Thursday, September 18, 2008
A few days ago I went to La Cinematique Francaise for a Spike Lee retrospective they're putting on this week. They were playing 25th Hour, a film I had never heard of but was willing to drop 5 Euros on because I liked Do the Right Thing so much. I'm so happy that I did.
The theatre was located in the 12th arrondissement next to a little park with children eating crepes and riding a carousel with plastic painted horses bobbing happily up and down while their parents looked on smoking Gauloises. It was a gorgeous autumn day with the smell of dried leaves mixing with spices from the food carts and the shouts of adorable French children. As for the film, I didn't really know what to expect. I thought it would be a film from the late 80s/early 90s, a la Do the Right Thing, but instead I discovered it was made in 2002 as a cinematic response to 9/11. There's one scene in particular - an angry, racist rant - that stuck out for me:
It's just so poignant. It might be confusing out of context, so for a brief overview: Edward Norton's character is going to jail for 7 years the day after this scene occurs, so he's expressing all of his hatred for the city and the circumstances that landed him in that situation. But at the end he realizes that he can only really blame himself, so instead the scene ultimately serves as a portrait of New York City after 9/11: the deep racial divisions, the sickening blame... but mostly the sheer humanity of it; how human it is for us to seek out the familiar and to blame each other in the face of fear. The descriptions of the cliches were so apt, too, as I'm sure New Yorkers would attest: it's not that the people he describes are like that in real life, but instead the cliches are startlingly realistic.
This film must have packed quite the punch when it was released in 2002, but I think with a lot of the tension continuing to diffuse, it provides an important retrospective window into the consciousness of a nation at a tumultuous and painful time in its development.