Faced with superheroes, the nostalgic flame of the greats of American cinema

Faced with superheroes, the nostalgic flame of the greats of American cinema


From here and there, like the last salvos of a once subtle and flourishing American art, comes to us a film displaying the crazy ambition to be appreciated by adults, from this great “theme park” – according to Martin Scorsese – that t has become Hollywood, between superheroic franchises and pyrotechnic one-upmanship (see the cinema of James Cameron, Ridley Scott or Christopher Nolan…). Today’s exception is called Winter Break , a beautiful and tender film by Alexander Payne released Wednesday December 13 on French screens. For the Christmas holidays, he brings together three neglected people – a student abandoned by his parents, an ancient history teacher, a single vagrant, and a cook in mourning for her son – in a posh New England school, and imagines, between snowy landscapes and noble woodwork, the consoling fable of the rapprochement of their solitudes.

Why, one wonders, however, did he set the action of this film in the 1970s? Couldn’t he have just as easily filmed it today? Perhaps today, with the Internet, and the deafening noise of the world that penetrates us every moment, such solitude is no longer conceivable. Perhaps also that at 62, especially in the context of Hollywood production increasingly foreign to the idea of artistic value, Alexander Payne felt the need to turn to the America of his childhood , an America more conducive to the expression of singularities, margins, revolts.

If anything supports this last hypothesis, it is the fact that Alexander Payne is far from being the only one of his kind to do this. For several years now, the films of great American authors have seemed seized by the same retrospective fever, simultaneously going into reverse in a career where everything undoubtedly makes them sense, as sparkling as it may be, that the road to the future lies ahead. more and more barred. Let’s name these works, whose action spans from the 1940s to the 1970s: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), by Quentin Tarantino (60 years); The Irishman (2019), by Martin Scorsese (81 years old); Licorice Pizza (2021), by Paul Thomas Anderson (53 years old); Empire of Light (2022), by Sam Mendes (58 years old); Armageddon Time (2022), by James Gray (54 years old); The Fabelmans (2022), by Steven Spielberg (77 years old).

What will they look for there? Fundamentally, a freedom that is restricted, a fountain of youth, a time with which they feel, both as men and as artists, more in tune than with today. We would mock these “old” problems if they did not respond to the very real violence of Hollywood reductionism, and if a few authentic masterpieces did not appear among the lot. Their shades range from the solar eternity of adolescent love in the City of Angels ( Licorice Pizza ) to a dark journey back in time where the digital rejuvenation of the actors is in reality put at the service of a moving requiem ( The Irishman ).

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