Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mandelbrot Set Is In Motion: American Ultra & Max Goods

As you know, dear reader, when there is something in a film that reminds you of another film (or anything else in popular culture for that matter) it's being "quoted," the reference is intentional because the film makers want you to be thinking of that other film so the film you are watching can expand their visual vocabulary and reward you, as a viewer, for having seen films that the film makers themselves like. When a film quotes another film, it's not a lack of originality, as come erroneously attribute, rather a desire to join in on a cultural discussion the film makers see themselves as a part of. When we see a code word that is supposed to trigger Mike's agent-personality, we are supposed to be thinking of The Manchurian Candidate. When something reminds you of The Bourne Ultimatum (Matt Damon) or The Bourne Legacy (Jeremy Renner), it's because the makers of American Ultra want you to be thinking of those films so they are tied together in your mind; why? Partly because they want to remind you of how corrupt people in the government can be, and if you are wanting the government to be in charge, and to provide for you, then you had better think again, because those in these positions of power will not give you a second thought. When we see Mike chained to a table in a police interrogation room, we are supposed to think of another Jesse Eisenberg filmed when he was chained to a police table, Now You See Me, and how anti-socialist that film was. When we put these patterns of references together, like the Mandelbrot sets mentioned, then we will begin seeing the messages that are being sent to us.
Yes, it utterly bombed at the box office.
Utterly.
But at this blog, we aren't concerned about such things (well, not usually anyway, because when people really like a film, there is a reason for it; however, people don't always go and see a film they would have liked had they known they would have liked it, so just because something bombs doesn't mean I consider it to be a bad film). You might be wondering, however, exactly which movie is American Ultra? I didn't talk about it much because I wasn't sure which way it would go, but I am delighted that it was so pro-capitalist and so pro-America. Here's the trailer to refresh your memory:
Again, I am not a fan of Kristen Stewart, however, she managed a great performance in this film; Jesse Eisenberg? I think he can do anything now. He was perfect in every single scene, regardless of what it called for. As usual, there are spoilers throughout this post, so if you don't want to know what happens in the film, please, stop reading now. Now, what does "American Ultra" mean?
They both have terrible hair in this film; truly, really terrible, knotted, natty dry hair, until the end of the film. Why? Hair, as you will recall, symbolizes our thoughts, and for these two CIA agents turned pot heads, their hair perfectly symbolizes what has happened to their mental processes as they have been vegging out and not living up to their potential, which is what they are doing by the end of the film. If you will notice Phoebe's (Stewart) hair is red but has dark roots: the red coloring reveals that she is "covering" something up, specifically, that she, too, is CIA and not just some pothead girlfriend with a pothead boyfriend, and this leads us to an important issue for critics of the film which deserves addressing: the threshold of credibility. When we sit down to watch a film, we as individuals enter into a bargain with the film makers: tell us a story that will entertain us and, in exchange, we will willingly suspend our disbelief so we can enjoy your story. We don't ask if the Shire really exists, we just want to hear the story of Bilbo in The Hobbit; we don't question if vampires are real or can actually turn into bats, we just want the story and we will allow the creator any license they require to make that story appealing to us. At times, however, especially when a story seems more realistic (such as American Ultra which is set in Virginia and uses real people with real life possible scenarios) when that threshold of credibility is touched, it seems we the audience must rebel and question the methods of the film makers; it has been my experience, that we discredit the artists when we fail to be attentive audience members, that is, in other words, a perfectly good explanation for what has happened, we have just failed to explore what the story tellers wanted us to learn. For example, if Phoebe is also CIA, why did she think Mike would suddenly be able to leave town, even though he had been brainwashed so that he would get massive anxiety attacks whenever he did try to leave town, and trying to go to Hawaii was utterly pointless? Why didn't she realize at the very beginning when Mike told her he had killed two people that something was starting to sound suspicious? Why does Phoebe wait so long to tell Mike about their real relationship? We would go on, because--when Phoebe does reveal to Mike that she is CIA and his handler--like Mike, we hardly believe her, but that is because they have been smoking pot and doing drugs so much for so long! Their brains have been lulled to sleep and it's difficult to get them awake again. Proponents of drug use will deny this, stating that this doesn't happen with habitual marijuana use, and this is just a bad film; however, they are not the measures of intelligence. 
"American Ultra" probably refers to Project MK ULTRA which was conducted by the CIA and Department of Defense. Like the grotesque experiments on human subjects in Nazi concentration camps and in the Soviet Union (as we saw in The Chernobyl Diaries at the end) this marks the beginning stages of communism in America because, traditionally, America has held human life in respect, whereas the Left does not, only the government is to be held in respect. If you scroll down on the link just above to the "Film" section, American Ultra is listed as a popular reference of the program. So, where does this lead us?
Mandelbrot sets.
Veronica is truly a heroine in the film; why? She breaks rules so she can save the life of someone who wouldn't be able to protect himself otherwise because she knows Yates killing Mike is wrong, and she could lose everything for it, including her life. Veronica is an important image of power in the film, because what she did productively, Yates has done destructively; in other words, some people can handle power, others can't. There's another reason to have Veronica playing a dominant role in the film: feminists. I wouldn't necessarily call Veronica a feminist, however, she's smart and she's in a position of power, even after she has been demoted, and she takes matters into her hands. This is rather a message to women that, just because you are a woman, don't think the government is going to be super-nice to you, because they won't, and just because you are a woman, don't think you can't make it in a capitalist society, because you can.
Mandelbrot sets are a branch of mathematics which is also a branch of chaos theory. We could go into self-recognition and all kinds of things, however, we won't; suffice to say, the easiest way to remember what a Mandelbrot set is is by way of Russian Babushka dolls: the large doll contains a smaller doll with the same features as the large doll, but on a smaller scale, which contains a smaller doll within it with the same features, etc., and that is, essentially in the genre of art, what is meant by Mandelbrot sets, that there is a play within a play, there are "films within films" and patterns of micro-organization reflected by macro-organizations.
Why should you care?
Because that's the message of the film.
Yates, on the right, is undoubtedly the villain in the film; why? He decides, with no other authorization or committee, or any legality whatsoever, that Mike must die because he hasn't done anything in five years and he keeps trying to leave town. Yates, as Veronica points out to him, and Phoebe suggests when seeing him again, is an amateur who has made himself a dictator; is there another amateur in America today who is power-hungry and has made himself  a dictator and ruined towns because of his lawlessness? On another note, Yates has taken a group of mentally ill people, like Laughner on the left, and trained them to become CIA operatives and uses them as his personal hit squad;why? Dehumanization. Yates, and socialists/communists like him, fear the free will and decision-making processes of intelligent and free individuals, so employing someone who is sick and mentally inert gives the controller greater control especially because the controller thinks the ill subject will be free of any moral or ethical constraints to carry out their orders. Just as the title American Ultra refers to the MK ULTRA trials, so the testing and "training" of the criminally insane and mentally ill in the film harkens back to both the Soviet Union and the Nazis who did the same kind of things.  
"Mandelbrot set is in motion," Victoria tells Mike, meaning, the film has begun the construction of a set of patterns that we are to find, recognize and organize into a coherent message. At one point, Mike and Phoebe watch cops around a car that has wrecked into a tree, and feeling bad about not getting to go to Hawaii, Mike asks Phoebe if that is a metaphor for their situation: Mike being the tree and Phoebe the car; it is a metaphor, but that's not the way to read it. Mike is the tree, because he has been stuck in the same town for five years now, but the wrecked car is Yates, because Yates has decided to "take Mike out" just like the car wrecking into the tree, but the tree survives the wreck, the car doesn't. This is an example of the Mandelbrot sets in the film, and another one is Apollo Ape Man, Mike's cartoon character, who is a kind of self-portrait of Mike himself, because what happens to Apollo Ape Man also happens to Mike which the closing credits elaborates upon.  The encoded instructions unlocking Mike's mind are so he can protect himself from the dangers being unleashed upon him by Yates, and as viewers, we are interested in this because dangers are being unleashed upon us, the viewers, as well; what are those dangers?
They begin with the soup.
This is Peter, and we find him in an interesting position in the film. He used to be an assistant to Veronica, but when she was demoted, he was re-assigned but Veronica is able to get Peter to do a weapons drop for her along with the profiles of the "Toughmen" agents Yates has trained, which is how she discovers they are really patients from mental wards. Now, in this scene, Yates has discovered that Peter helped Veronica, and Yates is on the phone threatening Peter that, if he provides any help or interference to Veronica or Mike, he will be executed for treason; if you note, in Peter's left hand is a drink, which symbolizes that Peter is "drinking up" what it is that Yates tells him, in other words, Peter believes he will be executed. Later, Yates orders Peter do prepare a drone strike on Mike and Peter gets everything ready but, at the crucial moment, refuses to push the button that would have the drone fire on Mike and kill him; this should remind you of another film when an average guy also refused to carry out an order that was going to kill someone, like Captain America the Winter Soldier when Robert Redford's character orders a SHIELD computer tech to enter in the code and the technician refuses to do it, even if it will cost him his own life. There is another dimension to Peter: he's gay. Peter gets a text from his lover and their dog, and that's how we know he is homosexual; why is this important? Because the film, like Rock Of Ages, makes an appeal to the gay community that, just because they are gay, they should still do the right thing and not support a government that is going to kill people randomly and at will. It ends up that, because Peter did the right thing, he not only saves his life, he gets promoted. 
That soup--which some of us are more familiar with than are others--is probably not that healthy for him: you just add hot water and you have something that passes for something trying to pass as a meal. Mike has the right, and the freedom, to eat it if he so chooses. That's important. In the Michelle Obama world of dictating what school kids can and cannot have for lunch, and what parents can and cannot send with their kids for lunch, and New York City decides to ban drinks that are of a certain size, and certain ingredients, choosing what to eat is a big deal and act of freedom nowadays. Furthermore, that Mike works in a grocery store, and that the shelves are all stocked with food is a big deal; why?
Communism.
It's an interesting poster and, for someone who doesn't pay attention closely, it could be misleading, but that isn't us, is it dear reader? No, banish the thought. In the two hands that are on top is the spoon and a hammer, both of which Mike had used in the film as weapons to defend himself with. In the lower hands are a joint and a bong, both of which Mike had used to get high in the film. Now, the "higher self" is the appetite for our right to decide, symbolized by the spoon that was used with the soup, and our ability to buy what we need, when we need it, symbolized by the hammer Mike used at Max Goods. The "lower self" is symbolized by the drugs Mike was using before his activation when he was getting high and being a total loser. This image isn't about having both lifestyles, rather, it's about making the decision to lead a "higher" lifestyle, communicated by Mike floating in the meditative stance. When the film first opens, Mike is immersed in the bathtub and he then sits up and blows out a lot of smoke. It's also important to note that Mike's code name is "Wiseman" which he was given.  Since Mike is the wise man in the film, this initial scene of Mike, in effect, being anointed and cleansed as he comes out of the water signals the viewer that he's a good guy (compared to Rose, who we will discuss below) and we should pay attention to what he does. The smoke Mike releases, however, almost acts as noise because it reveals that, even though we are going to watch the film, parts of it are going to be blurry to us, because we won't really be able to see it (Mike uses smoke bombs at Max Goods and steps backwards into a huge cloud of smoke to escape his killers) and detect the boundaries or what is underneath it. That's because the words of the wise often evaporate (like the smoke) before we can sufficiently ponder them and come to an understanding of what they are meant to impart, which is what happens on various levels throughout the film.
My Russian history professor would go to Russia every summer and do research and come back and tell us the stories about how oppressive it was. She said that any time, any time at all, you saw a line, you got into the line. You could ask people what they were in line for, but most of the time, they would have no idea. The line indicated that the place at the start of the line had something, and whatever that was, you would then be able to trade for whatever you needed: if the place was handing out wrenches, you got as many wrenches as you could and traded that for what you needed, like soap and toilet paper, because you didn't know when soap and toilet paper would be available, but you would have something you could trade for it; when there is no free market, there is the black market, and when the government plans how much toilet paper its "citizens" need for the month (because that is what central planning is), it inevitably under estimates severely to keep costs down; why does a communist country want to keep costs down? So Party members in the government can have more money and not worry about the shortages effecting everyone else on a day to day basis. So, that Mike works in a clean, stocked grocery store that has everything anyone would pretty much need to survive, is one of the many marvels of the capitalist universe. But how do I know Mike is battling a "communist" government in the film?
Rose, here with Mike, is Mike's drug dealer who has just delivered a stash of illegal fireworks for Mike to have on hand when he proposes to Phoebe later. Looking at Rose, which is the first time we meet him, he is "exposed" to us because he doesn't wear a shirt (at all in the film, actually) so Rose's character is completely revealed. His jacket has a photo of the Egyptian Sphinx on it, and he has a tattoo of puzzle pieces on his right pec, a gold necklace and gold watch. The riddles of life escape Rose, he doesn't question anything like the Spinx does, because he doesn't "see" anything because he wears "blinders," symbolized by the dark glasses. When the TV says that Victoria is wanted by the CIA because she in appropriately handled monkeys and spread a viral typhoid virus, Rose swallows the story completely because he lacks any intelligence to think critically, like most people who get into drugs. The puzzle pieces on his chest indicate that he's all there for us to see, there aren't any more "pieces to the puzzle" to find, this is his entire being right here. What's he wanting to do? "Let's drop some acid and go into the titty bar," he suggests, because, for him, that's basically all there is in life and that's how he responds in life and to life's challenges. Had Mike not volunteered to become a part of the program Veronica was heading up, this is how Mike would have ended up: a loser. Because Veronica gave Mike the chance to make something of himself, Mike did. You might be interested in the sign behind the two guys: "We fired the ugly one, come on in," demonstrates that even the pornography industry is capitalistic in organizing itself so that its customers have the best choice.
The whole reason this film is put into motion is NOT because Mike wants to take Phoebe to Hawaii, it's because Yates decides that Mike has been trying to leave town "too often" and so he needs to be taken out. Limited travel of citizens is a top priority for socialist/communist government because when citizens can move around at will, they can plot to overthrow the government; we just saw this in The Man From UNCLE: the Berlin Wall wasn't created to keep clamoring Westerners out of Berlin, it was built to keep despairing East Germans in. Mike not getting to go to Hawaii is an important theme in the film because, the way Yates first tries to take Mike out is by blowing up his car:
Why is the car important to target? Targeting the car means targeting Mike's ability to move and makes it easier to keep an eye on what he is doing and where he is going. This is a warning to Americans: when they (the government) starts messing with our cars, that's the time for us to whip out the spoons. Why does Mike kill one of the agents with a spoon? Because of the appetites it symbolizes. Mike stabs the assailant in the throat,... with the spoon; why? The throat symbolizes what it is we are "led by," it reveals what our leash is in life. In this act of self-defense (and when Mike and Phoebe are being interrogated, Phoebe makes sure the police know it was self-defense) Mike uses his appetites (in this case, the cheap cup-o-soup) as a defense against the encroaching attack of socialism/communism; then he takes away the gun the government agents have and uses it against them; why? The Second Amendment was created for the protection of citizens against their own government trying to kill them; that these agents are, in fact, using guns to try and kill Mike, validates Mike having a gun to defend himself with and disarm the government.
Pretty cool, huh?
What's special about this image of Mike in Max Goods? Mike's "above" the ones trying to kill him, but it also suggests that the "Wiseman" (Mike's code name) will also be above the events and look at the situation from a different perspective. Again, look at how beautiful all those full shelves of inventory are; there's the "BAKING" aisle, then there is an aisle for "HOME LIVING," and that's in one store; this is the beauty of the free market, where market forces determine how much to make and when, where competition creates better and cheaper products; trust me, nothing like this existed behind the Iron Curtain, unless it was possibly or Party Members, but not for the Workers, who the system was supposed to be serving. During this scene, Phoebe is able to get a paper clip and use it to unlock her handcuffs, providing yet another example of "handiness" and, simultaneously, demonstrating how, we don't just need paper clips to keep papers together (although paper clips do that very nicely and there was a need for that) but paperclips also provide us with the means of unshackling us from government tyranny because the drive to develop the very best possible model of the paper clip for widespread consumer use occupied more than fifty inventors, and that kind of creativity and problem-solving keeps the population intelligent so it's more difficult to control them, unlike people like Rose who will believe whatever is put on TV.
Just before going to the Max Goods store to accept Yates' "surrender," Mike puts on the red Hawaiian shirt he was going to wear on their trip, which leads us to our next point: the war at Max Goods. Um, yea, "war" really is a good phrase for the description of what happens, and it essentially defines Mike's style of protecting himself. Here is a clip of what happens in the Max Goods store; please pay attention to all the different objects Mike uses to defend himself with:
Again, he's wearing the Hawaiian shirt because they wouldn't let him go to Hawaii (and he had saved up his own money for this trip, so it's not like he wanted someone else to pay for it, his rights of movement have been severely restricted and this begins with the guys trying to blow up his car). What does Yates say? "Kill him, please," and one of his Toughmen go off to attempt to kill Mike; but they don't; why not? Because Mike "has the goods" on how to defend himself.
Literally.
This brings us to an important point: in this image, we see the government (read: Communist Party) accepted hairstyles for men and women in North Korea (which is a communist country). These are the only ways you can wear your hair in that country. I will be the first to admit, there are plenty of hairstyles I don't like, especially the "mullet" hair style, however, I will defend the individual's right to wear it and express their individuality, because in North Korea, there is NO individuality there is only government control. In American Ultra, it's clear that Yates has no respect or consideration for Mike Howell's life, then Phoebe's life, then Peter's life, then the lives of everyone in the town. When Veronica initially confronts Yates about taking out "Wiseman," which is Mike's code name, Yates refers to him as Veronica's "still born baby," meaning two things: first, metaphorically, that because Mike hasn't done anything in five years, they can kill him off; this is part of socialist and communist practice, that those who don't work won't eat (this isn't like disability, or caring for those who have been born with problems, this is meant to be a terror tactic and it works: kill the old and the young and make everyone else scared for their lives). Secondly, if we were to take the statement literally, that Mike is, literally, a still born baby, then Yates fails to show any respect for a corpse, for the body that was once alive. This is like Planned Parenthood selling off the organs of aborted babies, and the Nazis bull dozing the bodies of murdered Jews into mass graves during World War II. 
Anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss formulated a theory of "handiness": when we have a job to do, but we don't necessarily have the right tools to accomplish it, we will use whatever items we have that are "handy" in order to accomplish the task. An example is when, much to men's horror, a woman needs to open the lid on a can of paint and she uses a screwdriver to do it; the screwdriver isn't the proper tool, but it will accomplish what it is she needs done: opening the lid. This reveals a sign of intelligence in being capable of seeing objects with greater value (the ability to use them for more than just one task) than they were initially designed for.
I couldn't find an image of it, but you have seen it in the trailer, when Mike is on the floor, flips a frying pan into the air and ricochets a bullet off the skillet that hits and kills a guy. What's the point of this scene? Earlier in the film, after they left the airport because of Mike's anxiety attacks, Mike is trying to fry an omelet and, getting distracted, he burns it, so he can't even do that right and he's looking pretty hopeless, then, later, we see him bounce the bullet off that same frying pan; what's the point of this? To demonstrate that, not all of us are good at everything, in fact, an exceptionally rare number of people can do everything, but Mike at least found what he is exceptionally good at and that's an important moral for us all: to find what we do well, and then do it well.
Throughout the film, we see Mike doing this consistently, beginning with the cup-o-soup he flings in the face of the first assailant messing with his car, or even Sheriff Watts does a brilliant job when he uses a chair to attach handcuffs to the leg of one of the female CIA agents trying to kill Mike. Such practices don't just display intelligence, but creativity, and the root of creativity is individuality, which socialists/communists do not value at all. When we get to the last of the film, and Mike has been taken in by the Philipine gang and their leader says, "You're not even armed," but Mike glances around and sees a cooking pot, some cans and other kitchen equipment, he smiles, because he knows that, as long as there are "goods" in the area, he can protect himself.
Of all the things which could have been written in for Mike to use, the film makers chose fireworks; why? Fireworks, in the US, will nearly always symbolize freedom and independence, as they are used to celebrate the 4th Of July. Using the fireworks is a reminder to Yates/Obama that the US is a sovereign nation and our history of industrialism that liberals are trying to make us forget. The fireworks, like the smoke Mike exhales when he comes out of the bathtub, is meant as a cover for him, that through all the fire and smoke, there is something underneath that we are having difficulties seeing, but we need to try and see, in this case, that there won't be anymore fireworks (fireworks are being made illegal, as Rose mentions, because we as a country are becoming extinct) if people like Mike Howell don't fight for their rights and lives. 
In conclusion, American Ultra provides us with a cultural and political critique of what is happening in the country right now. Audience members identify with the main characters, and since Mike is a "sleeper agent," being attacked by his government, we have to say that the film makers want us to consider our own selves to be Mike's: maybe not all of us are soldiers, and we appear to be losers like Mike and Phoebe, but when we hear the right sequence of words and know our freedoms have been endangered, we will all break out like super secret agents and the government had better be aware,
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Friday, August 28, 2015

Captain America 3: Civil War & Who Is Fighting Who

One of the examples when an image is worth a thousand words: Captain America, Steve Rogers, and Iron Man, Tony Stark, are truly a part of each other: it's not just that Cap supplies the morals, honor and integrity, and that Tony is the money and cool factor, it's that both men inspire each other and a multitude of others. It's not just a "civil war," of two sides fighting each other, this is also an "internal war" when they are fighting themselves, within themselves. In putting the theme of the film into such a simple question, "Whose side are you on?" the film makers unleash, intentionally, the immense complexities that have been carefully placed to unravel over these past several years, so the violence of what we are going to witness will touch our hearts, but also our minds
UPDATE: THIS PARTIAL, LOW-GRADE TRAILER for Captain America 3: Civil War HAS LEAKED ONLINE; WATCH THE FEW CLIPS WHILE YOU CAN!
So, on Iron Man's side is Black Panther, who will be portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, whom you may remember from 42, the Jackie Robinson story; Marvel is breaking its usual formula introducing him before he has had his own stand-alone film, and his character is significant enough to make the first real poster concept art that has been publicly displayed, so we will see what happens. Also with Iron Man is The Vision which we met in The Avengers 2 and Black Widow, with War Machine (Don Cheadle, Iron Patriot). Siding with Captain America is Bucky Barnes who we saw with Captain America in the mid-credits scene of Ant-Man, as well as Hawkeye, Falcon and Agent 13, Sharon Carter (you know, the "nurse" who lived down the hall from Cap in Captain America 2? She's rumored to be Peggy Carter's niece. If you look at Captain America's left shoulder, you will see Ant Man there as well. Now, in the upper-rightish corner, above Falcon's right wing, there is something else flyiing in the sky, and we will discuss that below. 
This is actually a big deal.
There are some potentially huge spoilers involving Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers in this post; if you don't want to have any idea of what is going to happen in the film, PLEASE STOP READING NOW.
Regardless of whether you love comic book films, are lukewarm to them or hope another is never made, Captain American: Civil War is a culturally important film because of the enormous political centerpiece of what rights the government has and what rights the individual has; if you aren't in the US currently, we are in a "civil war" regarding registration of fire arms and the rights of citizens to protect themselves; this issue will be examined in the upcoming film. I have to admit, there are some surprises in which side is teaming up with Iron Man, Tony Stark, who is in favor of the government registration accord, and Captain America, Steve Rogers, who opposes the accord. (And yes, we have seen something similar to this in trailer footage for Batman vs Superman, when Superman has to appear before a Senate panel and is held guilty for causing damage). Why are Captain America and Iron Man split?
Audience members are heavily invested in both characters: we love Steve Rogers because he is so good and noble, and we love Tony Stark because he is so rarely either of those things. What's the purpose of Civil War? There are at least two. First, in America, we are really experiencing a civil war culturally, and CA3 will tap into that and explore what is happening and why. Secondly, just as Thor will be going through Ragnarok in Thor 3, this is The Avengers' Ragnarok. Ragnarok is meant to completely destroy everything so it can be rebuilt better and stronger. The Avengers need to purge themselves because the greatest fight in the galaxy awaits them in Infinity Wars, and they will all have to be as strong as possible. 
Events from Iron Man 3 and The Avengers 2: Age Of Ultron have built up Tony's character to be remorseful over the amount of damage that occurs when they have to fight their enemies; knowing that Tony (likely with the help of Bruce Banner) built the Hulk Buster, which we saw in action in The Avengers 2 after Scarlet Witch got inside the "big guy's" head, Stark has a sense of responsibility that each of the heroes could go rogue at any time and will need to be taken down. Now, here are two "hypocritical" points that make Tony look bad. First, in Iron Man 2, the government wanted the Iron Man suit and Tony refused to give it to them, but now he's siding with the government? Secondly, in The Avengers 2, Tony built Ultron without telling anyone; suddenly, he's all for telling the government? Granted, Tony will probably have a moment of meditation and feel the burden of his past mistakes and feel he's getting on the proper road by agreeing to the accords, however, there is a considerable amount of baggage for Tony to deal with, which leads us to Captain America.
Hawkeye has "new threads" for CA3 and he looks pretty chummy with Ant-Man on his right shoulder. Why would the new costume design leave one of Hawkeye's arms exposed? Because Hawkeye himself has been exposed: as having a family, and so now he's incredibly vulnerable. It was possible that Hawkeye was going to take CA 3 off, but instead, he appears to be one of the leading characters, especially since his friendship with Natasha will be sorely tested as they take different sides. We know from The Avengers 2 that Clint Barton has a wife and three kids, as well as a home out in the country which is off the records of the government files, and he intends to keep it that way so hackers who would tap into the private lives of heroes won't be able to find his, which is an important reason why Cap and his friends are going to be against the accords: they want private lives, too. That's why they are willing to risk everything to save others, they know the joy of having a home to go to, raising a family and dwelling in peace and security and they won't permit that to be jeopardized in any way.
Why would Captain America NOT want to sign the accords? In Captain America: the First Avenger, who is he fighting? Hitler, and what was Hitler all about? Taking people's freedom away and putting the government in control of everything, so we basically have Captain America because we had Hitler, and because Captain America lived through Hitler, he knows "Hitler-style" accords meant to rob people of their freedom. Now, what about heroes that are missing from the poster above?
This is one of two possibly big spoilers in CA 3: the death of Peggy Carter. There would be several ways to interpret this, however, I am going to wait because I think the film will prefer to interpret it for us. The other possible big spoiler is the death of Captain America himself., Steve Rogers. We know Chris Evens is signed on through CA 3, but Stan Sebastian who plays Bucky Barnes is signed on for more films than is Evans, leading commentators to assume that, as in the comic books, Rogers dies and Bucky picks up the shield and carries on in his friend's place after he has come out of his brainwashing induced state (which appears to have happened at the end of Ant-Man). 
Thor is supposedly en route back to Asgard. Realizing that Loki has caused some kind of trouble after his vision in The Avengers 2, Thor is preparing for the total apocalypse that will destroy him, then resurrect him and make him even stronger so he's in prime shape for The Avengers 3 &4 The Infinity Wars.  Given how their romance is becoming more real, it's surprising that we don't yet see Bruce Banner and whether he sides with Black Widow or fights against her. All the actors have signed contracts giving them certain deals and a certain number of films; Banner may just not be in this one, as we left him possibly swimming towards Fiji at the end of The Avengers 2. What about Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch? She was set to go through Avenger-training with Captain America, will she side with him? There is also the possibility that Evangeline Lilly's Wasp will play a role, given the adjacent end credits with Captain America, Falcon and Bucky Barnes at the end of Ant-Man. We also have no idea who the new, high school-aged Spider Man will be teaming up with, but we know he is in the film and will have some major role. Even though they aren't heroes, Nick Fury and Maria Hill have been integral parts of the plots, and we would expect to see them in the film in some sort of capacity. There is also the rumor that Doctor Strange, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, may be getting an appearance into this film, but, again, IF he does, we don't know which side. This leads us to our last point,...
The official synopsis for the film is, that after a new villain has been revealed and significant damage caused (in the beginning of the film) world governments ban together to form a international oversight committee to track and authorize the heroes fighting villains because of all the damage that is being done. In the bottom image, between Cap and Falcon, in the sky, is a ship, and that maybe Nick Fury/what remains of all of SHIELD. Since Sharon Carter, Agent 13, on Cap's right, has sided with Cap, it's likely Fury and whatever remains of the organization will as well. We know that Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Martin Freeman (The Hobbit), William Hurt and Frank Grillo (as Crossbones from CA 2) are all in the film, however, their roles aren't being specified/played up, but they will be important in the actual plot.
Some of the "aligning of teams" may be more personal than political. It's not shocking to see The Vision aligned with Iron Man because Jarvis was Tony's AI system for so long, of course he would be loyal to Tony, but it is shocking, knowing the deep friendship between Natasha and Clint that Black Widow and Hawkeye will be pitted against each other. Why does the "personal" over the "political" matter? It's a theme Marvel will be exploring with the plot details, but it's basically an opposition of emotions vs. intellect. Captain America is against the accords because he knows what that can lead to; The Vision is probably siding with Tony because of loyalty to Stark as is War Machine. Iron Man's team is most likely going with the accords because of fear: fear of what they themselves as individuals may do, and fear of what the others can do; Cap's team is confidence in the hearts of themselves and the others to always do what is right, and the empirical evidence of the government doing what is wrong.
Benedict Cumberbatch is expected to make an appearance in CA3, even if briefly, as Stephen Strange, aka, Doctor Strange, before getting his own film next year, with a larger role reserved for him in the Infinity War films. Likewise, the cast of Guardians of the Galaxy will be involved in Infinity Wars as well as a group called The Inhumans, those who are meant to be basically Mutants in a universe where the word "Mutant" is owned by another company. It's being speculated that Peter Quill's (Chris Pratt) father is one of The Inhumans. The female character of Captain Marvel may be making a brief appearance in Infinity War Part 1 before her own movie, and then again in Infinity War Part 2. As far as Infinity War films are concerned, it's being speculated that The Avengers and company will be defeated and seriously down and trodden in the first episode, while they eventually pull themselves together and manage victory in the second chapter.  
So, Captain America: Civil War sees the return of the successful Russo brothers directing the film, and they will be directing Infinity Wars I and II, back-to-back, each film taking about 9 months to shoot and being released within just a year of each other. Likewise, to make Civil War as spectacular as possible, IMAX cameras, which are now lighter than previously, will be used throughout the entire filming process, rather than just specific action scenes, as is usually the case.

Captain America: Civil War May 6, 2016
Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) November 4, 2016
Guardians Of the Galaxy Vol. 2 May 5, 2017
Spider Man (Tom Holland) July 28, 2017
Thor 3: Ragnarok November 3, 2017
The Avengers 3: The Infinity Wars Part 1 May 4, 2018
Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) July 6, 2018
Captain Marvel November 2, 2018
The Avengers 4: The Infinity Wars Part 2 May 3, 2019
The Inhumans July 12, 2019

Nearly done with the post for American Ultra!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

JJ Abrams Confirms Nazis and Darth Vader in Star Wars VII

I know you probably think I go too far at times, but here is one of those rare glimpses into the genius of the film makers which confirms what I have been writing about for the last three years: JJ Abrams (Star Trek Into Darkness, Star Wars the Force Awakens) has confirmed that the First Order army (of storm troopers) we see in the trailers and which are in the film are modeled upon the Nazi army of World War II. Why would he be doing this? Because Obama is attempting to make America into a socialist/communist country, just as Hitler did to Germany before and during World War II, and Abrams sees the similarities which history has provided, for those who know what happened. In this article, Abrams reveals the questions he asked himself in creating the First Order and that those questions were based on Nazis who escaped to South America post World War II. It's a quick, but interesting read and I will definitely be referring back to it in the future, so if you have a moment, which is all it will take, please, skim over the questions Abrams discusses in the article because this is a massive insight into how the film has been organized and what we can expect to see as far as a subtext is concerned!
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Monday, August 24, 2015

American Ultra: AWESOME.

This is actually a bad image, because this isn't the plot of the film at all, but not a whole lot of stills have been released for it, so I wanted to use one of the images I liked least. 
I didn't know how it was going to go, but it went awesome, really, I am not a fan of Kristen Stewart, however, she did an exceptional job in this role and held her own quite well. As for Jesse Eisenberg, I am confident he can do anything required of him in an acting capacity: his range of emotions and psychosis he can pull from is incomprehensible to me, and I am duly impressed. What I liked most of all, however, was the story and the plot: yes, I was quite pleased. Working on it.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
P.S.--I haven't checked the email account in, like, two months; I am terribly sorry if you are waiting for a reply, I will try to get to that this week.
Sorry. :(

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Witch (Robert Eggers): Trailer & News

I've been binge-watching Season 2 of Penny Dreadful, and the thesis, Evil Takes Many Forms, is shared in the series as well as this new film. Why, as one commentator asked, do so many "folk tales" seem to take place in New England? We could say it's because that was the American Garden of Eden, when those who came were somehow innocent of the corruption and worldliness they left behind in their mother countries, and in the "desert" of the American wilderness, their demons easily exposed themselves. Then again, another answer would be, and I rather think this is more appropriate, that it's not that so many folk tales take place in New England, but that the last decade has drawn artists' attention to that realm because of current events; when whatever impetus ceases the creative impulse for folk tales as a source of both inspiration and solution, then another source will be found. The trailer definitely has notes of M. Night Shymalan's The Village, the ultimate American story The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, The Blair Witch Project the animated, pro-socialist film based on the school play and folk lore of hanging a witch, ParaNorman, and some might get the feeling of The Conjuring, which claimed the witch Bathsheba who was persecuted during the Salem Witch trials, not to mention the TV series SALEM. Why does the goat often symbolize the devil? The goat is notorious for his appetites and willingness to "eat anything," whether that is more myth than truth isn't relevant; likewise, the devil will "eat anything" because getting people addicted to an appetite is what sin is all about. Additionally, the goat is an opposition to the lamb, and it was as The Lamb that Christ came, so his adversary the devil comes as the goat. 
Sometimes we can believe the Sundance film festival,... sometimes we can't. Everyone has their favorites and dislikes, but I have got to say, I am genuinely interested in this film. The Witch, written and directed by Roger Eggers (his very first) follows a New England colonial family who leaves their community and "go west" into the wilderness to start their own farm there; they quickly find that someone or something has found them.
Why would this "New England folk tale," as it bills itself, be relevant today? Well, this will be Eggers' own interpretation of how he understands why America was settled and who those settlers are. It's easy to make Christians a target of hysteria and ignorance, as we see in the cannibal film We Are What We Are. The move to go back to "folk tale," rather than try catching the media's imagination with something "original" (the strategy most film makers attempt) suggests analyzing the map of the American psyche, that which lies buried within our collective identity. The film takes place in 1630 when hundreds of new immigrants were arriving in Virginia and the Massachusetts Bay Colony area; this is the same year the city of Boston was founded.  The question the film will pose, and then attempt to answer is, why did they come? Did they come to get free handouts and live on welfare, as socialists would have us to believe, or did they come for freedom and independence?
This is a great shot in the trailer: playing peek-a-boo with the child, then the child disappears, is a moment of blindness as Jacques Derrida might say (the scene is reminiscent of Minority Report, when Tom Cruise's character is at the pool with his son and he goes under water for a few seconds and, resurfacing, can't find his son who is completely gone).  Being blind is like being asleep, so this invoked what Gandalf says in The Hobbit, "In our blindness our enemy has returned," as well as in Divergent when half of Dauntless is put under a hypnotism and Tris tells them, "Wake up!" We have been blind.
The figuring of the goat in the trailer, which is a traditional form the devil takes in art, and which has just been displayed as a statue "in honor" of Satan in Detroit, USA, suggests that our appetites, too, have gotten out of control. In the film, the family loses their crops, the child disappears, the goats start giving blood instead of milk and then the family begins turning on one another as things get increasingly bad. Thomasin, the girl, is blamed, and her behavior becomes increasingly strange throughout the events. What is interesting, is that, the casting credits includes numerous witches, including one labeled as The Witch, meaning, it's not a family member (as with Noah [Adrian Brody] in The Village dressing up as one of "Those of whom we do not speak, but can't seem to stop talking about,"), or a figment of their imagination, and--since the word "coven" is used in the credits to describe some of the Brides of Satan--we know they are real devil worshipers, instead of a fringe group mis-understood who wants their 1st Amendment rights.  
The name "Thomasin" is not a popular one today, not like the male name "Thomas," but both mean the same: "Twin." During this time period in history, twins were not particularly well-liked, and regarded with superstitious caution. For Thomasin, she will probably find her "evil twin" in the witch(es) that she will have to battle and overcome, so she can be made whole, like all good art.Her fair complexion and light-colored hair contrasts starkly with the dark and forbidding forest.
The family settles on the edge of the forest; why? The forest symbolizes the opposite of the Garden of Eden: Edgen was the place where man communed with God, cultivated the earth for food and necessities and grew in wisdom. The forest is the place that hides things we don't want discovered. For example, in Dante's The Divine Comedy, his journey to redemption begins with him being lost in the forest and more recently, in the TV series SALEM, Tituba takes Mary Sibley to perform her abortion in the woods: the woods are tangled and dark, and it's where we get lost, but it's a metaphor for how we are spiritually lost. When someone is lost in the woods, or goes deep into the woods, it's because they have, in some manner, deviated from the "right path" and don't realize the sin they have committed. What sin has been committed?
Peek-a-boo.
The goat standing on its hind legs is an unnatural posture, and might POSSIBLY (although even I admit this is a stretch) refer to the George Orwell book Animal Farm, when the animals, in an attempt to separate themselves from humans, created the song, "Four legs good, two legs bad," and then had to immediately begin making amends because of birds, etc. By the end of the book, the pigs have begun walking around on two legs. The Witch is going to the Toronto Film Festival next, and can be expected to be released nation-wide some time next year.
While Thomasin plays with little Samuel, Thomasin covers her eyes and, when she opens them, Samuel is gone. Someone hasn't come up behind her and covered her eyes for Thomasin, and she isn't protecting her eyes, rather, she has willingly become "blinded" and closed her eyes to "The Name Of God," baby Samuel. How have we, as a country, willfully closed our own eyes so that the Name Of God has been taken from us?
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner

Monday, August 17, 2015

Only My Mother Calls Me Napoleon: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. & Erasure

The tagline, "A higher class of hero," just beneath the "UNCLE," tells us what we need to know about the yellow background: it's about class. Needless to say, this post contains spoilers, so if you don't want to know what happens, please, stop reading now. Yellow, as we know, denotes royalty because it's the color of gold and only royalty can afford gold (in the old days when symbols were being created so we could unconsciously  communicate as a civilization), so when someone is being "enthroned" or set as an example, yellow is an excellent color, being the color of kings. Because it is the color of kings, it can also denote cowardice because a king exists to lead his people bravely, and if a king doesn't, the very sign of his royalty (in this case, yellow for gold no one else gets to have) also becomes the sign of his incompetence. With Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Illya (Armie Hammer), they earn the golden background because of their heroic act of agreeing to not kill each other and burn the "disc" (whatever that 1960s contraption thing is they stored data on) so neither country would have an unfair advantage over the other (and Solo returning Illya's father's watch plays a crucial, symbolic role in this scene that we will discuss below). The enormous amount of the background being yellow invokes the tradition of religious icons, such as the Theotokos of Vladimir, among many others. Why do this? In icons, the background were usually done in gold to relate to the viewer that the space (or area) the saint or religious figure was in within the icon was not a temporal or earthly space, rather, a space existing in eternity and perfection, which is why icons never have shadows in them. Likewise, we don't see shadows in the poster above, and there is no real temporal space or location in which we can place Solo and Illya. Between the tagline, "A higher class of hero," and the yellow/gold background acting to convey iconic status upon the two spies, we can deduce that they are, indeed, political "saints." Why would Guy Ritchie want to convey this to us and why do these characters deserve such an apotheosis? Because they both experience "conversion," and while we generally discuss conversion in the religious life, Illya and Solo experience it professionally and personally, making them Ritchie's secular saints. This is validated when Uncle Rudy has Solo in the electric chair and swings the light bulb over his head in a circle, making a "halo" effect: Rudy knows he is the sinner, and Solo the saint, however, being the cowardly socialist he is, Rudy doesn't want to be converted himself. Further, when Solo and Illya discuss what to do with Rudy, and Rudy's chair electrocutes him, starting a fire, it rather suggests the old "burning at the stake" of heretics and that was certainly done by the righteous to preserve freedom (the idea being that "witch hunts" happened during the McCarthy years in the US and those communist witches who were found should have been burned at the stake because of the threat they pose to civilization and freedom.) Now, the obvious question: it's called "the man" from uncle, not "the men" from uncle, so which "man" is being targeted as being THE ONE from UNCLE? Both of them. Look at how their bodies blend together, like Siamese twins: Illya's right leg becomes Solo's leg leg, and Solo having his left hand in his pocket is like self-binding because Illya is now his left hand. They make a good team because, while Illya knows when to shoot, Solo knows when NOT to shoot (you may recall a similar conversation in Skyfall between Bond and Q at the museum and knowing when to pull a trigger or not). Please note that both men are looking to their left; why? Because the threats and international dangers in the world always come from the (political) Left. Last, but certainly not least, is the typography of the word "U.N.C.L.E." Note that it's in both white and black, and it's curved, as if the word "uncle" covers up another word, or another document; if you don't know what "erasure" is as a literary or philosophical device, we will discuss it below because the film is full of it; for the moment, however, know that it's a means of displaying a double-meaning at the same time and that it alerts its audience to the need for (active) interpretation.
This isn't so much a "love letter to spy films" as it is an "ode to history" (this post contains numerous spoilers: you have been warned). From the very beginning of the film, we see writer/director Guy Ritchie morphing into "The History Guy" and presenting us with The Cold War For Dummies; why? Because there are a lot of dummies in the world who know absolutely nothing about the Cold War and Ritchie thinks this is the perfect time to educate audiences on what the Cold War meant, on numerous fronts. Given the seriousness of the topic, it's delivered with great comedic effects in numerous scenes with a plethora of literary devices to enhance the narrative structure and characterization.
Let's begin with the first scene.
The great truth of communism: they don't have to build a wall to keep people out, they have to build a wall to keep people in, and it's over, through and under that people tried to escape socialism imposed on them by the Soviets (we get a brief glimpse of this in the introductory history lesson Ritchie provides the audience at the start of the film; consequently, there is a brief scene of some people running through the minefield and trying to get through the barbed wire; the sweater of one of the men gets caught on the wire and goes up over his head, momentarily blinding him and stopping him; why would Ritchie pick this moment to highlight the Berlin Wall? The sweater getting caught and blinding the man acts as a metaphor of people who had become dependent upon the government for providing them with all their material needs; the barbed wire, which is used to keep animals in pastures, is being used to keep humans in their "pastures" where their basic needs are provided--which is why socialist and communist societies are nicknamed "state farms"--and, in the moment that this man is dashing to freedom, he is suddenly blinded by the loss of assured material sustenance, whereas in the West, to where he's trying to escape, the capitalists assure freedom but with that freedom comes the freedom to fail and the freedom from being cared for like an animal. This man, escaping communism in this desperate moment, is just now realizing the choice he is making and the consequences, and Ritchie is showing us this to demonstrate that communism changes and alters our fundamental abilities to become self-sufficient and define what freedom is). No one tried to get into East Berlin because the healthcare was so good, or the service industry or the government benefits, people were risking their lives to escape these very hallmarks of socialist society because they were so bad. Solo's glance over his shoulder appears as a simple gesture, however, that's because we take for granted the free world in which we live. Crossing over into East Berlin means crossing over into a different world: the world of Big Brother. Sunglasses are one of the film's strong symbols (regrettably, because so freaking much is happening in the film at any given time, on any given narrative level, I couldn't keep track of all of it from a mere single viewing; trust me, they are important). Technically, we were sunglasses to shield our eyes from the sun, symbolically, however, they denote that a character is "enlightened" or is seeing more than we are being told explicitly (in this way, Ritchie employs sunglasses as yet another form of "erasure" in the film). The sunglasses, then, alert the viewer that Solo's eyes (under "erasure" by virtue of the dark glasses he wears) are functioning at a higher level, symbolically and metaphysically, than our own eyes. For example, consider the Coen Brothers' film Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou? In the story, the three criminals encounter a blind man and George Clooney's character decodes the blind man has having the gift of greater sight or prophecy. We can somewhat relate the scene and interpretation to Solo above: the glasses appear to blind him, yet his sight is enhanced for picking up on what most of us would miss, such as Illya spying on him in the polished chrome at the checkpoint, and the police following him.  
1963.
Berlin.
The Berlin Wall.
How many young people, i.e., Millennials, even know what the Berlin Wall was? If anyone was going to go into the film with an "open mind," Ritchie makes sure he closes it to any possibility that socialism is in any way beneficial to humanity: between the opening sequences of Winston Churchill, juxtaposed against Hitler and the beginnings of the Atomic Era, to a later sequence of photographs in a scrapbook detailing the horrors of the concentration camp, anyone wanting to count Guy Ritchie as a "progressive" or "enlightened liberal" would have an impossible hurdle to overcome: his fluency in empirical facts. What's even more damaging to the Left's self-righteous position is that he demonstrates the historical truth of what happens to people who appear to love living under socialism/communism: witness the parents of Illya.
This scene provides us with incredible material with which to work. We see Solo himself interpreting the situation in which he finds himself and deducing a conclusion to action based upon that. In the back seat, Solo is "blind." so he asks Gabby questions so he can properly determine what is happening, i.e., his interpreting his circumstances, because Ritchie wants us the viewers to interpret the circumstances, too. THEN, Solo tells Gabby, "When you hear something that sounds like a gun shot, drive," so he invites her interpretation into the scene as well; why? Because once we begin interpreting one scene, we will realize the whole film requires a deeper interpretation. Solo rolls down the window with his foot; why? Feet symbolize our will, because our feet take us in life to where we want to go the way our will directs us on our life path that we want to take. The window symbolizes reflection but it's the character's inner-reflection that is taking place; in this scene, Solo rolling down the window (self-reflection) with his foot (his will), translates to mean that he is intentionally not going to reflect on shooting this person following him because he's putting Gabby's safety before the life of this other agent. When Solo does shoot, his makes two shots at the face, through the glass. The glass, again symbolizing reflection, means that Illya is to reflect on Solo shooting him in the cheek, which means, if the situation were reversed, you would be trying to kill me, so don't take this personally. Now, thee are two shots, both of them miss, and each of those shots foreshadows the two upcoming instances when Solo doesn't kill Illya even though he could: the first one being when Illya is in his wrecked car and Solo goes over to it with his gun ready, and the second is when Illya chases the car and Gabby tells Solo to shoot Illya but Solo says it doesn't seem like the right thing to do. Why? When Illya and Solo are told they are working together, and they compare notes about what they know of the other, Illya calls Solo the "CIA's most effective agent," but Solo hasn't killed anyone, meaning, Solo isn't effective because he's a killer--like Illya--rather, Solo is effective because he knows how to NOT kill someone, which is its own skill set (like when Solo knows Illya's going to be tested by being robbed to see whether or not he's a KGB agent or really an architect; Solo saves that situation by not letting Illya kill the two men, but Illya saves Solo and Gabby later by killing Victoria's husband [more on that below]). 
When Solo and Illya have been told they are working together, both agents compare notes about how much the other all ready knows and attempt to destroy one another to establish which will be the alpha. Solo reveals that Illya's father was an aide to Stalin who was found guilty of embezzling funds and sent to the Gulag to spend the rest of his life in a prison camp and Illya's mother was a whore with her husband's friends. This is a masterful recreation of history that reveals someone who genuinely knew what happened in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. We'll start by analyzing what happened to Illya's father.
This shot is incredible, and it's cinematic moments like these that make Guy Ritchie, Guy Ritchie. If you aren't familiar with erasure, or sous rature, please take a moment to scroll down this page to the image of the two posters with heavy black marks and writing on them, and the Superman poster, and then come back to this image. Part of Solo is being put, literally, under erasure, as half of his face disappears in the darkness. Now, what's tricky about "reading" a moment like this in film is the confusion with the symbolism of the color black: black symbolizes death, there is good death and bad death, so we could (falsely) interpret the lighting in this shot to mean either a). Solo is alive to the virtues of the soul and so he's dead to the world, or b). that Solo is dead to the virtues of his soul but he's alive to the world. The problem with theory a). is that we know Solo is a worldly man and the problem with b). is we know Solo has many virtues, even if he's not perfect (please consider again the "religious" dimensions of the yellow poster above and that the final scene of the film takes place in Rome, the holy city, and they are surrounded by churches). So, neither interpretation is sufficient, but we know this is a scene that requires us to enter into a deeper dialogue in order to understand Solo's character; erasure will help us accomplish that. Half of Solo's face is being place "under erasure," suggesting that a part of his own being is entering into the situation of whether or not to go to Illya's wrecked car and make sure he's finished off for good (which Solo doesn't do). Why? We know the CIA recognized that Solo had talents better used on an international scale rather than rotting in prison, and that recognition of Solo's talents permits him now to  "see deeper into" Illya then just seeing another agent, which is what this scene most likely wants to convey to us. Because the CIA rescued the criminal Solo from fifteen years in prison, that act of kindness has made Solo a better person who is apt to do the same for someone else, in this situation, Illya. Recognizing Illya's determination and skills as being comparable to his own, Solo doesn't want to waste Illya's talents by killing him. We don't have to use erasure to get at this, we could pull out something a little simpler, namely, that Solo's own "shadowy past" has caused him to be more "enlightened" about others and that's why he doesn't walk to the car and kill Illya. The problem is, we know Illya isn't dead and he's got his gun drawn, ready to shoot Solo and Illya will kill Solo even though Solo won't kill Illya. Employed throughout the film, erasure provides a stronger, deeper entry into Solo's character because shadows aren't used in the rest of the film; further, because erasure reveals a more sophisticated approach, we are apt to fail in providing Ritchie the credit his artistry deserves if we don't deploy the erasure perspective in this clip. The complicated understanding of this moment is verified by a little trick Ritchie uses to link this scene to the scene where Uncle Rudy tortures him even though it's not included in the image above: an iridescent rainbow caused by refracted light. As Solo's head shifts in the image above, in the film. which I didn't catch until the third time I watched it, Ritchie includes a small "rainbow" effect that he utilizes again with the swinging light bulb as Uncle Rudy describes his past to Solo; why? It highlights the different reasons why Solo would be willing to kill Illya, vs. the reasons why Uncle Rudy is willing to kill Solo: necessity and preservation of freedom in the West, and sadistic pleasure on order from a treacherous Nazi boss. Why would Ritchie connect these two scenes using lighting? It "illuminates" the audience about the inner-motivations of each character, motivations that could be tediously bogged down in meaningless dialogue (this is how a good film makers shows, rather than tells). 
It's possible that, indeed, Mr. Kuryakin was embezzling funds; that's why people joined the Party (just because you lived in a communist society didn't mean you were automatically a member of the Party, as in The Book Thief when Geoffrey Rush's character, a painter, is courted to join the Nazi Party, which was the socialist party). Just as joining a (socialist) union in America today "gets you more benefits," so joining the Party meant you would get more benefits as well, like taking extra money for yourself. There is a problem with this, however: embezzling money wasn't really a crime in Stalin-era Russia; not supporting Stalin, however, was a serious crime. What's my evidence for this?
Napoleon Solo.
Another great scene. Solo has asked Gabby to look out the window and, when she does, she sees Illya and believes Illya's going to kill her. Again, windows symbolize reflection, as it does when Solo is in the back seat of Gabby's car and he rolls the window down. What do we see in this image? There are broken windows. Why? Gabby's ability to reflect on her situation isn't complete: Solo asks her to think about where her father would be, but she hasn't seen her father in forever, so she can't "reflect" on him; because she doesn't know who Illya is, or whether she can really trust Solo, she can't really "reflect" on that either. Please note the ceiling above Solo's head: the white paint is chipping away to reveal the stone beneath; this is a further example of erasure the film employs. Because it's just above Solo's head, it suggests it has something to do with what Solo is thinking. For example, in the Clint Eastwood film Unforgiven, after Eastwood's character tells Morgan Freeman's character about the whores' offer of money to kill those cowboys, Freeman's character steps through a doorway and there is a rifle hanging on the wall above his head, so the rifle above his head becomes a thought-bubble (like in comics) and we can see that even though Freeman's character is talking about something else, he's thinking about taking his gun and going to kill those cowboys. Likewise, with Solo above: the chipping paint reveals, literally, that Solo is putting pieces together and understanding that there is a larger picture of a larger scheme being played out around Gabby (his realization that the officer at the check point put a tracker in his briefcase, and that Illya has been following him); if we look just above Gabby's head, nearly all the white paint is gone, revealing that she knows more about what is going on than does Solo (for example, that she has all ready been recruited by the British and she knew that someone like Solo was bound to approach her about her father).  A further detail about Gabby: we know the head is the governing function, and the hair and accessories on the head symbolize thoughts; the scarf Gabby wears, hiding part of her hair, suggests she is not telling Solo something (that she's all ready working for the British) and her hair pulled up and pinned demonstrates that Gabby is disciplined in her thoughts, that she can go about without giving herself away. On another note, we also see Victoria wearing her head in a scarf, and it ties the two women together: just as Gabby doesn't "gab" and keeps her plans to herself, we can say the same of Victoria with her plans to kill Gabby and her father; we can also say that, ultimately, the two women want to reverse roles. Gabby wants to live in the West, refusing to go back to East Berlin, but Victoria wants to live in a world where everyone lives in a state of East Berlin because she wants the whole world to be under her domineering control. The film doesn't ask us to make a choice between Solo and Illya as to which of the spies we prefer, however, it does ask us to make a choice between Gabby and Victoria, because only one of those women can exist in the world (more on this below).  Lastly, we see that Gabby has a rag over her shoulder: the shoulders symbolize our burdens that we carry, and it draws our attention to the burden Gabby has to carry regarding her father: specifically, that he abandoned her. Even though her father didn't come looking for her, Gabby now has to go looking for him. 
When Solo has Gabby at the safe house, and Solo meets with Saunders, Saunders makes it clear to Solo that he knows Solo has been keeping extra cash for his wardrobe and culinary tastes, and he allows that because Solo is valuable to them, but Saunders chooses to ignore it. We can say this would be the same regarding Stalin: Stalin didn't really care about lawlessness as long as everyone kept to one law and one law only: worship Stalin as a demi-god. We see the exact circumstances in the Obama regime today: Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, Kathleen Sebelius, General Petraeus, Lois Lerner and the head of the IRS, and any other number of corrupt officials are free to go their merry way, as long as they don't go against Obama or say anything bad about him. Ritchie structuring the exchange with Solo and Saunders regarding Solo's own "embezzlement" is meant to lead us to the real reason Mr. Kuryakin was sent to the Gulag: he opposed StalinPlease click on Stalin's home Wikipedia page to see the multitude of Purges and show trials Stalin had to get rid of those who opposed him, or had enough power to oppose him, and the millions of people he had put to death during his reign (historians disagree on the exact number, but they agree it was in the millions). What about Mrs. Kuryakin?
This scene illustrates the larger narrative nicely: Gabby is the one driving throughout the whole film. It appears she is the one in the backseat, being told what to do and not to do by Solo and Illya, however, the truth of the situation changes when she reveals to Uncle Rudi that she is wearing a tracker and Solo works for the CIA and Illya for the KGB. Her gesture of looking behind her (to the back seat) and then down (where Solo conceals himself) reveals that she is indeed new to this game of spy vs. spy. When Solo first enters the mechanics' shop, he speaks to Gabby in German about the shortcomings of the model's engine she is working on, noting that she has upgraded it extensively. This acts as a nice reflection on Gabby herself: she probably wouldn't have made much of a spy, but she's upgraded herself in the time since British Intelligence contacted her and Solo's contact, and she's going to be successful at staying ahead of them to insure the mission is a success. Now, on an entirely different note, why--when Gabby finally meets her father after 18 years--does she slap him when he says, "Gabby, I've made a terrible mistake,"? This is open-ended, that is, we can come up with any number of reasons, and any of them are just as right as another, but I would like to posit two of them now: first, that Dr. Teller had it so easy in America (as Solo describes to Gabby in her garage about Teller living the American Dream) and he goes and betrays the country and world that gave him so much when she had so little growing up; another possibility, which is congruent with the former, is that Teller calls making a nuclear warhead for Nazis a "mistake" and Gabby recognizes it is far worse than that, and tries to slap some sense into his head: he has abused his free will to go and jeopardize the free will of the entire world and, rather than risk his life in refusing (the way she knows Illya and Solo would do, because she has been around these real men now for a while and knows what to expect of them) she realizes her father doesn't measure up, which is also why she isn't disappointed by his loss; perhaps she is even relieved. Why does Alexander (Victoria's husband) leave when he sees Gabby slap Dr. Teller? I think, and I could be very wrong, so fill in your own interpretation, that because Gabby has made an emotional outburst, and hasn't kept herself under control two times now (the first was earlier when she revealed Illya and Solo as spies) and now she has slapped her father, Alexander believes she isn't hiding anything, that she is easy to read and they will be able to manipulate her according to their plans.
It's not just that she was a whore, but that is what the socialist State made her into. Just as Gabby is equal to men in the mechanic's shop, so Mrs. Kuryakin's sexuality was equal to the men belonging to the Party. Now, by "equal" to the men in the Party, I don't mean she was inherently inferior to men, quite the opposite; as a woman myself, and a Christian, I belief God created woman to be above men, that's why Eve was created from Spirit, whereas Adam was created from dust. Because woman naturally has a closer relationship to God because of the matter from which she is created, she is meant to help man attain heaven and become closer to God (this is what is meant in woman being man's helper: to help him get to heaven because, as most men know, they need all the help they can get :) ). Socialism takes woman from her elevated standing, and demotes her, brainwashing her to forget about what her true purpose and calling is in life so she will start behaving like the men she is actually meant to save from acting like men and, instead, will become the exact opposite of what she was created to be: a whore. Socialism does this because it must replace God with the Party and keep people happy, which it does with drugs (vodka, in the case of Russia, marijuana in the case of Colorado), sex and equal poverty among all. Now, why does Solo question which of the circumstances made Illya become so ambitious?
Why doesn't Illya and Gabby get to kiss? There are at least three times the two of them are about ready to kiss, and then they are somehow interrupted; why? Because that is what actually happened in history. Gabby symbolizes East Berlin and Germany, where she is from; Illya symbolizes Soviet Russia, where he is from. In spite of their long standing political relationship behind the Iron Curtain, an actual love affair between East Germany and Russia never actually took place, which is most likely due to Berlin being split in two: there was always the hope of reunification in the hearts of Germans, and things were so bad in East Germany--as Gabby's refusal to go back to East Berlin attests to--that reunification could only happen on one condition: it was a Western reunification, not an Eastern (Soviet) reunification. Please note that Gabby wears green and white in this scene: they are off to the race tracks to meet her Uncle Rudi and the green which we see in so many of the scenes of the film, including in the men's restroom when Solo and Illya meet, as well as the color of the helicopter she rides to go and see her father, it warrants examination. Green, as we know, either symbolizes hope and new life, or that something is rotten. It would be easy to see Gabby as being "rotten" in wearing the green dress because she is working for the British and hasn't been honest with Illya and Solo, however, Gabby wears a white hat, which reveals her thoughts to us that she is thinking in the "purest" of terms and realizes that she's in a dangerous situation and so is the whole world and that's what she's acting upon. I've talked about Solo valuing individuality, and this would be a good time to analyze how Illya doesn't value individuality: "I like my women strong."  This isn't a sexist comment, this is a socialist comment, because all women are equal and Illya could just as legitimately be engaged to any number of women, as long as they are strong. Illya knows that he also has no individuality within the KGB, and that if he doesn't do his job of getting the disc, he will be exterminated and someone else will be given the job of getting it. 
"I do wonder," Solo tells Illya, "if it was your father's shame or your mother's reputation which gave you such ambition?" Why does Solo say this? In socialism, there is no reason to excel. Would you like to know one of the main reasons the Soviet Union finally fell? Mikhail Gorbachev was sick and tired of going to department stores where all the people working there were rude; in every section of Soviet society, people were rude, products were of terrible quality, things were never in stock and the idea of "customer service" simply didn't exist. They couldn't be fired, or if they were, the responsibility of finding them a new job was on the State. No one is rewarded or punished for doing anything, so that Solo could see Illya progressing through the KGB so quickly and at such a young age meant that he knew some stronger incentive than recognition was driving Illya and that is shame. Now, what about Illya's take on Solo?
Throughout most of the film, Solo's hair is perfect. Hair, as we know, symbolizes our thoughts because it's so close to our head, that it reveals how or what a character is thinking. This is the first scene when a few of Solo's hairs are not perfectly combed back, suggesting that he doesn't think teaming up with Russia is a good idea. Later, after they have been told they are taking orders from British intelligence and they are on board with Waverly, and Illya and Solo are on the plane talking to their respective handlers, each agent is told to kill the other if need be to get the disc. Again, in that scene, Solo's hair is really messed up, suggesting that, by that point in the film, his thought is that it wouldn't be a good idea to kill Illya, or that anyone should have that disc and this is part of Solo's conversion which makes him a "higher class of hero." 
When Illya goes over Solo's records and his information (before they meet and are told they are working together) the archivist loading the slides put Solo's mug shot in the wrong way, and it appears upside-down when Illya first sees it; why? This was, one might say, a Freudian slip on the part of the communists, because Solo is a criminal. It is, literally, an upside-down world when a criminal can work off his debt by being of service to the government; why?
Please click on these images to expand them. On the left is the first poster released for the Kathryn Bigelow film, Zero Dark Thirty; in the middle is my reproduction of Martin Heidegger's example of a letter in which a word was first put "under erasure," and on the right is an image for the upcoming film Batman vs. Superman, also starring Henry Cavill. Another Cavill film, The Cold Light Of Day, used erasure extensively to build up Will's transforming character (please see Without Baggage: Erasure & Identity In The Cold Light Of Day for more). Sous rature, or the practice of putting a word "under erasure" as it is translated, began with Continental philosopher Martin Heidegger in a letter to a friend: Heidegger could not think of a better word to describe what he wanted to communicate other than "being," but he also realized that "being" didn't begin to communicate everything he wanted to communicate; by drawing a line through the word (as is demonstrated in the middle image) the word was still legible, yet--in being crossed out--it also came to communicate to the reader that the word was unsuitable in its ordinary and even extra-ordinary meaning, but the author's intended meaning surpassed the horizon of language's ability to communicate the author's meaning. I hope that is as clear as mud. So, what's the big deal? As the two film posters indicate, erasure takes on a visual and aesthetic meaning in addition to a purely ideational meaning (the "two-side sign" model as developed by Saussaure). For example, the phrase, "Zero dark thirty" is a military term meaning half past midnight; how can we put that "under erasure" with what we have just learned about the practice? Half-past midnight was the time the SEAL team entered the Osama compound and took him out, so the start of that operation is meant to convey how long it took for justice to be carried out for the horrendous crime committed on 9/11 against America (this is just skimming the top of the film; please see Reflections, Masks, Noise, Erasure: Zero Dark Thirty for more). So, to summarize: to put something "under erasure" means the author/artist wants a deeper, greater meaning to be invoked for consideration by the reader/viewer. When, for example, we see documents in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that have heavy black marker lines drawn through them, we know those are classified documents and "the good stuff" which is classified has been marked out, and only the boring, non-important information has been left legible. Ritchie is doing that throughout the entire film. Now, consider the poster for Superman on the right. We know the eyes are "the windows of the soul" because a house shelters a person's body the way a body shelters the person's soul; we see into a house by looking through a window, and we can see the presence of a person's soul by looking into their eyes. So, why is there a bat symbol over Superman's eyes? Jacques Derrida took Heidegger's idea of erasure and further applied it throughout his own early writings, going so far as to annotate Saussure that we can understand the signifiers of language only through the "difference" with other signifiers; in more clear terms, we understand "cat" if we understand "dog"; the differences between the way the words of written and pronounced aide us in determining in context when a feline with fur is intended as opposed to a canine with fur (for more on Erasure and other critical theories, please see the most excellent reference guide  The Encyclopedia Of Contemporary Literary Theory). With the Superman poster above, the familiar bat symbol being used as an aesthetic marker of erasure means (at least on one level) that we will come to know Superman in his relationship of difference to Batman, and we will come to have a greater understanding of who Batman is because of his relationship in difference to Superman. Why is this important? Because difference is the exact opposite of socialism! Socialism wants to make everyone the same, but when differences are being celebrated and studied, the highlighting of those differences fundamentally undermines the premise of socialism that we are all the same or that we can be made to be all the same. In The Man From U.N.C.L.E., specifically with the references to the yellow poster at the very top of the post, as we learn about Solo's and Illya's similarities, and their increasing ability to function as a team, they are still defined by their difference to each other and from others (both agents and non-agents).  
Because, to a socialist, the government is God, and the government can do everything; with Solo, the government was admitting it needed him and his skills, because in capitalism, there are individuals, and individuals have gifts, talents and skills, and they are unique. In socialism, there is no such thing: a person commits a crime, the government executes them and the next person in line takes their place doing whatever needed to be done. Why does Illya not understand why Solo has risen through the CIA?
"Why don't you shoot him?" Gabby asks Solo, and Solo, watching Illya attempt to stop the car with his feet, and rip the trunk off the car replies, "Somehow it doesn't seem right."  Again, we are in a position to choose between interpreting shadows or erasure, because of the black area across Solo's forehead and covering the top of his head. Solo is looking out the window, so we know he is "reflecting," because that is what mirrors and glass symbolize, and because he looks behind himself, we can say he "reflects on the/his past" even though the events are taking place in the present in the film. If we interpret the dark spot on his head to be a "shadow," then we might be lead to inerpret this as Solo having "dark thoughts" about Illya, which wouldn't be accurate because--even though Illya would kill Solo right now if he could--we know Solo doesn't kill Illya (or let him die) the numerous times Solo has that chance, so interpreting that dark area on Solo's head to be "thoughts of doing a dark deed, like murder" won't be consistent with the rest of the film. If, however, we apply erasure once again, then that means that Solo understands something more is happening, and as he looks out the rear window, and Illya tears the trunk off, Solo sees how he himself had behaved when he was arrested (because the trunk is where our baggage is kept, and Illya will expose Solo's baggage as being a criminal) and, again, is able to see Illya's skills the way the CIA saw Solo's because, being an American, Solo believes in the individual and singularity (remember, when they are escaping the satellite factory, and Solo has been thrown off the boat and he watches the boat chase in the truck, Solo sees Illya's boat blowing up in flames in the rear view mirror of the truck, like he watches Illya chasing them in this scene in the rear window of Gabby's car; this is another scene Ritchie wants to link, demonstrating that Solo could kill or let Illya die in both scenes, but he has a respect for him that won't allow him to do that even though he prefers to work alone and certainly not with a KGB agent). We can say, on another important level that Solo, at this point in the spying game, has gained respect for Illya's perseverance and recognizes Illya as an individual and that's why Solo doesn't shoot him: it doesn't seem right to shoot a human being because, as a Westerner, we value individuality and I would be going against my deepest held belief system if I did shoot him right now, Solo thinks to himself (yes, when he's in the safe house, talking to Sanders, he calls Illya an "it" and says, "it was barely human," but I think that was actually some grudging compliment to Illya's perseverance in keeping up with Solo's escape). Illya, as a Soviet, does not value individuals or individuality, and that's trained within them: remember the threat his Intelligence handler uses to get the computer disc from Solo towards the end? Illya's service isn't going to be remembered, just that Illya responds to threats of humiliation and that can be used against Illya to "program him" to do what the State wants. This leads us to an interesting conflict between Illya and Solo, one that doesn't clearly come out, but is there nonetheless: Mr. Kuryakin, Illya's father, was sent to Siberia for embezzling money (whether he actually did or not is not our concern at the moment) and that act of theft was harshly punished, but rewarded when Solo was caught stealing and given a job in the CIA. During the credits, when we see the paper work of each of the agents, if you look closely, when it details that Illya has "psychotic episodes," it also diagnoses an Oedipus complex. Given the link of theft between Mr. Kuryakin and Solo, Illya somewhat transfers his OC to Solo and that's what makes it so difficult for Illya to get along with Solo for so long and to trust him, but he does and then, when Illya has to go and kill Solo, but Solo gives Illya back his father's watch, that erases the transfer and then, to Illya, Solo is just Solo and not a stand-in for his absent father.
As was stated above, in socialist societies, there is no incentive to do well; so why, our socialist friend Illya reasons, would someone who was saved from prison work so hard to become the CIA's most "effective agent?" Good food and nice suits. Solo is incentivized through his love of the finer things in life (as we are told by Saunders) and such materialism Illya-the-socialist can't understand (like choosing dresses for Gabby at the Italian salon). Solo is also a man who is very proud, and being the CIA's best agent is an incredible bragging right for him that feeds his (substantial) ego. Now, what about the villain?
Rather like Severine (Berenice Marlohe) in Skyfall, Victoria seems to become "more natural" looking. The harsh black and white we see her wearing in her first scenes contrasts sharply with the last time we see her on the fishing boat, just before she dies. Victoria, as the villain, wears black and white because that communicates she is the ULTIMATE villain: there are no redeeming qualities about her whatsoever. The negative symbol of white is a corpse, because a body turns white when it is dead, so a person who lacks faith, purity and innocence is dead in their soul; a villain wearing black means they are dead to all the virtues and the requirements of the afterlife, which we know Victoria does believe in (she mentions her dead husband's soul), she just isn't preparing herself for it. If this seems like I am grafting my own religious beliefs onto a villain, please, recall, the iconic nature of the yellow poster at the top of the post, as well as the final shot of the film being in Rome, with the team surrounded by churches. In the middle image, Victoria and her husband both wear sunglasses, and we can interpret them being "under erasure" just as Solo with his glasses as he goes to the checkpoint at the Berlin Wall: whereas Solo "saw more" because of his blindness indicated by the glasses, because these are villains, and they lose, their glasses indicate they are, indeed, blind to the attack that is coming and the ends to which they will be pursued to be stopped. Now, let's discuss the bottom image, when Solo tells Victoria he killed her husband; did he? No, Solo didn't kill him, Illya did, so is Solo lying? No, he's not. As is true throughout the film, what happens in this scene links us to a different scene in the film: the bomb they send is going to "penetrate" the boat and erupt, so there is a strong sexual connotation here, as when Victoria showed up at Solo's hotel room, hoping to catch that he had broken into her atomic bomb vault, and they ended up having sex. That act of adultery and infidelity is when Solo "killed" her husband because Victoria wasn't faithful to him although she acts like she was in this final phone call. But on a different note, the scene Solo does describe does fit with Uncle Rudy did: beg and plead for his life and offer to turn anyone over for his own safety. This "substitution" between the Italian playboy and Nazi "doctor" reveals how Victoria, an English woman who should know better, "married" herself to the Nazi cause and became, what Sanders refers to as, "the real fanatic." Again, when Solo tells her about her husband being dead, she swears upon her husband's soul; if her husband has a soul, so does everyone else in the world, so why does she care so little about all the other souls she is planning on threatening with annihilation? Elitism. Like with most socialists, the rules don't apply to them: us "little people" don't have souls, only a certain elite do, and they can do whatever they want (we also saw this in The Kingsman the Secret Service). Lastly, Victoria being on the phone in this last scene, links her to being on the phone in the scene in the top image, when she bamboozled Solo and slipped him a mickey so he would pass out; in the last scene, Solo causes Victoria to loose consciousness of what is happening as they trace her call and launch the bomb at her boat, so Solo settles the score with her.
Why does a nice little girl like Victoria want a nuclear warhead? Endless power. No one could possibly defend themselves from a nuclear weapon at this point in history, so the whole world would be her hostage. What would her demands be for not blowing up parts of the world? What are her demands for not giving Nazis still living in South America the power to return to power and take over the world the way they started in World War II but couldn't finish? Money, luxury, slaves, that kind of thing, but there is a point Ritchie is making far more important than which is why the film doesn't go into her motivation for getting a bomb: she has employed former Nazis--not just the ones in "name only" like Gabby's father Dr. Teller--but the nastiest Nazi she could find, Uncle Rudy (the "other man" from the "other U.N.C.L.E., the choice people have today; do you want Solo and Illya, or do you want Uncle Rudy?) who was the Butcher of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the 5th Horseman of the Apocalypse.
So, let's talk about Uncle Rudy.
This is an incredibly dramatic and disturbing scene and how it plays out, because it's meant to be. Again, Ritchie links this scene to earlier in the film when Solo approaches Illya's wrecked car and decides not to go and "finish him off" in case he didn't survive the wreck. Rudy starts out by giving Solo a "taste" of the torture that is to come, then prepares to finish him off; in-between, we get Uncle Rudy's autobiography; why? For at least two reasons. First, Ritchie wants to make it perfectly clear that people who become socialists/communists (because they are the same things, regardless of what they say about each other, and Ritchie verifies this when Sanders is listening to President John F Kennedy on the television in the safe house before talking to Solo) become communists, not from some higher ideal, not from a desire to help people or be enlightened, but because they themselves are mediocrities, just like Rudy, but they want to pass themselves off as being infinitely better than what they are; this turns them into someone who, in one way or another, will work to destroy humanity, individually and collectively, just like Rudy killing people. The second reason is to demonstrate that, either we can have The Man From UNCLE (Solo and Illya) or we can have Uncle Rudy (socialism and communism). On a different note, when Uncle Rudy shows Solo the page that will be reserved for a photograph in Rudy's archive of pain and torture, he promises Solo that it will be preserved in Kodachrome; ironically, Kodachrome, like the uranium enrichment process Dr. Teller devises in the film, suffered from a tedious process that eventually led to it being completely replaced. However, the point is, the brilliance of Kodachrome Uncle Rudy wants was invented by capitalists, not socialists, and George Eastman, who invented the Kodak company, was poor and just as average as Rudy was growing up, but Eastman wanted to do something positive for the world, unlike Rudy. Because of Eastman's invention of the Kodak film for cameraa, the world changed for everyone--not just the rich--and for the better; because of Rudy's torture inventions, the world changed for the worse, because then we could see how base and cruel humanity could treat other human beings. The "glitch" with the electric chair that figures so prominently in this scene and Uncle Rudy dying by one of his own inventions, is really like the Hand of God. Why does, when Solo and Illya see Rudy burning up in the chair, Solo says, "I left my jacket in there?" As Solo is pointing out, the good thing about the American government giving people like Solo himself a second chance--a part of himself is as bad as Rudy, because Solo was talking advantage of the World War to make a fortune in stolen art so there is a part of Solo just as bad as Rudy--but the bad thing about the American government is that sometimes it goes too far and someone even like Uncle Rudy could be given a second chance; Rudy being lit up and set on fire by his own invention, then, is like God intervening and deciding what will happen. We can't, however, overlook the terrible irony that happens in socialism/communism to those who support it: the very political machine they create often ends up being the instrument of their own destruction as well.  
If you noticed his sunglasses, he wears glasses that are both spectacles, and sunglasses, and by merely lifting the sunglasses up, he turns them into spectacles again. This is the key to understanding his character, that he sees things in "two different lights," and is able to alter how he looks at the world. Not having definite convictions about life, law or morality, he's ready and willing to offer up Victoria or anyone else to save his own skin later when Illya arrives and saves Solo. There is, however, a more disturbing trend we see in Uncle Rudy: food.
This isn't a great example, but it will at least allow me to point you in the direction of the circular painting within the gold, square frame behind Gabby as she dances in this scene. Later in the film, after Uncle Rudy has called her and she has agreed to meet him for lunch the next day, she calls Waverly's room and confirms the meeting, then the camera pulls back from her as she looks at herself in the mirror; what Gabby sees in herself is reflected by that painting in this image, a rendition of  The Judgement of Paris, but sexually reversed. In the scene when Gabby calls Waverly, British Intelligence is introduced as a "player" in the game, and Gabby has to "judge" between the three: Illya as Athena, the goddess of war (we see Illya playing chess in the image above, and he's always wanting to beat people up, like Count Lippi and friends), Solo as Aphrodite (he is always concerned about fine clothing and food and is always having sex) and Hera, symbolized by Waverly, who first took the "orphaned" Gabby under his wing and gave her instructions the way a mother might. Rather than Aphrodite winning this contest, as in the famous myth, it's Hera, because Gabby follows through with betraying Illya and Solo upon Waverly's behest. This is a "marginalia" device we have seen Ritchie use before as in Sherlock Holmes when Sir Thomas is in his fabulous copper bathtub: there is a painting of Saint Thomas Aquinas hanging on the wall of the room, and this is Ritchie's silent, marginalized commentary that, had Sir Thomas lived more like the Saint, rather than participating in ritualistic orgies, he wouldn't have found himself in the anti-Baptism state his bastard son trapped him in. Likewise, in The Man From UNCLE, we can see Ritchie making important comments in the margins of the film (in this case, the "writing on the wall," which is, ironically, the title of the theme song for the new James Bond film, Spectre). According to myth, Hera was actually more beautiful than Aphrodite, and she should have won the contest, but as the goddess of sexuality, Aphrodite revealed herself entirely to Paris and was also attended by the Graces to advance her cause. Now, we can go through the film and make arguments about why Gabby does or does not choose Solo or Illya, but just as Paris' judgment in favor of Aphrodite led to the eventual founding of Rome, where so much of the narrative takes place, so Gabby choosing Waverly leads to the founding of UNCLE: had Gabby gone with Solo or Illya, the Americans and Soviets would have edged the other out; with the British there, a concept of keeping "the team" together emerged, and that team wouldn't have existed without Gabby, and so in this way, because Waverly is the source of "birth" for UNCLE, he, again, can be linked metaphorically to Hera. Still within this scene, but on a different note, the song Gabby plays on the radio is Cry To Me by Solomon Burke; why is this important? Ritchie actually works the lyrics into the narrative: "Nothing can be sadder than a glass of wine alone," and later, the desk clerk knocks on Solo's door and brings him in a bottle of champagne, compliments of the hotel. "It's a fine bottle," Solo says, "it would be a shame to drink it alone," referring back to the song lyrics. Ritchie does this because it's a way of communicating something about Solo's character: he's lonely. Without the song playing earlier, we could rack Solo up to being just a womanizer--which he probably is--however, Ritchie softens that with Solo's invitation to the desk clerk being framed by the song Gabby plays on the radio.
There are three important instances of "food" involving Uncle Rudy: first, the caviar he eats while insulting Illya at the party, then the sugar cubes he stacks while talking to Gabby on the phone, and finally the green grape he peels the skin off when Gabby reveals Illya and Solo are intelligence agents. The caviar is easy to interpret, because we had seen the Countess telling Victoria she had been on a diet of caviar and champagne for three weeks; Rudy, then, eating the caviar is elitist of him, and his comment about their aristocratic blood, and Illya's being a "cart horse," reveals the aristocratic/elitist attitude most socialists have towards everyone. When Rudy stacks the sugar cubes, he does so in a pyramid, and we are reminded of how the ancient Egyptians enslaved the masses for their workforce (to build the pyramids) and paid them only with food, the same way the Soviets enslaved their own population enforced labor camps of the Gulag, like Mr. Kuryakin. Finally, the peeling off of the skin of the grape foreshadows what we will shortly see in Rudy's "memory book" and someone he skinned alive; why is this important? It demonstrates that the torture process effects every aspect of a person, and it can't be confined to the lab, it's going to reveal itself in everyday aspects of life, too.
What does Waverly mean, at Victoria's party, when Solo and himself are introduced, and Waverly says, "I noticed your trick with the tablecloth. Were you a waiter?" What is that supposed to mean? It means that Waverly knows how Solo took Gabby to the CIA safe house in West Germany, made her risotto with truffles and was then chewed out by Sanders because Gabby told Waverly everything. Waverly knows Solo is CIA, but Solo obviously does not know Waverly is MI6, so Waverly's comment truly throws off Solo who takes it for a insult. There is an interesting side note about Waverly contained in his files shown to the audience during the credits: not only was he an opium addict and alcoholic, but he was a second Earl of something-or-other but renounced the title. These two character notes, and that the tagline is "A higher class of hero," adds some commentary about what the upper-classes should be doing. Waverly's involvement with British Intelligence probably helped him overcome his substance addictions (even though we see him with what might be an opium pipe when they go to Instanbul). In comparing the Englishwoman Victoria  who married into the upper-classes and became a Nazi sympathizer, and Waverly who left the upper-classes to become a Nazi fighter, Ritchie seems to be signalling to all of the importance and inherent good of work, and choosing one's occupation to make the world a better place. I would also like to add that, previous to seeing the film, I made a prediction that I don't regret, which was that "Waverly" is a terrible name for a character because it suggests they are going to "waver" in their intentions and loyalty; since the film takes place in 1963, and that was the year the notorious Kim Philby was unmasked as a Soviet spy in MI6, I suspected that Waverly might, himself be unmasked to be a spy. Obviously, I was wrong about the Philby part, however, I think we can understand Waverly as "wavering" between being a lush and an Earl so choosing to be a member of MI6 instead. He obviously does a great job utilizing his talents and education for the good of his country, and the world, and I think Ritchie wants all of us to be aware of how much any one of us is capable of doing for humanity, or damage we are capable of doing to ourselves, if we fail to chose the proper path.
Because all of this is about people bringing back socialism: rich people employing Nazis to enslave the rest of the world for them is the message "under erasure" throughout The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Ritchie, if you noticed, gives quite a bit of time to a picture of Winston Churchill holding up the "V" for Victory sign, but today, it would stand for "Victoria" who, even though she is English and should know better, wants to enslave humanity. Which leads us to why we need Napoleon Solo.
This scene acts as a nod to Illya because Illya, we know, doesn't drink (he wouldn't drink vodka with Gabby) but everyone knows that Solo, a man of appetites, does drink, and that's why Victoria was confident he wouldn't refuse a drink. What's so sad is, Solo slips, "I've been here before and I hit my head," which is to say, a woman has slipped him a mickey in the past, and the last time it happened, he hit his head (he lost control of himself) and in "hurting himself," he probably really means he let someone get away and was accosted by Saunders for it. If you will, think back to Victoria's party, when Solo bumped into Waverly and stole his invitation; after Solo did that, he entered through the kitchen, and took a bite of something as he left; this act of eating links Solo to when Victoria comes to his hotel room and offers her a grape and she takes it: they have both entered into each other's "space" in order to advance their own ends  and the gesture of eating is meant to correlate the two scenes in the mind of the viewer so they can be compared. Let's talk about the color blue. Solo wears blue a lot in the film, and we know that blue is both the color of depression and the color of wisdom because the path of wisdom is that of sadness and misfortune, so Solo himself has experienced considerable sadness in life, but it has given him wisdom about how to handle himself, which is why he wears the blue suit and shirt. Because he failed to learn from his last mistake when he had a laced drink, he is on the blue couch, a significantly lighter shade of blue (less wisdom) than his suit; this is also why the pillow he rests his head upon is yellow, like the poster at the top of this post: he still retains his regal bearing, even though he has had a momentary set-back. The light blue, however, mirrors the light blue of Victoria's office chair, communicating that Victoria herself has had a share of sadness in life and obtained her own wisdom, however, it's not the kind of wisdom Solo has obtained; for the moment, she has the upper-hand. Solo laying upon his back, beneath Victoria, as she looks down upon him, is meant to foreshadow his death which Victoria has planned upon but which fails. It also, however, probably refers to what--or how--their sexual intercourse happened the night before: with Victoria on top directing events the way she wanted them to go. The next scene is Solo strapped into the electric chair; how does Illya know where to look for him? "I thought I found all your bugs," Solo tells him, and Illya responds, "But not the ones in your shoes." How did Illya know to put trackers in Solo's shoes? Again, our feet symbolize our will, and knowing that Solo is a man who likes to eat, drink, dress well and have lots of sex, Illya knew that such appetites would get Solo's will (his feet) into trouble. Remember when Solo takes Gabby to the safe house and gives her the risotto with truffles and she says, "It smells like feet!" "Expensive feet," he replies, and then  Sanders lectures him about they are not in the haberdasher business, and they don't pay him enough to put truffles in his risotto; Gabby and Sanders are linking the "feet" and appetites for expensive things together for us, the audience, in case we don't know it all ready. A clip that was cut from the film, but included in the trailer, is when Solo in his robe holds up a pair of woman's shoes and says, "Are these yours or mine?" meaning, "Was the idea for us to have sex your will or mine?" When Solo goes to Victoria's office, she has laced all of the drinks because she knows Solo will have a drink, regardless of which one it is. Now, earlier in the film, when Solo and Illya are trying to escape from the "satellite company" after having gone to look for the bomb, and Solo gets thrown off the boat and he climbs into that truck and helps himself to someone else's lunch, he lifts up his head and puts a large napkin in the neckline of his shirt to capture crumbs; as Solo raises his head, we see his throat completely bared and there is a tiny red spot on his neck, maybe a nick from shaving; we can be certain this was meant to be there because it would have been caught by the make up department if it wasn't. So, what do we make of this nick, on Solo's neck? Our throats/neck symbolizes what we are led by in life, like a collar and leash being put around us; the napkin Solo puts around his throat means he wants to eat up all the best things in life, and that nick means that he's cut himself on his appetites in the past (like when he tells Victoria, "I've been here before and I fell and hit my head") but he continues indulging rather than learning his lesson. Knowing how Solo enjoys life's finer things, Illya puts the tracker in Solo's shoes because he knows Solo's going to be led by his appetites into danger because Illya, as a communist, thinks all appetites are bad anyway; this is why we usually see Illya wearing a black turtleneck, to cover up his throat and the world's ability to leash him on some appetite that can be used against him, like vodka.
Why does Solo tell Victoria that only his mother calls him "Napoleon?" Because, in a very real sense, Victoria herself is his mother (artistically, not incestuously). Because there are criminals like Victoria, there are heroes like Solo who will "go to war" and "defend their country" just like Napoleon Bonaparte did for France. Victoria calling Solo "Napoleon" validates that she not only knows who he is, but that she knows he is at war with her. What about Illya and Solo towards the end of the film?
This scene proves what a good agent and all around guy Solo is. Earlier, when Solo warned Illya that he was going to be tested by being robbed to see if he fought back like a KGB agent, or didn't, Solo told Illya, "Take it like a pussy." In the scene above, when Solo allows himself to be punched by the security guard, Solo takes his own advice and takes it like a pussy. Why? Playing down his capabilities will make it easier for Victoria to trust him, he reasons, but he also wants to accentuate talents that will make her trust him even more, which is why he proceeds to rob her of her jewelry, so she will recognize that he is a thief like her. But is he a thief? Well, who else have we seen be called a thief lately? There is the little girl in The Book Thief, who really isn't a thief, and then there is Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, who is called a thief and charged with stealing back the Arkenstone from Smaug the dragon. Like Bilbo who is charged with stealing back something that was stolen from someone else, we can say the same of Solo: Dr. Teller, Gabby's father, was stolen from the US to build an atomic bomb that doesn't belong (through international law) to Victoria, so Solo is charged with stealing back what she stole. On a different note, it's in this scene that Solo pulls out a red, silky table cloth and uses it to wipe Victoria's cheek (of excess lipstick). Why? This identifies Victoria as a socialist because the nickname Solo gives to Illya is the "Red Peril," because red is the international color of socialism/communism, so Solo identifies her with the same ideology from which Illya comes from. So, why not keep the disc for America and use it to get ahead of the Russians? We'll discuss that below.
Solo has the disc and Illya is told to kill Solo if he has to in order to get it for Russia. Solo gives Illya his father's watch that had been stolen earlier in the film; why? The watch symbolizes history, but specifically, it symbolizes preserving the history of the Soviet Union; why? We have seen this in other films, for example, Ender's Game, when the forces symbolizing socialism are preserved by Ender, even though he was also the one who destroyed them (nearly). It's not just about a balance of power during the Cold War, it's about a continued balance of power against crony capitalism. Just because capitalism is supposed to act a certain way, doesn't mean that it does or will, and the threat of socialism cutting down capitalist corporations that abuse society is necessary for the protection of the world, and Solo returning Illya's watch to him symbolizes Solo's understanding and their mutual commitment to world preservation.
I haven't discussed Gabby too much, but this is a good time. As Gabby finally is brought face-to-face with her father, she's wearing an orange dress; why? If you will recall from another Guy Ritchie film, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, our discussion on that included a mysterious orange scarf that Holmes got out of seeming nowhere but wore across his shoulders as he attempted to track down Moriarty at the opera, which was a mistake. The scarf acts as commentary to reveal how "the game is afoot" enlivens Holmes; even though us mere mortals would interpret tracking down international criminals as a horrible burden to bear, it is what gives Holmes his very life's breath (recall at the start of Sherlock Holmes, when he's in his room in the dark, begging Watson to find a problem that he can solve because his mind needs the work). The scarf, then, symbolizes that this "game" in which the stakes are so high, is exactly what Holmes lives for and the burden for which he was born to bear (yes, there should be some Christ illusions being made here; please see Blitzchess & Chaos: Sherlock Holmes a Game of Shadows for more). Similarly, we can deduce something of the same about Gabby in this scene. The orange dress communicates to the careful viewer that she is ready and up to playing this game and she knows what she has to do; she's not exactly a lamb being sent to the wolves; another detail about her dress, however, is that the back is open, meaning that she will be "exposed" and indeed, she is, most noticeably when she creates the diversion so her father can put the wrong lens into the bomb so it will be (effectively disabled) but Victoria sniffs out the trick and locks Gabby up. Further, please notice the green color of the helicopter: that shade of green is important throughout the film. We first see it in the public men's restroom when Solo and Illya fight each other; the dress Gabby wears to meet her Uncle Rudy at Victoria's party is that shade of green and white and then the helicopter. Why? Green symbolizes there is hope in new life, or that something is rotten, like molded food in the fridge. In these scenes, the characters are being asked to use their free will towards the greater good so the world can be saved; if they don't, the world will be lost because they choose to be selfish rather than work together.
In the final scene, as the disc burns and the three of them have successfully saved the world, they are told the team is going to be kept together for another assignment. This is rather the moment of triumph in the film and what the yellow film poster at the start of the post is all about: in the Eternal City of Rome, surrounded by the churches and the Vatican in the background means they have been crowned with a victory greater than earthly victory (and this is a slam against Victor(y)ia and her agenda) because they have managed to become a higher class of hero, that is, a hero of the highest class, the eternal class. And we all know, there are no classes in socialism....
Gabby, by the end, is no longer "Gabby," rather, Gabrielle, the arch-angel after which she was named, and we can say this because she wears a white dress, meaning she is alive with the virtues of faith, hope and charity, and she wears double-rimmed eyeglasses, suggesting that, like Solo at the start of the film, she's "seeing more" than just what there is to be seen. The scratches on her arm, however, reveal that her apotheosis has come at a personal price: our arms symbolize strength and the wounds reveal that Gabby has been weakened even while she's victorious, the victory has cost her a great deal: she has no family left now. The bracelet she wears acts like a cuff, a handcuff, specifically, and it could be that, since it's on the same arm with her wounds, she is going to feel handcuffed to her past, either because her father and Rudy were Nazis, because they were her only family that has now died, or because she lived in communist East Berlin for so long,... or because of something else entirely different. What is it that Gabby Teller "tells" us in the film? "I'm not going back over that Wall." She mentions this several times, and that's because she is telling us, the audience, that because she doesn't want to go back to East Berlin, we shouldn't want to go back to East Berlin (socialist/communist rule) either.  The burning of Teller's computer disc, there on the round table, so no one would have that knowledge to become the world's most powerful country, as well as Illya's father's watch are closely tied to the scene when Illya and Gabby are in Rome and they are walking around and Gabby asks Illya to tell her about the steps they are at: Illya begins by saying the stairs are attributed to an Italian architect, but it was really a Russian architect who did them. This is re-writing history, also known as brainwashing, and it was rampant throughout the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc (my Russian history professor told us about going to the Hermitage, the Russian grand art museum, when it was first opened to the public--non-Russian citizens, that is--and she had a group of students there she was describing historical events to, and the Russian citizens were just as interested as the American students because they didn't know any of their country's real history, only what Stalin and others chose to feed them in the State written textbooks so they had to learn Russian history from an American). Anyway, Gabby's questioning of Illya about the son's and mother's ages reveals how deceptive Illya is being, but to Illya, he's being a Russian patriot and that is what matters most. In the satellite factory, when Illya mistakens the worker for the man who stole his father's watch, that mistake mirrors Illya's mistake about the stairs: the stairs aren't Russian, they are Italian, the watch isn't his, it's the other man's. Solo, because he is used to handling the sordid details of his own past and the harsh reality of the world, is able to recognize Illya's father's watch and the crook who stole it from him, so that is why Solo is able to discern the real watch (which is a symbol for history; to elaborate upon this point: as detailed above, Illya's father probably didn't actually embezzle Party funds, he was probably just sent to the Gulag as a part of the Purges, so that was a fake crime; Solo, however, was a real embezzler so he had committed real crimes and that is the discernment of reality which Solo has in his favor, unlike the illusions and fabricated truths the Soviet government expected their citizens to swallow [and we also read about in George Orwell's 1984]). Solo and Illya burning the disc means two things: first, in spite of "politics being what they are," the two agents have come to trust each other and rely on the other, which means they value one another, more so than the objective of their mission (to kill the other for the disc); secondly, they know that anyone who has the knowledge on the disc is not going to be able to keep it safe regardless of what security measures are taken to prevent it from being stolen, it will be stolen by a country/group that wants it for their own evil ends, and no country should have that kind of power in the world. 
In conclusion, I haven't even begun to touch upon everything that deserves analysis in the film, that would require numerous posts, however, I hope this small introduction will alert you to some of the devices and strategies employed to deepen our understanding of the film's message and the characters used to convey that message.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner
I felt compelled to take a moment and mention this outfit Victoria wears when she goes to Solo's hotel room. Again, we could interpret her vest as the color black, but I am more confident that using it as a means of erasure will prove more rewarding. The blouse she wears is quite feminine with its ruffles and stylized sleeves; the vest she wears (and Solo himself wears vests, so she's juxtaposing herself against him in this masculine attire) is made of  what looks like crocodile skin. If we employ erasure, then the masculine vest puts the feminine blouse under erasure, suggesting that she isn't feminine at all, but merely uses it as a disguise for her more masculine aggression. Victoria isn't feminine then, she is quite masculine. Why does she wear so many jewels? Well, it's probably the same as a page from Uncle Rudi's scrapbook he shows Solo: Rudi was very ordinary, and that ordinariness, or mediocrity, caused him to become bitter about not having a (real) skill or (real) talent so, like all mediocrities, he became a socialist and joined the Party and took out his mental illness on innocent people. Victoria, likewise, was probably a mediocrity and poor, but rose to wealth in her marriage and due to her insecurities, she wears lots of jewels, replacing genuine self-confidence and esteem with materialism. Like Rudi, she has every intention of making innocent people pay for her mental unbalance and appetite for revenge.