jungle fever

I went to see THE LOST CITY OF Z last night at la Kendall. Clocking in at 2 hours & 21 minutes, it’s officially almost an hour too long, but I didn’t find myself looking at my watch. Things happen fast and there’s not much, if any, dead wood. It’s beautiful to see. The (true) story is compelling, not too predictable, but sister, The Fucking Patriarchy! Still, it’s worth your time.

The action begins in 1902 with a hunt and a kill. Our hero, Percy Fawcett, is a military man with a beautiful wife, a young son, and something to prove. He’s tapped to travel to and chart the disputed border between Bolivia and Brazil, not considered an easy task by any stretch. That dude from TWILIGHT, sporting a beard, turns up to help with the charting, but of course they also require some local assistance. A handsome, clever, and enslaved native man helps them and some other white guys get down the river, but in later trips the native Sherpa-types disappear into the background, as usual.

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At the end of the journey, our heroes stumble across the remains of an ancient civilization, which their native guide had already told them about. This may be the White People discovering the site, but, as with any “discovery” of something “lost,” there are people who have never forgotten it.

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Fawcett and Twilight return to England to a hero’s welcome and decide to go back and find the phantom city as soon as they can. Fawcett’s wife, who has spent the previous years worrying about her husband and bearing him another son, wants to accompany her husband on the second adventure, but of course this is not her destiny, poor dear.

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A jungle grows up around their home as Fawcett machetes his way through the Bolivian jungle again. Native women appear to bear their breasts, but not to speak. Native men shoot arrows, provide help, gape, threaten. Fawcett admires their farming skills – Bolivians, it turns out, are just like us!

Back in the Civilized World, the horror of warfare intervenes for a moment & is oddly relevant. There is a chlorine gas attack, and we are made to realize modern, clinical warfare is “better” than the needless slaughter of millions (17 MILLION!) in the trenches.

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Third time’s the charm?, and an older but no wiser Fawcett returns to Bolivia, again searching for the city that seems determined to stay lost. His long suffering wife has given up trying to join or stop him, so she sends him off with a kiss, no tears. Later, she walks off into a mirror jungle world.

But back to my problems with The Fucking Patriarchy. Yes, this is a fine film. However, I can’t help my reaction, which is, I’m totally sick of hearing about The White Man’s Experience. There are other stories to be told, and replace the main characters with women, and you’ve got my attention. We women are and have been explorers. Of course, the whole Explorer thing reeks of not only the Patriarchy, but also of Colonialism, yet I would be very interested in seeing a film based on the life of a woman explorer, agent of the White Patriarchy or not. I’ve been reading travel memoirs lately, so far all by white men, but these excellent books and this movie have inspired me to pivot the topic just a bit to chase the women explorers. Mary Kingsley, anyone?

 

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