Tuesday 24 April 2018

Jonas aujourd'hui

Jonath qui aura 65 ans en l'an 2018
One of the first things I did when I went to college in 1973 was join the Film Soc. For good measure, I joined the French Film Soc at the other university across town where The Beloved was studying in The Arts Block. Those films set my clock: even today, if a film doesn't have sub-titles then there's something missing. I get my fix the last Saturday of every month with the Blackstairs Film Society. I couldn't get over how cool and sophisticated French films, by Fran├žois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol, Louis Malle, Bertrand Tavernier, seemed back then in 1970s Ireland: when homosexuality was still illegal, and books by JP Donleavy, Edna O'Brien and John McGahern were banned.

In the middle of this beaker full of the warm South, The Boy was born at the end of 1975. The following year saw the launch of another film from La Francophonie: Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l'an 2000. It was as if it had been written and directed for The Boy. 25 years later for his birthday in 2000, I went off on a hunt for the iconic film, not least because he was then about the age which the adult protagonists of Jonas were when he was born. The internet was a smaller, clunkier and less commercial place in 2000 AD. Google existed but was eclipsed by Altavista; Amazon existed but was years from its first year in profit; DVDs existed and play.com sold them by the bucket-load but their inventory was a long way from being comprehensive - especially for old, niche, not-American films. I never did get a copy of the film but I did track down a copy of the film-script in a bookshop in Texas. I called them up, read my credit-card details down the phone, and they agreed to sell and send me the book. I was delighted. I suspect The Boy was bemused. For his 21st birthday, I'd given him a box containing 21 different bottles of beer and I'm sure he'd have preferred to get N=25 ditto 4 years later.

Mais revenons-nous a nos Jonas. It was filmed in French but in the neighbouring republic of Switzerland, directed by Alain Tanner and written by Tanner and John Berger, the English critic, writer and radical who was a real inspiration for my younger radical self. I wrote about him when he turned 90 in 2016 and again, as an obituary 2 months later. It's a bit jumpy because it tells the interwoven tales of 8 young adults in the early 1970s as they try to discover a new equilibrium after their world turned upside-down by the Paris Spring of May 1968. [Hey, that's 50 years ago next month - we must have a retrospective] Tanner and Berger decided to call their principals Max Mathilde Marco Marcel Marguerite Madeleine Marie Mathieu which must have a Meaning more profound than I can fathom unless - I have it - they are all avatars or dimensions of Marx. It's about maintaining principles and an ethical stance while having to live in a real world which runs on different tracks. About trying to make a difference while making a living. And it's still kind of fun although kind of dated.

How do I know? Because someone called Joan Alice has loaded it up on youtube! I sat still one evening last week and watched it all the way through. Indeed I stayed up way past my bedtime to see it finished. I was confused - not least by Marguerite and Mathilde who look a bit alike. Here's a review. If I watched it again, I'd mine more nuggets of socio-political comment from 1970s Switzerland but maybe my time is better spent on today's problems today.  Who's Jonas? He is the son of Mathilde and Mathieu who comes along towards the end of the film as a new broom sweeping his parents generation into the dustbin of history and replacing their world with a bright new future . . . I think.

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