Armageddon Time: The Logical Movie -

Armageddon Time: The Logical Movie –

We weren’t really expecting it anymore. Responsible for four more or less brilliant, exciting and intimate first feature films (with the climax of the heartbreaking Two Lovers made in the twilight of the 2000s, and which is certainly one of the most beautiful films of the said decade, editor’s note) James Gray subsequently gave birth to relatively disappointing films, even painfully watchable: and if that began to spoil from the success halftone of The Immigrant his next two films which were The Lost City of Z and Ad Astra ended up disconcerting us to a point that is hard to imagine, as the personality of the New York filmmaker seemed to be erased in favor of a specification with intentions as murky as they were implausible. Yes, and so it is: we were no longer expecting it, thinking it incapable of reforming the successive exploits begun with the sumptuous and terrible Little Odessahis first film and personal Camera d’Or from our editorial team, released in theaters almost thirty years ago…

But the time of inner struggles and the inexhaustible drama represented by the life of a human being (and on which the American director lays his foundations for fundamentally moving purposes, editor’s note) is back in his eighth and latest feature film to date: the well-appointed Armageddon Timevisible in theaters from this Wednesday, November 9 and shamefully left empty-handed from the 75th Official Competition of the Cannes Film Festival this year. And we can say it bluntly, plain and simple: it’s a masterpiece. Undoubtedly the most beautiful and the most rooted in the existential concerns of its author and filmmaker. Armageddon Time, against all odds, is an illustrious miracle film, heartbreaking and despairing, a melodrama reviving the golden age of James Gray’s cinema: intimacy, family conflicts, violence tinged with melancholy… A drama in its most unstoppable virtue, an impossible (b)romance filmed in an intranquillity that would never say its name, with evidence and modesty in the same movement of grief and bruised appeasement . A wonder.

The story of a thwarted friendship yes, but not only: it is a whole initiation into life, terrible and painful, that James Gray retraces in Armageddon Time through the figure of the young Paul Graff (Michael Banks Repeta, nothing less than superb), New York Jewish teenager and potential youthful alter ego of the filmmaker with artistic aspirations restrained on all sides… except perhaps in the person of his grandfather Aaron (embodied – in a masterful way, once again – by an Anthony Hopkins on the fine evening of his career, editor’s note), veteran and holder of a History of immigrant America wishing to transmit his values ​​and his memory to his grandson.

Whimsical, lunar, no doubt a little too slow for a mother persuaded to bleed through the four veins for him and his big brother and for a father convinced that a rough education would be the best way to push his children upwards of the social ladder Paul integrates, from the first seconds of the footage, his 6th grade class in a college in Queens, New York in the early 80s. From the outset the plastic virtuosity of the film is obvious, bursts the screen and literally imprints itself on our emotional psyche: resplendent photography by Darius Khondji, sober but lyrical staging sublimating the characters among whom the young Paul Graff will meet of his comrade Johnny (Jaylin Webb, disarmingly spontaneous), a young idle African-American more or less relegated to the plan of public assistance. Of this school intended to empower, practicable the future citizens of the Reagan era of the years to come Paul and Johnny will escape as soon as an opportunity presents itself: a budding friendship mixed with wacky drawings, adolescent dreams and first cigarettes, a friendship posed as a sublime finger of honor against psycho-rigid adults prone to the cult of money, job security and ordinary racism…

The film, from its first minutes to its conclusion (conclusion in turn abrupt and open to other possibilities that we like to imagine several hours after its discovery, editor’s note), is ultimately a piece of first-class cinema, probably the most gigantic James Gray has done since Two Lovers… An authentic melodrama distilling all the intimate obsessions of its author, a masterpiece at the heart of which each performer shines with his genius and his complexity, both vulnerable and massive (Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong, respectively playing the mother and the father of Paul, are stunningly beautiful and sad, each in their own way…). With its shy little voice coming from a strong and powerful chest in paradox Armageddon Time speaks to us of the lost souls of childhood, the harshness of adulthood and the wisdom of the ancestors, a resounding family fresco imposing itself in all its roundness as the best film of this end of the year. Shocking.

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