Let's all go to the lobby. Let's all go to the lobby. Let's get ourselves a treat. Hello and welcome to movies versus capitalism and anti capitalist movie Podcast. I'm Frank Capello I'm Briscoe, Rivera rybka. It's a big week for us. Survivor has returned for its 44th season. Did you watch the premiere?
I certainly did. And I loved it. Yeah, it
was a very strong premiere. Now I
know it's probably might be a little surprising for us to be talking about a our our love of Survivor given this is an anti capitalist podcast, we are aware that putting people on an island to fight for a million dollars is not exactly the most anti cap but we but I'm sure this this will Don't worry be probably a special episode we do. Or we dive deep into survivor and all its politics. But for right now we're just gonna, you should know we loved it. And it was a great premiere,
great premiere, great cast of characters a lot happen action packed, and pretty exciting. First Tribal Council, which had already had some twists already had some blind side, we have some
real we have some real game players this round. And potentially there might be some love interests, which we haven't seen in a while I'm just all around really excited about this. Also, it's that kind of cold in New York, where you desperately need to be watching anything on an island to survive, although I'm going to Puerto Rico this week to see family so islands IRL,
islands IRL? Well, real fast. Before we get into our conversation today, we wanted to talk a little bit about the concept of commodification because this is something that we talk about, you know, in this, this conversation about modern times, just how the commodification of everything in our society has become very commonplace. And I think people believe that that is, you know, the way you live within a hegemonic framework, and people come to believe Oh, that's how things should be if there's money to be made from something, then we should try to be making money from it. And a commodity is really just any thing, any object, person, whatever that is ascribed an exchange value or a monetary value so that it can either be bought or sold or traded. So Rivka, what is this kind of stir in you, when you think of commodification
a lot and I really appreciated you breaking that down. Simplifying that, if you will, I had a visual of like, a children's book, like there should be a children's book that's got illustrations, and it's like what a commodity is and how to fight commodification. Yeah, it should be called you are not a commodity, you are not a commodity and your art is not a commodity. I think that's where that's what it stirs in me, particularly at this moment, always, as a creator, but especially when I'm in process, which I currently am as I'm working on writing a piece. And I think the one of the one of the biggest consequences of commodification of art is that separation of the product from the process and this feeling this anxiety of, I need to be thinking about my art as product, which as I was thinking about this, I'm thinking like, I just want to reject that idea of art as product because my art is process and its experience. And it's a living, breathing ecosystem with lineage into the past and the present and the future, and how can you possibly commodify that and yet, we are told from very early on society wants you to think of, you know, the problem is you're not thinking of your art as a business. And like that's the problem is the messaging that I receive often. And I actually think it's the opposite. I found that the illness for me and I keep fighting is like thinking about my art as a business. It doesn't mean I don't want to I don't and don't believe in making a living and living a life as an artist, but to think about such a spiritual, incredible event. Because I don't think of art is just a tangible thing. It's something that's experienced and communicates between human beings and in society, to suggest that that itself as a one dimensional product could have a monetary value and then you should use that monetary value as a result as a way to guide your art, you know, so find out what's in find out what's marketable. And that should actually be what defines what you make as an artist I've heard so often. You should really be like writing for yourself as an actor. I'm like, well I really wish that's how, you know, these ideas came. But unfortunately, it's like a lot more tragic and spiritually deeper than that. And it's gonna, you know, it comes from when I'm, I'll speak for myself like that creation process is. So it's like a womb process. And so if it comes from here from that Wellspring, that disconnection I think is the consequence of commodification for me who, so I guess it stirs a little something in me Frank
stuff in there, ya know it because it's so conflicting because like you said, you know, as artists as creators, you want to we you want to make a living, you want to be compensated for your, for your labor and for the work that you put into it. And you know, that that's the dream to make a living from your your art. So there is that drive within it, because you know, we have to survive materially in this world. But then it can get too extreme. And you can bleed over into that place where then now you're only thinking about what is the most marketable, what is the what is the product that will sell. I mean, I know, when I was working with my writing partner in LA, and we were trying to get staffed on a TV show, we were told constantly, just like, This is what the market is looking for, you should write something like this, and it totally gums up your creative process that is not going wrong, or the market is just reacting to something else that just came out that was successful. And now all of the projects, which is wrong. And but that's how Hollywood works. It's like oh, Ted last Oh, was successful, I guess we I guess we want like nice happy shows now. Or, you know what I mean? Or like, oh, squid game was successful. Now we want like dystopian stories. Like, That's literally how it works.
Right now, we want it right now. So no process just manufacture copies.
And and I'm sure that there were writers, creators, artists who aren't who are good at that, who are like, I can see what the market wants, and I'm able to create something, you know, that has value in this market. And maybe it's good, maybe it's not whatever. But I don't know, personally, any of those times where we've been trying to chase what the market was, was when we were creating some of our worst stuff. And the times where we just kind of wrote the things that we wanted to write because we thought that they were fun and funny and had something to say that's when we created our best work. So for me, it's really antithetical thinking in terms of, especially in terms of, of art,
Well, it's interesting in the sort of, in the context of AI, and what, you know, we're just at the precipice of it. And it's can be mysterious, exciting, terrifying. Like, all of the things I'm sure this is sort of like what it felt like to be at the precipice of the internet. But with AI, I think for writers and the discourse that's been going on, like, well, what the fuck if, if this robot can just turn out like, a script that's considered as good as like, the best scripts of like that our generation or whatnot? Like, then what's the point? And I never remember where I heard it. I wish I had it exactly. But the idea that, like, do we make art because it's going to be some because of that product? Like, what about the process? You know, what, it was just an interesting question to pose of like, what if, and very possibly, will be the case? These robots can make something just as good as you does it? Does that devalue your human experiences and artists like there's just something more than like, the script coming out? that I'm that I'm thinking about there. And as terrifying as this is in the repercussions, certainly, economically excetera. That's a fascinating revelation.
I mean, that already has happened. Specifically at BuzzFeed. They had just a big round of layoffs. And I'm, I'm pretty sure I read they were like, we can have aI right, you know, Buzzfeed articles, they can put together these lists, they can put together the and I'm not like, I'm not demeaning. Like the BuzzFeed writers. I worked at BuzzFeed a little bit. There's, there's work that goes into that. And there's like you said, that process, and then there's passion, and there's enjoyment, and
there's the people writing it. And there's all of that. But it's interesting, because I'm like, in the dream world where we're all funded artists, and we don't need to commodify our art and it's just like, here's money for being you as the artists go, write your work and process it. Yeah, I just wonder if the more interesting work would still have a human being attached to it because you can't alienate the two. Ursula K. Look, when the author writes on this point about art and commodification books, you know, they're not just commodities, the profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art and very often in our art, the art of words.
Wow, that is a perfectly put sentiment that sums up what we're just talking about. Am I That's
what I was trying to say. So Well on
that note, I think it's time to get to our conversation. But first, I want to let you know that this podcast is brought to you by the lever, a reader supported investigative news outlet which reports on the people and corporations manipulating the levers of power in our society, and you can go to lever news.com to find all of their original reporting.
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we're gonna take a break but we'll be right back with our conversation about modern times and our guests better on here, Rivera Munoz and just a heads up with relives in Puerto Rico and during the recording the cookies. Puerto Rican tree frogs were out that night so you might hear a little chirping in the background. Our guest today is bedroom unhealth Rivera Munoz bedre is an award winning documentary filmmaker, political writer and activist. His films include masala obrah, the story of Operation Bootstrap and planter is work planner is song, his latest film, there's an Brando is documentary exploring collective memories about the land occupation movement in Puerto Rico during the early 70s. Through the early 80s. He is also and probably most importantly, my father. Hi, dad. Welcome,
my dear. Pedro, thank you so much for joining us today.
Oh, it's my pleasure. Really. It's my pleasure.
It's really special to have you on this show. Because so much of my film knowledge. I mean, you're the first person to show me films starting with a sobs fables. And I remember an early memory when you showed me Aesop's Fables. My first idea of death was that when you die, do you remember this done? showing me this and that my my initial instinct was that when you die, you get flattened out and put on filmstrips. And that's death. Right? Early core memory. I mean, I don't Well, I don't know that. I don't believe that anymore. But
that's a pretty beautiful conception of the afterlife to be immortalized in film.
It was kind of Yeah, I think I think I was into it. I think it was a little scary. But for some reason, yeah. That was
this one way of dealing with it.
So Pedro, you chose a really wonderful movie for us to watch a movie that I have had. Sadly, up until this point never seen. We watched Charlie Chaplin's modern times. It is a 1936 film written and directed by Charlie Chaplin, in which his iconic little Tramp character struggles to survive in the modern, industrialized world. The movie takes place during the Great Depression and is thought to be commentary on the desperate employment and financial conditions people faced during the time. The movie stars Chaplin, Paulette Goddard and Henry Bergman. And it is part silent film, part talkie. And notably, the first time that chaplains voice is heard in a film, and we're gonna get into the movie. But before we actually start, I want to ask you, so in your camera and your frame right now, right behind you, is a Charlie Chaplin poster, a piece of Charlie Chaplin artwork was can you tell us a little bit about that?
Well, yes, like I mentioned to you off camera before, this is one of those serendipities with Chaplin's work in my own life. That poster is part of a collection of posters that was published over 20 years ago, of posters produced in Cuba, mostly film posters, dealing with documentary and fiction films. And one of those was done in the name of this documentary about Chaplin, which was really, it was called for the first time, or primera vez because it was the first time like, it was your first time watching Modern Times. It was their first time watching Chapman Evers, in in the countryside in Cuba
was this was this after the revolution. This was during the revolution during the revolution.
Yeah, the first phase of the revolution, I should say. Yeah, yeah, like during the 60s, you know, kind of like when the revolution was kind of peaking in enthusiasm and, and one of the ways in which is like to see us as experts As his through his artwork in the in the the feel of posters for films, given given posters became famous throughout Latin America because there's such a such a style, such exuberance you know even you will see in the in this poster this sense of exuberance you know? Yeah,
yes, it's a bit It's very colorful for anyone just listening it's very, very colorful. There's like this floral bed with like a chat Chaplin, you know, kind of sketch on top, it's really beautiful.
You have great posters to have, I don't think I've ever seen that one, I'm gonna steal it.
No, I wouldn't have had, you know, I had it there. And when when we talked about doing this, it sort of came up, I say, Wait a second, I think I have a poster of that film somewhere. So I was able to find it.
And like a true filmmaker, you put it in the frame, the least I could do? Well, it's gonna be interesting. I mean, that's fascinating to have shown this early on in the revolution, because this film is so has so many themes of revolution in it, and we'll get into it. So this film, some historical context was made in 1936, which was kind of towards right past right past the peak of the Great Depression, the Great Depression began in 1929. FDR is the president. And at the height of the Depression in 1933, almost 25% of the nation's total workforce were unemployed. And that brings to a number of people that I can't read this number.
It's 12,830,000, a crazy
amount of people who were unemployed, and wage income for workers who were lucky enough to have kept their jobs fell down to 42.5%, between 1929 and 1933. So this is what's happening at the time. This movie was also three made three years prior to the start of World War Two, but Hitler is full on doing his horrible evil thing in Germany, Mussolini's Italy. And additionally, this is also at a point where the first big talking picture was The Jazz Singer. 1927, so 10 years prior. So really, we see a lot of and we'll talk about this, but Chaplin, not only dealing with themes of modernization in the workplace, but also in this industry and his own sort of ambivalence around talking pictures. And this really is half half talkie half silent. It's a fascinating film. But let's just start with Dad, why, why this picture? Why did you want to talk about this movie?
Well, I have a very personal connection to this film and number lip, you know, number of levels. I have also shown this film, too, when I was teaching in college here in Puerto Rico, just gotten back from after many years in New York City, returned to Puerto Rico to live and work here. This is about 20 years back. And I got this job teaching at the University of Puerto Rico in the eastern part of the country in the southeast, please call Miguel, I was part of the courses that indeed to teach were so Introduction to Social Sciences, sociology, and those are the two kind of types of courses I was hired to teach. So I cannot twist the curriculum around. Because, you know, I had sort of some flexibility to do it. I thought, later, I found out I didn't have that much. But anyways, I included Modern Times as part of the curriculum of sociology, because we were we were studying modernity, modernization, you know, and capitalism. So I figured this was a perfect textbook textbook for the class. But they'd never seen Chaplin. I found out on that they never seen any chapter. They didn't know Chaplin at all.
I think that's true for a lot of people. I mean, I haven't seen I'm almost ashamed to say I haven't seen as much Chaplin as now, I definitely will, or should, but it's unbelievable to watch and recognize that especially for artists, this is sort of like seminal storytelling.
And it's ironic because Chaplin was wildly popular. We're not talking about our obscure, you know, obscure filmmaker, if anything, the one of the ironies again of Chaplin's life, and work is a Chaplin really lived through the poverty he's affected. I mean, he really didn't know what poverty was about. And he really lived through it and all the all those forms of oppression he depicts in his films, he lived through them, this was personal to him. And at the same time, he became a rich man. So it became kind of like the emblem, the icon of the rags to riches mythology, that capitalism promotes. Here he is, he is actually his own personal life as an example, if you you can make it if you really try to up if you work hard, you can go from rags to riches he did. However, it didn't bind to that myth, even though he experienced it. His work is not about that at all.
Yeah, I did a little bit of research and Chaplin and to speak to what you were saying he had been forced into work houses before the age of nine, you know, this was when child this is when child labor was still legal. So like, as you said, really experienced the this modern oppression of this time. I mean, this and as you were saying, clearly, his politics, his working class politics stayed with him even as he became, you know, wildly successful. And this this movie was made, not towards, I wouldn't say the end of his career, but like the middle of his he's immensely the peak. Yeah, at the at the peak. He's immensely famous, popular. He's, he's the highest paid actor in Hollywood history at this point. And he makes this film, which to me that my big takeaway was just this, this movie is emblematic of how society treats humans as disposable commodities.
Yeah, in all kinds of ways. Yeah, throughout the film, throughout the film, all his gags, you know, Chaplins gags, are really narrative devices to that detonate, as he releases them. They slide grenades, and they and they ingest that on it's full of irony, and radical critique of the civilization, and specifically capitalist civilization. You know, even though it's film, in the text of the film, or the people talk about the film, they talk about industrial society, but he's talking about capitalist industrial society. He's very aware of that, even though he does not ever in the film, you see direct use of the term capitalism. He doesn't use the term. He does use the term communists. He does, he does refer to that, you know, when he went in the film when his frame, when he's basically thrown in jail, because he's at the right place at the wrong time. He's, he's, he's, he gets he gets thrown in jail. And, and he says that he's thrown in jail because he is accused of being a communist. And he uses in the text of the film, he uses the word communist, which reminds us that he is aware of what's going on. This is 1936. This is the peak of the Communist Party in the United States. As a party, you're not just like, you know, this. This is a very influential party. This is a party that whose main leader Browder, sat with the President with FDR, yeah, to discuss issues, it means he has the Communist Party had had a strong, strong base of support. And that doesn't mean that they had, you know, the millions that the other parties have, they have enough, you know, because in politics is not only numbers, is influence,
they were incredibly influential at that time. And they were purpose. They were purposely whitewashed out of American history, especially the history that we're taught, you know, in American, the American education system. You know, growing up, we're always taught, FDR came along, things were bad, he gave us the New Deal. And then things were good again. And yeah, it's completely completely erases the fact that there was, like you said, the Communist Party was a very radical militant on the sometimes militant group, and, you know, and seizing factories and organizing industry, and pushing FDR and the Democrats to implement most of those New Deal programs. So like, people forget, you know, like, I got an uncle who's in an electrician union, and he lives, he's retired now, he lives a great life, he, you know, huge pension. And I said to him one time I'm like, you know, you have everything you have because of communists, and he was like, get the fuck out of here. No, I don't. And I was like, All right. Okay. All right. It's completely forgotten. It's purposely forgotten.
Yeah, has been erased conveniently erase. But, you know, still, you could erase those memories. But I'll try anyways, we are both films like this one. Very strong reminder.
And you know, it's, you know, it's so incredible about I love that you pointed out that the few places where text is used, it's so profound. It's so good. It's so deep. But this story, and I think what Chaplin felt deeply about the silent picture, potentially why there was so much he was fighting this internal fight about, what do I do about talking pictures and word but what he said about he wrote in The Times in 1931, I love this. The silent picture, first of all, is a universal means of expression. talking pictures necessarily have a limited field. They're held down to the particular tongues of particular races. So this was an artist who understood so deeply the universality of the body and how it is tell stories through the body and through pictures. So like the first picture in the film is all these sheep moving forward, and it just falls into this picture of all these bodies moving into a factory, which then juxtaposes I think with that image of, there's always these bodies, he plays always with these bodies like waves of people, right? And then the bodies that come forward when he falls out of a wagon and into this communist protest, right. And then he's in it accident, quote, unquote, accidentally, but it's another form of a movement of bodies. So there's always this ever print present tension between the individual and organized bodies that were always part of this collective. And do you want to be a part of the sheep or part of the rise, the rising tide? So the understanding of how you can tell that story so perfectly with I mean, that's what film gives us that it is a medium of the picture, but also the body. And this was, I mean, this was remarkable for that,
as we speak. Silence in film, as a music remains central to the expression, you could take any major masterpiece, nowadays, contemporary masterpiece from Tarkowski, to you know, any American cinema to John Cassavetes, you could go the whole range, and you'll find it's also powerful, because if they really have that dialectic between the spoken word and the silence, you know, and as a chaplain, there's no split, no mind body split, you know, the one thing that chaplain and everybody else in the from philosophy for now, to this day, they have criticized, you know, about Western civilization, their mind body split, the no mind body split, which is goes to, to what you're saying that are in charge when you see that presence of the body at every level, you know, and so spoken languages, he satirizes to an extent, you know, is his way of kind of saying, Well, you know, it's overrated, perhaps,
well, the whole end of the film, he loses his words, he's supposed to, like, sing this number for like his final, he's keeps trying to get a job, right. And his final job is his girlfriend who, like they picked up off the street to do this dance at a club is like I got gets him out of jail. And she's like, I got you a job. You just have to sing and wait tables. He's terrible at waiting tables. He's like, maybe I can sing, I don't know. And she writes the lyrics down on his like, cuff and he loses it. And so he just makes up a song. But I think so. But it's still able to make the audience laugh with just his his clowning. And so he's saying there, you don't need words to connect.
Words are choking him? Where's that choking, he can hardly speak, you know, because of words. So it's like, when he loses them. That's when he really expresses himself with sound. But yeah. So he he overcomes that. It's important that you bring that up, because in Chaplin, anti capitalism is not only a non that, not that that slide matters. But it's not only a critique of economic exploitation, or alienation, you know, where you're really completely detached from the product. Certainly, that's there. And the fact that, you know, you become a literal cog in the machine. Yeah,
he gets sucked into the machine at one point.
I mean, you know, and that's it, part of the brilliance of this film is so direct, and yet, it's so complex in so in his in what it suggests, you know, the images are very straightforward, but what he's suggesting goes far beyond the immediate appearance of what you're seeing, you know, it's a critique of civilization. I remember when he was discussing the term with my students, as a, you know, this member here, this is like, in a way, the peak of capitalist rationality and also the crisis of it, because in the 1930s, a capitalist rational rationality is being questioned. The Soviet Union is very high up there in reputation. You know, the Soviet Union was seen as the, as the, as a place to admire to look for it. You know, that's the society that we want, because they have their reputation in the 1930s. But also in the case of Chaplin, in the same way that Chaplin was not as your ideologically speaking a communist
he was accused of being a communist, but he denied being a communist, although he was a communist affiliate and sympathizer ostensibly,
right and he was he was an anti communist, for sure. Remember, many in a Communist Party, many people join the Communist Party. That doesn't mean they're ideologically Marxist, Leninist or communist in that doctrinaire way, because communism, when you think about it is much older than Marx, Lenin, and the Soviet Union. And all the 20th century history of socialism. There's there's communism in the French Evolution, the people who call themselves communists before Marx, way before Marx, not to mention Christian communists, not to mention communists, so called primitive society nomadic tribes, either way, we're more than there were a lot longer in existence than we than we've been. If you look at it that was, in terms of the, the chronology, there's been communism has been around longer than capitalism. That's been around for five years, the anthropological archaeological evidence shows that there were classless communist societies before, for 1000s of years, they have different ways, different economic arrangements, but the reason why we call them communist is because the commons, the air, the land, the water, those are the commons, they belong to the Commons is not that complicated, but we have is become complicated because communism, as a horizon is dangerous in class societies, class societies don't want to be anything else. But anything but class societies. So anything that threatens class is going to be addressed with repression. And, and it's gonna be addressed with hostility. And that's why Charlie Chaplin was addressed with hostility and repression. I mean, he was thrown out of the United States, right?
Yeah. After the after the FBI started investigating him, because that's what they do.
Because someone saw this movie, and they're like, Wait a minute.
Yeah, this guy is, you know, how song affiliations here. And they did it before the Second World War? Yeah. Right. You know, because if it would have been during, during the Second World War, maybe not, because it's later detail. Oh, Joseph Stalin was an ally of President Roosevelt. And England as well, Churchill. You know, they were allies, and they hated each other. Like, they, they didn't like each other. Well, personally, apparently, they got along. But they represented, you know, very different systems, except they had a common enemy. So they join. But, you know, what I what I was getting at is in, in modern times, there's also a running commentary and critique, as such, you know, wage slavery, communist Crete criticized wage slavery also, but he was, you know, this several times where he says, they weren't the first time he brings it up. It's really funny when he says, got to get home, like, I guess I have good I had to work
well, prior to that he tries to go get back to jail because he had a better time in jail than at the factory job.
Because he didn't want to work. All his works. All the jobs he gets he fucks it up, right? He really can't be can do
it. Well, he doesn't want to do that specific kind of work. Like he doesn't want to be a cog in this machine.
No, it's alienated work. Exactly.
The opening scene in the first factory on the assembly line is, you know, it's so perfect. It's so simple. Just the division of labor of these men on the assembly line, each of them doing the same repetitive task over and over and over again. And obviously, you know, the, he plays for gags, you know, there's kind of like the
comedic brilliance that clearly took every time you've seen that you're like, those bits have been taken from this.
But one of the best details is when he like when he goes on break, and he can't stop doing his, like, mechanized gesture.
Yeah, like turning the bolts.
We call that repetitive motion syndrome nowadays, in case people think is absolutely. Why he's he's, he's already addressing what was a real problem back then, already because of the assembly line. And reform, by the way, was conduct created by the Nazi army, the Nazi government. That's right. He's the inventor of the assembly line.
Actually, I did a little research because I was like, what did they I was able to go back to the assembly line, often credited to Ford, but had actually exist for about a century in different iterations. In fact, it wasn't even Ford, who introduced the idea at Ford Motors, it was suggested by an employee, some guy named William Parklane, upon visiting from the swift and companies slaughterhouse in Chicago, in which and they call that a disassembly line because that's where the butchering carcasses of so brutal somehow, over the course of history, the assembly line got credited to Henry Ford. So I just want to I just want to lay that out for everyone right now.
He did consolidate it, though. We did consolidate it and did it and apply that technology in a massive way. And you know, you know, Henry Ford had his own cinema apparatus in his industry. So he recorded all those processes. Oh, wow. Including when Diego Rivera well known communist at the time, was hired by his itself, who was his nephew, I think, so forth higher. Diego Rivera, and Frida Kahlo, but Gigaware are primarily to go to Detroit and do the murals that you see in Detroit. They're also sponsored by Ford. So he recorded all that stuff. Not him, had his own crew.
He wasn't buying the camera. Yeah, he wasn't he wasn't racking focus himself. Yeah.
He just he made sure someone was in charge. And to do it, and this all this material is there, a friend of mine did a documentary about that's called the Diego's reverse Detroit. And, and he's using all that material from Ford. Again, getting back to the issue on word how, you know, even within the Marxist tradition, Marxist son in law, Paula farce wrote a, an essay in 1870s called the Inspect in English, they translated as the right to be lazy. And it's a whole critique on the not only the bourgeois capitalist work ethic, you know, the, the idea that if you don't work your bump, and you notice that in modern times, several times where he has to go into the street, you hear hallelujah, and a bump. That's an i WW song. Oh, wow, the National Workers of the World song, it was an American folk song that, that they adopted for their purposes. And so you hear that he plays out there and it's the it's an it's an O to the to the bomb to the unemployed man to the Trump is not the industrial worker that Chaplin icon is, you know, is the is the tramp is the one that the assistant spits out. Although of course, he has sympathy for the worker in the in the in the workplace where you notice his mom's most of the sympathy is outside the workplace.
And actually along the lines of work, it's the happiest he is, by the end, you mentioned it's not work. It's alienated work, work in a factory when he's singing and joyful. And that, you know, you finally think that they're going to be connected to something that they're doing that they may potentially want to be doing. And that is torn away. But that's a very specific difference. I wanted to jump back and talk about the factory one more time because I think, because I think it could have been representative like this factory a bad place to work, but it was so specific and that the specificity was important. And again, this the choice when sound and text and language was used. It was so brilliant. So we do have a sound clip. This is one of my favorite moments was the billows feeding machine,
my friends. This record comes to you through the sales talk transcription company incorporated, your speaker, the mechanical salesman, may I take the pleasure of introducing Mr. Jay welcome pillows, the inventor of the pillows feeding machine, a practical device which automatically feeds your man while at work. Don't stop for lunch, be ahead of your competitor. The bill was feeding machine will eliminate the lunch hour, increase your production and decrease your overhead allow us to point out some of the features of this wonderful machine. It's beautiful aerodynamic streamline body, its smoothness of action made silent by our electro porous metal ball bearings. That was acquaint you with our automaton soup plate. It's compressed air Blore. No breath necessary. No energy required to cool the soup. Notice the revolving plate with the automatic food pusher. Observe our countershaft double knee action corn feeder with its synchromesh transmission, which enables you to shift from high to low gear by the mere tip of the tongue. Then there is the hydro compressed sterilized mouth wiper. It's factors of control in short against spots on the shirt front. These are a few of the delightful features of the bellows feeding machine. Let us demonstrate with one of your workers what actions speak louder than words. Remember, if you wish to keep ahead of your competitor, you cannot afford to ignore the importance of the billows feeding machine.
Why the feeding machine does Taylorism the study of motion in more work movements. They invented in the 1920s Frederick Taylor and other people you know, it's like assembly line, there's a number of people that they're getting more.
So what strikes me about this is how present tense it is. This could be an Amazon factory, as you know, they go into the next scene where he goes into the bathroom and there's the big brother camera of the boss telling him to stop taking his break. I wouldn't be surprised to see Jeff Bezos take a billows feeding machine so that workers didn't have to stop working. We have 14 hour shifts where Amazon workers don't get bathroom breaks. I mean, I'm I would be I would love to see chaplains take on this Amazon delivery man who has to pee in a bottle so that he doesn't take bathroom breaks. You know, there's some profound comedy that only highlights how heinous and horrific this reality is. But it's so proud. I mean, this is the CES today.
And even back then, you know in the 30s there were studies that were made about a the conditions of work in the factories like automobile factories and In the amount of accidents, and he makes reference to the accidents in the film to you know, people get hurt at the job. And the amount of people that got hurt on the job was really quite impressive. I lost track. Now the statistics is I, you know, when I was working, one of my many jobs I was working doing in the asbestos removal industry, Oh, Jesus. So I became very aware of those issues of accidents at a job and also how job how work kills you, working conditions can kill you, cumulatively or on the spot. If it's an accident, it could die on the spot. My own one of my own my brothers, I had a few brothers on my father's side, moved migrated to New York during the 30s. And one of them, he lost all these fingers, all these fingers, he lost him. So I remember. And we're happy that he did that on purpose, put his hand in the machine, apparently, apparently, a number of workers would hurt themselves on purpose. Because after after fighting over rights, working conditions, hit safe working conditions, has been a long, long struggle to this day. But in the 30s, one of the achievements of the working class movement at that point was to get better working conditions, get Social Security, get all those benefits you were referring to before this basis of people, you know, kind of sabotaging the system in all kinds of ways trying to work their way around, it included hurting themselves, sometimes, you see that champion has is playing the film, where he dances and all that he's really, he's poking fun at that stuff and make, you know, making it ironic, you know, the fact that he's been grinded in that car is both a metaphor of that alienation. But it's also a description of the working condition, literal, working conditions, what grinding people's lives, miners working in a mind, you know, a women working in cotton mills, and, you know, after years, they're that they're that you have the brown, long, black long, white long ball, those are conditions produced by industry by working conditions, and you know, and people, people then retire, and they'll waste it the way they spend their retirement lives sick, wanting to die, because, you know, they don't, it's terrible. And that's, that's still the case. You know, we haven't quite gotten out of that one.
No, and it's it's one of the main themes of this film, and not only the way that industry treats these workers as disposable, but the way that the state also treats, you know, the prisoners and Chaplin as disposable. It's, it's all through, you know, like, he's, he's drawing a straight line between, you know, the capitalist state and the capitalist industry in this movie,
where the character of the character of the Gambian the woman, yeah, we'll say it was an orphan who's basically, you know, the system just grinds her also, and she escapes. Escape is a really important theme in this film. Sure, very important, you know, because ultimately, the film narrative is really geared towards looking for horizon. And this literally, in the will be like the epilogue. Yeah. And when they they meet again, the Cabo, right? Because it is a love story in the midst of all this,
and they were really in love. They were really, that was part of the desire to create this film. He was inspired to make this movie after meeting her. That's right,
that that insistent in looking for a way out, whether you literally see them walking towards the horizon,
their walk, walking towards nature,
you know, when they say, well, we're not gonna give up, you gotta live. Ultimately, he says, You got to live, because this is ultimately a battle for life, not a battle against capitalism, not against it's for
and they're constantly seeking an alternative throughout the entire film. They're looking for different ways to subvert, you know, the normal economic organization that they've been forced into, you know, he gets hired as a nightwatchman. And they're like, great we can live in and nightwatchman in the department store is like great, we can live in this department store now. And you know, they have this whole fantasy sequence where it's just them just living out in a little, you know, a little house and it's, you know, there's a cow and there's, there's there's trees and they're they're picking fruit off and it's it's, it's, it's deprived of work, it's deprived of having to sell your labor and they're clearly bucking against the system that has chewed them both up and spit them out while still trying to exist. I mean, like, the whole fact that he would rather be in jail than go back to work, I think is such a brilliant such a brilliant touch because with being imprisoned or at least in this film, comes the I guess, sense of security that you don't have to worry about where you're going to sleep at night. You have a male Do you have a meal every day, and you don't have to sell your labor and then it's like it's it is prison. And obviously the prison system in this country is absolutely horrendous. But it really underscored how brutal this modern life was for him and that he opted to go back to prison as often as he could. I have
had friends, I have friends who have been in prison who told me this that they felt more comfortable in prison than outside because they feel so completely alienated back in the SOCO free community. That because there's so many obstacles, once you've been in jail, you know, the stigma is too powerful. You know, it is not a metaphor, really. When you think about it, you know, the film. And that film really lays out a lot of stuff that's really not metaphoric in that sense, just that he's so brilliant, he turns it into a metaphor. He's able to turn it around and do the things that you both referring to that there's a sense of not giving up a sense of agency, a strong sense of agency,
and he puts it in the body, which again, I think is I learned so much as an artist. And it was such a profound reminder of how important putting it in your body is for the message to those watching your film because we have these mirror neurons. So watching that radical joy of these two characters, that otherwise in so much media, we would be taught to look down on to I mean, look at how we treat the unhoused population in society today, you're supposed to look literally look away, because there's there's just too much that we're taught about that we're It's too scary to look in someone's eyes and think, Well, I'm closer to that than I ever will be to a billionaire. So I'm going to look up and idolize the Beyonce is and the and I do love Beyonce, but I'm gonna look up and idolize billionaire status and celebrity status but not look down, even though that's where I'm much closer to reality for all of us. In this day and age towards being so this film gave them so much joy, especially what was the female character's name? Why am I blanking on that? The gamin, the gammon, the gammon, was from beginning to end, total radical joy and infuses him with radical joy. She doesn't once I mean, even in all the horror of her conditions, and sure, sis siblings get pulled away from her. She still has this her joy seems to be what motivates her to keep moving. And I feel like this is a theme that keeps coming up as Frank and I've been doing interviews in this podcast is what can art do to motivate and inspire revolution. And that to me was the thread in this film was this radical joy, particularly her female radical joy that she moves through the whole film.
And I mean, they meet when she steals a loaf of bread. And he, you know, takes the fall for her joy and a joyous way because he wants to go back to jail.
What a great cute meet.
And this is a good time to remind our audience if you see someone stealing food, no, you didn't write? Right? No, you didn't know if you see someone stealing diapers or medicine. No, you didn't. And that's
something that's really, again, takes us to the radicalism that this film has contained, because it's a it's really a critique of bourgeois morality. And in a real radical way, anatomy when I say bourgeois morality, I don't, I'm not talking just about the capitalist class, I'm talking about the whole of society, we all have some of that ideology, you know, instill in ourselves, we think stealing is bad. And even though we may already understand why people do it, deep down, we still think morally is something wrong with it, you know,
and you can't watch this film and say, watch them, watch her steal bananas off a ship for her to starving siblings, and smiling and joyful and feel morally conflicted, like it's very difficult, which is what's great about this movie, where there's a
wonderful moment where the the the robbers are going to the department store where he's working as a watchman, realize, because one of his soul mates you know, they become buddies, right? Well, he
said, they say, we're not burglars, we're just hungry. That's it. We're just hungry.
That's the line. And he says it he says that in many different forms, throughout the film, that different ways of saying it, and suggesting that from the very beginning, the issue of food is really right there. And then they the character of the the owner, surveillance character, you know, the capitalist character in the film, the factory, this kind of like capitalist owner, he makes a ton of the symbol of the class and you'll see how he's doing his cross parcel
great introduction, that they they cut to the like the owners office, and all he's doing is a puzzle. He's just doing a puzzle because because the capitalist class the ownership class doesn't perform any labor, they don't do anything really hard to get their guy they worked really hard to inherit stolen wealth and then use it to exploit other workers,
you know. And again, he does it. It's like cartoonists at the same time. He's very deep, because he's really going, again, at the issue of what do you mean working? Why is working so honorable in this society, the guys who say don't work, and those who work, they hate it. They don't have enough even even if they work, you know, and you'll see the whole issue of the unemployed, the bridge between between being a criminal and being a worker, you know, that you are working at one time or another time, you're a criminal.
You know, it's interesting, even, even in the theme of you were saying this morality, the twist on that is, even though they see right, they see this family that has a house. And they have this Daydream sequence about which is amazing, or the cow comes by, he doesn't even milk the cow. Just every everything is brilliant. He doesn't even milk the cow, the milk just comes out of the gutter. But then later she finds him a house and it's a really it's like a dilapidated house by the water. little shanty, you know, he gets it. Yeah, all the great humor that comes with that. But they're still happy. The message is they just want a place to share a meal. They don't care if there's a cow that gives them milk coming right out of the utter, no one has to do work for it.
What else? Do you Toby I remember at one point, he when he meets her, he says, Now where do you live, and she says, no place, anywhere. That's utopia. That's the definition of utopia. There's no place and you can is anywhere. And she like she said, she is joy. She in the film she represents joy, is the joy of the possibility of being no place and anywhere
and the joy of not having to participate in this society, in this in this, this capitalist society, like their, their, their happiest moments are the moments where they're not here, when they're not when they're not working, when they're not participating in the exploitative nature of these modern times. You know, and I think
that's true for people. And I think we get really caught up in the, in what we've inherited from this society to believe that but what's the difference between I like to work I don't want to just not work. But this specific idea of this work that's alienated versus doing something that comes out of your spirit for the sake of joy and feeling really great about what you're offering to society that that key difference?
Well, you know, in Spanish, you say that I have a high GPA we will or we will para trabajar, where to live or live to work in the differences is very radical, but at the same time in daily life, everyday life is blurry. It is really, the it is the fundamental difference, you're going to work because you're going to live or you're going to live so you could work on what's your purpose in life. And, and that's the critique, the deep critique in the film. That's the logic that a film like this fires his main criticism in a certain way, and when he does it all the time, and he dances throughout the film, the whole film is set down once you know that from beginning to end is it's just choreograph, you know this, the way he gets out of trouble is for us a way out of his own. You know, it's all this beautiful dance, you know, throughout when there's a fight, you know, fighting he dances,
his physicality, his performance is so beautiful. i It's a really blew me away. I mean, just, I think my favorite of all was the roller skating scene where he's roller skating near the ledge, blindfolded. Yeah, and I don't know how they shot honestly. I was like, how did they shoot that because that like either that's either they did that in camera and they like superimposed like a fake ledge.
Or instance, he didn't stop she wasn't no it also he was he was
skating near an actual ledge blindfold. This
is stunts. I don't know what the trick was with dapper. I mean, the guy the guy that you see there, that's him. They're always eating have a stunt man. It's unbelievable. I did a film where is Scott is co workers organized. This was meant to be like an introduction to workers history in Puerto Rico. So in the intro, we explore these themes about work. We interview this economist who lays it out really well. He says, Well, you know, in, in this kind of society, we live, we treasure, the product of labor. We treat the laborer, like it's nothing. And this went to their the department store in that fantasy room with a fancy bed and when she she wears that mink coat, I use that sequence. In the film. I quoted that in my film, because it was so clearly laid out there they are in enchanted with all this stuff. And yet down the street, on the street, the people who produce this They're on the street, they're not, or they're treated like they're not worth much. But they're happy that we also have that. Because they reject that logic. And you feel well, maybe some people will will see that film and figure out what that was, you know, back then, because not really, when you think about it today, there's a lot of movements in Europe, throughout the United States, and many places where there's groups of people who think that way, they want to step out of the logic of capitalism,
especially today, I think people if they, I think people are unconsciously and inherently starting to understand that the way that society is organized is not working, it's not working for the masses, it's not working for the working people, for the working people, you know, it's, it's harder than ever to, to buy a house to go to college to retire. I mean, the amount of mental health issues that have been, you know, growing and becoming exacerbated over the last like, 2030 years, like people, people's very biology, or I think, you know, reacting against the system, and the system is at a point of crisis right now, it is that, you know, like it is very quickly in the last decade, especially since the financial crisis. You know, the the promise of capitalism is, is no one's buying it anymore, you know, like, this system is not providing for everybody, it's only providing for those at the top and everyone at the bottom is it's it's their conditions are getting worse.
And that's the opposite of what communism is about. Because communism is the solution for everyone for the common for the common. So working towards that horizon that the film, the film, like modern times, points, doors, is still very much is still very relevant is still very powerful. Metaphor. And it is a metaphor, you know, he was an artist, and he was a clown. He said it. He said, I'm just a clown. People here sometimes in Puerto Rico, and they get pissed off politicians. They call them clowns. I said, No, no, no, no, no, no, no, don't insult clowns. Clowns, clowns are very important in society, they always have been the ones that poke fun at power, and don't quite believe the story. They always spin in the spin around.
I mean, we should all aspire to be more like Chaplin and Godard in this film, and embrace that radical joy, that radical hopefulness and try to imagine an alternative, a better world that we can live in.
So to add, part of what we like to do, at the sort of end of this conversation is handout awards, some movie awards for this film. So our first award is going to go to the character. This award is called a point with a view and this is going to go to the character with the best politics in the movie. So who would you award this to dad best politics in the film?
That's a tough one. That's a tough one. But of course, one would gravitate normally to say, the tramp. But there's something about the Gambian that I think takes me there. It's more subtle. It's more services, camera flash, you know, cassette character is like femme character, you know, in today's but that's, that's all. It's all a disguise. She is really a fighter to see a fighter and she bails him out. Throughout. Yeah, she's the best. He bailed her out the first time. But then after that, she bails them out.
Okay, despicable you Dad, this goes to the character with the worst politics in the movie, it's
got to be the factory owner. And the guys, the guys who bring in the feeding machine, right,
those those are the competing, I think those are competing characters, for sure. But there's also the institutional people, you know, the ones that the ones that reproduce the system, socially, the orphan house, the jail, you know, the police,
we could just give it to all of them, I think,
I think I think can happen.
situation, they could all share the word.
They have to be they have to be socialist about their award, they get to, they get to share it,
they're not going to like the final award is a star is scorned, this goes to the supporting character in the movie that you that this movie should actually be about, or a story that you would want to see a supporting character in this movie, like what their own movie would be. For me. It's
the crux, it's the crux, but I want to know,
yeah, I want to see what happens between him losing his job at the factory and to him becoming a thief or a burglar.
Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I agree. And that's interesting, because that's the owner he has a conflict with at the workplace. Yeah, they have conflict in the workplace and what they find themselves outside the workplace, they became buddies. Well, it's
like that shared struggle that they went through, you know, it's like if they might have had their tension in the moment. But as soon as you see someone on the outside, it's like, Hey, we're brothers. It's like how I feel about every guy from New Jersey, I'm in New Jersey, that guy will probably want to fight me. But if we're outside of New Jersey, we're like best friends. It's a very interesting dynamic, then
Bruce Springsteen way of putting it.
out before, before we leave, we like to discuss how we as artists, and people strive to practice our anti capitalist beliefs in our own lives with all of its complexities and contradictions. So is there one thing that you do in your life or a practice that you engage in, that you would like to share with us in the audience?
Well, I remember rybka kind of asked me a similar question. And ingests I told her that every day I make sure I curse capitalism. And it's not that I get up with that thought, or nine, it's kind of, you know, at some point during the day, it just has to happen. Something prompts me to say, then I can capitalism. But yeah, you know, I know that that's, that's just immature, you know, everyday. I think that ultimately, the, it's not about being against anything. In this context. It's really about being pro. Something, right. And if you work out of the premise that capitalism has reached a point in its development, because one can argue hasn't always been that way. You know, his capitalism has had his moments where perhaps for some people, it worked out, okay. In our own experience in Puerto Rico, we can say that there's some a, you know, during the after the Second World War, all the way through the 60s, a certain portion of the population benefited from the contradictions of capitalism, from the fact that capitalism in order to develop it needed to, it needed to share some of those goods, it couldn't keep them all to themselves. And also because it had to, because the working people demanded that so it wasn't just because they were given anything, through struggle, people did gain benefits. And those benefits, what were they about, they were about a better life, they will not about money, they will not about profits, not about profits, by any means necessary, which is the law of the jungle on the in a capitalist society, you know, and I really strongly believe that most people don't go by that mantra. But capitalism also encompasses a civilization that has values that go beyond capitalism. And one of those values is the way in which nature, what we call nature, has become an object, you know, a thing. We have commodified nature, we commodify everything, but we're modifying nature and treat it as a thing, you know, something to exploit
saturated one prat. Is there one thing you do on the daily? Where are you? Is there anything we can do to sort of live in the antithesis of that conquering nature?
Well, I think like, what I was extrapolating from what you were saying, is just not just being anti capitalist, also, being pro humanist pro, you know, pro nature pro building something, you know, it's in pro life, not in not in that not an idea, not in that way,
but not in that way. That was smart. That was smart on their part to us.
Very good branding.
Well, I know one of the ways that manifests for you Dad is you take and one thing that I love that I've inherited from you is you take really long walks, and you love photography, but you you really you have a whole series on nature, when nature actually when it juxtaposed with the city, but you take really long, long walks, that I think there's something about extending time without the purpose other than to walk and be present is pretty radical in the face of a world that asks us to conquer and produce,
you know, if you can manage and to the link from that logic of, you know, I gotta go get make some money, I gotta go make some money, instead of saying, well, we don't have, I'm gonna figure out my day in where is it that I'm going to put my priorities, you know, and stuff is happening, you know, we are living in a time where stuff is happening. People say, Well, nothing happened. That's not true at all. Lots of stuff are happening. I mean, stuff of people pissed off against the system. That's certainly the case that's going on, you know, but we still lack that horizon that this film suggests, you know, we, and this is where it's important to go back to the idea that communism is not the Soviet Union necessarily is not China is not this, although I have to give my props to them when they try. But the point is that it is an ideal based on societies that are existed, where there were no classes, no social classes, oppressing each other, no groups of people oppressing each other. It was smaller group of human beings in mutual aid, cooperation, non exploitative relationships, those are ancestral values. You don't have to be a Marxist, you don't have to call yourself a socialist is our ancestral fundamental values, you should call yourself a communist, because communism is the commons, you know, and this, this things have to be done every day. So that was we can we can build a horizon, we cannot build a sense of possibility, we cannot even reimagine anything if we don't experience it. And, you know, I have experienced that throughout my life. I have lived in cooperatives, work in food cooperatives, cooperatives, housing cooperatives, you know, mutual aid projects, of different kinds, you know, so I experienced that I have experienced that personally, you know, might have brought joy to me, and it is made me I don't know if a better person, but it's made me a person that's not willing to give to simply say, well, it is what it is, is not it's not what it is, it's what you make of it with other people, where other people
beautifully said, then I think our audience will feel much more aspirational and uplifted after this conversation, because I know I definitely do. Pedro, where can our audience find you and your work?
We're putting together Rick has helped me with that helping me with Apple putting together a website,
Pedro unhear. Rivera munoz.com
Simple. Money names, maybe but you know, so yeah, it's a you know, I appreciate that. Your effort in doing in producing this kind of dialogue, we do need to think through this stuff, especially now, you know, is really, very, very crucial that we take seriously what's going on and we laugh at it at the same time. Spirit of Chaplains is very important that we enjoy every moment we can why we first capitalism and, and wish for a better way of living.
Beautiful. Thank you so much, dad, and I'm coming for that poster.
Oh, yeah. What's yours? I'll say with
Pedro. Pedro, thank you so much for joining us. This was really wonderful. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all so much for listening, make sure to follow us on Instagram and Tiktok.
And again, if you'd like to support this show, head over to lever news.com/mvc To become a supporter, and you can find all of that info at MVC pod.com.
for next week's movie, we will be watching Mike judge's satirical classic office space, so that'll give you a chance to rewatch it with us. Thanks, everyone. See ya