Sight and Sound

Narratively speaking, nothing much happens in Iranian director Majid Majidi's The Color of Paradise (1999). A greasy widower, hair matted crustily to the sides of his head, tries to abandon his son, Mohammad, at a school for the blind. When the school's directors refuse, the boy and his father travel to one of Iran's lush mountain outposts, where the family's matriarch, known simply as Granny, tends a plot of land and cares for Mohammad's two sisters. Later, Mohammad will apprentice with a blind carpenter and fall into a rushing stream.

Such simplicity, however, can be deceiving — the film pushes the viewer into the realm of the miraculous, imbuing the clack of a woodpecker or the swaying stalks of wildflowers with an almost spiritual meaning.

Mohammad, earnest and joyful, hears the repetitive code of Braille in the whistling calls of birds, in the voice of nature communicating through oblique combinations of letters and numbers; despite his inability to see, he submerges himself in the world, in the possibilities of seeing with ears and hands and nose.

The film's heightened sense of sound, the brief pulses of noise that recur throughout, convey Mohammad's aural sensitivity so that the viewer, too, experiences the world through Mohammad's perspective. Sound — amplified, dampened, articulated lovingly if ever so briefly — marks the lively and celebratory, or, conversely, the dimming hopes of a family sliding gently into ruin.

Arriving in his grandmother's village, tucked into the vernal hillside as though snuggling up for comfort and warmth, Mohammad's gleeful calls of "Granny! Granny!" resound with the innocent, uncomplicated love of a child, with a faith that all will be well.

The whispering grass of Granny's alfalfa plot conjures a quiet chuckle of content, while her flutish voice playfully acknowledges the benefits of a young spirit. The unadulterated joy of watching Mohammad and Granny clasp hands reaffirms, if only for a spell, a belief in the strength of familial ties.

Angry with her for obeying his father's wishes that he not be sent to the local school, Mohammad sulks and evades her embrace. Her eyes well up, her face falls, and she says to him, her voice ever so slightly stiffer, deeper, "I would die for you."

Such love overwhelms; one cannot help but feel her tenuous touch, or sense the warm air of her voice. The film attempts to portray, maybe too hopefully, a world in which the weakest members — the blind, the infirm, the persecuted — are not necessarily destined to suffer the hatred they have, in recent times, suffered so often.

By the end of the film, though, shifts of tone, color and sound reflect darkening horizons and weakening constitutions.

In contemporary Iran, as in postwar Germany, Italy and Japan, the wounds created by time, by the terrors of history, require years to sew shut, to scab over and to heal. Even then, the greatest blemishes and blunders, the most frightening scars, may last lifetimes.

In The Color of Paradise, paradise, in all its beautiful shades is lost. Sun gives way to gray skies, while bright flowers are relinquished for dullish wood and the black soot of never-ending fires. And the call of birds floats slowly away, replaced by the industrial hum of a power saw or the infrequent whine of a duck.

When a bridge breaks and Mohammad falls into rock-strewn rapids, his father (after pausing a moment in what is either relief or shock, and possibly both) jumps in after him. The camera begins to take on his perspective, disorienting the viewer with the bubbling fierceness of nature's wrath, muffling the sounds on which we have thus far relied.

The quiet, searching denouement which follows is devastating, somehow unspeakable, shaking the very fabric of the humanistic faith which runs throughout the middle portion of the film.

To fill the great void left in my heart by the film's end, I immediately began to watch it again, taking pleasure once more in the barely hidden verbiage of colors and sounds which infuses Mohammad's visit with Granny.

The experience confirmed for me, if nothing else, that the strength of emotions galvanized by film remains unparalleled, and that this medium, starting in some cases to show its age, is still worth a hell of a lot.

My Summer of Love

Are you happy?

That's the question at the center of Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin's cinema-verité documemtary Chronicle of a Summer and it's a tricky one. Tracked down on the street by roving female reporters with tape recorder in hand, the denizens of Paris in the summer of 1960 seem for the most part embarrassed by the question; it's too personal, as though they were asked if their sex life is good or how much money they make. The question is a simple one in the asking but perhaps an impossible one in the answering.

This is, I think, the exact effect the filmmakers — ethnographers of contemporary Europe, so to speak — are after, and, maybe more to the point, the crux of their cinematic experiment. If the point is to acknowledge the camera's presence, the filmmaker's role in sculpting the footage of any film, fiction or nonfiction, into a coherent structure, then the question (open-ended but leading, assuming an uncomfortable intimacy with the documentary subject) gets at more than just a new form of nonfiction filmmaking. It signals a moment in which cinema, particularly of the French variety, decided to turn the lens on itself.

Rouch and Morin's documentary purports to examine the interior life of the French at a historical moment as uncomfortable as the question they ask: Algeria rattles for independence; the nation attempts to reconcile the proud image of de Gaulle with the shame of Vichy collaborationism; the oldest members of the post-war generation are becoming cognizant, slowly but surely, of a world in which the ideals of the Allies are not matched by the realities of racism, sexism and economic want present in the streets of Paris.

In eight years, RFK and MLK will be dead, gunned down at the height of their fame on the American scene. Paris' students will shut down the country with a general strike, allied with the blue-collar factories workers of the dingier banlieux, Prague and Budapest will experience a springtime thaw of Communism and the quick freeze of Moscow's fierce reaction, and Mexico City's thin air will be pierced by the sounds of revolution. In short, Chronicle of a Summer takes the public as its subject, too — and sees, in the still-fresh wounds of the Holocaust, as well as the wounds of the '60s yet to be made, a moment of epochal shift.

If this sounds a bit heavy, that's because it is; Rouch and Morin are as well-versed in film theory and anthropology as they are in cutting and questioning. But the film, for all its high-mindedness, is at root a joy to watch. People, regular people willing to sit in front of a camera and reveal, however slightly, their inner machinations, are inherently interesting. Rouch and Morin film as though they were semi-psychologists, poking and prodding — provoking, you might say — the heart of the matter.

An Italian transplant, with pouting lips and heavy eyes, breaks down over the missed connections that leave her unmoored.

An African student examines, unknowingly, the numbers tattooed on the forearm of a concentration camp survivor.

A worker at the Renault factory, living a monotonous life between the workplace and his tiny, sparsely furnished room, strains against the constrictions life has placed on him.

A portrait of the nation as a stumbling man, you might call it, populated not by patriotic Gaullists ready to die for liberté, fraternité, egalité, but by people with few ties to the French idea as it is, and many ties to the human idea as they wish it to be. That is, I think, why Rouch and Morin's cinema-verité works so well: the style is cinematically more honest than the so-called "direct cinema" of a film like Primary because it admits, as the New Journalists would later do by imposing the "I" on nonfiction writing, that perfect objectivity can never exist, has never existed.

But it's more than that. What the filmmakers are getting at by attempting to provoke this "cinema-truth" is the way in which, in Paris in the summer of 1960, the old rules no longer apply. The idealism of the Resistance may survive in the speeches of the world's leaders, but it has disappeared, or never appeared in the first place, in the minds of the dispossessed, the unhappy, the unmoored.

History has a way of throwing curveballs that necessitate some recalibration in the arts. The modernists responded to the terrors of World War I with stream-of-consciousness and the fragmentation of narrative; the theater of cruelty imagined a nasty, brutish world not far from the horrors of the Depression and the war.

Cinema-verité forms a response to another curveball while it's still flying through the air — inexact, mobile, impossible to pin down. More than anything else, Chronicle of a Summer takes its title with a grain of salt, with tongue in cheek: it suggests that "a detailed narrative record or report," as American Heritage defines "chronicle," is more about detail than narrative, that in a hopelessly fractured world — a world with many questions but few answers — we just have to sew the pieces together and work from there.

The Tower of Babel

The minor terrors of everyday life that infuse the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu — an escaped dog, a hole in the parquet floor, a drink too many — are at first so innocuous that their eventual explosion punches one firmly in the gut.

The moments are brief, fleeting and flickering like a bulb about to burn out, passed over by the eye with nary a second thought. Inevitably, however, they return: whole lives seem built around those first glimpses, whole worlds of interaction where humans, loudly but without understanding, collide and hurt and die.

Iñárritu's most recent film, Babel, is the most far-flung of these (too far-flung, in fact), tied together by the horrifying circumstances of an American couple in Morocco, their nanny and children in Southern California and a girl in Tokyo; 21 Grams, a similar take on a widow, a hit-and-run killer and a heart transplant recipient, is the tightest in construction but the most over-the-top in execution.

His best film is his first, Amores Perros (2000), set in an incongruously chilly Mexico City. Rather than teeming with the crashing, sweaty bodies we've come to expect from Latin America as depicted on film (Fernando Meirelles' City of God comes immediately to mind), the people here are sparse, the skies unendingly gray. The bustle of the city fades. Characters seem rarely to come in contact with others, instead only simulating the quotidian— working as a cashier in a grocery store, for instance — while pursuing, silently, the more devious — bank robbery, illicit affairs, dog fighting. These Janus-like characters, all facade and wary depth, emerge when those minor terrors begin to reveal the disease of their lonely lives, when an infinitesimal event sets in motion something irrevocable.

The multiplicity of narratives, as in Iñárritu's other pictures, suggests our tenuous connections with the world and the people around us; he reminds us that we live in a world where innumerable stories play out simultaneously, stories to which we give no notice until they intersect with our own. He asks us, in a way, to walk down the street and imagine even a sliver of the tale of the next person we pass.

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live," Joan Didion once wrote, and Iñárritu, even if he has never read her work, abides quite beautifully. The characters in his films construct narratives around the unspeakable, the fateful, the terrifyingly random. They, like us, try to make sense and order from the disparate threads we are given. They, like us, often fail.

Each of the three main characters in Amores Perros — a young man in love with his brother's wife (Gael García Bernal), a successful supermodel (Goya Toldeo), a hired assassin (Emilio Echevarría) — has a plan, a story, thrown into disarray by an accident, by an inability to predict what will come next and how they will react. And then that moment of fate, that brief image from which everything in the film descends, becomes the focus of the story: the narrative shifts to new ground, unfamiliar ground. Like a flower petal or piece of wood seen under a microscope, the intense focus on these tiny disruptions of life distorts them. An escaped dog becomes a reason to flee; a hole in the floor signifies a crumbling relationship and broken body; the death of a companion segues into the painful birth of a new man.

In short, Iñárritu seems to ask: What becomes of us when we are left bereft of our plans? When our story is hijacked by fate, how do we tell a new one? The answer, though bleak, is in an old man's room, in the flaking, peeling paint — when we are stripped of everything we become like the paint, cracked and dry and decrepit and sad. But then he awakens: he trims his beard; he cuts his toenails; he puts on the bent and broken glasses of someone left with almost nothing. He returns to a home of sorts, pockets filled with dirty money, and leaves a message for a stranger from his past.

He rids himself of that burdensome old narrative of revolution and murder, of life's troubles writ large, and begins a whole new story. He re-enters the world, cautiously, slowly; he reconstitutes his tale with a fresh beginning and, we imagine, a future populace of new characters, walking across the charred earth under an almost imperceptibly brighter sky.

sex, lies and dirty dancing

"Everyone's blessed with one special thing," 17-year old Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg) says to his girlfriend early in Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997). His "special thing," which he uses to escape the dank, sorrowful confines of his Torrance, Calif., home, is his penis.

Set in the San Fernando Valley in 1977, Boogie Nights is a film about disco and debauchery on the pornography scene, where Eddie, who quickly assumes the nom de porn Dirk Diggler — a name that suggests phalluses and, with its crusty alliteration, Eddie's startling immaturity — rises to stardom by way of his massive, um, manhood.

But for someone who jacks off for gay men in the back room of a night club for a measly $10, Eddie is about as unworldly as they come. He cringes at the first sip of tequila at a party; he tiptoes around costar Amber Waves (the amazing Julianne Moore), asking her if it's alright to make their first onscreen fuck "sexy." "Look at this jackknife," he yells to his buddy Reed Rothchild (John C. Reilly) as he leaps off the diving board: this is a teenager with little sense of what he's getting into, and none of the wherewithal to get out.

In some ways, though, Eddie's story plays second fiddle to Anderson's lovingly crafted 1970s California. With an almost obsessive attention to detail, he gets the seediness of disco culture (at least as Hollywood sees it) exactly right: the painkillers spilled onto the tacky oak nightstand, the bad coke passed around at parties, the grotesque colors that call to mind overripe fruit.

Everything, even porn king Jack Horner's spacious ranch house, looks tired, as though the entire culture were settling down to die. Amid the Altmanesque chaos of Anderson's sprawling cast and virtuosic tracking shots — including the opening of the film, a three-minute shot that introduces the characters as they prowl the dim corners of their favorite club, Hot Traxx — there's a sense of breakdown and decay.

Mascara runs, noses bleed, smoke gets in the eyes. There's something off here, something hard to place, something that resembles misery but won't quite admit to it.

That's because the genius of the film is not in its overdose of classic songs, its garish hues or its aimlessly hedonistic atmosphere, but in its deeply wrought sadness. The characters lose sons to divorce, find their wives fucking other men and don't attempt to stop it, endure moments of bitter drunkenness and cowardly silence.

The dissonance between the way things are supposed to be and the way things are is, for these marginal players in the Hollywood game, an irreconcilable break in the flow of happiness. With unlimited sex, money and drugs, how could you not have fun?

The explicitness of the film is, however, not exciting but enervating: decisions of where to come and what position to take have the stultifying banality of bookkeeping or stenography. Porn is work, and the repetition of a familiar task, as in any profession, just seems like more time down the drain.

What Anderson says with this mixture of eroticism and boredom is something about film itself — Boogie Nights, at its heart, is not about sex or the '70s but about the satisfaction derived from watching rather than creating. Despite Jack Horner's dream "to make a film that is true, and right, and dramatic," cinema, for the maker, is about narrative spinning out of control, about the margins upsetting the center of the action. It's about everything caught between the frames, about the long takes that capture the endless variety — the endlessness, period — of this unfathomable culture in which we live.

But film for the viewer, in its integral voyeurism, is really just pornography sanctified: It's about climax, about conclusion, about getting off.

For my take on Paul Thomas Anderson and his film There Will Be Blood, check out my piece in Bright Lights Film Journal.

American Gothic

The pageant that burgeoning playwright Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) puts on at one of her childhood birthday parties crams the gently decrepit home in which her family lives with passionate admirers. The stage overflows with the stripes of zebras and tigers; the fronds of painstakingly made faux palms seem to emerge, fully formed, from the walls. But her father (Gene Hackman) dampens the enthusiastic ovation she receives. He didn't, he tells her, find it believable.

Such is the world of Wes Anderson, teeming with the flotsam and jetsam of lives lived parallel to our own: a boar's head on the wall, a junky Gypsy Cab, a falcon on the roof; prep school uniforms, an aquarium ground breaking, a childish love expressed through red, felt-tipped pens; Pescespada Island, Vietcong man-o-wars, the crumbling Belafonte. He fills his films, as Margot fills her pageant, with fakery of place and time that teeters on the edge of the real — "American Gothic," you might call it, with the same stoic humor and grim honesty of the famous painting. His world is one tipped slightly askew, listing with soft tides of graceless human interaction. It's a world that easily obscures the vitality leaping across the screen, a world that easily obscures the fact that Anderson's films tell stories about, quite simply, family.

The Royal Tenenbaums is about a family whose members are so stunted by their early successes that, when failure comes, it rumbles like an oncoming train. Over a theme hopping with the faintly sinister beat of a cello played pizzicato, we see a self-described "family of geniuses" writing plays, selling stocks and bonds, winning tennis tournaments — all in the nostalgic glow that infuses families falling quietly into ruin. "What did we do?" they seem to ask from their still faces and deep-set eyes. "Where did we lose ourselves along the way?"

The answer, despite the fantasy world of cozy urbanity it implies, is in their sprawling house - one that's fallen into the kind of neglect houses that have lost their raison d'etre often do. This is where board games were played and juvenile paintings hung, where tents were pitched and the trinkets of a once-blissful family life have been filed carelessly away. Home, it is said, is where the heart is, but home is in fact a collection of objects, a stable place where memory is hidden in dusty corners and the walls seep with old arguments and bliss. The film doesn't really begin until the grown Tenenbaum children return home, because that is where their collection of collective objects rests.

It is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, however, that strikes me most forcefully as a story of family, possibly because the story of family flows as an undercurrent through what is, essentially, the story of a journey. Here the dysfunction is (in some ways) more subtle — instead of asking, "What did we do?" it asks, "How does a man without a family find one?"

Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), a sort of modern-day Cousteau, is the scientist and explorer at the head of a documentary film crew on the search for the shark that ate Steve's closest friend and co-captain, Esteban. He neglects his wealthy wife; he's abandoned a son conceived in a moment of philandering; his film career has tanked on the poor reception of his most recent film. Murray, with a growing paunch of tan, flabby skin and a face fighting a losing battle with gravity, gives Steve a deadened egocentrism. At first glance, he seems a self-absorbed jerk, and he certainly is that. But there's something else there — some aging, some slowing and slipping-down that sends him reeling. He's abrasive, cocky, maybe even stupid. But he's inconsolably sad, too.

After a long series of diversions — too long, in fact — he catches up with the elusive jaguar shark and descends with his companions into the great black deep of the sea in a submarine called Deep Search. Music bubbles up, tapping affirmatively to the rhythms of his final quest, as animated sea life scuttles by. Out of the dark water comes the massive shark, its scales glimmering in the light of the sub, shaking Steve's vessel, and Steve himself, to the core. "It is beautiful, Steve," his wife tells him. "Yeah," he replies. "I wish Esteban were here to see it."

As his aloof, confident façade melts away, his friends reaching in unison to place a hand on his shoulder, something of family is reaffirmed. Some love coils up and springs forth, some recognition that family — whether composed of blood relatives or just the people one feels kinship with — is consolation, bitterness and fear rolled into a group of people tied by an unseen cord. There is, in the stillness of the moment, an unspeakable beauty: an understanding that certain mishaps in life are not meant to be understood so much as endured. Steve's home is a collection of creatures, of companions, emerging out of the dark. And you can tell, watching his eyes for that simple reanimation by which we move through grief, that his heart's finally in it, too.

The Key's the Key

It all comes down to a silly little key.

Never mind Grace Kelly in a scarlet dress, her icy blond locks and clipped Philadelphia accent melting before our eyes; never mind Ray Milland's sniveling, scheming husband, all clumsy heft and cuckolded menace; never mind the telephone and the stocking and the scissors, the terrors of domestic life waiting for a "happy" London couple to unravel.

Dial M for Murder, Alfred Hitchcock's claustrophobically brilliant suspense thriller, rests on the kind of throwaway detail a lesser director would toss at us halfway through and never come to reclaim. The key is, punningly enough, the key.

Margot and Tony Wendice (Kelly and Milland) are the kind of couple that has quiet breakfasts with the paper and drinks highballs before dinner, Londoners for whom the prospect of the swinging '60s would seem distinctly uncouth. But their placid lives, enclosed in a small, plush apartment heavy with tans and browns, show the strains of claustrophobia — too many moments shared, too much privacy sacrificed.

One senses a crackling tension in the air, but it's subtly depicted (the fastidious, almost matronly Tony, for instance, constantly tidies up after his glamorous but somewhat slovenly wife). They've been living with the tension for years, it seems, and grown so used to it that it's faded into the background like the sound of a nearby highway: omnipresent but easy to forget before, in an awkward pause, it roars back to life.

Weaving together short scenes of banality with an undertone of terror, Hitchcock has a fine sense of gently neglected domesticity. In Shadow of a Doubt it was the creaking back stairs or the car idling in the garage, in Rear Window the shy neighbor across the courtyard, in Vertigo an old friend's portraiture.

He infuses his films with a silent decrepitude, a foreboding, in which daily life carries with it some prelude to disaster. Boredom, in life as in film, is the cardinal sin. Here, it's the gulf between husband and wife, the massive emotional chasm in a tiny room. By restricting the action to the Wendices' apartment, he includes us in the claustrophobia, gasping for fresh air. There's a staleness in the clean surfaces and perfectly kept surroundings; it's the mausoleum of a failed marriage.

Why the marriage has failed is easier to pinpoint: Tony's an ex-tennis pro who's lost his skill, his income and his masculinity, relying on his wife's money for survival. His obsessive cleaning has an air of housewifery, pinning him to the home while she gallivants about in beautiful gowns with a younger, more attractive man, the novelist Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). In nearly every way, he's emasculated. And divorce, because of the money, isn't a possibility. So he plans to kill her.

This isn't giving too much away; the film's narrative is deceptively simple. The film is really a chamber drama, taking place, literally, in a single chamber - like a jail cell or an execution room, the death is as much emotional as physical. Take Kelly's wardrobe, the gentle decline from stunning crimson to crummy brown: it's as though she's being absorbed by the apartment, stultified by the entire ordeal. She's so spent she takes up the coarse fabric of her unhappy life and wraps herself in it, trying to make herself disappear.

Despite the complexity of the denouement - watching the scene with the key, one almost fears the possibility of a simple plot hole that would ruin the proceedings — the real story is all Margot, with Kelly striding across the frame as if it were her natural habitat. Her Margot isn't the innocent figurine she might be in less skilled hands: she's cunning and witty and sly, embarking on an affair she knows can lead only to trouble.

A Perfect Murder, director Andrew Davis' paltry 1998 remake of Hitchcock's classic, starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow, is cold and sleek, like a film nerd's science project. But it illuminates the brilliance of Hitchcock's version, the idea that murder (or marriage, for that matter), is less about planning than fortitude. It's about having the strength to see it through to the last, silly little detail, opening the door to breathe the fresh air outside rather than to lock oneself in.

The problem with Tony is his inability to see life as an unkempt apartment, strewn with loose ends: Margot, for him, is just another spot to be wiped away when she's an indelible, unpredictable mark.

Carol Reed's Cordial Violence

Novelist Graham Greene and director Carol Reed collaborated on three films in the cloying atmosphere of the early Cold War, literate spy thrillers crackling with false propriety in political and climatic extremes. The backdrop of the films — shadow governments thrust into corners of broken worlds — is unmistakably dark, a kind of British noir, but each film feels somehow lightened by Reed's fleet direction: in The Third Man even the cobblestone streets of black market Vienna shimmer after an evening rain.

The postwar city is no longer the center of European civilization but a bruised and crumbling beacon of the cigarette trade; a dead body floats quite innocently among the ice chunks in the river. But instead of a dark, brooding score, Anton Karas' peppy zither causes the foot inevitably to tap. His dementedly happy Viennese Waltz sends up the prim Old World Austrians we almost never see, and who seem, by implication, no longer to exist.

Pulp writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives in Vienna with a job offer from a college buddy, Harry Lime. Unfortunately for Holly, Harry is dead. Unhappy with a British inspector’s accusation that Harry was the head of a deadly penicillin racket, Holly embroils himself in an investigation of his own, picking up a multinational entourage of friends and enemies — Harry's Czech girlfriend, Anna (Alida Valli), a mysterious Romanian, an Austrian porter, spectral Russians lurking over the border — along the way.

The Third Man glories in the utter disorder of the "peace," its tone one of cordial violence: a literary compliment follows a sucker punch; the police graciously conduct an unwarranted search and delicately pursue deportation proceedings. "I don't know what protocol means," says Anna as she's led away by a British officer. "Neither do I, miss," he replies. War disrupts; peace often fails to fix things. Reed's beautiful compositions — the diagonal lines of rooftops and window frames jutting across and away — leave one slightly punch-drunk, like the jagged, uneasy divisions of the four occupying powers or the zig-zag feeling of protocols ignored and unknown. Policies and politics are quickly lost to messy practicalities.

That, of course, is what Holly cannot grasp. As Fowler, the British narrator of Greene's novel The Quiet American says about the titular character, Pyle, "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused." Like Pyle, Holly is a naively idealistic American, wreaking havoc on the delicate structures and strictures of unofficial routes, of "codes" and "channels" and "ways of reading the situation" in the Russian zone or in Saigon. But The Third Man takes a gentler view of Holly than Fowler does of Pyle, mostly because the heroic heights of liberation are still fresh. Things are hunky-dory, for the time being.

When Harry finally appears (a dark and dapper Orson Welles), one feels, as Holly does, snakebit. We've been had, duped, by a devilish man: "Nobody thinks in terms of human beings," he says to justify his killings. "Governments don't. Why should we?" To Harry, the cordial violence of a war zone breeds the art of the con. Neutrality — of the Swiss persuasion — breeds only the cuckoo clock. When Harry tries to escape the closing net of international officials by fleeing through Vienna's cavernous sewers, the scene, sans explosion, doesn’t explain “protocol” any better than that British officer. We’re left only with the sense that, as the inspector notes in his opening voiceover, the four occupiers "did their best, you know."