IMDb member since August 2004
    Lifetime Total
    Lifetime Trivia
    Lifetime Image
    Top Reviewer
    IMDb Member
    17 years



The cesspool of an intellectual ghetto
You have to be patient with this series. Lewis the sidekick of Morse is back after his wife was killed in a hit and run, his children were grown-up, back from who knows where in Canada and he will be with us till he finally leaves for New Zealand not to come back again, leaving Oxford to its own fate, and its fate is not that great since it is a ghetto of effete snobs who all pretend to be over the rest of the world, from the top Masters or Deans to the lowest bartenders. Vanity of Vanity Fair, pretension in purity, foreboding superiority that is based on the possession of words, some knowledge, and if no knowledge or words are available, just invent them all and rant and rave with big words and the world will be yours, crawling at your feet.

And the stories are very systematic in this revelation that in Oxford a ghetto is living its own perdition and decay back into the ashes of death and the Big Bang. It is sickening to see how low the top intellectual elite of a country like England can fall when it is dragged into, or when it runs into the snares of crime, of eliminating an opponent, a wife, a competitor, or whoever may cast a shadow on their path, or who may have found things the local self-declared and socially flattered genius wants to take possession of to make a fortune with them. There is no respect of intellectual property in this community, except in the only form of the defense of my own, but certainly not the respect of that of anyone else. Plagiarism is the rule. Misappropriation of Intellectual Property is basic, and if once again nothing is available, you just invent it, like a posthumous play by some Greek playwright like Euripides just discovered and translated, and no one will ever ask to see the newly discovered "manuscript" from several centuries BCE.

So, What can our Lewis do in this jungle? Not much. Just sort out the criminals and arrest them and deliver them to justice, even if the man who killed his wife is caught, confesses, but he pleads guilty for the hit and run and a court will only classify his killing as manslaughter, excusing in a way his running away like a dirty pig his tail well crushed between his thighs. It should have been manslaughter if he had called an ambulance and the police, not because he confessed five years or so later when he is arrested for a menial crime, and the fact-checking that follows reveals his five-year-old or so murder.

The choice of the sidekick, Hathaway, a dropout for personal reasons from seminary and theology studies in Cambridge, is a perfect choice since his university past gives him Greek, Latin, and some other special scientific expertise because theology is not only reading the Bible and Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, it is also trying to understand old civilizations from which Christianity comes, and the scientific exploration of this cosmos, of this universe, since in theology they believe it was created by God and since God is all scient his creation must be perfect and must reveal the mental, intellectual and transcending beauty, elegance and simplicity of divine thinking made universe.

Of course, you will probably be annoyed by the local Oxfordian accent, or should I say accents, with a rural version, a working-class version, a professorial version, and several scholarly versions among the students who come from the four corners of the world, knowing that the vast majority of these students can afford this life because their families are rich, and one student from Black Africa in Oxford is going to cost his African country what could educate, at the Ph. D. level, at least 100 African students.

Understand me well. I loved this series, just the same as I loved Morse before because the denunciation and exposition of such intellectual ghettos are necessary to guarantee the advancement of science and the living conditions of humanity. Such education is a tremendous waste for a narrow elite, just the same way as the cost of university studies in France for a narrow 20% success rate, hence an 80% rate of failure, except in the selective Higher-Schools in commerce or engineering. For the same cost, we could easily educate at MA or MS level three times more students, provided they were screened and streamed properly before their first year and all along their first year.

In the West, we are wasting a tremendous amount of money in higher education either by providing living conditions that are plainly scandalous for students and professors alike, or on the other hand, by permitting an 80% flunking rate. We wonder why Asian countries are doing better with a lot less: over there, students are really motivated, and they are guided very efficiently by professors who are those who suggest, follow, advise the students in their own self-quest for knowledge in what they are studying by their own choice.

In Oxford, at least, most criminals know how to eloquently dissert on and conceptualize the most abstract beings of human imagination and human faiths and religions, science and technology. And such expertise makes them real geniuses in crime because crime is an activity that requires intelligence, imagination, creativity, extreme planification, etc. A criminal in France has just been revealed by a letter left behind after his suicide a few days ago. That serial rapist and killer had been looked for at least for 25 years and mind you he was a member of the famous "gendarmerie." And his postmortem DNA confirmed his confession. Of course, a gendarme has no reason to have his DNA tested, especially 25 years ago. You know Dexter is not a figment of the imagination of some twisted author.

And you will remain with one question in your mind: but why do these cops or coppers get into such a profession and how long can they last without getting depressed or paranoid or schizophrenic? That is not a rhetorical question. It is a real question worth exploring and then answering, or at least trying to.

Enjoy this enormous complete series.


Bicentennial Man

Romantically Suicidal.
That is not a great film. That is, a best, a good film. But it is by far too romantic to be great, and romantic the bad way in many aspects. To enable a machine, a robot to become a human being is both Pinocchio revisited and playing God, and yet that means playing dead with life since God is dead, or rather God has never ever been alive. People watching such mellow films grow all mushy in their minds and they do not know what is what from what is not what.

Yet it is entertaining but luckily impossible. Only Americans can dream of an overpopulated world with families having more than two children and on top of it and to top it all make robots human and thus increase the overpopulation. I do not know what is basically human, but if death is the revealing element, it is not the revealing element of humanity, it is the revealing element of all natural living organisms, animals, or plants, and even minerals. The difference is then only a question of duration, how long can any organism, any element capable of decaying, which means everything in our cosmos last from the moment it appeared to the moment it will decay into being something else?

It would be a lot more interesting to try and explain what could be done on this planet to slow down its decaying, to solve the problem of overpopulation, to stop creating all kinds of apocalypses that will eventually happen because humanity is too dumb to be able to solve its problems. Humanity has always looked for solutions to any problem that will make human work and human life easier, lighter, and that is the deepest mistake you can imagine. When you get on this road, that means that some, an extremely small elite will take advantage of the rest of humanity to feed their greed, to nurture their superiority, to reinforce their domination. The populace will be the fodder of the canons of the elite and this elite will increase the numbers of people in this populace to make the problem even worse so that their greed will even get more satisfied, and this elite one day will be living a ritzy life on Mars and ordering everyone around on the earth from Mars thanks to an army of robots commanding and enslaving the real human beings in this populace.

That's very sad. Note that for a long time in this film everyone is white, pure white, virginal white, and it is only at the end that finally some black elite appears, both black and female, replacing thus the white and male elite of before. And of course, the religious symbols and rituals, weddings or whatever are exclusively Christian. Explicit bias. This has to be totally and radically exposed as a plain crime against humanity. We can accept that in 2205 the Black elite will be at the top. No one in the audience anyway will ever reach this date and the Biblical reference then is plainly absurd.



Ce n'est pas un grand film. C'est, au mieux, un bon film. Mais il est de loin trop romantique pour être grand, et romantique de la mauvaise façon à bien des égards. Permettre à une machine, à un robot de devenir un être humain, c'est à la fois revisiter Pinocchio et jouer à Dieu, et ainsi c'est jouer à la mort avec la vie puisque Dieu est mort, ou plutôt Dieu n'a jamais été vivant. Les gens qui regardent des films aussi mielleux deviennent tout mous dans leur esprit et ne savent plus faire la différence entre ce qui est quoi et ce qui n'est pas quoi, entre qui est qui et qui n'est pas qui.

C'est pourtant divertissant mais heureusement impossible. Seuls les Américains peuvent rêver d'un monde surpeuplé avec des familles ayant plus de deux enfants et, pour couronner le tout, rendre les robots humains et ainsi augmenter la surpopulation. Je ne sais pas ce qui est fondamentalement humain, mais si la mort est l'élément révélateur, ce n'est pas l'élément révélateur de l'humanité, c'est l'élément révélateur de tous les organismes vivants naturels, animaux ou végétaux, et même minéraux. La différence n'est alors qu'une question de durée, combien de temps peut durer tout organisme, tout élément capable de se décomposer, c'est-à-dire tout ce qui existe dans notre cosmos, depuis le moment où il est apparu jusqu'au moment où il se décomposera pour devenir autre chose.

Il serait beaucoup plus intéressant d'essayer d'expliquer ce qui pourrait être fait sur cette planète pour ralentir sa décomposition, pour résoudre le problème de la surpopulation, pour arrêter de créer toutes sortes d'apocalypses qui finiront par arriver parce que l'humanité est trop bête pour être capable de résoudre ses problèmes. L'humanité a toujours cherché des solutions à tout problème qui rendrait le travail humain et la vie humaine plus facile, plus légère, et c'est l'erreur la plus profonde que vous puissiez imaginer. Quand on s'engage sur cette voie, cela signifie que certains, une élite extrêmement réduite, profiteront du reste de l'humanité pour nourrir leur avidité, pour entretenir leur supériorité, pour renforcer leur domination. La population sera la chair à canon des canons de l'élite et cette élite augmentera le nombre de personnes dans cette population, ou plutôt cette populace - le mépris en plus - pour aggraver le problème afin que leur avidité soit encore plus satisfaite, et cette élite vivra un jour une vie luxueuse sur Mars et commandera tout le monde sur la terre depuis Mars grâce à une armée de robots qui ordonneront et asserviront les vrais êtres humains dans cette population.

C'est très triste. Notez que pendant longtemps dans ce film tout le monde est blanc, pur blanc, blanc virginal, et ce n'est qu'à la fin qu'apparaît enfin une élite noire, noire et féminine, remplaçant ainsi l'élite blanche et masculine d'avant. Et bien sûr, les symboles et rituels religieux, les mariages ou autres sont exclusivement chrétiens. Un parti pris explicite. Cela doit être totalement et radicalement dénoncé comme un crime contre l'humanité qui ne saurait être que pluraliste. Nous pouvons accepter qu'en 2205 l'élite noire soit au sommet. De toute façon, personne dans l'assistance n'atteindra jamais cette date et la référence biblique est alors tout simplement absurde.



This Slavery in the Roman Empire was our melting pot
A ballet is a rich emotional experience merging music, rhythm, and corporal movement into one intense existential epiphany. A ballet speaks to all our senses at once and because of that, it is a unique and amazing cultural, mental, and sensorial adventure. To really understand what this particular ballet is about, we should analyze each scene, and there are only twelve, like the holy apostles of Jesus who spoke for all people including the slaves, and called for their freedom in their equality in the eyes of God himself. I am only going to make a few remarks and I would advise you to get to this DVD and enjoy the recording since anyway you cannot even dream of seeing it on any stage in the world with the same dancers, and I should say with the same four leading dancers. Thirteen years later, they are probably choreographing or directing a ballet company somewhere in this vast world. Luckily, we have DVDs.

The first remark is about the libretto as they call it, the synopsis of the twelve scenes. They generally contain two movements, two dimensions, except scenes 4 and 8 closing act 1 and Act 2. And even within this duality of themes or titles, each scene is conceived as a whole with a great variety of moments. This variety is for me one essential element. Instead of having a succession of clear-cut scenes, we have important but multifarious scenes, and the French word would be better, "tableaux." This word implies each of these scenes has an architecture that gives it not so much a unity, but in fact, power and dynamism that leads from one moment to the next, from one color to another, from one tempo to still another, never-ending, never freezing any moment in one cliché or vignette. We are dealing with slavery and shedding blood is the basic reality of these people, I mean being bled by someone else for the pleasure of a few or at times many. These scenes and their various moments are never cut and pasted one after the other. They systematically bleed from one into the next and this next one into a third one. It is a continuous flow of ever-changing tempi, colors, emotions, and that is my second element.

The choreography follows the music and the variety I have just spoken of finds its source in the music itself from moments of military bombastic pump and power to more sentimental and even intimate moments when the music is becoming some kind of chamber music that could be performed in some boudoir with an alcove behind a drawn curtain of modesty. And then we can shift to the music of the slaves who are dreaming of being free forever, though they know, and the tone is always tragic, that they are free as long as they fight for it, and that in fact, they are not fighting for their freedom they may conquer, but for the freedom they have in this fighting and that will anyway lead them to death and the annihilation, the "decimation" is a military term in the Roman legions meaning one out of ten soldiers guilty of lack of courage or cowardice is to be put to death by the other nine with all sorts of blunt objects, the annihilation, as I was saying, of this dream of liberty. Slave wars are always lost by the slaves, or at least those in the Roman Empire were always lost by the slaves. Has anything changed in this world? We could discuss the idea.

These tableaux of this hope, dream, or maybe simply illusion of freedom are danced in such a way that we have to feel some strong emotion in our own minds, own senses, and we feel some strong empathy emerging in us for these genocidal victims that can only, in the end, accept to die, accept to lose, accept to be crucified along a road with nothing but some Requiem to accompany them down into the Tenebrae. I must say the choreography and the bodies of the dancers, the two main couples of dancers, are there to feed these emotions. Crassus is a repulsive control freak who is ready to do anything provided it leads him to kill them all in the end. He is only motivated by this simple desire. He can't even have a real love relationship with Aegina who is the most erotic untouchable forbidden lascivious fruit that no one is supposed to even imagine yielding to any feeling, appeal, or whatever attraction that has only one name in our languages and it is totally rejected by her, even when it comes from Crassus.

On the other hand, Spartacus and Phrygia are able to have a sensuous and sensual relationship that they assume, knowing their time is short and counted, ticking down on the clock, or flowing down in the sandglass. This close and loving relationship is expressed by the pas de deux they have now and then, and the direct contact they can establish for an evanescent moment, or instant. But in this strongly emotional atmosphere, Spartacus dances like a god able to fly over the stage, over the earth. As he says in his interview, he is carrying the weight of slavery, the very slavery Carlos Acosta is a descendant from in Cuba. He has a way to express this dilemma, this heart-tearing situation: he is a dancer whose ancestors were slaves, and he dances as Spartacus, a slave that rebelled in vain and was in the end defeated and killed. For example, the way he dances with the chain that locks his two wrists in one of his monologues is the best way you can express the killing frustration of a slave who may dream of being chainless but who is by definition in chains and will be executed probably on a cross if he managed to get these chains off.

I remember Edmond Linval telling me one day that in dancing the most expressive element in the body is the way the head is positioned and moves, and the eyes that have to look at the audience "all the time" because the audience is going to see these eyes and feel the power of the head. The slaves at the beginning are shown as slaves with dancing, their hands locked behind their back, their general posture, particularly of the head pushed down into some submissive posture, but we reach here something that seems to be the real trademark of the Bolshoi. The dancing of groups of slaves, of soldiers, of freed slaves, or any other assembly of people is extremely dynamic and at times extremely rapid, but the coordination of every single detail in the movements and the postures, particularly the heads, is so good that we are over and over again fascinated by this collective action, and when the heads are positioned to express some challenge from the slaves, or some murderous rejection from the soldiers, or some social self-contentment from the elite in this society, the simultaneous and at times minute movement or stance is so perfectly synchronized and interrelated that we take it as a direct punch into our brains and minds that identify the meaning and the feeling at once bringing up empathy or revulsion. That is the master's brand of the Bolshoi itself. Where some might think slightly uncoordinated variations might bring some charm in the open meaning they carry, the Bolshoi seems to believe that perfect synchronization is essential, and in this ballet where tempi and colors are constantly changing it becomes crucial so that we can follow the meaning by just being carried by the synchronization that mesmerizes us.

The Requiem at the end is a superb ending that has been imitated many times in the Spartacus series (2010-2013) including of course the final death of Spartacus wrapped up in some kind of shroud to be then escorted to the other side of this life of slavery into the freedom of the afterlife, and I must say this ending is so much more powerful than the final crucifixion of Spartacus in Kubrick's film with the sentimentalese presentation of his son by his legally escaping wife.

Thank god, all the gods of all god-endowed religions, we have this recording. It will live forever and cross all climate changes you may imagine.


Waking the Dead

It should freeze the marrow in your bones

The series here concerned is very special and probably one of the best, especially because the stories all cover two episodes and thus reach over one hour and thirty minutes. That gives the stories the possibility to get into real detail and it is the detail that counts here because of the type of stories.

We are dealing with cold cases most of the time, cases of mostly serial killers, or at least two or three murders, at times a lot more. The series wants to explain why a serial killer becomes a serial killer. There is not one single and simple explanation. Every case is different, and the motivations of serial killers can be quite contradictory. This series maybe insists too much on the disrupted families, the dysfunctioning parents, the criminal environment in some neighborhoods, including racism of many sorts and shades, sexism as a basic element, etc.

The series though can describe some serial killers who do it for "positive" reasons like this social worker who becomes friendly with young drug addicts, provides them with a shot now and then to make them trust her, and when the drug-addict is ripe she provides him with an overdose that he injects himself in his arm, not knowing it is an overdose. The social worker wants to liberate the suffering drug addict. Pathetic and despicable.

At the same time, this series tries to show the deeper social problems in England. These are the lack of empathetic education, the presence of too many Europeans who come freely to England and end up in prostitution, drug trafficking, all sort of stealing and extortion, etc. Even regular work for these European migrants becomes an ordeal in the hands of over-exploitative "bosses" who are more slave-owners than entrepreneurs.

All institutions in England are concerned as being corrupt and more than shady, exploitative, and at least greedy if not perverted into all sorts of cruelty. The police are of course one of these institutions and quite many simple cops or higher-up investigators or administrators in the police force, including New Scotland Yard, are covering up crimes and murders for a profit. The series also covers military forces and military interventions like the Falkland war or Iraq. PTSD or PTSS is too often a way to cover the unethical wars England has waged or is waging, and it might be a good way for someone enterprising to cover his or her criminal activity with this PTSS or PTSD diagnosis.

The team of investigators in this cold case unit is shown as human, as much as possible, though the main boss would be inspired not to be the power freak he is too often. But his own son ends up on drugs and in the hands of the killing angel of a social worker I have already mentioned. And he manages when he catches up on her not to kill her blankly and just arrest her and let justice decide what she deserves.

Interesting and probably one of the most powerful preface to more recent developments.



La série concernée ici est très spéciale et probablement l'une des meilleures, notamment parce que les histoires couvrent toutes deux épisodes et atteignent donc plus d'une heure et trente minutes. Cela permet aux histoires d'entrer dans le détail et c'est le détail qui compte ici en raison du type d'histoires.

La plupart du temps, il s'agit d'affaires non résolues, de cas de tueurs en série, ou d'au moins deux ou trois meurtres, parfois beaucoup plus. La série veut expliquer pourquoi un tueur en série devient un tueur en série. Il n'existe pas d'explication unique et simple. Chaque cas est différent, et les motivations des tueurs en série peuvent être plutôt contradictoires. Cette série insiste peut-être trop sur les familles perturbées, les parents dysfonctionnels, l'environnement criminel de certains quartiers, y compris le racisme sous toutes ses formes et nuances, le sexisme comme élément de base, etc.

La série peut cependant décrire certains tueurs en série qui agissent pour des raisons "positives", comme cette assistante sociale qui se lie d'amitié avec de jeunes toxicomanes, leur donne une dose de temps en temps pour qu'ils lui fassent confiance, et quand le toxicomane est mûr, elle lui donne une overdose qu'il s'injecte lui-même dans le bras, sans savoir que c'est une overdose. L'assistante sociale veut libérer le toxicomane qui souffre. Pathétique et méprisable.

En même temps, cette série tente de montrer les problèmes sociaux plus profonds de l'Angleterre. Il s'agit du manque d'éducation empathique, de la présence de trop d'Européens qui viennent librement en Angleterre et se retrouvent dans la prostitution, le trafic de drogue, toutes sortes de vols et d'extorsions, etc. Même le travail régulier de ces migrants européens devient un calvaire entre les mains de "patrons" sur-exploiteurs qui sont plus des esclavagistes que des entrepreneurs.

Toutes les institutions en Angleterre sont concernées comme étant corrompues et plus que louches, exploitantes, et au moins cupides si ce n'est perverties dans et par toutes sortes de cruautés. La police est bien sûr l'une de ces institutions et bon nombre de simples flics ou d'enquêteurs ou d'administrateurs haut placés dans les forces de police, y compris à New Scotland Yard, couvrent des crimes et des meurtres pour en tirer un profit. La série couvre également les forces militaires et les interventions militaires comme la guerre des Malouines ou l'Irak. Le PTSS ou le PTSD est trop souvent un moyen de couvrir les guerres contraires à l'éthique que l'Angleterre a menées ou mène encore, et ce pourrait être un bon moyen pour quelqu'un d'entreprenant pour couvrir son activité criminelle avec ce diagnostic de PTSS ou de PTSD.

L'équipe d'enquêteurs de cette unité d'affaires non résolues est montrée comme humaine, autant que possible, bien que le patron principal serait inspiré de ne pas être le monstre de pouvoir qu'il est trop souvent. Mais son propre fils se retrouve sous l'emprise de la drogue et entre les mains de l'ange justicier d'assistante sociale dont j'ai déjà parlée. Et il parvient, lorsqu'il la rattrape, à ne pas la tuer purement et simplement, à l'arrêter et à laisser la justice décider de ce qu'elle mérite.

Intéressant et probablement l'une des plus puissantes préface à des développements plus récents au Royaume Uni comme le Brexit et le COVID-19.


Fratello sole, sorella luna

Mentally naked, sunny side up
Zeffirelli was still young and his fascination for this Francesco of Assisi is more amusing than mesmerizing. We were in a time when the Catholic church's elites reveled and drowned in luxury, inspiring and causing all sorts of criticism that they called heresies of course. And plenty of these heretics were burned on public squares, after roasting them on a grill, a sort of human barbecue (England liked that) or deep frying in oil (France like that) if these male mendicants were simply considered as being gay on the side, hence demoniac or devilish, adepts of Sodom in one word.

Their rejection of all sorts of riches and comfort, the decision to live from charity, hence to become mendicants for food and drink and absolutely chaste as for all other bodily desires or needs, or at least so they say. They also practiced voluntary work on the farms to get some food. This is surprising since we are in feudal times and the farmworkers are serfs, not independent farmworkers at all, and certainly not farmers. But that might in fact make them more sensitive to this holy begging. Local hostility came from the wealthy merchants, and from the ecclesiastical elite that enjoyed their luxury, without forgetting their promiscuity.

This hostility could have gotten these mendicants to prison (not too bad), to torturing chambers (a lot worse), and eventually to the stake to be roasted and burned (definitely the worst finishing touch). And it was quite possible that they could have gotten the three solutions for the price of one, an ordeal that could have lasted quite several weeks or months with daily cruelty like no food, no drink, all sorts of entertaining tortures, I mean entertaining for the elites and the populace, and finally slow roasting and slow-burning.

For reasons that are not really explained by history, Zeffirelli hints it is due to some connection with people who were "heard" in the church, they managed to get to the Pope. And there Zeffirelli clearly shows and says that the Pope, one Innocent with a number that does not count at all, recognized in these mendicants the way to be heard by the poor and the way for the church to recapture these poor from their various heresies. To make Francesco and his friends a bunch of martyrs would be deadly for the church. To make them exotic Christians could prevent some difficulties in these times of Cathars and other precursor movements announcing the Reformation.

Apart from that and the trick or tick of Zeffirelli to show one way or another the backside of a nude male, the film is charmingly romantic and sentimental.



Zeffirelli était encore jeune et sa fascination pour ce Francesco d'Assisi est plus amusante qu'envoûtante. Nous étions à une époque où les élites de l'église catholique se délectaient et se noyaient dans le luxe, inspirant et provoquant toutes sortes de critiques qu'elles appelaient bien sûr des hérésies. Et beaucoup de ces hérétiques étaient brûlés sur les places publiques, après avoir été rôtis sur un grill, une sorte de barbecue humain (l'Angleterre aimait ça) ou frits en bain d'huile (la France aimait ça) si ces mendiants masculins étaient simplement considérés comme étant marginalement gays, donc démoniaques ou diaboliques, des adeptes de Sodome en un mot.

Leur rejet de toutes sortes de richesses et de confort, leur décision de vivre de charité, donc de devenir mendiants pour la nourriture et la boisson et absolument chastes quant à tous les autres désirs ou besoins corporels, du moins le disent-ils. Ils pratiquaient aussi le travail volontaire dans les fermes pour se procurer un peu de nourriture. Cela est surprenant puisque nous sommes à l'époque féodale et que les ouvriers agricoles sont des serfs, pas du tout des ouvriers agricoles indépendants, et certainement pas des agriculteurs. Mais cela pourrait en fait les rendre plus sensibles à cette sainte mendicité. L'hostilité locale venait des riches marchands, et de l'élite ecclésiastique qui profitait de leur luxe, sans oublier leur promiscuité.

Cette hostilité pouvait conduire ces mendiants en prison (pas trop mal), dans les chambres de torture (bien pire), et finalement sur le bûcher pour être rôtis et brûlés (certainement la pire touche finale). Et il était tout à fait possible qu'ils pussent obtenir ou subir les trois solutions pour le prix d'une, un calvaire qui pouvait durer plusieurs semaines ou mois avec des cruautés quotidiennes comme l'absence de nourriture, l'absence de boisson, toutes sortes de tortures divertissantes brisant les os et faisant saigner, je veux dire divertissantes pour les élites et la populace, et enfin le rôtissage et le brûlage lent dans une brûlerie en place publique généralement appelée bûcher.

Pour des raisons qui ne sont pas vraiment expliquées par l'histoire, Zeffirelli laisse entendre que c'est grâce à un lien avec des personnes "écoutées" dans l'église, qu'ils ont réussi à atteindre le Pape. Et là, Zeffirelli montre et dit clairement que le Pape, un Innocent avec un numéro qui ne compte pas du tout, a reconnu dans ces mendiants le moyen d'être entendu par les pauvres et le moyen pour l'église de récupérer ces pauvres de leurs diverses hérésies. Faire de Francesco et de ses amis une bande de martyrs serait mortel pour l'église. En faire des chrétiens exotiques pouvait éviter quelques difficultés en ces temps de Cathares et autres mouvements précurseurs annonçant la Réforme.

A part cela et le truc ou le tic de Zeffirelli de montrer d'une manière ou d'une autre la « face » arrière d'un mâle nu, le film est d'un romantisme et d'un sentimentalisme charmants.


Murdoch Mysteries: The Curse of the Lost Pharaohs

Canada in, the good old, very old, days
We only have the first eleven seasons here, but the series is still going on. The action takes place just before the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the latest season, it must be very close to the first world war, if we take one season equals one year in historical time. Because the historical rooting of the series is very important. Some historical characters intervene in the action, either politicians like the Canadian Prime Minister, or President Theodor Roosevelt and many characters are literary names of the period like Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, not to mention the allusions to literary fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes. Their objective is to give some truth value to the story.

The second element is that the series is systematically centered on problems of the time, social and political problems, I mean, like the voting right for women, the debate about abortion and contraception, the regulation against alcohol with very noisy prohibition activists, often vicious and on the verge of domestic religious terrorism, definitely bigotry. The presence of Indians in the wilderness is also represented, now and then, particularly in the Christmas special film, "Home for the Holidays." Then Murdoch systematically brings in questions concerning various inventions he devised like tea bags, or other people around him devised like toe-tags for corpses, and the recurrent intervention of a mad scientist who is ready to invest - with his presence most of the time - on any crazy project that has since then become standard in our twenty-first century's society. You can imagine of course the dubious hostility these inventions can develop and boost among the local audience in Toronto at the time.

But what about the crimes?

Not much to say, except that they want to be entertaining and they are certainly not very accurate as for the details of the crimes themselves and the logic of the criminals who have not gone to a real school of crime anywhere, and how these crimes are committed. But of course, the details are not what is important here. Let us suspend our disbelief since we are only expecting some entertainment. And entertainment it is, even when it deals with the deep and ever-present corruption in the city of Toronto, and probably in Canada; not to mention the USA next door that are the champions all categories in the field, the corruption field that definitely sounds like a battlefield against honest economical Canadians, and eventually Americans.

Apart from detective Murdoch and his superior Chief Inspector Brickenreid who is as subtle as what his name suggests, a collar or a wreath of bricks, and bricks made of mud, certainly not diamond, not even intellectual silver, apart from them the main characters are a simple Police Constable, and a few colleagues of his, George Crabtree who is an author from time to time, a fan of pharaohs and other ancient history characters, and the developer of superheroes in comic-book style. And I would be unfair if I forgot the last but not least essential character, Doctor Julia Ogden, a coroner, pathologist, or medical examiner who spends her life in the morgue, and some of her free time agitating women for the conquest of political suffrage, and abortion plus contraception. At the time it was treason and deserved the death penalty, English style if you please, meaning hanging.

The series, even if it deals with controversial questions in the historical period concerned, is far from being controversial today and we must say it is quite a prime time, no PG classification at all program, and it might even be educational on some points for a younger audience. And all the corpses are very modest and shy under their sheets or other shameless, lustless, and humble timidity in their fully covered nudity. At least covered as much as the bathers on the beach of the lake, from ankles to chin, at least both ways, men, and women alike, including children of both sexes. That's what it costs these corpses to be in a prime-time series as characters of honor, maybe honorable personae.


The Catcher Was a Spy

Very sad patriotism
Humane or simply reflexive personalities that are not always recognized in what they did that might have limited the horror. This case is one example.

A baseball star is recruited during World War II to become a spy because of his fitness, his knowledge of half a dozen languages, his being unmarried and his having no children, and of course his willingness to do that kind of "profession." His next advantage is that he is "Jewish," as he says, as an alternative to being "a Jew," and his not being gay, a side remark that reveals how sexual or gender minorities were systematically pointed out and pushed aside in anything that could be crucial for a country, an organization, or an institution in those not so distant years that Trump would have liked to bring back, supposedly because then they can easily be blackmailed, under torture or not, into spilling information.

His mission is to neutralize the German physicist Heisenberg who is maybe working on an atom bomb for Hitler. Moe Berg, the baseball catcher, is brought to Italy in 1944 with a team of two, to contact an Italian close friend of Heisenberg to get info about the whereabouts of the German physicist. They have to cross a German line protecting the German retreat in Italy. They do it and they manage to meet the Italian friend who tells them the information he has that seems to show Heisenberg is not working on a bomb but on a powerplant. Yet they may have an opportunity to come close to him since he is supposed to deliver a lecture in Switzerland soon. So, our spy is sent to Switzerland.

There he is ready to kill the physicist if it is confirmed he is building a nuclear bomb. Difficult contact via another close friend, Swiss in this case, but Moe nearly burns it up, though he managed to save it in a very last second more than a last minute. He manages to get face-to-face with him in a street in Zurich, and he had not taken into account that Heisenberg would have some kind of protection. He had also more or less forgotten he himself had some protection and it is Moe's protective agent who shot Heisenberg's protective agent just before this one could shoot Moe who reacted to the shooting and drew his weapon.

The face-to-face turns into a triplet with the third party being a gun. Heisenberg just tells Moe what he knows "Germany is going to lose the war in a few months!" It is proof enough that he is not helping Hitler with an atom bomb. So, he puts his gun back into his coat's pocket and walks away. That's how this German physicist was spared and after the war, he collaborated with the western allies. Moe refused some cross from the federal government and sort of disappeared into the vacuum of social life, but he lost complete contact with his life partner of before this mission, showing he was traumatized in a way by his decision not to kill the physicist, not to fulfill his own mission.

War is always a very bad partner in life. And it proves Heisenberg's main principle of uncertainty is absolutely right: We can never know both "what something is and where it is going." That's why the future is always open, no matter what all the history philosophers and all the Marcel Gauchets or Karl Marxes in this world may think about the predictability of the future.


Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache

Superb Poliltical Mythology
A very beautiful film. We may wonder how Fritz Lang managed to get to that level of quality of picture but also that width of picture with the camera of the time. But he managed at least to give the impression he had wide pictures of landscape and movement, particularly galloping horses and masses of people.

The film is not in black and white as expected but in gold and black and that gives it a tremendous impact since it is color without being color. It is warm whereas white and black would have been cold. That establishes a relation with the audience that is close like some story telling at night in front of some fire in the winter. We are inside the story. Another quality is the costumes. The luxurious costumes of the Nibelungen from Burgundy and the city of Worms are strikingly imposing and even forbidding. Hagen Tronje's rough costume and extravagant helmet make him look like a barbarian, violent by principle, treacherous by nature. He is the man apart that will never be betrayed by the clan, in spite of all the misery he will bring down upon them. In the same way the Huns are shown as primitive, mostly have nude, and children are shown as systematically nude, living in some kind of huts or tents, at times troglodyte caves, though at the same time they have a palace in the "city" and that palace is in a way beautiful though rather massive and heavy but quite comparable to that of the Nibelungen in Worms which is maybe vaster and more richly decorated and has a cathedral.

The restoration of the film has a lot to do with the quality of the picture but all the rest is really Fritz Lang's.

The question this film brings up is the motivation of Fritz Lang when he directed and produced this film. The film goes back to the traditional Germanic more than German legend of Siegfried and his wife Kriemhild. This version is not the only one in Germanic culture with some others more Scandinavian in which Siegfried is named Sigurd. This film is centered on Burgundy seen as German and the Huns in the East. This redistributing Europe to the benefit of Germany is typical of the post World War 1 atmosphere, the desire to step over the defeat. At the same time the Nibelungen are run amok because of one of their allies who is untrustworthy, and yet they stick to him. That leads to all the Nibelungen being destroyed by the vengeful will of one of them, hence some kind of a traitor, Kriemhild herself who wants to avenge the murder of her husband, though she forgets to remember she gave the killer the information he needed to succeed. She wants at least everyone to forget. And she will get her vengeance, but she will be destroyed by one surviving member of the clan.

That means the defeat comes from inside because the Nibelungen were not able to respect and protect the hero they had welcomed in their clan. You see the myth behind, the lesson to the German audience: be faithful and support your heroes. Just nine years later it is this mood that will produce Hitler and the full German support to him. The Germans did not do the same mistake as in the old days. Surprisingly enough the lesson comes from a Jew, the main victims later on.

The vision of the East, the Huns, Attila, is the vision of a primitive and extremely barbaric people but yet courageous and dedicated to themselves, the Huns, with waves and waves of simple people turned warriors without weapons or equipment, dying in great number but finally overwhelming the well equipped and well trained Nibelungen. True enough the killing idea came from Kriemhild: burn them all in and out, but yet it is the Huns who did it, burning down their own palace to roast the Nibelungen inside. At the same time the motivations were clear: they wanted to avenge the killing of Attila's own son by Hagen Tronje. They were justified since Hagen Tronje killed an infant out of pure spite.

We can wonder if this film, a lot more popular medium than the rewriting of the myth by Wagner's operas, though Wagner could now be heard on the radio in the 1920s and 1930s, if this film did not contribute to build the atmosphere and motivation that brought Hitler to power. One thing is sure: the film is a very compelling call to the Germans to reunite and get inspiration from their mythology or past and at the same time to unite behind their heroes not to make the same mistakes again. In 1924 Hitler was still unknown but yet the momentum that was going to bring him to power was already moving and building up. This film is one piece of the puzzle. And it's probably for that reason that we had to wait so long before getting it restored to some glory. Some historical facts of the past are at times difficult to digest by modern people.


Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache

Superb Poliltical Mythology
A very beautiful film. We may wonder how Fritz Lang managed to get to that level of quality of picture but also that width of picture with the camera of the time. But he managed at least to give the impression he had wide pictures of landscape and movement, particularly galloping horses and masses of people.

The film is not in black and white as expected but in gold and black and that gives it a tremendous impact since it is color without being color. It is warm whereas white and black would have been cold. That establishes a relation with the audience that is close like some story telling at night in front of some fire in the winter. We are inside the story. Another quality is the costumes. The luxurious costumes of the Nibelungen from Burgundy and the city of Worms are strikingly imposing and even forbidding. Hagen Tronje's rough costume and extravagant helmet make him look like a barbarian, violent by principle, treacherous by nature. He is the man apart that will never be betrayed by the clan, in spite of all the misery he will bring down upon them. In the same way the Huns are shown as primitive, mostly have nude, and children are shown as systematically nude, living in some kind of huts or tents, at times troglodyte caves, though at the same time they have a palace in the "city" and that palace is in a way beautiful though rather massive and heavy but quite comparable to that of the Nibelungen in Worms which is maybe vaster and more richly decorated and has a cathedral.

The restoration of the film has a lot to do with the quality of the picture but all the rest is really Fritz Lang's.

The question this film brings up is the motivation of Fritz Lang when he directed and produced this film. The film goes back to the traditional Germanic more than German legend of Siegfried and his wife Kriemhild. This version is not the only one in Germanic culture with some others more Scandinavian in which Siegfried is named Sigurd. This film is centered on Burgundy seen as German and the Huns in the East. This redistributing Europe to the benefit of Germany is typical of the post World War 1 atmosphere, the desire to step over the defeat. At the same time the Nibelungen are run amok because of one of their allies who is untrustworthy, and yet they stick to him. That leads to all the Nibelungen being destroyed by the vengeful will of one of them, hence some kind of a traitor, Kriemhild herself who wants to avenge the murder of her husband, though she forgets to remember she gave the killer the information he needed to succeed. She wants at least everyone to forget. And she will get her vengeance, but she will be destroyed by one surviving member of the clan.

That means the defeat comes from inside because the Nibelungen were not able to respect and protect the hero they had welcomed in their clan. You see the myth behind, the lesson to the German audience: be faithful and support your heroes. Just nine years later it is this mood that will produce Hitler and the full German support to him. The Germans did not do the same mistake as in the old days. Surprisingly enough the lesson comes from a Jew, the main victims later on.

The vision of the East, the Huns, Attila, is the vision of a primitive and extremely barbaric people but yet courageous and dedicated to themselves, the Huns, with waves and waves of simple people turned warriors without weapons or equipment, dying in great number but finally overwhelming the well equipped and well trained Nibelungen. True enough the killing idea came from Kriemhild: burn them all in and out, but yet it is the Huns who did it, burning down their own palace to roast the Nibelungen inside. At the same time the motivations were clear: they wanted to avenge the killing of Attila's own son by Hagen Tronje. They were justified since Hagen Tronje killed an infant out of pure spite.

We can wonder if this film, a lot more popular medium than the rewriting of the myth by Wagner's operas, though Wagner could now be heard on the radio in the 1920s and 1930s, if this film did not contribute to build the atmosphere and motivation that brought Hitler to power. One thing is sure: the film is a very compelling call to the Germans to reunite and get inspiration from their mythology or past and at the same time to unite behind their heroes not to make the same mistakes again. In 1924 Hitler was still unknown but yet the momentum that was going to bring him to power was already moving and building up. This film is one piece of the puzzle. And it's probably for that reason that we had to wait so long before getting it restored to some glory. Some historical facts of the past are at times difficult to digest by modern people.


High Crimes

Rather dubious business
A simple summary of the starting point of the plot is "High powered lawyer Claire Kubik finds her world turned upside down when her husband, who has been living under a false name, is arrested by military police and placed on trial for the murder of seven villagers while he was in the Marines." Very fast when we see how the defense of this marine by his own wife runs into some problems, we are becoming cautious. The case is obviously dubious, and the marine would be innocent only if we assume the seven witnesses who accused him are fake witnesses. Five of them are dead, two in combat, three in some kind of accident. We are led to believe that these accidents were assassinations. Yet it sounds a little bit too much. True enough the military justice we are dealing with here is not transparent, not very reliable, and definitely hostile.

The black colleague the wife is working with to defend her husband has his own doubts about this case and he follows another line that takes him to Mexico. He meets with witnesses of the death of two at least of the dead witnesses. These new witnesses saw with their own eyes the killing of two of these accusing witnesses for the said-marine. The description of the killer fits by far too well the marine himself. The dates also correspond to dates in the schedule of the marine, leading to the idea that he actually tried to get rid of the accusing witnesses of the military crime he is accused of. Personally, I find this a little bit simple. It should be improved slightly to be really convincing.

But the film cuts it short, and after the wife got this new information on the phone - after the positive end of the trial in the morning - from her black colleague in México City, she finds out her husband who had said he was going out to buy cigarettes had not gone out and hence knows what the conversation was about. The confrontation this time leads to an attempt of the marine to kill his own wife. In fact, on the day before she had met a San Salvadoran who was connected to the victims of the military killing of seven people by one marine, and he had revealed that the case was not that clear and that she probably should think it over a second time. But before this meeting, she had been able to approach the general who was covering the operation leading to the accident in San Salvador and who wants the case to be tried. She had managed to get some classified documents about the still surviving marines that were involved and these documents cast some real doubt on the honesty of these still surviving marines, hence casting some light on the possibility of a cover-up operation. On the following morning when she arrives in court, she is summoning along with the prosecuting officer and they both are told by the military judge who gives them the necessary ruling that by the decision of the concerned service of the Pentagon, the case is dropped and the accusation withdrawn, hence the accused marine is free to go and is exonerated.

And yet just a few hours later, when she knows her husband is a liar and a criminal, he confronts her and tries to kill her. At this moment, the San Salvadoran she had met on the previous evening who had followed her or tracked her shoots the marine, her husband, in the back and goes away. His motivation was vengeance more than justice, but in this case, both led to the same end. The end then is simple. She and her black colleague got some kind of financial compensation for the case, though it does not seem clear how and why, and she decides to accept the proposition of her colleague to become his partner under her maiden name.

What is strange though is that the two lawyers during the trial were the victims of several intimidating events that could have ended with their deaths, and it is implied that it is coming from the military or other Pentagon services, and yet that is surprising since they had the power of having the marine convicted and railroaded to the death penalty or life-long imprisonment. Who was thus trying to kill them or at least intimidate them? It is difficult to believe the husband did that though it would be logical. But could he have the means to do this while he was in military custody? And that would be a very dangerous double game.

So, I find this whole plot slightly suspicious. It sounds too much like a fake case only to entertain a teenage summer audience.


The Debt

Slightly unrealistic
THE DEBT - 2011

A small film on an essential subject. The hunt and trials of ex-Nazi criminals, in this case, a doctor from Birkenau's KZ-camp. Three Jewish agents of the Israeli Mossad found him in the early 1960s in East Germany, tracked him, managed to abduct him, and then fail to get him out of the DDR, East Germany. They are abandoned by everyone and he manages to escape from their custody. I think the whole detention in some old Berlin apartment complex is unrealistic because infinitely too noisy in a city that was overcrowded because of the tremendous destruction of the war. But let's believe the impossible was made possible. The three Israeli agents decide to tell a false story that the woman managed to kill him at the last minute before he ran into the street.

For more than thirty years they went on with the story, with the lie, till the two men start having pangs of conscience and the woman wants to speak. She is married to and divorced from one of the two men who got her pregnant in Berlin, though she loved the other man. Too bad. That other man contacts her to ask for permission to tell the truth. She refuses. He hangs himself. Then she decides to go after the Doctor and finish the work because a journalist where he is in the 1990s, in Ukraine, is planning to publish the true story of the Surgeon of Birkenau. She goes there, finds out the man who is speaking to the journalist is not the real Doctor, but she sees him in the distance in the psychiatric hospital where he is and she follows him, and he knows she is following him because he wants her to follow him.

Battle in some washrooms. He manages to leave her on the floor with several punctures in her abdomen, dying. He walks out but she had had time to plant her syringe with poison in his back and inject the poison. So, he walks out of the washroom and dies in the corridor. In the meantime, before this final battle, she had been able to leave a message for the journalist who was coming to interview the false Doctor who was telling the story of the true Doctor. She thus told the Ukrainian journalist who she was and that the story he is going to publish is the truth. She encourages him to have it published.

The truth always comes out. Though I prefer the novel Apt Pupil by Stephen King that centers on a Nazi war criminal in the USA, discovered by a high school student. They must still be a few alive somewhere but they must be beyond 95 years old.



Un petit film sur un sujet essentiel. La chasse et le procès d'anciens criminels nazis, en l'occurrence un médecin du camp de concentration de Birkenau. Trois agents juifs du Mossad israélien l'ont retrouvé au début des années 1960 en Allemagne de l'Est, l'ont traqué, ont réussi à l'enlever, mais n'ont pas réussi à le faire sortir de la DDR, l'Allemagne de l'Est. Ils sont abandonnés par tout le monde et le docteur parvient à échapper à leur détention. Je pense que cette détention dans un ancien immeuble de Berlin est irréaliste car infiniment trop bruyante dans une ville surpeuplée à cause des énormes destructions de la guerre. Mais croyons que l'impossible a été rendu possible. Les trois agents israéliens décident de raconter une fausse histoire selon laquelle la femme a réussi à le tuer à la dernière minute avant qu'il ne se précipite dans la rue.

Pendant plus de trente ans, ils ont collé à l'histoire, au mensonge, jusqu'à ce que les deux hommes commencent à avoir des remords de conscience et que la femme veuille parler. Elle est mariée et divorcée avec l'un des deux hommes qui l'a mise enceinte à Berlin, bien qu'elle ait aimé l'autre homme. Dommage. Cet autre homme la contacte pour lui demander la permission de dire la vérité. Elle refuse. Il se pend. Puis elle décide de s'en prendre au Docteur et de finir le travail car un journaliste où il se trouve dans les années 1990, en Ukraine, envisage de publier l'histoire vraie du Chirurgien de Birkenau. Elle y va, découvre que l'homme qui parle au journaliste n'est pas le vrai docteur, mais elle le voit de loin dans l'hôpital psychiatrique où il se trouve et elle le suit, et il sait qu'elle le suit parce qu'il veut qu'elle le suive.

Bataille dans un bloc de lavabos. Il parvient à la laisser sur le sol avec plusieurs plaies d'arme blanche dans l'abdomen, mourante. Il sort mais elle a eu le temps de planter sa seringue avec du poison dans son dos et de lui injecter le poison. Alors, il sort des lavabos et meurt dans le couloir. En attendant, avant cette bataille finale, elle avait pu laisser un message au journaliste qui venait interviewer le faux Docteur qui racontait l'histoire du vrai Docteur. Elle a ainsi dit au journaliste ukrainien qui elle était et que l'histoire qu'il va publier est la vérité. Elle l'encourage à la publier.

La vérité sort toujours. Bien que je préfère le roman Apt Pupil de Stephen King qui se concentre sur un criminel de guerre nazi aux États-Unis, découvert par un lycéen. Il doit y en avoir encore quelques-uns en vie quelque part, mais ils doivent avoir plus de 95 ans.



Crime is a police cancer
Good action but that's all. No depth whatsoever except about the police in London, which is going through day after day, and even at night, a traumatic experience confronting all sorts of criminals. They become drug addicts to put drug addicts under surveillance. They become violent to put violence under surveillance. They become crooked to put crookedness under surveillance. And if they don't do it, then the criminals will always get out with the best lawyers available.

In this case in the London East End, they bring in a good cop from the West End to look into a cop-killing case known as the Blitz. It took them some time and some computer work to identify him and identify the cops he was and is targeting. But even so, he can go through all difficulties with the police because he covers his tracks, and he is very careful. He is also one step ahead all the time because he knows what the cops are going to do.

Till the West End polite cop decides to team with the East End brutal cop to corner him, and they do, and they bring him in, but they have no hard evidence, so they have to release him, and they decide to chase him and corner him, and to bait him and to have him follow the East End brutal cop in order to bring him exactly where they want him to be, on the roof of some multi-level car park where they confront him. He had the uniform of one cop he killed on so that he could go to the funeral of this cop and track the East End violent cop there. He also had this dead cop's weapon. He is simply beaten down and finally shot with the dead cop's weapon. The two cops just pick the various weapons used in the battle and they go away leaving him dead with a bullet in his skull.

Is that what the police have to be in our modern world? Disgusting, but maybe effective. Must efficiency take over reform, and education, justice, and equality? I guess maybe yes perhaps it might be a possible solution to crime, crime seen as some domestic daily terrorism.



Excellente action mais c'est tout. Aucune profondeur, sauf sur la police de Londres, qui vit jour après jour, et même la nuit, une expérience traumatisante face à toutes sortes de criminels. Ils deviennent toxicomanes pour mettre les toxicomanes sous surveillance. Ils deviennent violents pour mettre la violence sous surveillance. Ils deviennent ripoux pour mettre la pourriture sous surveillance. Et s'ils ne le font pas, les criminels s'en sortiront toujours avec les meilleurs avocats disponibles.

Dans ce cas dans le London East End, ils font venir un bon flic du West End pour enquêter sur une affaire de meurtre de flic connue sous le nom de Blitz. Il leur a fallu du temps et du travail informatique pour l'identifier et identifier les flics qu'il ciblait et qu'il cible. Mais même ainsi, il peut traverser toutes les difficultés avec la police car il couvre ses traces, et il est très prudent. Il a également une longueur d'avance tout le temps car il sait ce que les flics vont faire.

Jusqu'à ce que le flic poli du West End décide de faire équipe avec le flic brutal de l'East End pour le coincer, et ils le font, et ils l'interpellent, l'arrêtent, mais ils n'ont aucune preuve tangible, ils doivent donc le libérer, et ils décident de le poursuivre et le coincer, l'appâter et le faire suivre le flic brutal de l'East End afin de l'amener exactement là où ils veulent qu'il soit, sur le toit d'un parking à plusieurs niveaux où ils le confrontent. Il portait l'uniforme d'un flic qu' il a tué pour pouvoir se rendre aux funérailles de ce flic et y traquer le flic violent de l'East End. Il avait aussi l'arme de ce flic mort. Il est simplement passé à tabac et finalement abattu avec l'arme du flic mort. Les deux flics emportent simplement les différentes armes utilisées dans la bataille et ils s'en vont le laissant mort avec une balle dans le crâne.

Est-ce ce que la police doit être dans notre monde moderne? Dégoûtant, mais peut-être efficace. L'efficacité doit-elle prendre le pas sur la réforme et l'éducation, la justice et l'égalité? Je suppose que oui, peut-être que cela pourrait être une solution possible au crime, le crime considéré comme un terrorisme domestique quotidien.



So umbilically selfish
With time this film has become completely obsolete. The desire to live forever was typical of Reagan and the Godlen Boys' presidency. Today we just satisfy ourselves with surviving a few more years.

The vision of extraterrestrials as more advanced than us and unable not to remember when they were born and when one has died in their vicinity is plainly absurd. No living organism can live forever nor have Biblical life spans.

But what's more to consider it is normal and acceptable that a bunch of oldies actually murder by carelessness and breaking and entering two extraterrestrials is outrageous. It is murder, at least manslaughter, even if these superior organisms are extraterrestrials and not men, or women.

And to see all these oldies rushing to the extraterrestrial promise of eternal life and no diseases is so pathetic that we dream of not getting that senile later on in our lives. Parkinson's or Alzheimer's are OK, but not that egotistic, self-centered, and careless about other people.

This film should disappear in the big drawer of historically rejected cultural productions for lack of cultural value and human depth.


Mr. Holmes

Suave and sweet
A simple film about Mr. Sherlock Holmes at the end of his life in the countryside in his personal estate with a caretaker who is an RAF widow with her son who must be around 12 or 13. Sherlock Holmes is just back from Japan where he has met a man who claims a little bit loudly to be an admirer. Sherlock Holmes in his mythical cult of truth nearly blows it up but he manages to fall back on his feet and keep his balance. Who cares whether the man is a fantasizer or not? As long as he is hurting no one.

The actor is very good as for that, learning how to stop being the truthful prick Sherlock Holmes has always been. The boy on his estate, Roger, is fascinated by Sherlock Holmes and his discovery of dead bees on the beehives behind the house makes him look for the enemies of the bees, hence the wasps, and he finds the nest, and he tries to get too close, and he is attacked and stung many times. He is rushed to the hospital and will manage to get through it. In other words, he was not allergic.

It is probably with such an event that Sherlock Holmes finally understands that at the end of his life he has to freewheel a little bit and relax too. But the two actors for Mr. Holmes and Roger, one a confirmed adult and the other one a young actor starting an early career are the real strong heart of the film. The two playing together, playing with one another, both accomplices and competitors, make the film very entertaining. The wasp's incident tells the old man he has to do something else to bring his life to a satisfactory end. So, he writes a letter to his Japanese friend or host and tells him a totally fictional episode about his father serving the British crown in a totally secret, top-secret mission of several years. It is a purely fictional letter, but he knows his Japanese friend will cherish it like gold.

At the same time, he decides to leave the estate entirely to his caretaker and her son and some arrangement about a fund for the son's coming years. He then can go into the meadow and surround himself with a circle of stones representing the people who have been important in his life. Yet he refuses to include Roger in the circle because Roger has a life ahead of him and cannot be included in the past of Sherlock Holmes. That's purely suave but it is sweet and heartful.

Of course, "The man beyond the myth of Sherlock Holmes" is an absolute lie because there is no man behind, beyond, or under the Myth of Sherlock Holmes since Sherlock Holmes is a fictional being that has captured some mythical importance in the psyche of millions of people. The man then is just another myth over or under the fictional mythical character. But it is fun to imagine what such a man could have become in his old age.


The Goldfinch

Slightly far-fetched
It is the strangest film you can imagine. A 13-year-old when his mother is killed nearly next to himself in The Metropolitan Art Museum in New York by a terrorist attack of some sort that is not really explained, steals a small painting and goes away with it. This painting will lead him into an extraordinary "adventure" in crime country, though it is not very clear what could interest any drug dealing mafia in this painting of a simple bird on a simple box. The painting will eventually be stolen from him and he will have to run internationally to recapture it and return to where it should have been all along.

Apart from this plot that is for me weak as suspense because hardly sustainable, the film has some interest for completely different reasons.

On the day of the terrorist attack, Theodore Decker, the boy, makes eye contact with a girl his age or so, and the man with her will be killed by the bombing. That will lead Theo to look for her and he will thus be introduced to the business and personal partner of the dead man. The business of the two men was antique dealing. Theo will become the assistant of the survivor of the couple and even his associate at some point along the line. There is some emotional content there but that is rather simple.

The next interest is the acting of the actor who is playing this 13-year-old boy. The acting is complex and complicated to express the trauma as well as the going over this trauma with, along the way, some events that will remain in his mind and yet will not lead him anywhere, like his very short relationship with a Russian boy, Boris, slightly older than him he met in New Mexico and then leaves behind when he decides to go back to New York, still at his early teenage time.

This Russian youngster, when Theodore is an adult, will come back into the picture to help him solve the problem of the disappeared painting. As a Russian by origin, he is in contact with the Russian mafia, and through this connection, he happens to know who has the painting and he suggests going to Amsterdam in order to buy the painting from the criminal circle that has it. But it turns into a trap.

Then everything gets confused but ends well with a few dead people on the ground and a few wounded people too, on the run, among others his Russian friend but Theo develops a sense of guilt and tries to commit suicide, but he is saved by his Russian friend. Back in New York, he gets ready to get married, and yet the old relationship with his Russian friend is still active and the end is not clear at all, though as usual, the hopeful will imagine the two friends of their teenage time will become friends again in their adult time. But that might be wishful thinking because normalcy is so attractive, and it may become a real chain tying you down in your seat.

It is just interesting but not really outstanding.


Les choristes

Le retour de la mémoire
C'est bien un remake du film "La Cage aux Rossignols" mais avec quelques changements cruciaux. On garde l'ambiguïté des rossignols, qui sont des oiseaux qui chantent beaucoup et bien , mais qui sont aussi des objets de piètre qualité, et des gens sans aucune originalité, bref des individus rejetés par la société, marginalisés dans la société, bref du rebus social. Mais on quitte cette image d'enfants vus comme du rebus social. C'est l'institution et son nom qui nous plonge au plus profond de la misère humaine pour des enfants, le fonds de l'étang, la boue, la fange, bref le rien du tout.

Les dialogues sont parfois fort ressemblants quand ils ne sont pas identiques. Mais on change l'empaquetage de l'histoire pour quitter le mélodrame pré-hollywoodien. Simplement deux anciens élèves de cette institution pour enfants difficiles, sans famille ou rejetés par leurs familles, se rencontrent un soir, ou peu importe quand, le petit qui ne chantait pas car il attendait le retour de son père de la guerre ou il était mort mais l'enfant ne voulait pas le croire, d'une part. On a changé de période. On a quitté l'avant-guerre pour passer à l'après-guerre, probablement juste après la guerre. On n'était plus dans l'absence totale de réforme d'un système napoléonien caduc et absurde, mais dans une période où on parlait beaucoup de réforme avec le Plan Langevin-Wallon qui sera magistralement abandonné dès que les communistes seront virés du gouvernement en 1947. Le film est revu et corrigé dans cette perspective de ce mot d'ordre "Tous capables" si généreux et vrai fondamentalement mais à condition que l'on accepte que chacun ne sera capable que de réussir dans ce qu'il voudra faire. Tous capables de réussir mais pas aux mêmes choses. Même le délinquant qui met le feu au château est capable de réussir, réussir à fuir la justice, réussir à brûler cette école, réussir à être l'exploiteur des faibles et l'enquiquineur diabolique des ceusses qui ont un tant soit peu d'autorité sur lui, ou qui croient en avoir.

Ici on prouve le principe pédagogique premier de Langevin-Wallon en faisant chanter tous les enfants de cette école, et pourtant un ne chante pas et est l'assistant muet du chef de choeur, et un autre ne chante pas non plus et est le pupitre du maître de choeur. Serait-ce que tous ne sont pas capables de chanter, et je ne dis pas de chanter juste?

Le film est bien fait et essaie de montrer comment l'autorité se conquiert par le respect et la justice et non par le principe absurde action-réaction de tous les apprentis fascistes. Et c'est la fin qui est le plus marquant changement. Ce pauvre pion qui n'est qu'un raté social car il ne sait pas se valoriser dans la société, disparait de l'école et pourtant il écrit son aventure là tout en vivotant en donnant des leçons de musique. Le petit garçon qui ne chantait pas dans la chorale fuit l'école avec le pion le jour de son licenciement, une fin humoristiquement impossible puisque cela aurait été dans la loi française la plus simple au moins un enlèvement sinon un détournement de mineur. Mais c'est ce petit garçon qui a passé toute sa vie avec ce pion qui l'a sauvé de l'enfer, et c'est lui qui vient voir le chanteur superbe qui a fait toute une carrière avec une voix d'ange, un contreténor quand il avait 10 ou 12 ans, et qui pourtant a comme tous les autres oublié le pion, car les enfants oublient facilement leurs moments de bonheur en s'enfermant dans leurs moments de malheur. Et si avec le temps on oublie le malheur, on en oublie de la même façon le bonheur. C'est triste, mais souvent dans une vie il y a ce moment magique et imprévu, parfaitement inattendu, qui fait revenir le passé et alors le bonheur refait surface, si avec le temps passé, on a su prendre le contrôle du malheur et on a su le faire taire.

C'est ainsi que le petit qui ne chantait pas, Pépinot, ramène la voix d'ange, Pierre Morhange, à ce passé avec le long mémoire du pion, Clément Mathieu, qu'il a écrit avec l'aide de Pépinot et pour que ce Pépinot aille le remettre à Pierre Morhange quand lui, Clément Mathieu, aurait disparu de l'histoire, s'entend de cette vie de médiocrité reconnue et imposée pour les seule avantages d'une élite tout aussi médiocre mais qui a la bonne chaise là où il faut et quand il le faut.

Regardez les deux films dans le bon ordre, La Cage aux Rossignols d'abord et les Choristes ensuite.


La cage aux rossignols

Hope does exist even in hell
Ce n'est probablement pas un chef d'oeuvre , mais c'est un très bon film. Pas génial car il est en noir et blanc, car le bâtiment utilisé pour le tournage n'est pas très bon, ou remarquable en aucune façon. Il est banal et il a l'air d'une prison, en fait c'est une prison. L'action remonte aux années 1930, apparemment avant le Front Populaire français de 1936, avant que le système scolaire ne découvre le mot « réforme » qui était alors totalement ignoré, et avait été ignoré depuis le Premier Empire de Napoléon Ier qui avait instauré le système scolaire disciplinaire postrévolutionnaire qui a été conçu sur le modèle d'un corps militaire, ou d'une caserne. Les lois de 1881 sur l'enseignement primaire obligatoire n'ont rien changé à ce système pseudo-militaire. Il a uniquement interdit la religion dans les écoles publiques d'état dites de la République. Mais le film sort en septembre 1945, à peine quatre mois après la fin de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, 13 mois après la libération de Paris, 15 mois après la libération de Bordeaux. Le film est en fait très proche du sujet et du ton de la pièce de 1935 de Marcel Pagnol, « Merlusse », sur le même type de situation: un internat pour garçons, avec la même conquête de complicité et de compréhension entre des enfants difficiles et un chien de garde en quelque sorte dit surveillant qui s'occupe d'eux dans les différentes études et bien sûr pour les repas et la nuit.

Dans l'ensemble, c'est la même idée mais dans ce cas, le chien de garde devient maître de chorale et fait chanter les enfants qui changent par là même. Le film insiste beaucoup sur l'ancienne méthode napoléonienne bien qu'il n'insiste pas trop sur les mauvais traitements physiques, les châtiments corporels, et ne parle que d'isolement dans une cellule sombre sans aucune lumière mais avec des rats pendant des jours d'affilée. La cruauté des enfants, du moins de certains enfants, n'est pas du tout cachée et le problème de la possibilité d'une vraie réforme des comportements de ces jeunes est posée comme possible et souhaitable. L'autoritarisme des chefs de tels établissements est mis à l'index et accusé d'être le vrai chancre qui ruine tout projet pédagogique. Mais en 1996, un principal de collège au retour d'une sortie pédagogique à Clermont Ferrand, avec un bus d'enfants et une collègue supplémentaire, n'avait qu'une question en bouche: « Ils sont tous là ? » Et oui, ils étaient tous là. Nous n'avons pas dit à ce principal pointilleux qu'il y avait eu un petit incident que nous avions résolu sans avoir à prendre une sanction, sans parler de la petite leçon de courtoisie à quelques garçons de la montagne qui se montraient plutôt agressif à l'égard d'un couple de lesbiennes qui prenaient leur déjeuner dans le même jardin public que nous notre pique-nique. Nous sommes restés bouche cousue. Les méthodes napoléoniennes n'ont pas encore complètement disparu de nos écoles, même si des progrès importants ont été faits ces vingt dernières années, mais il est clair dans ce film que la qualité et la créativité des contenus pédagogiques, ainsi que la responsabilisation des enfants eux-mêmes dans le processus d'acquisition du savoir et de socialisation sont fondamentales.

Une question cependant sur l'enfant qui sert de pupitre pour la partition du chef. Chante-t-il ou est-il un simple objet inerte et silencieux. Là on aurait pu mieux faire.

La fin est émouvante mais ce n'est pas encore vraiment Hollywood. Par contre c'est vraiment une fin à la Marcel Pagnol. Le bon public devait verser une larme à ce moment-là.



Slighthly too black and white
This opera is a real surprise. For one, there is not too much dancing. The plot and the text are essential. The few dancing scenes have few dancers and some of these scenes with the choir on the stage turn all the people there into the performers of some kind of easy physical demonstration that is essentially waving hands, some arm movements and slow evolution, marching on the stage. On the other hand, there are several storms, earthquakes, and supernatural interventions of demons from hell. These are rendered with the soundtrack added to the music and some lights. One of these episodes is entirely densified with some red light that only touches the edges of the actors, all in black, giving a ghostlike, or demon-like if you prefer, atmosphere. Very little mechanical effects or other technical interventions. The whole opera tries to be as realistic and moderate as possible as for special effects. That is good because this opera is definitely not in line with the famous love ballet-operas Rameau is celebrated for.

The plot smells and feels as if it were giving us a preview of some revolutionary crisis in Europe, or anywhere else you may like. One woman, Érinice, who loves Zoroastre but is rejected by him because he loves Amélite, decides to get into an alliance with Abramane, a man she does not love at all, but she intends to use him for her vengeance and to get her on the throne that normally should go to Amélite. Note, and it is not the first time, Rameau states a situation where a woman is a legitimate heir to the throne, whereas in France it was impossible because of a Salic tradition that prefers male successors. This opera is a horrible drama of jealousy and spite. Some people cannot admit they may not get what they want, and when love is the prize, they may not get who they want. Then they become vengeful and their only objective is to destroy the people they want, and those do not want them. This couple, reinforced by some supernatural demons are absolutely frightening, not so much in their make-up as in what they say. A simple direct language that tells everyone what they are going to do, what is coming to this world when an alliance against the rightful leaders of a country decides to use all powers, and particularly the power of a mob of violent criminals who only find their pleasure in harming and destroying other people to endanger, dethrone if necessary, execute and assassinate all those who may resist them, with only one objective to seize power and crush down any opponent. This is a conception of history and politics which always has some support in any society because in any society there are a fringe of discontented people who are ready to turn violent and destructive. Sigmund Freud in a pamphlet published before the arrival of Hitler, "Civilization and Its Discontents," that was written in 1929 and first published in German in 1930 as "Das Unbehagen in der Kultur," shows how in our modern societies all sorts of discontented people can join forces in order to destabilize and bring down any legitimate and duly elected government or social order. They do not have all the same discontentment, or the same vision of life, religion, political affiliation, or culture. It does not matter. They ask for a referendum on anything whatsoever, knowing that the discontents plus those who are really against the question asked in the referendum will be a majority and will bring the referendum down. It worked perfectly well in Italy. It worked perfectly well in Great Britain with Brexit. It worked perfectly well in 2016 in the USA with Trump. Then it is extremely difficult to reverse the situation such movements create.

The stage director and set-and-costume designer are of course totally responsible for this vision. They chose to oppose the two camps, love and hate if you want, in colors, white for love with now and then some diffused yellow light, and black for hate with now and then some diffused red light. This black and white opposition is too easy to be good because it carries too much innuendo, which is not always innuendo but often has a direct racist meaning. It is obviously difficult to choose one color for evil that would not be black and would not carry any innuendo. But with imagination, a set-and-costume designer should be able to find a proper color, since any color will contrast with white.

That very pessimistic vision announces in French society at the time some discontentment, some unrest, and it is not the Enlightenment, nor the Encyclopedia, nor even the intelligentsia, but the discontentment in France then comes from the countryside, essentially where the serfs want their freedom and their land, as well as in the cities, where all sorts of craftsmen and entrepreneurs want to get rid of corporations, guilds, and other feudal regulations. It actually will bring the monarchy down with an alliance between the Third Estate and minorities in the Second and First estates. But the peace process did not last long and soon the King made the mistake of trying to run away, and the French Revolution turned bloody.

Rameau of course manages a final turn in his dystopia, a turn that comes of course from the gods who kill the four plotters and enables the miracles of bringing all discontents back inline within a union of all the people under the sole banner of love. No demands, no reforms, no whatever a political crisis should bring, just the miraculous intervention of celestial supernatural beings to bring everyone back to love except of course the plotting leaders. That kind of Deus ex Machina has been systematically used since Molière used it in his anti-bigotry play, Tartuffe. In this case, it is the first time in the operas I am watching right now that such a device is used to solve a political rebellion or insurrection. In other operas, it generally is only to solve a love problem. In this case, the love problem is really secondary.

That makes me say - a second time - that Rameau is closer to Beaumarchais than we would think at first. There is in some of his operas some political innuendo about the end of a regime that does not listen to its people. The end is always bad, though Rameau always manages to bring it to a final concluding sequence of love and peace. We could say Rameau is a Hippy Beaumarchais. For Beaumarchais, the privileged have to accept not to take advantage of their privileges. The plot is Beaumarchais's key to reach that ending. Rameau prefers the supernatural dystopian utopia.


Les Paladins

The ballet, music and dance, save the plot
Rameau's operas are difficult to produce on a stage because of the enormous presence of musical intermezzos that are, in fact, supposed to be danced, hence a plain opera turns into a nearly full-time ballet. William Christie goes to the extreme of having dancing practically all the time. At the same time, since this opera is empty of any kind of real action or plot, the stage has to be "dramatized" and modern technique with a little bit of Artificial Intelligence enables the back of the stage to become a three-tiered vertical stage with action at all levels, even if on the second and third levels it is a lot of projection of images, ballet dancing or simple animation. That fills up the stage with so much action with dozens and dozens of dancers, multiplied at times by being captured at the lower level and projected at the second level or even the third. The back of the stage is a three-tiered backdrop with several slits opening at every level that enable dancers to come in and out. And what's more, Christie does not hesitate and have all the animals of the Vincennes zoo parading or running at second and third levels, from lions to elephants (small elephants actually), one giant gorilla or chimpanzee, and a lot, an enormous collection of peacocks, opening and closing their tails, popping in and fading out constantly.

So, I just wonder if I am supposed to cover this opera as a ballet or as a dramatic construction. As a ballet, it is great because the choreographer uses absolutely all possible styles of dancing from the most classical to the most modern, plus street dancing, breakdance, hip hop, and probably a lot more than that like jazz, rock-and-roll, and maybe some exotic styles scattered all over. That makes this dancing original. It is not a simple ballet that is supposed to have some unity. It is not what Broadway would produce in New York because this dancing is so "disorganized-looking" with dancers running in all directions in perfect coordination, of course, not to run into one another but no general coordination among all the dancers in their movements and steps, though with couples or at times triplets of dancers dancing together for a short episode there is some, before running away in all directions. The impression you get is that love, since we are speaking of love, is the most hectic, crazy, corrugated activity you can imagine. You just follow all opportunities and adventures. Jealousy and possessiveness are excluded, and the jealous lovers will be punished. In a way, it corresponds to France under Louis XV when the country was possessed by the desire to live, to think, to question, to challenge everything and all authorities, including the King, and it is shown here as being the same as in Charleston times. After the end of Louis XIV's reign kept sad and joyless by the last and lasting mistress of the King, France was living a full liberation that produced the Enlightenment. Strangely enough, the French stage is not as crowded with authors as it used to be, and only, essentially, two names come up, Marivaux and Rameau. Both are centered on love (like in this opera) and always the idea that love is beautiful, but it has to be proved true and real, faithful and respectful. And that is difficult, isn't it?

Christie adds something to this vision or rather uses what Marivaux used over and over again, and he manages to make the goddess of love be a man, and thus have some gay scenes with this transvestite male goddess. In the same way, it is difficult to make sure all couples dancing together for ten or twenty measures are all a man and a woman. But who cares? A little bit of nudity is added to titillate the spectators who might be going to sleep since nothing happens in this plot. You have to titillate or tickle people where it is most effective, and in their lurid sex-driven impulses, it is more than most effective. It gives their mind and attention some immediate morning-wood.

Then you have to wonder about the music which is very classical and slightly baroque or vice versa, French 18th century in one word. We can't say there are too many notes because that has been said about Mozart, but we definitely can say it has ingurgitated too many vitamins, and probably a lot of aphrodisiac juices and pills because the rhythm, tempo, density, lightness, and even the energizing power of this music are amazing. No slow romantic dull and sad moments. Only a conductor and his musicians whipping you along in case you may be dreaming away. And you better follow. Yet the plot is so vacuous and void that it does not fulfill any mission on this theater-stage. In fact, frankly, who cares about the plot? It is then funny to have an old lover who is deprived of the young woman he loves, or desires, made to fall in love with the goddess of love who is a man in drag. It is also funny to have a few naked dancers now and then, very shy, and modest about it, but naked all the same. Only one is not modest at all since he is covering his nudity with a big Valentine's heart that turns around him as he is spinning on the stage till, of course, after a while the expectations of all alert people in the audience are satisfied and the body turns faster than the heart and he is facing the audience, as nude as a hairless egg, though he is not hairless.

Apart from the very beautiful music, this opera is nothing, but entertainment multiplied by all the tricks the producers could find to make it even more entertaining, reaching distraction in no time. We are in Paris, in Châtelet Theater. So, it is perfect since they all are corrugated in Paris, and this is a presentable non-sexual show that can compete with Crazy Horse or Le Moulin Rouge, at least in modesty.


Pelleas et Melisande

Perfect regenerating set by Laurent Pelly
How can we save this ultra-bourgeois melodrama from its fate? You cannot change the story. You cannot bring justice here where a brother kills another brother, Cain killing Abel again, and since he is the grandson of a king, he is safe and will not have to go to a court and defend his acts. And behind we have a whole people dying of famine and these aristocrats are not even shamed by it, and they are proud of being rich.

How can we save this morbid bleak fable from oblivion? You can ask a phenomenal conductor who is going to give the music a tempo and a dramatic dimension of its own. Boulez did it in his time and now everyone wants to do the same. That will not save the plot, but it will transfix it at the purely musical level of beauty. Add a few great voices to the music and then you will have something that will enchant you, hypnotize you, provided the singers are well directed. But that is not saving the opera, that's only transvesting it into some glorious musical new clothes. Debussy makes that possible because his music is so creative that we feel it has to be as recent as not more than four or five years old. The singing itself can be easily made to transform the whole sad story into a supernatural tale told from the depth of a hellish abyss with no melodious musicality but we rough scattering of the notes as if they were a bagful of corn seeds to be thrown to the chicken we are, and these scattered notes fall on some vast and tightly stretched drumskin that gives a reverberation that makes each note a universe in itself, in themselves. You let yourself go into that tale as if you were the fairy herself, or himself - that would be good to have male fairies nowadays, and there is no need or no objection to make them gay too - telling the story. You are the storyteller, and the singers only lend you their voices.

Then you forget the trite and inhumane story itself.

But here in Vienna, they use another method, a supplementary method. They use the stage director and create a turning set that enables the stage to shift in no time from one castle room, to one bedroom in the castle, to a wild forest or a fancy garden, to grottoes and caves under the castle, to any other place you can imagine. Some sections of this set can go down and become an underground stage, or up and become balconies and terraces. We can trust Laurent Pelly to be able to invent such a set with stairs and doors everywhere to get in and get out, up and down, from one section to the next. Laurent Pelly has always liked doors, many doors, at all levels of the set, and doors that can be opened or closed. And he must have been happy with the story since the gates of the castle are closed on the fatal lethal night and according to the little boy - who is a girl by the way: no boys in Vienna? - the two young people who are supposed to be lovers always wonder about some door that is opened or closed. I am telling you doors, that's Laurent Pelly's universe. And I must say he managed to have at least half a dozen of these doors on his set, if not more. The set is a regenerating element in this opera or this production of this opera.

Then the conductor and director have to work together so that some sentences come out of the set and shine in full light and splendor now and then. "The door to the new era." ("La porte à l'ère nouvelle") or "How beautiful it is in the darkness!" ("Qu'il fait beau dans les ténèbres!") These sentences are not particularly brilliant but due to the way they are uttered by the singers in the particular spots in the set and moment in the plot, they suddenly become brilliant prophetization of the most modern world engaged in the most important transformation of humanity and the most drastic pandemic dark age. And then we can digest the fortune cookie I just cracked: "Whoever takes a step into hell has already come halfway." ("Qui fait un pas vers l'enfer a déjà parcouru la moitié du chemin.")

I know some people who are literally in love with this opera and run across the planet - soon Mars - to be able to see the latest production anywhere. I would not do that because traveling is not exactly exciting. But it is true with DVDs today we can line up ten or twenty different productions, collect them, play them one after the other. I am just amazed that a gay version has not yet been produced, with a supernatural wincestuous relationship between Pelléas and Mélisande, a boy mind you, and the third man of the ménage à trois, Golaud. Then the boy Yniold would definitely have to be a boy in this all-male cast. Then it might be funnier than just plain melodramatic.

I am afraid we will have to wait a couple of decades to be able to do this. I guess I won't see it. And life expectancy is going down, 2 ½ years for Black people and 2 years for Latinos, only 1 year on average which means probably only 2/3 years for white people. But what is my ethnic mixture?


Pelléas et Mélisande

Mellow-Drama truned bitter satire

A classic in the operatic world, a classic of Debussy's period, a French composer of the end of the 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th century. The Third Republic, the full swing of imperial colonialism, and triumphant bourgeois capitalism. Opera was for the economic elite who tolerated more than liked the intellectual elite. They wanted in their Opera Garnier that had just been built very meshy dramatic, even mellow-dramatic stories to make them cry and be proud in their boudoirs or other drawing rooms when they could say they had cried in their opera boxes at this particular scene now and then in the fifth act, for example, the presentation of the baby to the dying mother.

It is amazing that some composers, who were under such enormous social pressure to produce such sad stories to make the bourgeois cry in his or her opera box, considered that living was more important than the rest. Some of them produced amazingly brilliant operas, not by the plot or story but exclusively by the music and the tempo of their storytelling. We have here such a classic that was able to go beyond the blasé, déja-vu, melodramatic subjects they had to deal with. Tearful fairy tales for wealthy and self-satisfied adults.

Debussy manages first of all to have some incredible politically-not-very-correct scenes. First the two scenes with the child who is a real boy and not a girl in disguise. The first scene in this production of a child just playing around a fountain is naïve and even innocent and pure. They have the young boy in some bathing trunks for this scene so that we know he is a boy. The second scene is very strong too because the child is used as a spy by his own father and at least brutalized a couple of times, and the child protests. This is good to deepen the character of the father, but it is also good to remind us children were manhandled all the time a century or more ago and that it was normal: "He who loves well punishes well," or if you prefer the English version: "Spare the rod and spoil the child." I also like the Jewish version: "Beat your children every morning before breakfast, if you don't know why they will." Today of course it has a completely different meaning, but a strong resurgence of such mistreatment of children was observed during the confinement periods over the last year and a half.

Another very strong element is the allusion to Samson and Delilah, but it loses all Biblical value due to the reversal of the hair story, and it becomes just funny strange more than funny ah-ah. But it is of course an allusion to Rapunzel, a Germanic fairy tale that gives to this scene an absolutely hilarious dimension, especially with the overdoing of this production, though it is in the text that her hair gets entangled in the bushes. We can also think of Pierre Abélard and Héloïse which is a standard reference in France for excessive romantic infatuation. And that's where the melodramatic tale has to be saved by the music and the singing. After all, they will all die as prey or predator, but the tempo is so slow, the singing is so stretched out in time that sounds like a lazy purring cat, and yet it finds some vigor in the words that come out of this continuously flowing leisurely and measured dirge, even in the most intense and dense scenes. The whole expressivity and art of this music and singing is this way some words are jumping out of the elegiac lament from all the characters.

To this particularly great conducting - thanks to Pierre Boulez - this production adds a setting that is mechanically evolving from one scene to the next with some moving panels, curtains, and eventually, stairs to go up or down, little more. Practically no furniture, no decoration, no props of any sorts. The setting is entirely based on such moving panels and backdrops that change the scene, though before each scene we have a projection of the score telling us the acts and the scenes, and the whole opera is practically always in dark shady atmospheres with an entirely black set with very little lighting and very little color. It is a descent to hell for the three main characters, but it is the other side of Hell, the backside of Hell; the side through which Dante came out of it. It is black inside, black outside and there is never any sort of light that could maybe show us the world also has daytime periods. Only one scene is on a sunny terrasse, but the sun is so ridiculously reduced to a big flashy yellow disk up in the sky at the back of the stage, held there by visible cables to let us know it is entirely artificial.

It is such scenes and such situational processing that make this opera redeemable. It has to be transcended from bourgeois Saturday night emotional outing to some bleak vision of what love, jealousy, hatred, and death mean in such an elite aristocratic bunch of monsters while peasants are dying on their beach, and in their caves, dying of starvation, mind you. And they tell us they are proud of being rich. The treatment of such scenes and the various situations turn - "Three old people dying in our cave. Don't make any noise lest you may wake them up!" - what was careless selfishness into discreet satire, but no more than a satirical tie pin on a rich tailored three-piece Sunday suit of a shopkeeper on Champs Elysées.


Bernd Alois Zimmermann - Die Soldaten

Innocent, naive, curious: it kills the pussycat
First of all, you have the music, from the very first note to the last. It is a type of music that is supposed to keep you alert, and on your toes, your mental and artistic toes of course, since you are not here to dance. And on your toes this music keeps you, tense, so tense you may break, and you always wonder if you will be able to go to the end of it without collapsing, breaking down, sloshing and slurping into some kind of poisonous gooey thick glue.

Each voice is pushed to the extreme of its range and possibilities without any release of this tension and this extremism before the last note without a coda to soften it. It is so disturbing you are pushed into looking, with your eyes, looking for some compensation to keep yourself from falling, to keep your equilibrium well balanced, and at many moments you are not far from just losing it, loosening your tension, and falling down the precipice of a dark night of syncopal unconsciousness.

Then you can look left and look right; The stage is so long, so vast in length, that you cannot ever see both ends at the same time. All along this enormous stage, you have scenes and things happening, at times two or three actions simultaneously. How can you really keep everything under and within your eyesight? You just can't, and so you have to admit it is better to concentrate on what is supposed to be the main scene at each moment, the small section of this stage where the singing takes place, and forget about all that happens left and right. That is frustrating and it is intended to be frustrating, so that you remain alert once again and ready to receive any blow in your mind, any punch in your stomach.

But you can also, and you have to, watch what is happening in the second depth of the stage, behind the front of the horse riding school with its long line of vast arcaded glass windows or doors behind which many actors are standing, doing things with real live horses walking around with no shame, no fright, no interest, and this backstage behind glass opens with a whole set of military beds with soldiers in all stages of total derangement and having all sorts of temper-tantrums and delirious agitated bouts, nearly epileptic fits, and of course, you know at once, even if you have never been in an all-male military corps, that it is all sexual, and nothing but sexual. In that vision in the opening scene, the delirium of the soldiers is each one for oneself, each individual bound to and into his own delirium with no contact with anyone else. Strange in a way. As soon as you bring a great number of males in an all-male institution that cultivates the maleness and the maledom, and the malehood of these individuals - they might say the masculinity - you have all sorts of events that are generally gross, but they cathartically prevent violence, even though quite often they lead to contact, physical contact, but with no intention to hurt, just the need to touch another man with whom you are equal.

But the opera sets One girl in that inferno, a girl who still believes girls come in roses and boys in cabbages, or maybe both are brought by storks or some other migrating birds. The confrontation is brutal, absurdly brutal, and irremediably irreversible. The girl enters the contact with these soldiers as pure and innocent as a lily in the valley, though maybe not completely so in her secret mind, but to say she is, is good for the story. In no time she falls to some flattery, she yields to some gentleness - that as nothing gentle or gentile in it - and she also has to stoop to conquer and conquer she will, but in the end, and after all that conquering, she will be left behind, call a spade a spade and say she will be abandoned and rejected, with a child to abort and a living to make. Because by then she must have understood in her fit of corrugation that you must not target somewhat who is not from your low class and that beauty alone never makes a happy marriage in the upper classes, and the Countess, when she says that, implies that this poor girl who has become anonymous by then, was plotting with life to get a husband from a higher social tier than hers. She could have married the one she was promised to, the son of a cloth dealer, dealing a lot with the armed forces, which led the young man to follow the military units he was trying to sell cloth to, and his promised wife followed, attracted that she was by the smell and view of military uniforms.

And that's how little by little she fell down in the gutter, her nose directly into the drain. And she could not be reprieved any more. From the drain came a balloon and a clown.

The end is so bleak you will have nightmares tonight. The young man she was supposed to marry got his vengeance. By using his knowledge of the military forces his father was dealing with, he managed to get into the concerned corps and to become their cook, and one night, to serve a special soup of his, that he tried too, and they all ended dead like a bunch of rats. The only survivor or so, the poor girl who was known as Marie by her fiancé, is nothing but a begging nun in a Shakespearian "nunnery." And she comes across her own father looking for her in the street. She does not recognize him and neither does he. She begs for some money and he refuses appalled by the woman there in front of him that looks like nothing but a dirty, filthy, maimed beggar.

Bleaker than that you die. After the whole opera of shrieking, squeaking, screaming sharp notes, so shrill and so sharp that they pierce your own enjoyment with millions of fiery sparks and flames till you seem to be going to hypnosis, like a lullaby may bring a child to sleep. I must say that the provocative stage directing of the Latvian director, Alvis Hermanis, is adding a trillion more ideas and props and trivia and whatever you can imagine, to the music and the singing to make the show a real descent into the Maya Xibalba to meet the Death Lords there. Good morning, Lucifer, and Good evening, Beelzebub, or shouldn't I use the Canaanite name, Baal? The post-Soviet generation in this Baltic republic can reach extremes even the most aggressive and provocative western artists would not even dream of. They seem to have no sense of what we, in the West, call political correctness. And I must admit it sure stirs our senses to attention.


The Perfect American

Lincoln and Freedom seen by the Top First GAFAM of them all
There are several levels in this production and my opinion is not the same at all levels.

The setting and stage managing are very good, imaginative, creative even, and it really fills the vast space and volume of this enormous, particularly high stage. It does not require many people to move or transport furniture and other heavy or voluminous objects since it is mainly long bands of veil scrolling down from the rigging equipment high over the stage or vast mobile veil backdrops on which luminous projections give some very active scribbling or sketching life and density. Then some lights can give depth to the stage and emphasize this or that element or character. Even a swimming pool is a veil with some rippling lights on it. Perfect.

The music is also perfectly minimalist, and it creates an environment that is mysterious at times, joyful at other times, and it may express many other experiential feelings for the audience, including the sad evocation of death in the second half of the opera. It is sad to die but the music that accompanies this sadness is not a requiem, rather a dance, a liberation.

The third level is the singing. Here too, we can be satisfied with the voices selected for this opera and the way these voices are directed. They are expressive and they express an interesting characterization of all the various singers and the parts they are performing. Maybe Wald Disney is a little bit too mellow when he is taking some severe and highly debatable decisions against some people, accusing union members to be commies in the worst McCarthy tradition of the time, true enough. Walt Disney did not want at all to be in any way seen as favorable to anything that was redder than pure white. And the racist meaning this phrase contains is realistic. His dear brother was more of a rough boss in his tone, and this tone of his was in agreement with what he was saying too, not to defend, not to justify, but to impose his discriminatory decisions against anything unionized. Imagine what all these thousands of workers of all sorts could feel. The evocation of a strike is by far not enough to counterbalance the damning message.

And that's the last level and here I am very dissatisfied. Walt Disney deprived all the artists he used and abused of any right on their intellectual production that should have been their intellectual property. The moral right of theirs to have their names duly associated to the production, and even to have some kind of "royalty" for this intellectual property that should be a percentage, even if it is only 2 or 3 percent of the proceeds of the exploitation of the film to be shared among hundreds, thousands of artists. But for the Disney brothers, it was "no, no, no" at least three times. The artists of the Walt Disney studios were slaves. And if by any chance you tried to have your colleague unionized, you were fired on the spot. So, I am sorry, but the title is an enormous lie, we call that lies and not fake news.

We could wonder if the opera, the music, the text, the tone, the setting, and all other element created any kind of a distance between Walt Disney, the animated film producer, who was a genius, and the CEO of the studios, of the corporation who was a monstrous human resources manager. He was anti-union by principle, by economic interest, and by political opportunism. He was many other negative things in his way he dealt with people and society, and intellectual property for his films that looted and at times ravaged the culture of other countries. And he did not like children. He exploited their parents by hypnotizing the children with some miraculous film made by real professionals whose names were not even quoted at the time in the final credits, and today it goes so fast you could not even read them.

If he was a perfect American, we have to come to the conclusion he was a perfect imperialist in the cinema industry in the world, and a perfect terroristic boss who did not accept any other answer to his orders than "yessir mister master sir!" and what's more, wrapped up in the totally hypocritical "Yes Walt." The least we can say is that he overcompensated the simple origins of his. True enough his film empire was not in any way inherited. It could not be since he invented all that technique, technology, art, and industry. He invented...? You must be kidding me.


Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

The anti-Soviet stance misses the tragic drama
A very surprising and at the same time fascinating opera by a Soviet composer who appears with time to have been a lot more critical than we could think, or maybe imagine at the time. It is a drama that refers to Shakespeare despite the Lady not protesting at all, but because she kills anyone who does not fit her immediate absence of any plan. She kills her father-in-law out of a whim with rat poison. She then kills her husband when he comes upon her a little bit harshly since in the meantime his father has died, and she has obviously taken some kind of a lover since he found a male belt in her room. She strangles him with a little bit of help from her lover, she marries as fast as possible. But the dead body in the cellar is discovered by the wino of the village, rather addicted to vodka, who goes to the police to tell them. She ends up in a perambulating prison: all the prisoners are condemned to walk day after day, versts upon versts. Her lover only keeps in touch with her because he gets some money from her, from her business, but he looks for younger flesh and finds some provided he provides that younger flesh with stockings. He lures the poor "Lady Macbeth" into giving him her own woolen stockings. She finds out who it was for, suffocates the challenger, and ends up abandoned by her own prison in the cold steppe manacled to the dead body of her latest victim.

No pity, no empathy, no nothing for this woman. But that's the drama of the play. Besides, the opera is extremely funny in many ways because there are numerous absolutely ridiculous scenes. The first priest who gets the father-in-law to the other side of this life does it in his nightshirt. The ritual is absolutely hilarious. The priest is a clown. A second priest in the marriage, later on, is going to be just as phantasmagorical and drunk. And the crowds surrounding these scenes are always as crazy as a scarecrow in a blizzard. Then comes the police that is ridiculed as an assemblage of opportunistic non-entities that only want some easy-going activity with enough authority to feel superior though they are ruffians, and they do acknowledge that the comfortable side of the profession comes from the various advantages they do not get from anyone, but they take from everyone.

The father-in-law is a merchant, and he has plenty of employees seen as working-class mostly very dark blue collar. They are violent, massively undifferentiated, all reacting collectively and blindly, just gut reactions and not the most dignified gut at that. The lover is one in this scum and he is a phallocratic sexist person from the very start. He does not really fall in love with the "Lady," he just finds in her way to regularly satisfy his impulses and drives, but she falls in love with him and that is irreversible. When you reach hell, you cannot come back, and for her love is hell. Her end is drastic and yet we more or less feel that she deserves it, though she is the faithful one of the loving pair and her lover is totally uninterested in any fidelity, except if he can find some advantage in it for himself.

This particular production alludes to the Gulag heavily with the uniforms of the cops and the soldiers. That's rather easy and I must say it loosens the meaning by making it political though it probably was not, at least originally. I think in a way it is unfair to Shostakovich. But well, it is an old production. Today we might react differently, and some director or conductor might make it take place in Uighur country and become anti-Chinese. It should have remained neutral. That would have densified the drama itself which is in many ways Shakespearian, or we could think of Alban Berg, but it loses this dimension by being turned into some kind of political fiction for Parisian Boulevard theaters.

The music though is extremely creative and very powerful by the circuslike and funfair-sounding dynamism of many scenes that put on stage thirty or forty people running like scared rats in a barrel. And yet in more intimate scenes the music becomes extremely somber and even upsetting with darkness. The setting does not shine that much with a lot of light, far from it. We are in the deep cave or burrow of a school of snakes or colony of moles and badgers. Even the celebration scenes, one or two maybe, are so sloppy in the setting on the stage that we wonder if it is not a descent into the limbos just before the famous Inferno. Disoriented people who only try to get drunk, and duly succeed. That's what a celebration is in this production. After all, it might have been a good thing to rat-poison this rat of a merchant father-in-law. He did not deserve to survive.



Newcastle accent and Newcastle Black on top of the angel of Newcastle
Welcome to Brexit Newcastle and Northumberland. We are just before its final implementation and that will change many things since the harbor or harbors there are mostly connected to the Netherlands, Denmark, and the rest of Northern Europe. At the same time, this region used to be a mining region, and coal mining was terminated a long time ago under Margaret Thatcher despite a strong and long strike. This event is regularly brought back to mind, be it only by the mining living quarters built for these miners, small attached individual houses in long rows along straight streets at a distance from all historical town centers. The third activity is agriculture, but small farmers have disappeared more or less, and the landowners are of course unable to take care of their land, their vast expanses of land. So, it is the arrival of entrepreneurs who hire the land and do whatever they want to make a profit. The main source of this profit is the type of labor they use: mostly farmworkers employed on a day-to-day basis, meaning either migrant workers from Eastern Europe or migrant workers from many other countries, often illegal immigrants. Brexit is going to be deadly, fatal, lethal to such over-exploitation of migrant workers because migrant workers are going to disappear or be vastly reduced in numbers.

When you are finally able to understand the dialect and you know what a bairn is, you will enjoy the very difficult situations explored by every single crime story. They prosper in this environment that creates multiple extremely complicated, entangled situations harboring, most of the time in some underground and clandestine, unknown in other words, ways rivalry, hatred, jealousy, within families, around families, within some neighborhoods, and around some ostracized groups. When you add the ruthless exploitation of people by some entrepreneurs, bosses, merchants, or simple profiteers and racketeers, you can imagine the constant volcano this society is.

To choose then a woman to be the top Detective in this ferociously hostile society is a challenge, especially since she works with a nearly entirely masculine team, which does not simplify the situation within the team and when dealing with all sorts of off-limits at time deviant situations, meaning that they are just stepping away from a normal standard social situation we should expect. Vera is the one who most of the time shows some comprehension and empathy toward the prostitutes of both sexes and many genders, with homosexuals who are supposed to be called gay, transexual people of any type and genre, and of course of all possible genders. And don't forget the strict normative straight males who consider they have to clean up that mess, with some of this bias getting into the police itself. Quite often Vera comes across a distant consequence of an old cold case or an old case that had been expedited as fast as possible with an "obvious" solution which was of course a complete miscarriage of police work that led to a complete miscarriage of justice. That's the worst bias Vera has to deal with, and she often remembers her father who was also a top detective in the area, and she wonders at times when getting across some cases he had managed or been part of if he was not biased that way. But what is that way? A simple conviction - that should be tried and convicted as being totally unfair and inhuman - that the working class cannot afford to harbor people who are not part of the class consciousness and culture of this very working class. That rejects crime onto those who are different, different in skin color, different in religion, different in simple behavior like going to the pub every night, etc. The traditional working class that developed with industry in the 19th century and that is just starting to get dissolved in new technology and new production methods and processes, is extremely segregational because this working-class implies there is only one way to be normal, and no other way. The only difference they cultivated was the difference between clearly defined male and female sexes, and within very clearly defined codes of behavior that implied men had the right to be sexist against the women they used, and harassing with all women and children, in other words, men had the right - and the duty - to be bullies.

So, every case is a complete descent into such pits of tar and burning embers, embers that have been burning for decades, at times one century. Still today they live on the myth of the 1930s, at times the 1920s. That was the good old days that were fully recognized in the 1950s, but it all started to change when Harold Wilson decided to validate the British passports granted to vast numbers of people in what had become India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and thus treat them as British citizens who had the right to come back to the motherland and settle in England or Britain. That was a welcome wave of immigration needed in the industry and agriculture, but it became the worm in the fruit, and Brexit is the distant consequence of this opening up of the British society to people from outside needed in the factories and many other activities that normal English or British citizens did not want to do anymore because they were considered unfit for native Britishers. These native Britishers transformed Britain into a British reservation for pure British aborigines of the British Isles only, God Save the Queen and the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Honi soit qui mal y pense (Shame on him/her who thinks evil of it), good old real ale and Newcastle Black, roast lamb and mint sauce, and all that goes along with that. Imagine the cultural and existential dilemma of these people in a time of hamburgers and Diet Coke.

The last thing you must know about this series is that Vera is an "old-style" detective. She does use modern science of course, but she essentially believes that modern science can only see the surface, the fingerprints, or the DNA traces on the superficial surface of things and that the detective has to go down into the suffering of the delinquents to find the motivations. Science only works with professional criminals who can only be trapped by DNA and other high-profile techniques like CCTV, telephone call history, email communication, bank account slips and listings of operations, etc. But for ordinary one-time-only criminals what is important is the way they feel, they experience the very traumatizing life we are all living nowadays in this derelict world that cannot stop changing, and that brings one pandemic after another, one pandemic every five years at least. And the worst of these pandemics is definitely alcoholism, especially when tied up into a bomb with sex. It takes a lot of stamina to face such situations every day and bring the occasional murderers to justice without any further harm nor ado. That's the job of the very veracious truth-voracious Vera.


See all reviews