PopMatters: Wild Wild Country

My most recent column at PopMatters is here. After being emotionally and ideologically messed with (in a good way) by the documentary Wild Wild Country, I had to write about Bill Calahan’s song “Drover,” how it’s used in the film, and the many layers of meaning and response–which, like the film, kept expanding. Here’s an excerpt:

From one perspective, by mixing “Drover” underneath images of radar towers, immigration officers with machine guns, and the recollections of law enforcement officials, directors (and brothers) Maclain and Chapman Way show how nature’s formidable supremacy has been replaced today by the authority of the state. Law, not nature, will be the crucible faced by Rajneesh and his self-exiled followers. That’s how the sequence feels, even if the lyrics don’t line up. The judgment of the state is in the relentless strumming of the guitar and the immovable force that is Callahan’s voice.

Then again, take the lyrics at face value and the outcome is even more disturbing: Rajneesh, his loyal supporters, and his alienated followers in Germany are the cattle being rustled up by the feds who now sing the song. The state has conquered nature, risen above it. For I am, in the end, the state, and when my cattle turn on me, I am the state double-fold.

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