Sunday, November 30, 2014


Love and friendship are salvation when aging


This is not a small little tiny film to spend a Saturday evening in peace and quite with no mental work at all. This film deserves a lot of attention. It speaks of crucial existential questions.

First of all, the racial identity of a person. A man who is lily white in a black family, of course mother, father, brother and sister are all mixed-bloods, all with different shades of grey, but he is white and he does not want to be the victim of any racial prejudice. So he pretends he is white and to more or less cover all fields, terrains and domains he decides to make himself Jewish. As a Jew he can go through society being slightly special, different, awkward about the racial divide without being accused of being black.

Till one day when he is accused of being a racist because he wondered in his class if a couple of students who had never attended one single session were “spooks.” Unluckily, though unknown of him, the said students were black and they signed a complaint against the professor accusing him of being a racist, and he was fired because of course he kept it perfectly secret that he himself was black. In fact if he had told these narrow-minded bureaucrats in his college he was black and had been hiding that fact for more than fifty years, he would have been accused of being a racist at the higher second level, at the level where you try to evade your own racial origin.

But this crisis late in his life brings his wife down, who had never known he was black. She just dies because the stress of this situation gets to her heart. Then he is alone and that’s how he gets in touch with a writer he had taught and who was not too far away, living like a recluse in some cabin in the mountains. He wants that writer to write the story of his life. The point is that the writer does not really want to do it but the younger recluse writer and the older fired professor fall in friendship, in fact they fall in love, the strange love between an older man and a younger man, a mental and spiritual love that gives some energy back to the older man who starts a new life late in his existence, and that gives some new motivation to the younger writer who finds a new inspiration for a further volume in his creative writing experience. Just exploring this friendship would be a great dimension for this film. And it sure is.

But this film goes one step further and the older man meets a younger woman who is attracted by older men because at the age of fourteen she got into some “accident” with some step father or who cares whom, and she hit the road. The older man, thanks to Viagra, and we are told about the blue pill quite a few times, though it is absolutely not important, falls in love with this woman and this time heftily at the sexual level of love, if sex is part of love. There is nothing that can in anyway fit in on one hand that older intellectual who has run away from his racial origin and his ethnic identity, and on the other hand this younger woman who is running away from an older husband who is absolutely dangerous because he is psychologically at least unstable if not frankly berserk, delirious, insane and murderous. And yet love there is though both, the older intellectual man and the younger hardly educated woman, will be caused to die in a road accident by the ex-husband one night on a frozen road in the mountains. A perfect crime because no one found anything linking his truck to the car that jumped into a frozen lake and went through the ice.

This should lead many people to wondering what love, sexual or not, between an older person and a younger person, I mean with at least a thirty year difference, can mean, can be. No one but the concerned people can answer that question: it is an exhilarating and unique experience that only concerns a few people. Most of the time grandfathers/mothers and mothers/fathers experience that kind of love with their grandchildren or their own children. But some come cross this experience in life. Most of the time, around such couples (sexual or not, that is not the point), people will say that the older person is just living in phantasms and fantasies while the younger person is taking advantage of the older man. It may be so now and then, but it is not always so.

The film shows one element that is crucial. Such an encounter will bring the older person to opening the drawers of his/her long ago life and bring into light traumas that had been kept secret, hidden away, and unluckily must I say, this older person will be accused of imagining things and being delusional, except by his/her partner in this relation. I personally think that an older person who has kept some “secret” deep in his/her memory hidden away from the world around is actually looking for another person who could help him/her open the box, recapture the past, bring it out of the shadow in which it had been locked and imprisoned for at times forty or fifty years. The younger person is the intercessor, the go-between and enables the older person to cope with the suffering that has to come along with this re-discovery. That film is a marvelous exploration of that cruel and painful past of the older lily-white black person who has covered his track by declaring himself Jewish.

Just enjoy this film and take a walk on memory lane and check if deep in your unconscious mind and memory there is not something that should be brought back up. If you can’t do it by yourself look for the one who is going to be your catalyzer and share what you find with that other person. It will produce some unimaginable friendship or love and sharing that past will be one thousand times more pleasurable than plain sex that is so often mixed up with love, although it is nothing but the cherry on top of the pastry, the star at the top of the Christmas tree, the wrapping of some birthday present, the frosting of any homemade cake.

What can we do if some people are obsessed by taking the cherry, caressing the star, disrobing the present or licking their fingers clean after dipping them in the frosting? Don’t forget you can always know an elephant has been in your fridge when you see the footprints it left in the butter.



1 October 2010
When racism becomes a crime against oneself

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is more than disquieting; It is disturbing. An older senior professor is fired (he resigns but that is the same) when confronted to some accusation of misconduct because he asked one day if two students he was trying to question and who had never come to his class were spooks. The two students were black, which he could not know. At the beginning we see a car accident and we will see the same scene at the end and we will know who were in the car and we will have to guess what happened. In the meantime we find out that this older man falls in love with a younger woman, twice younger than he is, in her early thirties. That love affair does not work properly and yet it is an unbreakable love affair. But the woman is divorced, slightly unstable and her ex-husband is completely berserk and he is suffering of the trauma of Vietnam veterans who cannot get over the obsessive compulsive disorder of theirs that make them do strange things without any reason or conscience. Those are for sure spooks and they may spook the hell out of you. Since he was present on the final death scene, we can imagine the reaction of the ex-professor when he saw the red truck on the deep snow on the road in the mountains. But that's the easy way. Shortly after his being fired and his wife dying of a heart attack in his arms because of it he goes and meets an author who has completely retired in the mountain and they both fall not in love but in complete friendship. 

We have then two cases of an old man in love with a younger woman and in friendship with a younger man. I think the second case is dealt with more realism. Such a friendship is direct, often brutal in tone and content but absolute in trust and unbreakable. Such a friendship is like a buoy for a drowning old man and a tremendous discovery for the younger man if he is curious and accepts the bond, because it is a bond. Of course there is no erotic dimension to that. The two become soul brothers and enjoy every moment and every hard word of this experience because it is their deepest soul and mind that are in love and this love or friendship becomes for both a kind of life line with the infinite. It is different with the woman because it is sexual and you do not need to be a great lawyer to fear some pregnancy problem or some fatherhood questioning eventually. The love between the two is not depicted with any tenderness. It is rather violent and rather uniquely centered on love thanks to Viagra. 

All that is the surface of the problem depicted on, the film. Some flashbacks reveal little by little that this professor who is known as white and Jewish is of a quite different origin and that is the very and deepest meaning of the "spook" remark. It is deeply racist but racist against himself and his choice to become a Jew is another sign of his racism by affiliating himself to a minority group that is hated by so many people in the world so that he will be hated by many. And then we can see the final death scene again and we can wonder if it is not a suicide. We can wonder or be sure, depending on the level of consciousness we have that racism is a stain deep in the mind, the soul and the spirit of a man, a stain he can only get rid of by killing himself, and in that case along with the younger woman he is supposed to love and is asleep next to him, as if he were afraid to go away alone. It is true when you lose the first girl you love because you take her to your family and she discovers they are not as white as she is and as her boyfriend, their son, is, there is like a long simmering desire to kill, at least to kill oneself because of this injustice, unfairness.

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne, University Paris 8 Saint Denis, University Paris 12 Créteil, CEGID

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