Class Reviews 45 – The Future City

In the name of heaven (Under the Banner of Heaven) is an American television miniseries created by Dustin Lance Black in seven episodes, available on Disney+, as Star Original, rating: 8-; truly exceptional series in the first five episodes, unfortunately it drops a lot in the penultimate and partly in the last episode. It is based on a true storyexemplary of the main internal danger in the United States of America, namely the violence of extreme right-wing religious fundamentalist groups. The two protagonists, a Mormon investigator and a native investigator, are very significant, the first of whom gradually becomes aware of all the absurd and criminal aspects that characterize the history of his religious sect, i.e. the Mormons. Thus emerges one of the many truly terrifying aspects of the history of the United States and of the colonization of the country which has produced, among other things, the genocide of the natives.

The servant by Joseph Losey, drama, Great Britain 1963, score: 7.5; great classic of cinema presented again in a restored version for the first time, it lives up to expectations. The film is from the point of view decidedly impeccable formal. The content is also significant, even if in the capitalist society the relationship between servant and master has lost the centrality it held in previous societies. Thus, rather than an overcoming of the servant towards the master, we rather have the staging of mutual ruin of the warring classes. As usual, in the cinema of the great bourgeois directors we have a significant social criticismbut a poor perspective of dialectical overcoming of the existing society, which makes these works devoid of catharsis and, therefore, unsatisfactory tragedies, which leave the viewer with a bad taste in the mouth.

Don Giovanni by Mozart, performance in concert form, Canova Chamber Orchestra conducted by Enrico Saverio Pagono, Josquin Desprez polyphonic group conducted by Francesco Miotti, with Vittorio Prato, inaugural concert of The concerts in the great hall of the La Sapienza University of Rome, vote : 7+; albeit in concert form, finally, after an absurd number of years, one of the most extraordinary operas of all time returns to Rome. Of course, enjoying it in concert form for those who don’t really know the opera well is rather tiring and the lack of subtitles by the organizers certainly doesn’t help. On the other hand the performers, although often very young, are led by the work itself to give the best of themselves, putting all the attention and commitment of those who have yet to establish themselves.

Five days at the MemorialUS dramatic miniseries of 2022, conceived by John Ridley and Carlton Cuse, in eight episodes, distributed in Italy by Apple +, rating: 7. Very interesting miniseries on the massacre following hurricane Katrina, a “natural” catastrophe – naturally produced by the way capitalist production, which prevents any healthy organic exchange between man and nature – and exploited to cleanse the city of poor African Americans and promote gentrification of charming downtown New Orleans. It was the umpteenth disaster not only foreseeable, but largely foreseen, which showed even more the profound racism inextricably linked with classism so characteristic of US imperialism. In such disaster the whole system is guilty and accomplice, from the highest floors of the administration, up to the last perpetrators, Caucasian nurses, committed to cleaning up the crime scene from poor African Americans unable to defend themselves due to illness. Of course it was a question of making this case too striking, the classic rotten apple, to be removed to preserve the presumed goodness of the others, hitting the humblest perpetrators of the massacre. As often happens, “justice” is so classist and racist and power groups have such a corporative and chaste conception that, in the end, even the last truly unpresentable executors are completely exonerated and become nothing less than heroes, at least eyes of their colleagues.

The series has strengths which are at the same time weaknesses and which coincide, broadly speaking, with the greatness and limits of a work of art in the contemporary world. The work cannot address a major social issue, such as the one underlying the film, in a systematic way, as it should be treated, but it can necessarily deal with it only from a sensitive point of view, through the stories of some men in the flesh. On the other hand, while narrating particular events, doing it in a realistic way, he manages to refer through them to theuniversal.

On the other hand, there is sometimes the risk of getting lost behind particular cases of little interest and of focusing the story too much on the vain effort to condemn at least the scapegoats actually selected by same system.

Furthermore, the miniseries tends to present itself formally, to reinforce realism, as if it were a reportage, an investigation, with the authors who seem to do everything possible to avoid taking sides, limiting themselves to explaining the events in the their intrinsic complexity and contradictions. Thus we have characters that are far too particularistic, but who also have a typical valence. The fact that the authors do not openly take part in the tragically shocking events to deal with makes it more interesting and strange the story told, leaving much for the viewer to think about. This does not mean that one remains a bit stunned by the lack of outrage and empathy demonstrated by authors and producers. Sure the series teaches a don’t think abstractly, in an intellectualist way and, therefore, to see also in the material perpetrator of a high number of crimes, in addition to the cold murderer, also a human being even, in turn, a victim of the system. On the other hand, one gets the impression that the series cannot or does not have the courage to put not really questioning the system even in its most indefensible and gruesome aspects.

Also the question of catharsis and the prospect of overcoming in the finale of the tragedy represented remains open. On the one hand there is the realistic system and the almost documentary form which prevents us from identifying and bringing out areal alternativeon the other hand, the series rightly demonstrates how even in the same tragic events colleagues can also take ethical-moral positions radically opposite. Thus, faced with the criminal choices of the material executors, we have other doctors who react very differently to the same difficulties and contradictions. On the other hand, one can no longer always and only limit oneself to representing reality in one’s own tragic and contradictory complexitybut it is also a question of identifying the possibility of being able to judge it with rigorous criteria within one ethical-political perspective. This last aspect remains the main flaw of the US audiovisuals which are confirmed, on the other hand, as decisively hegemonic at an international level.

The Boys, American television series created by Eric Kripke on behalf of Amazon, third season, episodes from four to eighth, grade: 7-; the series proves to be very effective in deconstructing and criticizing the superheroism of superheroes and the falsehood and hypocrisy of the American dream. He manages to entertain by leaving various food for thought to the viewer, in particular by developing a effective critique of the ideological narrative of the history of the United States and extremely effectively criticizing the Republican right. The usual problem of the alternative remains, impossible to find on an international level, since in the criticism of other countries the undisputed dominatesdominant pro-imperialist ideology. Also internally there is not only a subordinate and oppressed social subject ready to do battlebut you end up as usual to lead the viewer to empathize with the dirty dozen who, with very questionable methods, would carry out the supposedly “necessary” dirty work. Ultimately, the only potential alternative appears in the posters in the homes of the African American characters, certainly the least negative of the series, which recall the historical memory of the great revolutionary movement of emancipation of the Black Panthers.

Two Women – Passing, directed by Rebecca Hall, drama, Usa 2021, winner of several awards, including the nomination for best first work and best British film, vote: 6.5; film that deals with a substantial theme, namely the harsh conditions of African Americans in the United Stateswhen just a century ago there were constant lynchings with appalling acts of sadism. The film centers on the drama of a mulatto woman who pretends to be Caucasian and marries a racist husband. However, she feels nostalgia for her own world, especially when she meets again a friend of hers who is, moreover, one of the protagonists of the Harlem reinassance. In the film we finally have an alternative, but it lacks catharsis and above all the fight against racism. The film, otherwise well packaged, ends up get lost in the relationship between the two friendsbecoming somewhat soporific.

The strangeness by Roberto Andò, comedy, Italy 2022, with Toni Servillo, Salvo Ficarra, Valentino Picone, grade: 6+; the film is well packaged and quite pleasant, but lacks substantial and significant content to communicate to the viewer. The director enjoys staging Pirandello in Pirandello’s way. The gimmick is certainly mannered and a little obvious and has nothing, of course, to do with the essential innovations introduced by Pirandello in modern drama. However, it certainly remains valid found to combine a character of the highest artistic depth, played by a great dramatic actor, with two comedy characters, played by two lower-ranking comedians. Beyond the gimmicks and good performance of the actors, beyond a direction that escapes the main vices of Italian cinema, the film leaves too little for the viewer to think about.

Hustle, directed by Jeremiah Zagar, comedy, Usa 2022, distributed by Netflix, score: 6. It is a well-crafted and engaging film on the difficulty of emerging, even at a sporting level, for those who have the very serious handicap of having to be a worker to survive. While enjoyable, particularly for basketball fans, the film leaves too little of substance for the viewer to think about.

Blackbird by Michaël R. Roskam, Joe Chappelle and Jim McKay, series in six episodes, thriller, Usa 2022, on Apple tv+, score: 4; completely anonymous series, devoid of any quality: it is boring, unrealistic, untypical, with a badly played protagonist. It affects the reactionary culture dominant in the United States that reasoning in an abstract and intellectualistic way is able to grasp only the criminal in the serial killer and not also the victim and the mentally ill. Furthermore, the only psychological support that the perpetrator of the crimes would certainly need is presented to us as a completely negative character, who places absurd limits on those who aim exclusively to keep him in prison for life. We are, therefore, faced with yet another cheesy and reactionary denigration of intellectuals in the face of strongman supporters of law and order, even though in reality they too are notable criminals.

Cyrano by Joe Wright, musical, Great Britain, Italy, Canada and the USA 2021, score: 3; absurdly overrated film; while untenable by all accounts, it received several nominations even a coveted Best Brilliant Picture award. Particularly in bad taste are undoubtedly the musical interludes, which are supposed to be, paradoxically, the characteristic strong point of the film.

02/12/2022 | Copyleft © All material is freely reproducible and only mention of the source is required.

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About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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