Cinéma : on fait le point

On est déjà au milieu de l’année, et quelle année ! Les relations entre l’Occident et la Russie n’ont jamais été aussi bonnes ; l’Etat Islamique a franchi un nouveau cap sur la route de la philanthropie et Michel Houellebecq n’a jamais su mieux organiser la campagne de com’ d’un de ses bouquins – et pendant ce temps-là Adam recherche Ève débarque le sexe à l’air sur D8. Bref, de quoi vous redonner foi en l’humanité – j’ose espérer qu’à ce rythme-là Cyril Hanouna sera élu président de la République en 2017.

Mais ne nous égarons pas chers lecteurs et chères lectrices, car s’il y a bien une chose sur laquelle j’aimerais tourner votre attention, ce n’est pas la politique, [ni la polémique] mais les sorties cinéma de l’année. C’est l’heure de faire le point sur les films sortis après Noël dont on se souviendra [ou pas] quand on sera tout vieux et tout moche et qu’on nous reparlera de 2015. Voici ma liste – *feel free to disagree and express your opinion so that we* engageons la conversation :

Birdman-Michael-Keaton
Michael Keaton n’en a plus rien à foutre dans Birdman, alors il claque des doigts.

Chefs-d’œuvre (4/4)

  • Whiplash
  • Snow Therapy
  • Citizenfour
  • Birdman
  • Lost River

Bons films (3/4)

  • Une merveilleuse histoire du temps
  • The Smell of Us
  • American Sniper
  • Love is Strange
  • The Voices
  • Foxcatcher
  • Shaun The Sheep
  • Mad Max
  • It Follows
  • Jurrasic World

Pourquoi Pas (2/4)

  • Exodus
  • A Most Violent Year
  • A Hard Day
  • Cold in July
  • Imitation Game
  • Big Eyes
  • The Falling
  • Clouds of Sils Maria

Non, merci (1/4)

  • The Riot Club
  • L’Age d’Adaline
  • San Andreas
  • Inherent Vice

Vaut mieux oublier (0/4)

  • L’interview qui tue
  • Fast & Furious 7

Note : Remarquez le biais américano-anglais de cette liste – c’est ce qu’on a quand on habite dans une ville de merde dans un pays où on préfère zapper tous les films étrangers que de se faire chier à lire les sous-titres *bravo la mentalité.

General Election 2015: De-United Kingdom

  • An unpredictable result

The people of Britain have decided. They had the choice between a fairer, altruist society that gives a chance to everyone or one that allows the richest to become richer and condemn the poorest to become poorer. Surprisingly, Britain’s electorate has been wooed by David Cameron’s empty promises, vaguely expressed but legitimised by the long-term economic plan rhetoric – an idea suggested by his campaign strategist Lynton Crosby.

Not only did the most unpredictable election in the history of the United Kingdom lived up to its expectation, but it also shocked the country – and choked – the Labour party and the Liberal Democrats, digging Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband’s grave.

  •  Scotland says no to Westminster

What is interesting, looking at the outcome is that it shows that the electoral system benefiting the reigning two-party system in England is no longer valid in the rest of the UK. Scotland, previously heart of the Labour party, being submerged by a separatist wave of yellow is the evidence that Scots are no longer interested in a typical Labour/Tory fight. The Westminster system has always overlooked Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

At the north of Hadrian’s wall, Nicola Sturgeon is dancing to a sweet tune as she celebrates her party defeating Labour and winning 56 of the 58 seats. Scottish Labour party leader Jim Murphy and election strategist Douglas Alexander – the latter being toppled by politically inexperienced 20 year-old student Mhairi Black (pictured below) – are casualties of Scotland’s decision to break up its love affair with the Labour party and Westminster’s system.

Mhairi Black Douglas Alexander

Surely David Cameron will realise he will have to please the freshly elected 56 SNP MPs by devolving more power to Scotland or giving them a second referendum – which probably won’t happen in the next five years.

  •  UKIP and The Greens rise, Lib Dems fall

UKIP and the Greens have solicited together 16.4% of votes (more than 5 million voters), and only secured one seat each. Somehow, figures do not seem to represent the reality of an election, as suggested by Nigel Farage, where the SNP secured 56 seats with only 4.5% of votes (1.5 million voters).

However, if there is something this election has shown, it certainly is that the British political system is not fit for more than two parties and needs to change. Tories and Labours do not make the unanimity anymore. People have voiced their concern at a weak Labour party and the Tories’ decision to go down the austerity road, and turned towards smaller parties.

  •  De-uniting the kingdom

However, that rise translated into something morbid: the involvement towards UKIP massively increased – and made it arrive second in numerous seats – whereas the Lib Dems have fallen to their lowest ever score. it shows that this election was also one of fear, rejection, and selfishness, where foreigners and Europe are as much to blame as the government.

Nigel Farage

This shows that the campaign of both Nigel Farage and David Cameron based on defiance towards Europe and the free circulation of people, has seduced a fearful electorate eager to find a scapegoat.

Not only has this election shown the scission between Scotland and Westminster, but it also shows the rejection of Europe by the British people; it also shows that the south does not seem to be suffering from austerity and the increasing cost of living (Labour-voting London is the surrounded by an ocean of blue) as much as the north – which seem like a world apart.

Finally, this election has shown that a five-year Conservative government has made those that suffer turn towards alternative, radical solutions and the far end of the political spectrum. What will the next five years bring? If the boost of the economy was just a brief illusion, it might be scary to think of where the UK will be in five years time. One thing is sure though, people have had enough and want change! Not sure that is going to happen with a £12bn cut in public services programmed by the Tories…

Elections: tout est encore possible au Royaume-Uni

  • Plusieurs scénarios envisageable

Aujourd’hui, l’électorat britannique doit se rendre dans les « polling stations » déposer des bulletins de vote dans les urnes, afin d’élire les députés qui siègeront à la chambre des communes au parlement de Westminster.

À l’issue de ce vote, il sera possible d’entrevoir quel genre de gouvernement sera formé pour diriger la Grande-Bretagne. En effet, afin de pouvoir former un gouvernement viable, un parti doit atteindre une majorité de sièges à la chambre des communes (326). Alors que les deux principaux partis, les travaillistes (Labour) et conservateurs (Conservatives) sont au coude à coude dans les derniers sondages (tous deux crédités à 34% des voix), il est peu probable qu’aucun des deux décroche une majorité, et le scénario de la formation d’un nouveau gouvernement de coalition reste le plus envisageable.

  •  Un électorat peu convaincu

Le gouvernement sortant, composé des libéraux-démocrates (Lib Dems) et des Conservatives, malgré un bilan économique satisfaisant, ne fait pas l’unanimité. Et pour cause, le fossé entre les riches et les pauvres n’a cessé de s’accroitre, comme en atteste le développement des banques alimentaires et des contrats zéro-heures pendant les cinq années qu’a passé David Cameron au 10 Downing Street.

Ed Miliband, le leader travailliste risque, quant à lui, de se voir privé d’une majorité, notamment à cause de l’implantation du Parti Indépendant Écossais (SNP) au nord du pays. Ce dernier, qui a gagné en importance depuis le « non » au referendum sur la sortie de l’Écosse du Royaume-Uni séduit de plus en plus l’électorat travailliste désillusionné. Par ailleurs, Miliband a annoncé que son parti ne s’alliera pas avec les indépendantistes Écossais lors d’un débat télévisé à la fin du mois dernier. Il les accuse de vouloir démanteler le Royaume-Uni. C’est pourtant la quarantaine de sièges que les sondages prédisent remportés par le SNP dont les travaillistes auront besoin s’ils veulent obtenir une majorité. Ceux-ci pourraient aussi se tourner vers les libéraux-démocrates, à condition qu’ils remportent plus de sièges que les conservateurs. En effet, Nick Clegg, le pragmatique leader du Lib Dems a annoncé qu’il pourrait former un gouvernement de coalition avec le parti qui remportera le plus de voix.

Ainsi, le jour même des élections, tout reste possible et plusieurs scénarios sont à envisager outre-Manche, y compris celui d’un gouvernement minoritaire.

  • Les enjeux

En cas de « victoire » du parti conservateur, une sortie du Royaume-Uni de l’Union Européenne (Brexit) est plus que probable, comme David Cameron l’a promis, afin de se rapprocher des électeurs eurosceptiques de L’UKIP (Union pour l’indépendance du Royaume-Uni) et de son propre parti. Si les travaillistes de Miliband en venaient à sortir vainqueurs des élections, la croissance économique serait ralentie et les grandes compagnies surtaxées – c’est en tout cas l’avis des militants conservateurs. Certains reprochent au Labour de vouloir diviser le pays, en offrant au SNP un deuxième referendum sur l’indépendance de l’ Écosse (ce que Miliband dément en affirmant qu’il ne passera pas de marché avec ceux-ci) et de vouloir détruire l’équilibre économique du pays.

Bien que l’issue reste incertaine, cette élection pourrait bien être la plus importante pour le futur du Royaume-Uni et surtout de l’Europe.

The Dehumanisation of Politics

General election 2015 Candidates
Image taken from http://theworldforgotten.com/showthread.php?t=4666

Increase NHS spending by £8bn; build 200,000 homes; increase public spending by 0.5% a year. All these campaign promises are strikingly similar and typical of this election. They are just numbers. Worse, they illustrate a sad reality: politics is all about numbers. Hence, campaigns need to be built up around them.

After all, it makes sense. During the first half of the twentieth century, people were fighting for their rights –vote for women; strikes. During the second half they fought for social change – education. Today, they fight about economics. The twenty-first century will be the kingdom of numbers.

Politics has become a message that needs to be decrypted by economists. Yes, of course it’s important to base strategies around numbers, but these are dangerous because they can say many things. Or, to phrase it more accurately, anyone can make them tell anything. Numbers have changed their status. They use to attest of governmental success (or failure). They now serve demagogy.

The reality is that numbers have drained the life out of politics. Look at the political debates we’ve had to cope with over the past month; David Cameron justifies cuts in the public service (refusing to tell exactly where) by his long term economic plan; Miliband just wants to balance the books (that doesn’t tell us where the country will be in 5 years time); Farage proposes to cut the foreign aid budget (Migrants dying in the Mediterranean and people of Greece living in poverty are not his problem). Candidates for 10 Downing Street talk about these as though they did not mean anything. These are just dehumanised numbers that are just brought up to legitimate hard decisions that need to be made.

However, there is a danger in doing so. Similarly to the gap between the richest and the poorest in the UK, the gap between politicians and the people is broadening (and the fact that Miliband and Cameron acknowledge that they wouldn’t be able to live on a zero hour contract is symptomatic of that ordeal). If there had been a winner in the past debates, it probably would have been the audience, whom did not hesitate to challenge candidates upfront.

A decade after the first suffragettes, young women do not seem interested in politics anymore (39 percent of 18 – 24’s have voted during the past election). Numbers for young men aren’t much better (50 percent). Perhaps this reflects the fracture and the lack of trust that has occurred between politicians and voters. As a foreigner, I can’t help but wonder if all the relevant questions have been raised over this campaign. Europe isn’t talked about for the correct reasons. The debate on education is roughed up to tuition fees. Housing and health are just numbers.

However, we now live in a world were economy justifies everything (austerity and public services cuts). Maybe it is time for UK politicians to ask themselves if they are asking the right questions. Shouldn’t we talk about what the UK could bring to the EU? Isn’t education about making good citizens? Does the economy legitimise everything?

Maybe one day they will realise their speeches don’t affect the youth and they will decide to change things and make them more human. But, how do you make numbers human?

David Cameron Does Not Know What Being European Means

David Cameron

Thursday 23 April, the European summit on the question of refugees gathered leaders David Cameron, Angela Merkel and François Hollande in Brussels. A decision was made by leaders on what to do with the 3 million Syrians fleeing their country, victims of the civil war – ISIS and Assad’s regime tyranny. Whereas France agreed shyly to welcome 500 to 700 of them, Germany has already opened its doors to more than 70,000 Syrians. Although France’s contribution can be deemed modest if not hypocritical, Britain did not do much better. As a matter of fact David Cameron did worst, declaring he was not ready to welcome any of them. It is as though he forgot Britain signed the Geneva Conventions in 1949, and the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, engaging each signatory to consider asylum demands from war refugees.

This, however, is nothing new. Some might say Great Britain’s Prime Minister – or Tory candidate for the general election next week – is panicking at the idea that he might be thrown out of 10 Downing Street by the “not-so-prime-ministerial” Ed Miliband. Essentially, he wants to scrape votes from Eurosceptics within Conservative voters and UKIP sympathisers. Yes, that may well be so. It is even more likely given the fact that he has pledged to introduce a referendum bill within 100 days was he to be re-elected.

Or, it may well be that David Cameron has no idea what being European means. If Europe is one of the issues in this election and 70 per cent of Britons want a referendum, it is not for good reasons. Britain feels like it is investing too much in the EU, and is not getting enough out of it. Yet, the problem is that the UK has never really shown enthusiasm at being a member of the EU. All it wants is to benefit from it. Just look at the whereabouts – or the where-he-should-have-been-about of the PM. Where was Mr Cameron when Merkel, Hollande and Poroshenko were negotiating with Vladimir Putin on the ceasefire in Ukraine? Where was he when France and Germany decided to massively fund Greece so that it could repay its debts? Where was he when the rest of Europe was pledging to participate to Triton’s rescue mission?

The answer is: nowhere to be seen. Because David Cameron wants to be re-elected PM and he would rather spend time saving his own skin than Europe’s. Peace in Ukraine, people dying in the Mediterranean whilst seeking a better life, asylum seekers; all that doesn’t appeal to him because it does not serve Britain’s best interests. To him, Britain’s best interest would be to increase exchanges with the USA, without the constraints imposed by the EU. The sad reality is that Cameron does not get what it means to be European, because he is British and liberalist first. In France, we have a saying that applies particularly well here: “He wants the butter and the money of the butter with it.”

Yes, Europe is not at its best at the moment and it is in dire need of help, but it needs Britain to be saved. However, it does not seem likely to happen if its PM hides whenever he is needed. What if the question of this election was not what can Europe do for Britain, but what can Britain do for Europe? It certainly would not hurt to care a bit more…

Birmingham in pictures: beauty built on water and bridges

  • Is Birmingham ugly?

Birmingham is not a pretty city.

Many people will certainly disagree with the idea, and I’ll concede to them that beauty is entirely subjective. It just takes a few days of sightseeing in Britain’s second city streets to either be conquered – or repelled – by its – lack of – beauty.

The fact is, Birmingham does not seem quite sure where to stand. A walk in the City Centre might convince of this assertion. Victorian buildings stand alongside post-modern concrete three-storeys – making its charm hard to enjoy.

Whether or not Birmingham is an ugly city is an opinion that one can form only upon seeing the city for oneself. The Lord of the Rings’ Shire beautiful landscape and green pastures have been inspired by the namesake country park, at the south of the city, not far from where Tolkien grew up.

What remains a source of pride for Brummies’ is the city’s 36 miles of navigable canals, which is even more than Venice (26 miles), although Birmingham is more spread-out than La Serenissima. I set out to explore Brindley Place and the canals in what I would described as an attempt to capture this overlooked and shunned beauty, built on water and bridges – weak foundations.

  • Brindley Place in Pictures:

Brindley Place Birmingham
Along the canals of Birmingham in Brindley Place
Brindley Place Birmingham (2)
A bridge above the canal in Brindley Place
2015-02-08 17.06.44
A heavenly sight along Brindley Place’s canals
2015-02-08 17.10.36
Water and bridges: edifices upon which lies Birmingham’s beauty
2015-02-08 17.21.49
A reflection in the water
2015-02-08 17.26.01
Sunset on the Mailbox

More on “ugly Birmingham”

More on pretty Birmingham

Metropolis – Fritz Lang – 1927 – Review

After its premiere, Metropolis’ original reel was damaged and changes were made under the third Reich. It is estimated that a quarter of the movie had disappeared. In 2008, an alternative version was found in Buenos Aires, enabling the almost complete restoration of the original version, although the quality was affected by the impaired reel.

Today Metropolis is regarded as a classic and features on lists of movies that cannot be overlooked when going through cinema’s history, notably IMDB’s famous top 250. Co-written with his wife, it is an ambitious project that Fritz Lang set out with Metropolis in 1927. Firstly bashed by the critics, it gained considerable attention later on and is regarded by filmmakers and critics alike as a classic.

I set out to explore Martin Scorsese’s list of 39 non-english films, and share with you what I thought about those that were relevant being mentioned in my eyes. First on the list to be reviewed, Metropolis:

The futuristic city of Metropolis and its skyscrapers is divided into two parts. First there is the city below, where dehumanised, lifeless humans gesticulate restlessly around machines more than 10 hours a day. Above, people live a leisurely life and all pleasures are at hand. Whereas life is gloomy and tasteless down there, it is enjoyable and colourful up here. The split is social and metaphysical : Workers doing hard labour in a darkened setting assimilated to hell and bourgeois living the easy life in a lightened place reminding of heaven. Everything is made to convey the impression: dark/light image, eerie/uplifting music, lively/lifeless humans.

One day, Maria, a girl from below, sneaks through the doors of the city above with children of the workers. They are dressed in ragged clothes, covered in soot : the contrast with Metropolis upper city inhabitants’ white silky trousers and groomed faces is striking. She declares before being ushered out:

Look at these faces, they are your brothers and sisters.”

Freder, Metropolis’ Master Joh Fredersen’s son, is shocked by something he was completely ignorant of as well as awed by the beauty of Maria. He decides to follow her in the depths of Metropolis. There he assists to an horrifying scene : an exhausted worker fails to keep up with his machine, causing an accident that ends up with dozens of deaths.

Baffled if not horrified by what just happened, Freder sets out to talk to his dad, pleading him to release workers from their overwhelming labour. There we meet Josaphat (hebraic name for a King of Judah), Freder’s father’s scapegoat that he eventually releases of his duties and sends below – in hell.

Putting things back in their context, Metropolis was made in 1927 under the Weimar Republic whilst anti-Semitism was starting to spread across Germany. The character of Josaphat, appears as a probable attempt from Fritz Lang, who fled his native country as soon as Hitler was named Chancellor in 1933 to denounce the growing anti-Semitism indirectly.

Whereas Jospahat is being thrown away by Fredersen, the latter’s son compassionately decides to offer him shelter. Freder then trades his position with a worker called Georgy who is identified by an ID number – that I cannot help but assimilate as the dramatic foreseeing of death camps . After work, he follows all workers to a gathering, where they listen to someone – who happens to be Maria – sermonising them about the beginnings of Metropolis from a stage displaying big crosses evoking christianity. Maria’s message is one of peace. She predicts the arrival of a mediator – the heart – who will link workers below – the hands – with creators above – the heads.

Meanwhile, Joh Frederson pays a visit to cruel Rotwung the inventor, who has ‘sacrificed a hand for a life’ in order to build the man of the future : the machine-man – firstly introduced below some sort of five-branched Star of David. Joh, who has been made aware of the workers’ gatherings asks Rotwung to give his ‘robot’ the likeness of Maria to sow discord amongst them. However, the inventor has got other ideas and plans to use the machine to personal aims.

The idea, present from the beginning, that humans are being replaced by machines in some sort of twisted evolutionary perspective is one of the main point the movie makes: is future replacing humans with artificial intelligence? In that regard, Metropolis is one of the first Sci-fi movies ever. It also denounces the conditions of works of the proles, who are often incapable of competing with the restless clockwork of the machines. They are made numb by physical labour, and in the scene they gather around Maria, they all look as though they are asleep, exhausted from slave-like work conditions.

Metropolis is a social fable, a metaphysical story and a call to tolerance. First of all, it is a social fable that denounces the conditions of work of oppressed class, that acts as hands to build the world in which oppressors will live a leisurely life. In a scene, the machine on which Freder works is assimilated to a clock that he cannot slow down. He screams “Father ! Father ! Will ten hours (of work) never come to an end ?” The fight he is intending is one that cannot be won : a fight against time itself.

In another scene, the machine is assimilated to the biblical figure of Moloch, a divinity that feeds with children.

Secondly, it is also a metaphysical story in that religious allegories are recurring. First the allegory of hell and heaven, respectively represented in the lifeless depths and soaring clouds of Metropolis. Alternatively, the city’s creators are assimilated to gods, that worker respect and honour as authority figures. Freder, who is eventually revealed to be the mediator, is also a Christian allegory of Jesus Christ: the one who preaches respect, trades his place with a worker (taking upon him to suffer) and denounces the oppressing of the people.

Metropolis is also a tale of tolerance. Speckled with a christian moral, jewish symbols are ever present directly or indirectly (Josaphat and the banner above the machine-man). Although Josaphat is a character that brings sympathy on him, the robot isn’t and that may be what led critics to see in the movie a tale of anti-Semitism. Nevertheless, the genuine idea that can be extracted from the movie is one of tolerance in that kind benevolence Freder displays for the character of Josaphat.

Although the idea of the heart being a mediator lacks relevance and led Fritz Lang to reckon it was a weak one, Metropolis is a film that has acquired a status of masterpiece. It is secondarily one of the first blockbusters ever made: the shooting lasted almost a year, more than 35 000 people participated in it and it cost five millions Reichsmark (£2,5m). Bashed by critics after its release, Metropolis is now one of the reference of Silent Cinema and considered as a must-see for any cinema lover.

An interesting social, metaphysical and tolerance fable foreseeing what Germany was set to face in the years following the great depression. The 150 minutes of the restored version are a bit too long but they are definitely worth it.