December 8, 2015

A Traffic Controller on Crossroads: Sappho Hits the Streets

You've seen movies about army generals, navy seals, air force pilots, marines, cops, firemen. But have you ever seen one about a crossing guard? If the North Korean propaganda film A Traffic Controller on Crossroads is to be believed, this uniformed human stoplight wields quite a bit of power and, when inspired by socialist fervor, enforces the letter of the law to everyone's benefit. So while you might first characterize the new, 23-year-old captain at Post 15 as a humorless, unyielding tool of the system, you eventually come to realize that every punishment she exacts serves a greater good.

No one should be slapped on the wrist for speeding or driving in the wrong lane or parking in a no parking zone. When one knows the law and one breaks the law one should be penalized to the max. Otherwise, what's the point in having the law? Once people discover that rules that are unbending, they will find everything else in their lives falls into place, too. Long-delayed marriages will take place; sons will be reconciled with their worried mothers; explosives will be delivered to the mines despite the rain. Hours may be long and conditions may be grim but you can always attend a gymnastics exhibition or catch a children's chorus singing a song about a zebra killed while crossing the road in the wrong spot. (No tears for the dead zebra, please. He didn't cross the street where he should have!)

Also distinguishing A Traffic Controller on Crossroads is the lesbian longing that seems to run under much of the action. The captain's underlings look at their leader, like schoolgirls with crushes; a glance to a former schoolmate across a gymnasium floor suggests the love that dares not speak its name. The men here are boys to be taken care of by wiser women. The women literally direct the action.

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