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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

J. Edgar

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial masterpiece is a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover (1895 - 1972) with Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role.  Hoover directed the Federal Bureau of Investigation for 48 years and, according to the film, was a virtual demigod, a hybrid of a government servant who served his own ego above all.
 
The film shows aspects of American history few are probably familiar with such as the Palmer Raids carried out under the direction of Attorney General Alexander Palmer, “The Fighting Quaker” to qualm activities of anarchists, real (bombings did occur) or perceived, between 1919 and 1921. It was one of the first times the Justice Department acted against theoretical threats and ideas, something that Hoover would continue using illegal wiretaps and other means to protect the country as he thought was needed.
 
Hoover saw socialism and communism everywhere.
 
Much of the film is dedicated to the kidnapping of the 18-month old son of Charles (Josh Lucas) and Ann Morrow Lindberg and the scorn with which the New Jersey State Police treated Hoover’s belief in forensic science to solve crimes. If there is one thing that Hoover did that remains a huge civil and cultural influence today, it is in the area of forensics. There would be no CSI or legal programs without his groundbreaking work in forensics and centralizing the data.  Ideally, this kind of information could catch criminals as well as, hypothetically, clear the innocent. He also envisioned a national identity card, though even today, this idea is not acceptable to U.S. Citizens because of privacy issues. To Hoover, his vision of national security tempted the Constitution and all civil rights.
 
The film shows Hoovers close relationship with his secretary of more than fifty years, Helen Gandy (Naomi Watts). He trusted her above everyone as some say because they were both “married” to the Bureau. She destroyed many files upon his death and insisted none were official, though Hoover was known to have kept personal files on many people. He best friend and colleague was Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer), with whom some think Hoover had a homosexual relationship. Tolson was Hoover’s deputy and they took vacations together; neither married. No one knows for sure what Hoover’s sexual orientation was, he was most certainly repressed, but the film seems to represent that his mother (Judy Dench) had a dominant influence on him in all ways and deterred him from a sexual relationship with a man. He lived with his mother until her death.
 
The story is told in a non-linear style, moving back and forth between the years, editing the young and aging the characters in an almost seamless fashion.  The film is surely going to be recognized for make-up and costume design.
 
DiCaprio is brilliant, as usual, and inhabits his character completely. Armie Hammer as Tolson often tries to reign in Hoovers zeal, and is a loyal yet vulnerable friend though Hoover’s fastidious pride almost never allows empathy. The script by Dustin Lance Black is complex and crisp.
 
Eastwood’s vision is interesting because he is commenting on American individualism taken to the extreme of almost unbridled power that neither elected or appointed government officials could regulate.
  Eastwood never strays far from the Western myth and the consequences of accepting it without question.


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Giles: Despite the fact that much about St. Giles is shrouded in mystery, we can say that he was one of the most popular saints in the Middle Ages. Likely, he was born in the first half of the seventh century in southeastern France. That is where he built a monastery that became a popular stopping-off point for pilgrims making their way to Compostela in Spain and the Holy Land.<br /><br />In England, many ancient churches and hospitals were dedicated to Giles. One of the sections of the city of Brussels is named after him. In Germany, Giles was included among the so-called 14 Holy Helpers, a popular group of saints to whom people prayed, especially for recovery from disease and for strength at the hour of death. Also among the 14 were Sts. Christopher, Barbara and Blaise. Interestingly, Giles was the only non-martyr among them. Devotion to the "Holy Helpers" was especially strong in parts of Germany and in Hungary and Sweden. Such devotion made his popularity spread. Giles was soon invoked as the patron of the poor and the disabled.<br /><br />The pilgrimage center that once drew so many fell into disrepair some centuries after Giles' death. American Catholic Blog The ascension is about the final reunion of what appeared to be separated for a while: earth and heaven, human and divine, matter and Spirit. If the Christ is the archetype of the full human journey, now we know how it all resolves itself in the end. “So that where I am, you also will be” (John 14:3).

 
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