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SCRIPTS FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY: 1917, A HIDDEN LIFE AND JOJO RABBIT

SCRIPTS FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY:  1917, A HIDDEN LIFE AND JOJO RABBIT

Allegedly dealing with wars and conflicts of the previous century…

1917

An opening shot: two men talking, by a tree.

And the final shot: Schofield alone, by another tree.

The gap opened by loss and death

Beyond the bridge created by a promise made and kept.

The family photograph: a welcome artifact that bespeaks other layers of life.

Other times, other places.

A narrative and visual technique that forces the “groaning ground” (to use the word of the script) on us. Its weight and unfriendly texture, its traps and deceptive shapes.

The elements take center stage, and reclaim the ground left by humans.

The overall destruction of the land and the lunar landscape betray what humanity is doing to itself.

Green pastures suddenly appear on screen and take on an unreal dimension: are they the gentle meadows of our dreams and aspirations?

Can the cherry trees of the orchard cut to the ground grow again? What is the collateral damage inflicted by war to the soul and its blossoms?

The earth is littered with human limbs and covered with severed hopes. Life surrenders to death.

The collective madness and the individual choices still at hand.

The lack of leadership: some want the fight anyway,

Other try to rescue dignity and honesty from the clutch of human blindness or arrogance or despair.

The toll enacted on the body and the soul runs a deadly tab.

The individual’s reluctance to kill runs counter to the diktats of war,

And devises strategies of retreat put to the test when the enemy is encountered, and retaliates mercilessly.  

Yet the family picture on the bunk bed is what is left of the enemy’s presence, like some afterthought of love.

The supernatural scenes in the ruins: the theatre of war, its madness rendered through the light bleeding through a cacophony of sounds.

The chase takes on allegorical dimensions: a landscape of the mind, with the intrusion of fear and anger, of pain and trauma?

The encounter with the woman and the little girl: real, or fantasized?

The singing line provides a welcome interlude in the pervasive commotion and auditory hysteria.

The military beyond the ideological machine: individual stories and comradeship before fear and weariness return.

Pawns on the big chessboard of power trying to play their own move, and survive?

History will tell.

The jump in the water: a reminder of Skyfall,

The river scene: full immersion and rebirth, a pagan baptism,

And a mission accomplished indeed.

Schofield alias WW1 James Bond

A moment of relief.

The movie combines many codes and genres (the thriller, the buddy movie, the war movie) to orchestrate a powerful plea against war

And pay tribute to humanity as it survives through acts of Love.

A HIDDEN LIFE

The camera work, the soundtrack, the ability of cinema to conjure up visually powerful scenes.

The parallel editing, an occasional dream-like quality and mood.

The appeal to the senses

The magic of moving images on screen.

The increasing darkness, the gathering clouds.

The mountains and the farm scenes

The jail scenes and the trial scenes

The newsreel scenes.

Shouting, heard or just mimicked; angry faces,

Torture and intimidation.

The judge and Franz: “do you judge me?”

The unflinching decision, the iron will.

The well running dry back home.

People’s meanness, and retaliation.

Scapegoating.

Former friends turn against you

While others show mercy.

Acts of gratuitous love: giving food away even when you are starving.

Voices trying to use all arguments to make you surrender.

 “I feel I cannot do what I feel is wrong”

Declaring a separate truth from hatred.

Love redeemed. Redemptive love.

Those who have eyes, may they see.

Those who have ears, may they hear.

JOJO RABBIT

The subtitle on the script provides a guiding hand through the bold scenes : an anti-hatred satire.

The youth camp.

Forms of bullying and hazing

Peer pressure.

The inoculation of hatred.

The caricatures, and the reality.

Ideas are formed and upheld,

Prejudices generate caricatures, and more.

As Elsa tells Jojo: “you just want to belong to a club”.

Yet Jojo takes a chance on other being another human being.

Befriends the avowed enemy.

Questions arise, and can no longer be silenced.

Individual resistance:

“what did they do?””They did what they could”.

The mother keeps her secret, the son begins to wonder and think.

Elsa and the mother, in the shadow of the lost sister Inge.

The single loyal friend, the buddy, confider and supporter.

Captain K: how to make do with evil when you still have goodness in you.

A mother’s love despite it all.

A dance, a bike ride, and then a hanging.

A brutal epiphany in its wake.

The allegorical scene of destruction ushers us into another register.

The tonal shift signals a different agenda

The landscapes of our nightmares and the daily images of warfare on the Internet overlap with the fiction of the movie.

Questions arise for us too.

What can we do to avert the destruction engineered by our contemporary hatreds? And protect the Jojos and Elsas of our times,

Jojo’s final kick to the imaginary friend turned bully: a deliverance.

Love of the other prevails over a desire to possess and control.

The legacy of his mother’s altruism lives on in Jojo’s own act of compassion.

It is up to him to free the caged rabbit. And he will.

The movie is likely to end on a dance, off stage, after the credits. Elsa’s desire was to dance to celebrate her recovered freedom and life.

Satire and beyond, the film has risked bold and original steps to perform for us an unusual dance. Let’s imagine music to it. And leap on.

Marie Lienard-Yeterian

OF DREAMS AND MORE: PROXIMA AND LITTLE WOMEN

OF DREAMS AND MORE: PROXIMA AND LITTLE WOMEN

PROXIMA

An exercise in distance and proximity.

Being close, or far.

People in orbit, planets to be discovered

In the infinity of space, in the infinity of the human heart.

Training in spite of different forms of inevitable and unrelentless obstacles.

Taming fear, and guilt. 

A sense of discipline and purpose.

Tapping against glass ceilings, expected and unexpected.

A fine balance, losing your gravity when unmoored from your usual habitat.

What is the nature of our attachments? What happens when they get in the way?

Loyalty to others, and to oneself: defying gravity.

A mother and a daughter,

A daughter and a father. 

A family, and what makes it comes together, and mean something.

A dream deferred, and retrieved.

Other dreams in its wake, articulated, acknowledge and acted upon.

A promise made and kept.

The movie provides a reservoir of images and metaphors to address the theme of motherhood—biological and other.

The mystery of delivery, the wonder of birth (s)

Beyond what the body can imagine for the light years of our inventive distances.

LITTLE WOMEN

The discussion and conversation on and around writing

And finding a voice.

To be empowered by a passion of your own making.

Question of authorship and identity.

Family and belonging:

Women’s agency or lack thereof outside marriage,

Romantic love and its ideal(s), or illusion(s).

To be in enamored with some idea of the beloved at hand, rather than his/her actual reality.

Blindness and sefl-delusion.

But awareness eventually wins the day.

The discussion(s) with the publisher: closing the loop, perhaps bringing some closure to the writer’s journey. Her growth and transformation. A trial of self-assertion and honesty.

Sisterhood as a lifelong commitment and achievement.

The dreams entailed in our family attachments.

The role models we find, and those we become.

The figure of the aunt: indomitable and unforgiving.

A form of resilience, or a calling?

Laurie’s grandfather and his own loss:

The emotional intimacy of the piano sequence when Meg’s music conjures up his beloved daughter.

The fine texture of our emotional lives, the occasional rupture which has to be mended with care and patience.

The Civil War and its theatre of destruction and horror. is evoked indirectly.

No actual battle scenes,

Yet there are allusions to the forms of terror generated by the antebellum South, in particular the horror of slavery.

The aesthetic and visual power of the movie.

The artistic design created by the bold narrative technique.

The flashbacks/use of fiction in fiction, like a mise en abyme: some scenes appear unreal, and turn the script into a self-reflective process.

Some scenes (such as the school with the pupils) are poised between fiction and reality, providing a welcome and nurturing space for the viewer to take his/her own stand as to what is imagined or real, possible and achievable. On screen and in life.

OTHER CONTEXTS, OTHER DREAMS

FRANKIE

The theatricality of the actress’s gestures

The setting like a stage

Individual portraits

The landscape and its metaphoric undertones

The folklore and the legend, the fountain and the miraculous waters.

A young girl initiated into the fragility of life and the transiency of things.

The vulnerability of the body, and the unquenchable thirst of the soul.

A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK

A series of theatrical scenes: the reference to Shakespeare (very much like the reference to T. Williams in Jasmine Perfume)

And New York as a wonderful protagonist, or witness!

The landscape of the mind: rain and sadness.

Mini dramas

Witty dialogues, good and bold lines.

Ambition and jealousy,

The fragility of some loyalties.

The naïveté, yet the desire to explore an unexpected opportunity.

Cheating and honesty.

Our flaws and our redemptive dimensions.

In Arthur Miller’s image, our fragile galaxies of endless possibility.

Marie Lienard-Yeterian

SHOW AND TELL: BOMBSHELL AND GARABANDAL

SHOW AND TELL: BOMBSHELL AND GARABANDAL

Recent releases have given us much food for thought in terms of revisiting human agency.

Little Women and Bombshell might first come to mind as these two films constitute powerful tributes to women’s empowerment and resilience.

Another pairing opens other lines of inquiry to consider how committed cinema can be rebranded as a form of moral ecology that questions regimes of abusive power.

In Bombshell and Garabandal, the viewer discovers women who struggle with powerful institutions that hijack truth and reality. Mechanisms of coercing and silencing work to undermine the action of individuals who strive to balance loyalty, accountability and responsibility. Whether they cover the news or testify to a religious experience, these women bear witness to a version of reality that challenges and disturbs established forms of authority. Their individual mission collides with the collective agenda, and pries open ruling ideologies. Yet, their words are distorted and weakened; their influence is undermined, their testimonies are dismissed. People around them lack of courage to stand with them even as they see and know that they are right. A few engage in blatant lies to invalidate their work, more turn a blind eye.

Some victory comes at a cost, but the complete happy ending is deferred.

It will be up to the viewer to find some closure, and peace.

These films celebrate individual courage and boldness. They invite the viewer to consider the power of cinema as a tool to investigate the challenges of present by revisiting past events, and consider the tragic legacy of intimidation and fear, silence and hypocrisy, complacency and ignorance.  

Perhaps they function as truth-telling mechanisms when news has become fake, and fiction no longer is where you expect it to be.

AN UNLIKELY ADDITION: KNIVES OUT

A gothic house and its gallery of grotesque characters

Suspense and reversals. Creaky steps and a dark park. Terror with the spice of humor, horror with the buffer of wit.

Daniel Craig, alias James Bond, presides over a script which stages moral conflicts where good prevails without compromising itself.

And where enjoying a cup of coffee with the right mug in the right hand on the right balcony provides happy vantage point and felicitous denouement.

OF FOOLS AND LAUGHTER: PARASITE AND JOKER

Parasite

Ralph Ellison and Invisible Man.

The underdog has retreated underground

The gradual tension

Water rising and flooding everything, washing everything and everyone away

Like anger suddenly unleashed.

Destructive and relentless.

A sense of place, the use of space as character:

The apartment

Stairways and trapdoors

The cellar.

The exploration of the dark recesses of the mind

The descent into Madness, the vaults of the human psyche.

People going up and down the stairs

Missing each other or bumping into each other.

Lines sketching different courses of action of actions

Frames within frames.

Patterns emerge, colors clash, emotions collide.

The intrusion of the supernatural

The stone: the parasite?

Or is the parasite the rich man who lives off the back of the poor?

The pervasive sense of threat

The smell you cannot wash off: the place where you belong and where you are brought back too relentlessly and cruelly.

The poor who are constantly thrown back into their reality

The poor who are seen and treated as garbage.

The uncanny child’s gaze and gift of intuition

His ability to decipher the invisible present

His own trauma

The former maid: “I have forgotten something in the cellar”….

Something, someone.

Living on the edge, living on the border.

The political dissident that has to hide.

All those who have to go into hiding.

Resentment and bitterness

And the sudden eruption of violence.

The gesture of contempt that triggers the rage

People and things turn around

And the current balance is thrown off-balance.

The party turns bloody

The tomahawk that was supposed to be used for fun is now used for real!

The dogs feed off the meat on the spike that has been used as a weapon.

The laughter at the end: as a result of the trauma/the concussion?

Laughing in the face of terror and horror?

The Fool’s laughter? Erasmus and In Praise of Folly?

The revenge of the helpless against the powerful?

The open-ended finale: “I have a plan”

The sense of a warning issued somewhere, sometime.

JOKER

The grotesque behind the farcical mask.

The freak turned wise expresses the ills of society:

Erasmus and his In Praise of Folly, again?

The Fool denounces the hypocrisy of the Court

While negotiating urban violence and other emotional jungles.

And his own existential fall and mental collapse.

The De Niro character is on the other side of the fence of law and order,

Yet the Travis of Taxi Driver is conjured up:

His gaze and dreams

And the theme of vigilante violence.

The play with the guns, rehearsing an act of violence,

And performing it relentlessly, without a break.

The image of urban warfare,

And collective madness as an expression of fear and anger.

The subway scene and the overall sense of danger and threat,

NYC as the new Frontier.

Nothing can protect you: the shooting of Wayne and his wife in a dark alley.

The gradual sense of being ostracized and estranged.

A growing sense of resentment and bitterness as a result of being treated unfairly.

The slow descent into something that cannot be named.

The scene at the gate: who is behind bars?

The real intention behind the farce.

Keeping a happy face through it all: HAPPY!

When the buffoon confesses his crime, he is not taken seriously.

To the psychiatrist he issues a warning: “You do not listen”…

Another bloody act to make his point.

What does it take for people to hear the punch line?

Marie Lienard-Yeterian

Star Wars : The Rise of Skywalker (J.J. Abrams, 2019)

Un récit suspendu, étiré, sur plusieurs générations. Celles de ses spectateurs. Celles de ses acteurs. Ce qu’on pourrait voir comme un mythe. Une histoire qu’on a suivi autant qu’elle a suivi l’histoire de la second moitié du XXième siècle, un compagnon de route pour un temps d’abondance, d’apaisement et d’espoir.

Il est donc question d’espoir, encore, toujours, et de temps. Et de comment voyage l’espoir à travers le temps. Il est question d’un récit, dont on a suivi les méandres pour remonter à ses sources, puisqu’il y avait un début, un avant, et dont on attendait l’aboutissement, puisqu’il devait y avoir une fin.

Comment conclure? Que faire d’un tel monument, si cher au cœur de celles et ceux dont il a accompagné les rêves? Que faire de ce fantôme qui refuse de mourir mais dont les artifices sont devenus bien trop évidents, bien trop visibles? Que faire de ces marionnettes et de ces maquettes immenses, abandonnées dans une galaxie lointaine? Quel temps peut bien digérer ce paradoxe d’un monde désuet et pourtant nécessaire?

Parler d’espoir ; on a en toujours parlé. Toujours compter sur un coup de chance, sur une faille impossible, dans les situations les plus désespérées. Trouver la fracture, monter un plan, le voir échouer, improviser, espérer et triompher. Ce sont les valeurs simples que Star Wars tisse à travers trois trilogies et quarante-deux années. C’est l’héritage et le message que nous transmet ce long récit, au moment de se conclure.

The Rise of Skywalker sera, pour toute la génération de la première et de la seconde trilogie, le dernier Star Wars. C’est la chambre des jouets sur laquelle on jette un dernier regard avant de refermer la porte. Comment conclure, sans basculer dans le clin d’œil mélancolique ou la répétition? Comment boucler la boucle? En la faisant boucler, dans l’idéal d’un temps qui a subitement perdu sa linéarité, qui s’est arrêté pour faire des trois trilogies un cycle noué par une cohérence nouvelle.

Et Star Wars de devenir ce qu’il était déjà devenu: l’histoire d’un temps suspendu, où les morts ne meurent plus, où les générations se confrontent, où les ennemis perdurent, où l’histoire bégaie, mais où l’espoir perdure à l’infini.

Un dernier regard, pour se dire que tout a toujours été là, et restera là où cela doit être. Maintenant c’est passé. Le temps est réconcilié, il peut repartir, laissant derrière lui ses héros et ses batailles. En nous transmettant l’espoir.

Je referme la porte, et je descends à pas silencieux le grand escalier qui grince.

STAR WARS, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: SHAKESPEARE REDUX

STAR WARS, THE RISE OF SKYWALKER : SHAKESPEARE REDUX

Two heroes:

One reclaiming his family, and going home after all.

One rejecting her ancestors, and finding a new home after all.

Ghosts and apparitions.

The intrusion of the supernatural instead of just the magic of science fiction.

The space opera takes a Shakespearean turn:

The visit of a Hamlet-like father claiming the son back, away from the dark side;

The mother conjuring up Ben out of Kylo Ren.

The ingredients of tragedy:

Conflicts and dilemmas, hesitations and choices, murders and sacrifices.

Human passions at war with themselves

Courage and fear, forgiveness and resentment, anger and peace.

A departure from the technological and robotic galore.

An episode clearly refocusing on what makes the human story an epic one: Journeys undertaken to articulate an identity for yourself even if it means rejecting your original bloodline,

Or to uphold your name (some viewers might remember John Proctor in The Crucible)

Or to claim one.

Against all odds, and expectations,

Reverse the course of destiny,

And turn flaws into strengths.  

The blood family and the family you create through loyalty and fighting for the common good.

Betrayals and intrigues conjuring up Macbeths and other Richards or Iagos of the Dark Side.

With the occasional lightness of Twelfth nights and porter scenes comic relief.

Shouts and murmurs, whispers and screams.

Hands that kill, or give life.

Rey and Kylo Ren: twins of some sort after all—a dyad in the Force.

Romeo and Juliet-like, fighting on the same side, after all,

Delivering a better world for others.

Together.

Death held at bay by Love,

An ultimate sacrifice and gift.

A life redeemed, after all.

The urgency of ethical imperatives clearly situated against the backdrop of our overall moral bankruptcy.

Enter natural elements and climatic protagonists:

Glaciers, lush forests or raging seas.

Tempests to come, and be feared.

Tiny humans strut and fret about the stage in the face of an adversity greater than what they can imagine—with or without the stars, other players that have their exits and entrances.

The proper scale of our humanity in the galaxy,

Brief candles that can be put out indeed.

And the proper measure of our greatness too: mercy, compassion and Love,

And their sound and fury

Signifying something.

Marie Lienard-Yeterian

Artificiel

« Plus de Fruits, plus d’arbres, plus de légumes, plus de plantes pharmaceutiques ou non et par conséquent plus d’aliments, mais des produits de synthèse à satiété, dans des vapeurs, dans des humeurs spéciales de l’atmosphère, sur des axes particuliers des atmosphères, tirées de force et par synthèse aux résistances d’une nature qui de la guerre n’a jamais connu que la peur. »

Antonin Artaud, Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieu, 1947
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Algorithme

A la multitude des langues humaines s’est progressivement, au fil de l’histoire, surimposée une seconde discussion, dans une langue plus abstraite, moins riche, mais d’une puissance magique: le langage des mathématiques. Les nombres et les opérations qu’ils rendent possible sont aujourd’hui les supports, les véhicules ou les justifications de la quasi-totalité des interactions et des transactions humaines, qu’elles soient digitales, narratives ou physiques. Leur omniprésence et l’immensité des possibles qu’ils ont ouverts rendent vertigineuse la pensée que leur existence est historique, qu’ils sont une invention culturelle dont le développement et la diffusion ont été progressives, et ne sont stabilisés, dans ses principes fondamentaux, que depuis quelques centaines d’années (le 0 se répand en Europe, vers le Xème siècle, les nombres négatifs sont acceptées très tardivement, entre le XVIIIème et le XXème siècle).

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD

The movie invites a reflection on the conversation between literature and cinema—their respective narrative tools, their common agenda. Their mutual inspiration. Creative and ingenious kindred spirits.
The title has a programmatic ring in that regard: the formulaic opening of the fairy tale coupled with the evocation of the iconic cradle of cinema.
Hollywood: the place where literature morphed into film, perhaps.

Once upon a time tales began and ended.
Once upon a time characters were born and died.
Once upon a time plots were done and undone.
Once upon a time lines were written, and uttered or forgotten.
Once upon a time the world was a stage, the stage was a world.
Once upon a time images and words competed for power.
Once upon a time dreams and nightmares wove in and out of reality their texture of emotions and desires.

A number of literary texts appear: Tess, a biography of Walt Disney, a dime novel, Hamlet. Some of them gesture toward tragedy, others to comedy. Connecting the dots between the two, perhaps.
Hamlet is conjured up in Dick’s soliloquy in his lodge:
The loneliness and the actor’s insecurity,
1960’s countercultural ideals and icons haunting the dreaded ghost, maybe…
Enter Parody and Satire, and Elizabethan fools.

Of note: the voice over, and the precise chronology with dates and times, like a well-rounded play. A drama unfolds to reach a climax, with a witty punch-line, an open-ended finale, and a reversal: terror and horror provides the unexpected opportunity Dick has been dreaming of…

The precise evocation of 1969 Hollywood: its icons and revolutionary spins.
The music, movies, television series and shows of an era that spawned Hippy culture and the Vietnam War.

Playing with the viewer’s expectations about suspense:
Hitchcock-like moments (Sharon at the movies, we expect something bad to happen to her), the car on the road, the trip to the ranch, and the encounter with a blind man that watches his favorite show every evening.

Rehearsing the grotesque mode on screen:
Kubrick’s Doctor Strangelove in the scene with the Germans?
The Coen Brothers’ Burn after Reading or Fargo?
Tarantino’s own films?
Violence laced with comedy, and the other way around.

How to become a hero on screen or on the page?
The importance of readers and viewers.
The communal act of making a movie, and watching it.
The narrative voice: who gets to tell the tale.

Once upon a time the story of film as a lieu de mémoire—a site of memory bodying forth Scheherazades for our era.

Marie Liénard-Yeterian

Free Solo (J. Chin, E. Chai Vasarhelyi, 2018), First Man (D. Chazelle, 2018)

C’est un mystère ancien, dont nous avons fait un mythe. Quelle force pousse certains d’entre nous à désirer si fort l’inaccessible, au point d’y consacrer toutes leurs ressources, de sacrifier à leur obsession tout ce qui les relient à la communauté des humains ? Pourquoi acceptent ils d’y laisser leur vie, souvent, et de briser celles de leurs proches ? Comment, parfois, réussissent-ils à dépasser ce qui était jusque là considéré comme une limite infranchissable ? Pourquoi, derrière ces pionniers, l’humanité toute entière se rêve-t-elle plus grande ?

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