Three movies to (re)watch for the holiday season

Published on December 25, 2022


By Gerard-Michel Thermeau.

Many years ago I asked myself the question of cinema of liberal inspiration. If Nazi cinema, fascist cinema, Marxist cinema (which is far from extinct) and environmental cinema exist or existed today, one would look at liberal cinema in vain.

If there is no shortage of horror films, they always have the advantage of being shot on the same side, preferably on the left. In this type of film, the world is soundly Manichean, with the downtrodden and especially their well-meaning defenders on one side, and the monstrous rich and their henchmen on the other, whom nothing can bring back.

Since liberalism is not an ideology, there are no liberal films except liberal films. A rebel Adapted from Ayn Rand’s novel by King Vidor Live Source.

But in cinema, liberalism sometimes nests where you least expect it. While the world of Hollywood cinema is made up of artists with progressive sensibilities, deep-seated US values ​​favor films that exalt the individual against the system.

In France, in the past, there were directors whose films conflicted with the ideological positions of their authors. Buy it The Great Illusion Can we find more empathy for Jean Renoir, aristocratic characters, Boëldieu and Rauffenstein? However, Jean Renoir seems to have been a communist. If he signs the propaganda turnip of the party and the film “People’s Front”. Mr. Lang’s crime, his best works are characterized by great attention to the individual. The credo “everyone has his reasons” was hardly compatible with Marxism-Leninism.

Isn’t that comforting in a way? Here are three movies I recommend watching or re-watching anyway. Good movies always deserve to be seen again, and time improves them: they get old, but well.

Ninotchka (1939), a film by Ernst Lubitsch

Lubitsch was one of the Hollywood stars of the classic era. He was one of the rare directors whose name was recognized by the public. His eternal cigar, his Berlin accent, his outward superficiality masked an exceptional filmmaker and the subtlest “philosophy of existence.” If all the bullshit under its giddy fantasy exterior exalts individualism, three of these films stand out for their more overt message. One is a pacifist (The man I killed), the other is anti-Nazi (To be or not to be) and ours, anti-communist. That’s it To be or not to be has a flattering reputation as Ninochka France has long had a bad press. Think, laugh at communism!

However, laughter serves as a divider between capitalism (everything can be laughed at) and communism (where laughter is subversive and therefore forbidden). But Lubitsch is not content with juxtaposing the luxurious set of a Paris palace against a Moscow collective apartment. The satire goes deeper.

Ninotchka (Greta Garbo) is a kind of Greta, but after twenty years she has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. This ideologue, tough as a picket, delicate as a prison door, worried about the future of the masses, does not understand anything about the “real people” he claims to defend. Walking through the door of a popular restaurant, a bewildered Father orders François “raw beets and carrots” (isn’t that amazingly prescient?). Gargotti, worried about the honor of his establishment, like a good Frenchman, even if from Hollywood, answered nervously: “ this is a restaurant, not a lawn “.

This fascinating formula, which is always relevant, is also found in this film. The Soviet wanted to explain to Ninochka the difference between socialism and capitalism: Just call and get what you want “. Capitalism is stronger than you!

Princess Mononoke (1997) by Hayao Miyazaki.

How contradictory it was to man! He’s a happy-go-lucky entrepreneur, and yet he’s a self-proclaimed Marxist. He vehemently denounced authority figures in these films while proving to be an authoritarian boss with a difficult character for his colleagues.

Princess Mononoke perhaps his most ambitious and complex film. How far we are from the Manichean universe! None of the characters are good or bad, with the exception of Ashitaka, the cursed young man. The ambiguity of Dame Eboshi and Jiko Bou is a good example of this great vision. One, a skilled agent of the imperial government, becomes a lovable villain. Another, a strong-willed businesswoman, fights to protect her hard-earned ironworks against marauding overlords. In Miyazaki, the state is either evil or powerless: here, in war-ravaged Japan, the Emperor cares only about eternal youth. Dame Eboshi welcomes the outcasts to her Forges, but everyone must work there according to their ability, there is no room for subservience. Nevertheless, blinded by his hatred of monsters, he causes the destruction of the Forges.

Far from the apocalyptic delusions of our time, where the end is said to be tomorrow, or at least in the next hour, the catastrophe caused by ambition and hatred proves to be temporary. Nature is coming back to life stronger than all human efforts, and the Forges will be reborn, Dame Eboshi has realized that profit and respect for nature are incompatible.

In the film, nature is personified in the person of God-Deer, a mute and apathetic figure indifferent to moral categories. We are far from the cult of Gaia.

The Aviator (2004) by Martin Scorsese.

Dedicating a film to an entrepreneur would certainly not have occurred to the French filmmaker. Martin Scorsese, one of the biggest figures in New Hollywood, knew how to do justice to this unusual character. There is no hagiography here, the subtle madness that would eventually overtake Howard Hughes is clearly depicted. Leonardo di Caprio, moreover, succeeded in one of the most unusual compositions of his rich career.

What is an entrepreneur? He is the one who sees what others do not. Hughes is an heir, but the heir is determined to do more than just grow his legacy. He wants to be the one who does what no one has done before him. A movie buff, he’s not content with bedding famous actresses and just being there by the way. He meets Louis B. Mayer, a studio executive of the same type, and asks him to give him two cameras to shoot a sequence of his film. Hell’s Angels. ” You have 24 cameras and want me to provide you with two more cameras? 24 is not enough? Mayer replies, unable to hide his glee. Since he doesn’t understand anything about cinema, he advises him to just put his money in the bank. But in this case, Hughes, who seemed “crazy”, was right to insist.

Crude capitalism is denounced later in the film, with the conflict between TWA and Pan Am, Hughes’s company, benefiting from the support of a crooked senator and trying to obtain a legal monopoly on transatlantic flights to cut short all competition.

One of the funniest moments in the film is when the Hepburn family meets Howard Hughes. The billionaire then had a relationship with the talented actress and brilliant intellectual Katharine Hepburn. ” We are all socialists here confirms the mother of this very wealthy family, who did not deprive herself too much for the benefit of the proletariat. Hughes, who appears to be “scorning” Roosevelt, is actually suffering from pet dog teasing, which he is almost told to leave the table.

This very left-wing family debates the merits of Goya and Picasso, but pays little attention to the industrialist’s blueprint for an airplane. ” We’re not interested in money here, Mr. Hughes says Ms. Hepburn firmly. ” Because you always were the billionaire replied nervously. ” Some of us work – he adds to the address of the son of the “artist” who makes “abstract, of course”. A very enjoyable moment.

Originally published article December 23, 2019.

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