July 25, 2017

THE CULTURE WARS ARE A ROUT:

Tory Porn : The Hobbesian anti-art of Christopher Nolan (Jonathon Sturgeon,  July 25, 2017, The Baffler)

For Nolan, perhaps the last Tory propagandist in cinema, "society" and "the people" do not exist except as a mass to be manipulated, a paying audience. "I have a faith," he told the New York Times, "that any audience can tell the difference between something that's consistent to rules versus something that's totally made up and anarchic." Here the kiss warms over the slap: the audience is smart if it follows Nolan's rules, lest it lapse into anarchy. Order, by way of control, is opposed to chance. In this respect, Nolan's every film, from Following (1998) to Dunkirk (2017), reverses the anti-tradition of Roberto Rossellini, whom Jean-Luc Godard, in Godard on Godard, celebrates as a great artist because he trusts chance. "To trust chance is to hear voices," Godard wrote, by which he meant the voices of other people. If Christopher Nolan hears any voice, it's Margaret Thatcher's from 1987.

There is no notion, in the films of Nolan, that people may surprise you, perhaps with their intelligence or solidarity, and so no hope for chance. It's not a matter of ideology: Nolan insistently casts his work against art, chance, and therefore any idea of "the people." This renders each of his films a manifesto, an ars technica, because he wants nothing more than to choke out art and control his audience. In Following, his debut, this intention is literalized when a young novelist (an artist) is rused by a criminal manipulator named Cobb, a Nolan stand-in who reappears, by name, in Inception (2010). In The Prestige (2006), a film about dueling materialist wizards, Nolan presents the director-magician: the survivor who tricks his audience best and last--voila, Christian Bale is doubled. The Nolans are proliferating.

A team of manipulative nerds is called upon to rescue the human race, but they can't be just any nerds.
In Nolan's One Percent Quartet, "the people" are revealed to themselves, in evolutionary order, as criminals (Batman Begins), anarchists (The Dark Knight), self-immolating revolutionaries (The Dark Knight Rises). In the third of these, Nolan scratches his Burkean itch: the mob-audience applauds a show trial, an anglicized scene from the French Revolution reminiscent of Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. For its part, the quartet's conclusion offers the final insult: "the people" aren't even real; they're weaponized figments of Nolan's imagination. ("Who are the people?" Ariadne asks, in Inception. "They're projections of my subconscious," Cobb-Nolan replies.) No longer beholden to audience reception, Nolan is now a master of Inception--he manipulates the audience as an object.

By this point Nolan is rich, the rightful heir of New Hollywood, the most fastidious, self-possessed director in town. With this in mind, the quartet--which begins as a story about a billionaire anti-hero and concludes with a corporate-espionage gothic about squeezing money out of the ultra-rich--reveals itself as autobiography. Nolan will never again lack for investors, which is why he next pursues outer space, the dream of any businessman flush with capital.

In Interstellar (2014), the people have sunk low; they can no longer feed themselves, and they burn each other's corn. A team of manipulative nerds is called upon to rescue the human race, but they can't be just any nerds. Pitched against the nefarious Dr. Mann, a belligerent survivalist who carries the Hobbesian virus (hence his name) into distant galaxies, we get Cooper and Murph, a romantic father-daughter couple, a reunited family. "There is no such thing as society," said Thatcher. "There are individual men and women"--explorers, scientists, useless farmers--"and there are families."

The truths behind Christopher Nolan's lauded World War II epic 'Dunkirk' (DAN GUNDERMAN, July 25, 2017, NY Daily News)

Christopher Nolan's visceral World War II film "Dunkirk" won last weekend's box office and remains one of the best-reviewed war films in history. 

Posted by at July 25, 2017 1:26 PM

  

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