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Apres Mai/ Something In The Air (2013) Dir: Olivier Assayas

Jump on the bandwagon, you lazy fucker!!!! As I peruse the latest sportswear online in all my ‘Everything is grand sure’ Paddy complacency, of course how could I ignore the popular discourse happening online through the social ‘meeja’ highlighting the current protests in Turkey? What began as a peaceful protest against the building of a shopping centre on a city park in the centre of Istanbul has mushroomed into nationwide unrest and mass dissent against what is seen as an increasingly authoritarian government regime, resulting in violent clashes between protesters and the heavy-handed security forces over the past several days.

Why bring this up now? It;s a lovely day outside man, why ruin it? Sure, we hardly get any sun in this poxy country. You want to get talkin about the bleedin news, get all political like? No. Go and enjoy the weather and your leisure time on this holiday of the financial institutions which assisted in the royal fucking over of that economy thing, you know the thing in place that determines our daily happiness if it get’s sick like, sure people get depressed, lose jobs, leave the country and kill their grandmothers 7 pets etc. I know I will be out there in 32 minutes and 17 seconds when I’ve finished tappin this out on my haunted keyboard pretending I’ve nowt a care in the world.

The protests in Turkey, the recent geopolitical developments in Syria and Egypt, the ongoing ‘dissatisfaction’ in Greece and now Spain, even the ridiculous but democratically sanctioned anti-gay marriage protests in France would seem to suggest we are sitting on a powder keg and the world is ready to erupt into a fireball of anger and dissatisfaction but maybe it has always been so with the omnipresence of the ‘meeja’ fooling us into believing an apocalypse is a constant, worrying inevitability. So if the end is constantly near, as our eye & earholes are constantly being told, then why not enjoy an ice-cream the sunshine?

Well, for one thing. Here in Ireland, we are fucked and have been fucked since 2008 and where is the anger? It is there in small but impassioned pockets of protesters who occasionally mobilize together in Dublin city to constitute some form of protest against an insular, detached and incompetent government. But it seems we have been in a daze of some kind over the past 5 years, probably installed by a false sense of confidence and entitlement carried over from that golden period of Irish economic prosperity earlier in the this increasingly confused, fractured century. Sure, the ‘meeja’ covers these marches and gatherings to some extent and they have been quite peaceful for the most part. But what has changed? Really? I don’t know. I am asking you. Please tell me. Where is the anger and the fire that we see on a daily basis on our television and computer screens. Ordinary people like you and me with hopes, fears, responsibilities, disillusioned with the systems of control, who’ve had it and aren’t going to take it anymore, who refuse the easy distraction of inane telly talent contests or general media endorsed celebrity flotsam? Where is the fighting spirit?

And where is that spirit, energy of protest in the cinema of today? Does it still exist within the commercial mainstream? Where is the modern equivalent of Jean-Luc Godard‘s vision, the passion of a Ken Loach or a or a 21st Century Medium Cool, a Battle of Algiers, a Z? Hell, give us an Oliver Stone or Kathryn Bigelow even, anything to save mainstream cinema the tyranny of big budget comic book spectacle which absorbs, neutralizes, comforts and distracts its viewers to an increasingly pandering and cynical degree.

Where are those film-makers blurring the lines, risking themselves, taking to the streets, documenting, analyzing the world around them. Maybe they no longer exist in narrative cinema but perhaps in the documentary form or on You Tube? They certainly don’t exist or are kept hidden in Westernized film production. Do we look to foreign art cinema in Middle East, Africa or South America for artists, documentarians, writers, directors, producers to show us the way? A spirit of protest, a sense of injustice combined with fearless, personal expression? Is it contained within the work of Asghar Farhadi, Marjane Satrapi, Abbas Kiarostami,Jafar Panahi, Ari Folman, Pablo Lorrain, Mahamat Saleh Haroun? Or is it beyond, in the underground refusing the potentially damaging gaze of commercial corporatism?

Maybe we can only truly consider serious ideas as a collective when couched in metaphor or allegory, sprinkled with special effects and action? Or when done reflectively, couched in nostalgia for a more idealistic age, a memory pill which we can take. At this time, is it just too difficult,painful too challenging to digest? As in Pablo Lorrain’s recent No, which surveys the downfall of Chile’s right-wing dictatorship through the eyes of a successful ad man who creates a marketing campaign for the country’s 1988 presidential election that effectively deposes General Pinochet from his seat of power.

French director Olivier Assayas (Carlos, Irma Vep) also adopts this retrospective approach to politics with his latest film ‘Something in the Air’ although he adds an autobiographical element into the mix with the film being based on his own experiences as a politically active teenager in the early 70’s. The film , set amongst a group of young students trying to forge a direction in the aftermath of the seismic May 1968 Protests in which French students and workers expressed their revolutionary spirit and brought the country to a halt; Civil disobedience in action.