Spike Lee in the rubble of 9/11 – Corriere.it

from Philip Mazzarella

The film, starring Edward Norton, was the first to be able to photograph Ground Zero after the collapse of the Twin Towers

On December 16th 2002, director Spike Lee presented in New York the premiere of his new film, “The 25th Hour” (later regularly distributed in American cinemas in January 2003 and here in April of that year), made at low cost -“only” five million dollars- two years after the burning flop of the misunderstood and forgotten “Bamboozled”. Scripted by the writer David Benioff on the basis of his novel of the same name, the first US production (significantly signed by an African-American director) to deal with the psychological and social consequences of the 9/11 attack; as well as the first film to have obtained permission to photograph Ground Zero and the skyline after the installation of the two suggestive parallel columns of light in tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center.

Not surprisingly, the narrative opens in fact with a nocturnal aerial reconnaissance over Manhattan, punctuated by the jazzy notes of Terence Blanchard’s masterful urban and mournful soundtrack, immediately able to immerse the film’s atmospheres in that sort of indeterminate and phantasmatic space/time already evoked “paratextually” by his enigmatic title: as if to underline a dimension that is both adhering to and distant from reality, able to dialogue with the repressed nature of the tragedy and the urgent need to go beyond its harrowing memory.

“La 25 ora” the news of the last few hours Monty Brogan’s (Edward Norton) freeman, middle-of-the-notch drug dealer son of retired firefighter James (Brian Cox), Staten Island bar-owner turned shrine whose patrons are mostly ex-comrades or mourners for the events of 9/11. The boy, terrified, on the eve of entering prison to serve a seven-year sentence; and in his last moments of freedom he would like to settle some loose ends: find someone to take care of his dog and clarify relations with the Russian gangsters he works for and those with his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), suspected of being responsible. of the tip to the Feds who framed him, see for the last time as a free man the friends of a lifetime (the arrogant banker Francis [Barry Pepper] and repressed high school teacher Jacob [Philip Seymour Hoffman]cooked by one of his young students [Anna Paquin]).

After a troubled night, Monty will get in the car with his father headed to the penitentiary: but these instead of heading to prison will lead him on a journey towards a metaphorical “twenty-fifth hour”, a non-time of imaginary redemption in extremis before the dream is shattered and his real destiny begins to be fulfilled . After the “demonstrative” incipit already mentioned, “La 25 ora” shatters the concepts of “history” and “narration” by imposing itself as a film about waiting for an end set antiphrastically in the context of a “new beginning”: where the painful and illusory descent of the protagonist in his last moments of “happy” life is contrasted with the physical, palpable need of the places inhabited by the characters to start a paradoxically almost spiritual journey towards a forgotten and violated normality.

At the action in the strict sense, Spike Lee substitutes thus a juxtaposition in swinging form, with hints of free jazz, of pure states of mind; a succession of psychological fragments managed as a melodic flow of consciousness within which conflicting impulses and moments of calm suspension develop, destined to be torn apart by furious inventions and painful parentheses. Where New York itself is involved as a “physical” character, forced like Monty to come to terms with the rubble and pain with which she is imbued, in an inevitable specularity. And right in front of a mirror, significantly, that Monty/Edward Norton (here perhaps at the height of his skill), not understanding his own guilt and unloading it on the world before understanding the truth about him, recites that monologue/philipic by now -rightly- entered with full rights in the history of cinema and that descends both from Spike Lee himself (see “Do the right thing”) and from another singer / mentor of the most painful New York (see the Martin Scorsese of “Taxi Driver “).

A rambling explosion of profane rage and all round that spares nothing and no one with blows of “fuck” (cops, rich, poor, ethnic groups of all types and religions, Osama bin Laden and Bush); and to which, in the finale, narrated by the father James/Brian Cox, an apparently elegiac but actually mocking (although not cynical) evocation of the American Dream as a collective fantasy that has perhaps forever lost its comforting and resilient power serves as a dialectical counterpoint . in these oscillations that reside the charm and grandeur of a work to continue to rediscover and reinterpret, perhaps even starting from the bottom for once. In fact, the end credits include “The Fuse” by Bruce Springsteen (from the 2002 album “The Rising”, also built in response to the tragedy of 9/11): a song that talks about the sense of guilt deriving from inability to mourn when one is overwhelmed by the frenzy of events and which seems to want to close the film in a loop, forcing it into an infinite circularity.

December 15, 2022 (change December 15, 2022 | 07:17)

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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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