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Monday Movies: Prelude to A Prophet

Last summer, when Gomorra was coming out, I decided to track down some of the director (Garone)’s previous films, initially in order to give myself the opportunity to be a total douche and claim that I’d known of him all along and perhaps preferred one of his earlier films. As it turned out, the movies involved, respectively, a creepy gay dwarf and a creepy bald guy who forces his girlfriend into a horrifying diet regimen — and I ruined my own joke by telling people I was thinking about doing it.

How things change! Yet another foreign mafia-oriented movie is out, A Prophet, and this time I decided to track down films of the director, Jacques Audiard, not to make myself into an obnoxious dinner party guest, but to compensate for the fact that The Girlfriend didn’t want to see it in the theater (and so I might have to wait a couple weeks after it came out until my break when I’d be in Chicago all week, so that I wouldn’t feel bad taking time out to go see it myself). It appears that I may have won her over, however, with the unexpectedly great Read My Lips:

  • Read My Lips: This was a perfectly paced thriller that genuinely could’ve gone any direction at any point. The use of a sexually deprived deaf woman as the protagonist was a unique twist, as was the intrusion of a criminal element into office politics. Overall, I sincerely don’t want to give anything away — you all should just go watch it.
  • Bonnie and Clyde: This was very good, but not at all what I was expecting. I found the bank robbing issue to be very timely.
  • In the Loop: Through some kind of misunderstanding, I thought that this movie had been completely panned by the critics at the time I had the opportunity to see it in the theater. I should’ve known better, as the movie is exactly what you’d expect from the trailer — an awkward and cynical comedy, with the added bonus of a “cunning of reason”-based plotline.

March 1, 2010 - Posted by | Monday Movies


  1. I didn’t love In the Loop as much as it’s defenders, but the one thing it got righter than any other movie about politics ever is the field of venality in which position-taking having. The need to project ownership and involvement is paramount.

    Can you elaborate more on the “cunning of reason” idea? The definition at Blackwell is helpful but not entirely so.

    Comment by K-sky | March 1, 2010

  2. I basically use the term for any plotline that turns out as though there was a plan at work, when in reality there was not. Miller’s Crossing is the ultimate cunning of reason film.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | March 1, 2010

  3. I love the bit when the fat American general talks some real shit to the British imperialist fuck (who is Scottish, but is called English because they don’t fucking matter anyway). Man, for some reason I found that really, really satisfying.

    Comment by Anthony Paul Smith | March 1, 2010

  4. Well if you wanted to be more of a douche you could say “A Prophet? Directed by Audiard? The same fool who tried to remake James Toback’s brilliant Fingers and failed? Ha ha ha!”

    Comment by Marc. W. | March 1, 2010

  5. It’s so satisfying because that little fuck spends the entire movie slinging shit at anything that breathes, without anyone so much as muttering a response, simply because he occupies a higher slot in the bureaucracy than those around him. That the American can chew him out so easily and without consequence demonstrates that the British politico is not, as he clearly imagines himself, a tough-as-nails political hardass, but an empty suit like the inferiors he holds in contempt.

    My reaction to the movie was similar to K-sky’s: it was hardly Dr. Strangelove, but it perfectly captured the all-pervasive spirit of petty stupidity in which our politics take shape.

    Comment by stras | March 1, 2010

  6. I think the satisfyingness of that scene goes beyond just somebody finally taking down Tucker, though. What I liked about that scene is the way it points up the relationship between Tucker’s basically cowardly political hardass act, and the violence (i.e., the Iraq war) that this kind of cynical hardassery can produce. That’s why I think In the Loop is better than The Thick of It, on which it’s based. Good though it is, The Thick of It is cynical, in that it’s just about petty stupidity, the largely irrelevant activity which occupies much of politics. In the Loop, though, points out the terrible consequences of this petty stupidity, which gives it a moral critique that goes beyond the cynicism of the TV series.

    I saw Office Space the other day, which is, well, I guess less reactionary than the rest of Mike Judge’s oeuvre, which is a recommendation of sorts.

    Comment by voyou | March 1, 2010

  7. I saw The New Tale of Zatoichi and The Thirty-Nine Steps two days ago and yesterday, respectively, and found the former much superior to the latter, which was also inferior to the book.

    Comment by ben | March 1, 2010

  8. I show “Office Space” to my first year class on law, state and violence. They seem to like it, even if they’ve likely never been in a cubicle. They agree that working sucks, but it is wrong to steal from a company. In general, the workers should either just work harder or negotiate better terms. I paired it Tronti’s “Strategy of Refusal.” They didn’t care so much for that essay. They were better able to get into the original “Night of the Living Dead,” although the racial and gender subtexts were somewhat lost on them. But they seemed to find the relationship between technology and death to be rather interesting. They also found it odd when I asked them if Jesus was a zombie.

    This week they watched “The Matrix.” (Which means that I watched it twice.) Not an especially good movie, admittedly, and rather reactionary. While the simulation/reality distinction wasn’t really what I wanted to talk about, it was the best they could do. Fortunately, I assigned them a bit from Baudrillard. They had less to say on Zizek’s piece on 9/11 (the SAQ one).

    Comment by Craig | March 2, 2010

  9. Next time just have them watch Night of Racial Tension.

    Comment by ben | March 2, 2010

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