Sidney Lumet’s Daniel is faithful to E.L. Doctorow’s The Book of Daniel in that we’re once again slammed over the scourge of anti-Semitism; in that both are depressing collections of very depressing generalizations about how the crimes committed against Jews are still worse than the crimes committed by Jews; and in that Lumet and Doctorow deny that their works are about Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted of selling atomic bomb secrets to the Russians and executed in 1953. What Lumet and Doctorow claim is that their essays are docudramas about the children of the Rosenbergs and told as patrimonial metaphor: the supposed passionate Commie politics of the parents are now the passionate anti-U.S. politics of their kids. They set up a standard of disguised judgment so false, so empty—never zeroing in on the center of the complexity: was the punishment of the Rosenbergs equal to their crime and can their deaths spark such psychosis in their offspring?—that the movie more than the book may be the most effective anti-Semitic propaganda to come out of the 80s. When Amanda Plummer as the “fictitious” daughter bellows against the system, “They’re still fucking us, they’re still fucking us,” or when Timothy Hutton as the angry young son faces the audience to cite the kinds of punishment fascist governments have used against the proletariat, you may come to believe that only half of the necessary executions of the Rosenberg family took place in 1953. It’s 2013 and Daniel may still be the ugliest, shallowest movie of its kind ever made. And it’s a toss up if this or The Wiz is Sidney’s worst.
Text COPYRIGHT © 2008 RALPH BENNER (Revised 7/2013) All Rights Reserved.