Cloud and chimera

Pensées hybrides

Author: Marie Lienard-Yeterian (page 1 of 8)

BALANCING INNER AND OUTER FICTION

BALANCING INNER AND OUTER FICTION

Inner fiction (the means): the details: what are they? What do they do? When and where?

Outer fiction (the end): why are the details there? What do they mean? What is their purpose?

To show and/or tell

To revisit assumptions and quick interpretations

An image can lead from one to the other

I will use this dynamic as a lens to read two elements of our post lockdown-ongoing pandemic life starting with two images:

A monkey climbing up a dead tree/A mask

1- PLANET OF THE HUMANS: the short range/long range

The title is programmatic, and clarified throughout the documentary. The critical review of renewable energies is the means to a larger end indicated in the title: we continue to behave as if the planet has unlimited resources, and current alternative solutions have removed the guilt. They do not really question the status quo—not only in terms of our ways of life but also in terms of the logic of our economy still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. The goal of the documentary is not to scapegoat or target one group or another for the sake of doing so, its point is to reveal that “you cannot rebuild the house with the master’s tools” in poet Audre Lorde’s words.  The question raised early on—“can machines produced by an industrialized culture take us beyond that culture?”—launches a very systematic and well-documented critique. Capitalism has hijacked the original vision and resources. It is urgent to come up with new bold ideas. With renewable energies, humans have already shown that they can tap into other parts of their creative powers. As these solutions are not perfect in terms of the impact on the planet, it is urgent to rise to the occasion again.

Beyond the wink to “Planet of the Apes, the final image represents a possible state for our humanity on the planet if we keep on denying the crisis. We will be climbing up that last tree, noticing that there are no leaves and that the landscape below is totally barren, but hoping we can escape to the end of the tree, expecting something better up there for us.

The monkey is about to die under the scorching sun. Until it is rescued, and saved.

Who will rescue us?

The question is for us to consider. Today. When the land is not barren, when trees still have leaves, when we can still live in their pleasant shade.

If we miss the deep underlying question raised in the documentary, we will miss the call to act. Collectively.

There is time still to attend to that tree and to the ground below. Before we are forced to climb up to nothingness.

2-THE AFTERMATH OF THE LOCKDOWN (the short-term/the long-term)

To wear a mask in the open air might appear useless.

But such an analysis confines (no pun intended) the mask to the inner fiction ring.

In the outer fiction dimension, to wear a mask reveals its pedagogic function: with a mask on, we are reminded of the ongoing extraordinary context.

Awareness of the virus must have an impact of on our ways of interacting and socializing. This simple but essential tool facilitates overall social distancing rules in a world that looks the same but is still being shaped by a virus that is anything but gone.

When wearing a mask, we are protecting others. We take care of each other. The mask is only fully operative if reciproquated and framed within the protocol of all the other sanitary measures (hand washing and physical distancing in particular).

A short-term surrender of our immediate and individual comfort.

A long-term collective benefit if we contain the spread of the virus.

What model will prevail on the planet? The mask-off or the mask-on model?

MARIE LIENARD-YETERIAN

LITERATURE AND READING IN THE TIME OF THE PANDEMIC/BOOKS AT HOME

LITERATURE AND READING IN THE TIME OF THE PANDEMIC

R. G. Collingwood, in Principle of Art, presents art as the almost medicinal remedy against what he calls the  “corruption of consciousness”. Literary art, like every form of art, conjures our link with beauty and gratuity—what belongs to the order of the gift, and perhaps, grace. Unlike philosophy, literature engages with capacities that are given, and not so much acquired: joy and admiration, wonder and contemplation. It pries open the uncanny territories of grief and sadness, common fears and reliefs; it rehearses illusions, hopes, or disappointments, and anatomizes love and its enemies: envy, jealousy, lack of trust and more—unwelcome protagonists on the prosceniums of our existence, yet material that our dreams, and all-too-real realities, are made of. 

The texture and shape of our multi-faceted belongings and attachments.

The core components of our emotional, mental, and psychological landscapes.

The guises of our fictions, and personas of our actual postures.

All the way to our exiting the stage, as the Shakespearean image cruelly suggests it…

Literature articulates questions, yet delivers open-ended conclusions.

It proposes an invitation to let go, and surrender.

It whispers an invitation to find relief in the present moment, tutoring us into being tuned to the value of the minute at hand: one word at a time, one sentence at a time, and one paragraph at a time.

It teaches us to pay attention to the beauty of tininess, the significance of the small, and the importance of the detail.

Literature weaves an unexpected and unwonted form of bond: the solidarity of meaning.

Just like our life makes sense as a whole—yet, that meaning is made up of single elements— likewise the beauty of literary language emerges out of the design of individual images, and as part of a collective pattern.

A puzzle.

A mosaic.

A kaleidoscope.

A rainbow.

Literature begets, with and for us, imagined communities of fellow readers—an antidote to loneliness and solitude.

Reading is an activity conducted in the isolation of our confinement, yet in solidarity with numerous others. In the greater communion of humankind.

It shapes a fraternity of dreams and aspirations, the “invisible monasteries” of our musings and longings; it presides over silent prayers and queries, or quests and journeys—a world of possibility and a search for infinity.

Literature triggers a form of escape from the outside world and a way to revisit it by sketching and building a bridge between the fictional world and the (our) known reality of it.

It prods us to imagine new worlds, wander into the unknown, and wade in the life’s waters again. We cast the net wider—if only for an ultimate time—knowing that the net will come back full even if we walk away empty-handed.

Some anchoring in the present, spawning a peculiar, and singular, attention for the word in sight, and the task at hand. And to life in its enduring moment, despite and through feelings of emptiness and loss, warding off specters of uncertainty and unknowing.

BOOKS AT HOME

A few suggestions from my archived reports of books read and reviewed for LES ETUDES (French periodical):

Tout ce bleu (Percival Everett)

De bleu en blues, ce roman, comme la forme musicale, mêle tribulations humaines individuelles et collectives, répétitions et leitmotivs, images fortes, poétiques ou crues. La narration, telle l’œuvre picturale dont la symbolique sous-tend l’intrigue, se construit autour de trois lignes de fuite, et associe couleurs bleutées sur fond de rouge : celui du sang versé, qu’il soit innocent ou coupable, et celui qui coule quand l’enfant qui allait naitre meurt prématurément lors d’une fausse-couche. Le narrateur est un peintre dont le destin entraine le lecteur dans le Salvador de 1979 à travers le récit d’une quête pour retrouver un frère qui devient une chasse à l’homme. Par ailleurs, l’intrigue met en scène une brève histoire amoureuse dans le Paris un peu cliché de l’imaginaire américain, interlude dans la vie du narrateur qui essaie de se sentir l’existence et de l’appréhender à nouveau. Entre les deux, la narration propose des allers-retours aux Etats-Unis, et campe le cadre familial du narrateur, avec un tableau qu’il garde jalousement cache et hors de portée des regards, y compris de ceux de ses proches. Un récit en plusieurs teintes, donc, où les moments de suspense alternent avec les l’indicible de terreurs et hantises intérieures, et de drames familiaux. Mais quelle couleur a finalement le secret que le narrateur découvre finalement tout à la fin, et qui se prolonge par le partage de cette fameuse peinture occultée jusque-là, telle une toile qui garderait trace d’une première ébauche, mais présenterait à l’œil quelque chose qui doit être écouté plutôt que vu ?

Trajectoire  (Richard Russo)

Quatre nouvelles, comme quatre portes qui ouvrent sur des pièces différentes dans la maison de la fiction : rythmes et environnements à taille variables, tels des points cardinaux—autant de trajectoires dans le mouvement ébauché au singulier par le titre. La première nouvelle, « Cavalier », met en scène Janet, professeure en proie à une crise existentielle, et un étudiant qui plagie : faut-il l’affronter ou pas—dans le contexte de Thanksgiving qui incite à rendre grâce et faire preuve de clémence? « Voix » présente deux frères ennemis, Nate et Julian, et une mère détestée, puis aimée malgré tout, avec pour toile de fond Venise et un groupe de la Biennale ; la structure sécrète des sections avec sous-titres pour donner l’effet d’une polyphonie romanesque. Dans « Intervention », Ray sent que l’hiver qu’il traverse au sens propre et figuré ne sera pas le dernier : tant qu’il y a de la vie, il y a de l’espoir, même dans un Maine glacial. « Milton et Marcus » est le titre d’un scenario de cinéma dont quelques extraits forment un contre-point aux tribulations de Ryan dans l’univers hollywoodien; le récit enchâssé joue une geste téméraire et audacieuse sur la scène de la technique de la nouvelle—ébauchant pour nous la trajectoire d’un renouvellement générique par-delà le théâtre narratif des intrigues campées dans cet objet littéraire curieux et inédit.

Par le vent pleuré (Ron Rash)

Eugene : narrateur enfant, narrateur adulte. Un « regard en arrière », comme celui du narrateur éponyme du roman de Thomas Wolfe qui le fascine, un autre « ange exilé ». Entre les deux, l’abime d’une perte—le meurtre de la jeune fille qu’il a aimée 46 ans auparavant. Et la pensée lancinante que son propre frère est l’assassin. Tout commence par l’évocation d’une rivière et d’une sirène, Ligeia, qui, comme dans le cas d’Ulysse, entraine celui qui tombe sous son charme dans des remous destructeurs. Récit d’initiation à l’amour et aux plaisirs des paradis artificiels qui conduisent au mensonge et à des vols. Lorsque, des décennies plus tard, ressurgissent de l’oubli les ossements de la jeune fille charriés par les courants, c’est toute l’époque des drogues, des hippies et de l’opposition à la guerre du Vietnam qui vient hanter un présent incertain et une vie qu’Eugene résume en deux mots—famille, alcool— à l’instar du narrateur de Lolita expliquant la mort de sa mère en un duo lapidaire : « Un pique-nique, la foudre ». La narration prend corps autour de quelques métaphores fortes : la pêche et la plongée—dans les eaux et dans un passé qui, si on le regarde, fige dans le chagrin et le désespoir. La rivière remue souvenirs et débris d’une vie délitée par l’alcool et habitée par la perte d’une carrière, d’une famille et d’une vocation. Le style mêle littéral et figuré pour tisser le fil de destins « par le vent pleurés » selon l’image de Wolfe, mais avec l’espérance de résurrection que suggère par ailleurs le titre anglais The Risen

Swing Time (Zadie Smith)

L’épigraphe du livre—un proverbe haoussa « lorsque la musique change, la danse aussi » —propose une clé d’interprétation: la danse comme motif thématique et narratif. Dans ce roman d’apprentissage, la danse se présente comme l’image des pas nécessaires—et souvent difficiles— à découvrir, essayer ou inventer pour mener à bien la chorégraphie de l’identité dans un entre-deux culturel, géographique, et racial. Le ballet de l’amitié entre la narratrice et Tracey, que tout sépare sauf une commune passion pour la danse, traverse l’intrigue à partir de Londres, la ville où elles grandissent ensemble. Plus tard, la narratrice devient l’assistante d’Aimée, une chanteuse qu’elle admire, et goutera la joie de voyager aux Etats-Unis, entrant ainsi dans la danse d’un autre continent au rythme de l’univers new-yorkais qui devient le sien. Une troisième scène musicale est évoquée à travers l’évocation du projet caritatif d’Aimée en Afrique. La vie de la narratrice, c’est aussi une relation conflictuelle avec sa mère qui est partagée entre famille et activisme politique. Par ailleurs, le cinéma s’invite dans la danse narrative pour faire évoluer une autre modalité de l’art comme expression de l’être et de la condition humaine. Swing Time propose finalement une réflexion sur le métissage et le racisme, et sur la passion qui, envers et contre tout, nous fait être malgré ou en dépit de nos faux-pas. 

Le petit paradis (Joyce Carol Oates)

Un univers inhabituel pour une écrivaine dont l’imaginaire prolifique ne cesse d’étonner et interroger—aux confins d’un futur aussi probable qu’improbable. La jeune narratrice, Adrienne Strohl, est l’héroïne d’une histoire qui tient en équilibre entre science fiction et dystopie. Adrienne est téléportée dans une petite ville en guise de punition pour avoir voulu trop briller dans ses études, et atterrit dans l’espace-temps appelé zone 9 en 1959, quatre-vingt ans avant l’époque où elle vivait auparavant. Adrienne devient Mary Ellen Enright, et doit oublier son passé. Dans l’Amérique ébauchée par le récit, surveillance et exécutions sommaires sont les caractéristiques d’un univers où domine la terreur, laissant parfois surgir quelques notes d’humour liées au fait que les références d’Adrienne sont en constant décalage avec le monde désuet dans lequel elle vit desormais. Mais le roman nous ramène à la terreur des états totalitaires, avec leurs « régimes de vérité » selon l’expression de Michel Foucauld et leur logique de contrôle et répression de toute forme de résistance. L’histoire d’amour entre Adrienne et son professeur Ira Wolfman ne fait que renforcer l’ironie tragique d’un « petit paradis » où le rêve américain n’est plus qu’un lointain fantasme, et dont la disparition est la rançon de la corruption qu’il a subi. Le mode emblématique du récit se fait souvent parabole contemporaine ; une interpellation finale—entre plaisanterie et imploration—invite le lecteur à pénétrer résolument—mais sans illusion—dans l’univers virtuel, mais o combien réel, ourdi par Oates dont le talent de conteuse n’est pas démenti…

Underground Railroad. (Colson Whitehead)

Le chemin de fer souterrain. Le réseau clandestin d’aide aux esclaves en fuite. A de multiples reprises, le lecteur est saisi par le chemin (en effet) parcouru par les personnages à partir de l’expérience des ténèbres de l’esclavage, à travers l’obscurité de la cruauté et du désespoir pour déboucher enfin—pour certains—de l’autre coté du tunnel, vers la liberté. Ce roman passe par plusieurs gares. D’abord celle de l’Histoire (History) et de l’une de ses pages les plus sombres : « la fondation illégitime du Sud » (américain) selon les mots d’Edouard Glissant. Puis celle de l’histoire (story) de quelques personnages emblématiques qui parlent pour ceux qui n’ont pu le faire : une esclave (Cora) réussit à s’enfuir, est rattrapée, échappe une nouvelle fois à la barbarie sudiste pour finalement recouvrer liberté et dignité en atteignant le nord du pays. Un style puissant et une technique narrative qui, comme les rails de la voie ferrée, fait coexister des desseins et destins différents mais orientés vers une même fin : (re)devenir un être humain. Ni plus ni moins. Analepses et prolepses tracent les contours du labyrinthe d’un pouvoir qui transforme des êtres humains en « propriété » utilisable, vendable, échangeable, et jetable. L’auteur démonte les rouages du système de terreur qui enchaine esclaves et affranchis. Il met en scène les mains invisibles qui construisent le chemin de fer dans le roc de la montagne et celui—aussi dur—de l’oppression des planteurs. Il décrit la peur des représailles et la violence punitive contre quiconque essaie de porter de l’aide aux fugitifs, ou même les planteurs qui se montrent « trop » cléments envers leurs esclaves : « Les propriétaires d’esclaves qui refusaient d’obtempérer—par sentimentalisme, ou au nom d’une conception désuète du droit à la propriété—étaient pendus haut et courts, tout comme les citoyens au grand cœur qui cachaient des nègres dans leur grenier, leur sous-sol ou leur cave à charbon » (218).  Enfin, il propose une exploration de l’enfermement intérieur; ainsi pour Cora, « Echapper aux limites de la plantation, c’eut été échapper aux principes fondamentaux de son existence : impossible »  (18). Plus tard, lors de l’épopée de sa fuite, la crainte d’être reprise constitue une autre prison—sort partagé par tous ceux qui, comme elle, vivent dans l’espérance d’une vie meilleure mais restent hantés par le retour possible du passé : « Aux champs, sous terre, ou dans son grenier, l’Amérique restait sa geôlière » (226) ; « Tous ces gens étaient des prisonniers comme elle, enchaines à la peur » (235). Le roman propose par ailleurs une réflexion sur la façon dont l’Histoire s’écrit et est écrite, y compris dans les musées qui la reconstituent à leur manière : « Personne ne voulait évoquer la véritable marche du monde. Et personne ne voulait l’entendre. Assurément pas les monstres blancs qui se pressaient derrière la vitrine à cet instant, collant leurs mufles gras contre le verre, ricanant et criaillant. La vérité était une vitrine régulièrement redécorée, manipulée par des noirs invisibles dès qu’on tournait le dos, aguichante et toujours hors de portée » (155). Une œuvre magistrale aux accents prophétiques pour décrire les chaines de la servitude physique et psychologique d’un régime de terreur qui frappe tous ceux qui tentent de s’opposer à sa logique implacable—celle du Mal. Une économie que l’on reverra à l’œuvre au 20e siècle. Or, comme le 21e siècle le découvre déjà, le train sifflera trois fois.

Marie Liénard-Yeterian

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: 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

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

TROUBADOURS ON SCREEN

TROUBADOURS ON SCREEN

YESTERDAY
If Jack can do this at all, it is because he has memorized something others have forgotten, or cannot remember.
If asked “what is the movie about?” , what would you say?

The Beatles? Love? Oblivion? Nostalgia? Family and belonging? Truth?…

A nice balance of humor and earnestness:
Imagining a present where Coca Cola and Harry Potter have been erased…
And the Beatles, too.
The arbitrary but relentless work of oblivion:
Pepsi has survived
And fish and chips, too.

A creative blend of realistic scenes and supernatural moments.
A self-referential nod, perhaps, to cinema and its ability to transform our habits, patterns and shapes into images and witty lines.

The yellow submarine now exists only as a plastic commodity,
Its connotative meaning only understood by the happy few who REMEMBER:
Some inside joke only picked up by a privileged trio.

The unifying power of music,
Imagined communities of a different order: the worlds created by concert going and music performing (and video sharing in this version):
A topic also beautifully explored in Ethan and Joel Coen’s O Brother (for those of you who remember the movie…)
And more recently by Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born.

Stars are conjured up out of the folds of memory and dream.
Let’s imagine a world where John Lennon is still alive at 78
And can deliver wise advice to a young (er) artist about truth and life.
A world where truth prevails indeed at the expanse of phoniness and money,
A world where love and loyalty triumph over arrogance and pride.
A modern Orpheus recovering for his peers a beauty that could have disappeared forever.

The movie sketches some serious and epic pictures
Beyond the obvious melodrama and comedy about a coming of age artist:
Occasional glimpses at our contemporary upheavals
In sync with the questions that formed the backdrop to the original band’s arrival on the world stage.

The film reenacts—like Lala Land a few months ago, for those who remember—the magic and wonder of cinema:
Its ability to conjure up worlds where electricity comes and goes, where bonds are reinvented across borders, and where parents finally see the light, and love their child anew.

ROLLING THUNDER REVUE: A BOB DYLAN STORY BY MARTIN SCORSESE
The 3 interfilmic interludes, including Jean-Louis Barrault in Les Enfants du paradis :
A reminder of Scorsese’s love affair with silent film,
And of the origin of cinema as an interlude to theatrical acts.

Rolling thunder and its series of actors on a stage.
And its off-stage moments, with their own scripts and dramas.

Modern troubadours for a timeless performance.
Characters conjured up out of images and vintage footage and film excerpts,
And recontextualized in a series of interviews that function like so many theatrical asides—with improvised or rehearsed lines, all creating an illusion.

A world of sound and fury
With the occasional ghost or fool:
A Shakespearan comedy of errors.
Faces and voices retrieved from oblivion or nostalgia.
Its narrative trajectory playing a harmonious counterpoint to the tune played by Danny Boyle’s Yesterday which performs parallel cultural work.

We, in 2019, perhaps feel that the rolling thunder that awaits us might be all too literal to be included as a metaphor, or even as a cultural borrowing.
Bob Dylan’s statement about how truth is uttered more clearly with a mask on sounds like a conundrum, a riddle for us to decipher—unless it is some oracle.

The long final credit sequence (presented as an ‘encore’) lists the artist’s yearly hits, yet from a distance it looks like other types of lists: casualties, victims, missing people.
Some implicit and direct tribute to all that remains forgotten and erased, and must be exposed and listed anew? Danny Boyle’s creative script is conjured up again, rolling thunder and stones.

To all of us troubadours of today and tomorrow,
And other bards on tour,
Scorsese’s film inspires us to sing that in music and art and writing,
our humanity endures.

Marie Lienard-Yeterian

TWO TRIBUTES TO CINEMA: JIM JARMUSCH AND PEDRO ALMODOVAR

TWO TRIBUTES TO CINEMA: JIM JARMUSCH AND PEDRO ALMODOVAR

« The Dead Don’t Die » and « Pain and Glory »:
Strange bedfellows at first,
Odd partners.

Yet, on looking closer:
A common tribute to the power of cinema.

The ability of moving images and filmic narratives to conjure up alternative worlds and bespeak human creativity.
To rework “realistic” material—an individual sense of loss or a collective fear—into an aesthetic quest and/or statement.
To shape chaos—internal and external—into shapes, designs and patterns.

To explore the meta-fictional dimension of Art: cinema drawing attention to the fact that it deals in (not just: with) illusion and fiction—aural and visual.
Breaking the fourth wall, exposing the trick.

THE DEAD DON’T DIE
Inter-filmic dialogue with other zombie movies—in particular George A. Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead.
Other generic forms or cinematic icons loom up, sleepwalking into the viewer’s imagination:
The Western and SF
The horror film and the thriller
Alfred Hitchcock and The Birds (and Psycho)
The War of the Worlds, reaching into the imagery of ET…

For Romero: the cultural context for the handling of the zombie character was the Vietnam War.
The Zombie of our post 9/11 imagination is cast on the stage of climate change and unbridled capitalism, in an uncanny set characterized by fake news and political lies.
The Undead no longer crave human flesh only, but material goods and the attending addiction they trigger.

The figure of the hermit/the outcast: the Poet at work? The Fool of traditional Elizabethan courts and other human theatres?

The grammar of terror and the vocabulary of horror.
The grotesque and the gothic at work and play.

A parody of iconic elements of American culture and film.
A statement about our contemporary (posthuman?) condition.
Wither cinema?

PAIN AND GLORY
Identity and belonging.
The weight of traditions and customs.
The yoke of family expectations.

Love and passion.
Some desire felt but not articulated, or even named.
The unexpected and unexplained ellipsis.
Absence and unspoken thoughts.
Silences, and then words again.

The creative eye and the personal I
Coming to terms with cannot be retrieved or recovered.
No time regained catharsis
But a final joke and reversal
For the viewer’s sake,
And his/her enjoyment.

The show must go on!

A thought-provoking handling of iconic elements of Spanish culture and history.
A statement about loss and resilience.
Pain and glory in a stalemate.
Wither cinema?

Marie Lienard-Yeterian

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