Though I could name you a good half-dozen, one person on the listserv who drove me up the freakin’ wall was a very militant animal rights activist who apparently lacked any social graces whatsoever. I will call her “Debbie” because, well, that was her name.

She practically drove me from the list single-handedly because there was a time when I very much wanted to post to the list an email that read something like, “Debbie, I am glad that you are nice to animals because in regard to how you talk to humans based on your emails you are an absolute fucking pig.”

There were some guidelines to the email list, one of which was: “Don’t engage in personal attacks”. This is generally an easy rule to get around. While I’m pretty good at writing something that sounds totally polite but is completely condescending and, if you read between the lines, downright insulting, I had gotten to the point where I didn’t know how to react to Debbie other than childish name-calling.

However, I didn’t post an insulting email to Debbie not because there was a guideline against it. The guideline exists because one ideal of the Greens is to be different from other political parties and operate out of respect of other peoples’ points of view. It’s an ideal, whether it’s feasible and/or realistic, that I would like to at least try to implement and operate from in my everyday life. Obviously, though, I have a very long way to go.

The times when it’s most difficult to treat others with unconditional respect is when the person you’re dealing with has zero respect for you. For example, the NY Green listserv generated lots of email everyday, most of it pointless and irrelevant. Sometimes some people, including me, would post messages politely asking people on the list to remember to be considerate of other people’s time and technical capabilities and not post worthless garbage.

But of course, when you ask other people to be considerate, there are going to be some who respond by spitting in your eye. On the NY Green email list, any requests for consideration were attacked by some as censorship and with cries of “WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE TELLING OTHER PEOPLE WHAT’S IRRELEVANT?” Debbie’s response was “That’s what the ‘Delete’ key’s for.” And that’s when I wanted to write, “But on some email programs, a person has to open the email before they know it’s a worthless piece of crap email before they delete it, you fucking moron”; and then add my “fucking pig” comment.

Anyway, part of me is struggling to write this review because I still don’t want to publicly rag on Debbie. If I’m having a problem with an individual I should confront that person and not drag others into it. Oh well, fuck her.

RATCATCHER might be the first movie in English I’ve seen completely with subtitles, which is because it takes place in a housing project in Glasgow, Scotland in the early ’70s. The Scottish accents are so thick, the film had to use subtitles for interpretation.

The main character is a pre-teen loner in a working class family, even though the only thing the father seems to work at is getting drunk. The boy’s only friends are a mildly retarded boy with an obsession with animals and a budding teenage slut. As far as the “plot” goes, it has something to do with the family wanting to get out of the projects and move into a prefabricated suburban paradise.

It’s a wickedly depressing and grimy movie, mostly due to the entire film taking place during a garbage strike. I’m not sure what the title RATCATCHER is supposed to allude to, but due to the strike there are gigantic mounds of trash everywhere crawling with rats and filled with the carcasses of dead dogs and such.

On a final note, because this review is getting way too long, I do plan on rejoining the Green listserv around election time so I can find out some info on whatever Green candidates may be running that I can vote for. Plus, the Greens in general have had a very contentious growth and development through their entire history as I’m learning from a book called ECOLOGICAL POLITICS: ECOFEMINISTS AND THE GREENS by Greta Gaard, an ecofeminist associate professor. Her analysis of the ecofeminist movement is a little New Age-y and too theoretical for me, but I am enjoying reading her history of the Greens. I’m still pulling for them and will continue to be one, despite my disagreements with some of them.