Monday, June 1, 2009

Goodbye Solo: A study in dialectics

By James Thompson
I went to see the new film, "Goodbye Solo," with three of my movie buddies. Director Ramin Bahrani has scored a major hit in dramatizing the misery and struggles which working people endure in our culture today. Its realism propels it into the realm of great art.

The movie displays dialectics in the gripping reality of the drama depicted. A Senegalese taxi driver in Winston-Salem, North Carolina picks up a passenger who contracts with him to take him to a cliff presumably to end his life. The taxi driver, Solo, attempts to befriend the isolated William, who resists his exuberant efforts to rescue him. William is an elderly white biker and motorcycle mechanic from the South.

Dialectics abound in the movie to include black/white, death/life, old/young, hope/despair, community/isolation, self-destruction/progress, immigrant/citizen and failure/success.

William is masterfully portrayed by an Anglo actor who epitomizes the corrupt, self-destructive, thrill-seeking but isolated and alienated white community. Solo is captivating as the Senegalese immigrant taxi driver married to a “Mexican” woman with a brilliant young daughter, Alex. Solo is symbolic of the vibrant, robust, positive energy and hope inherent in the African American and immigrant community today with the election of a new President in this country. Solo talks of the importance of community and people loving and caring for one another. William does not even know his own son. William is symbolic of the decay and self-destructive, thrill-seeking, individualistic, isolated and alienated nature of the dominant culture in this country in recent history. Solo’s and William’s faces dramatize and depict the pain and joy which accompany the struggle for survival among working people. The friction of this struggle occasionally erupts into physical confrontation which is tolerated by Solo with Zen-like acceptance and understanding.

Solo’s and Alex’s attempts to lift William out of his self-destructive plans are symbolic of the potential of the African American and Latino people to move predominantly Anglo culture forward out of negativity and self-destruction. William’s humanity is not overlooked by this very progressive movie and his attempts to reciprocate Solo’s help are clear. In the end, Solo and Alex pay respect to William and allow him to make his own decision even if they disagree.

The ending is left ambiguous for us to figure out. When art mirrors reality we have the possibility of great art. Goodbye Solo is great art.

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