This article was published in Oasis 7. Read the table of contents

Last update: 2022-04-22 09:48:55

The close up is dangerous both for the actor and for the director. Orson Welles made the point very well: ‘there really exists a close up actor. He is the actor who never misses his mark as long as you do not picture him from just below his chin’. Rin Tin Tin and Lassie (famous dogs of the telefilms of the 1960s) are very good examples of this category. Robert Redford is not a dog. But a close up, for a man who has returned to cinema after seven years of silence, in front of and behind the camera, in the film Lions for Lambs, is doubly dangerous. One is not dealing solely with wrinkles pleased with themselves that invade the screen. It is more a question of words, an oral flood that in close up weigh very heavily. And what do these words say? Nothing. Or better: they say a great deal of things about Iraq, about America, about the world and about the destiny of man. But in the end, going to the heart of the matter, they say just one thing: that it is impossible to judge history, that the truth does not exist, that there is only one value, commitment, for which one can also give one’s life. And patience is thrown to the wind, as is done by the two little soldiers, one an Afro-American and one a Hispanic, who go to die in the hills of Afghanistan so as not to pay university fees. They are lions of the title of the film. The lamb is Tom Cruise, the Senator who sends them out to die. As for Redford, he is a Professor of Political Science who no longer believes in anything but who is still proud of a scar he earned in 1968. One should not be surprised if the most intelligent boy of the course deserts the lectures. The good in the place of the true is not very attractive; it leaves a bitter feeling in the mouth. One can ask for more while Rome burns.

Critical Reason

The Canadian Denys Arcand who we left, with his The Barbaric Invasions, with the apparently pacified illusion that intellectual commitment and the pleasures of life were enough for a good and fine death, knows something about this. With his L’age des ténèbres he takes one step back. Intellectual pleasure, friends, sex, dreams and euthanasia are perhaps enough to die. To live you need something else. In the most atheistic and statist country in the world, Canada, a man without qualities rediscovers that he is happy. Oppressed by the infinite prohibitions of the politically correct, by a wife who makes money and betrays him, by two daughters lost in the iPod, he takes refuge in dreams. This is sad but it works, at least until the attempt is made to turn them into reality. What should you do, therefore, if the rules go against you, if smoking leads you to jail, if your job is meaningless and your mother dies alone? A new flight, a new life. Arcand down falls again and demonstrates, without wanting to, that the critical reason invoked by Redford has a limit. Without hope, or at least without little hope, one cannot live. Perhaps enveloped in nature and in silence we can see things clearly. Perhaps.

Young Israel

So far the big artillery: films that top the ratings, stories that sell, authors who are applauded. But there is something new on the screen. It has arrived with a handful of with very young directors who suddenly make their voices heard, they laugh at our fears, and put what is beautiful about life before us. Without denying even the most crude reali¬ty – terrorism, war, abortion – they start anew from the positive. Because before contesting reali¬ty, one can love it. From Israel the most recent news: Pzazzà metakteket, the film of a young director, Atar Ofek, who mocks kamikazes and soldiers. The film was financed by public bodies but when it was screened, the festivals of Jerusalem and Haifa withdrew their support. After just one evening at the Cinemateca of Tel Aviv, the film is now immen¬sely popular with Jews and Palestinians, thanks to word of mouth and Internet. The protagonist: a clumsy girl who a ready to blow herself up in front of an Israeli bus. Beyond the road blocks, controlled by obtuse and distracted military men, Rauda finds the love of her life, a young Jew who is crazy about her. And she leaves the attack behind her. Can one laugh at tragedy? Ofek is not the only one to try. This has been done by another director with his first work, the writer Eran Kolirin, in his The Band’s Visit, which received prizes at all the European festivals from Cannes to Berlin. It will not be at the Oscar ceremony because Israel has withdrawn it. Open doors at the Arab festivals, beginning with the festival of Abu Dhabi, despite the presence in the film of Israeli and Palestinian actors. The plot is a lot of fun and lunar: eight Egyptians in blue uniforms, musicians belonging to a military band, arrive at the airport of Israel. They have been invited by the Arab Cultural Centre but nobody goes to collect them. They end up in a lost Jewish village in a desert where they find love, friends and fortune. The film will come to Europe in April, preceded by Shabat Sha¬lom Maradona, a film directed by the Israeli director Dror Zelavi, where a Palestinian kamikaze, who is in love with the Argentine football player, arrives in the centre of Jerusalem wearing a belt full of explosives. But the mechanism goes wrong and the boy, thanks to the help of an Israeli electrician and a seventeen-year-old Orthodox Jew, discovers friendship and love. Before raising an eyebrow, you should know that the film is based on a true story. In the same way as truer than true is the day of six women in Beirut in the small film that has been very success-ful at the box office: Ca¬ra¬mel, by the Lebanese Nadine Labaki. Girls chat away in a beauty salon; all of them are on the edge of a nervous crisis. And the scent of the caramel of the wax sweetens the blah blah blah about love and death, war and peace.

Let’s Hope it’s a Girl

Frivolous women, curious women, unaware women but women in love with life: such are the women riding the counter-trend announced by the film event of the season, the American Knocked up by the forty-year-old Judd Apatov. The militant critics, here and on the other side of the ocean, have hurried to dismiss this amusing comedy with the appellation ‘neocon’. But this has not discouraged the public who have gone in great numbers to have a good laugh. Faced with an unexpected pregnancy, two young people without money, Allison and Ben, decide to take the baby that is to be born, as well as their improbable love, born amongst the alcoholic fumes of a bar, seriously. What irritates the high brows is not so much the vulgar jokes or the frontal filming of the birth but that Allison happily decides not only to keep the baby but also to keep the much more cumbersome companion, with drama or anxiety, in the serene serenity that life is made up of ‘things that happen and should be supported’. The final surprise, which is foreseeable but not too much so, is that it works. This is not an isolated case, this bizarre conception of the world that does without ideology and goes back to trusting life. Two films looked down on by the critics and praised by festival audiences. Bella, presented in Toronto, was filmed in twenty-four days by a Mexican boy without any training, Alejandro Gomez Monteverde. With a Mexican star of telenovelas as its leading actress, it provides a serene account of the dramas and hopes that a surprise pregnancy brings with it for a mother, who decides to give birth and to have the child adopted. A similar story, much happier, is to be found in the film that was acclaimed at the cinema festival of Rome – the Canadian, Juno, directed by Jason Reitman and written by the very young blogger, Diablo Cody. A frivolous and carefree girl, Juno, gets pregnant at the age of sixteen because of a casual relationship with a classmate at school. She reaches the door of the clinic, but stops because it ‘smells of the dentist’s’. It is not motherhood that attracts here but the fact that the baby exists, the meeting with a sterile couple that wants it. This may not be very correct but is it so strange that every so often reason and the heart coincide?