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Archive for February, 2020

2020 César awards

[update below]

The French film industry’s carbon copy imitation of the Oscars. The awards ceremony is tomorrow (Friday; it’s normally two days before the Oscars but not this year) The list of nominees is here. Leading with twelve nominations is ‘J’accuse’ (An Officer and a Spy), ‘Les Misérables’ and ‘La Belle époque’ each with eleven, ‘Portrait de la jeune fille en feu’ (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) with ten, ‘Hors normes’ (The Specials) and ‘Grâce à Dieu’ (By the Grace of God), each with eight, and ‘Roubaix, une lumière’ (Oh Mercy!) with seven.

A couple of things. First, I don’t care one way or another about the César awards—it’s just a pretext to write about movies (as with the Oscars, which I care even less about)—but the ceremony will be interesting this year in view of the recent affairs to hit the French film industry: of Adèle Haenel’s bombshell interview last November of the sexual harassment she was subjected to at age 12 by director Christophe Ruggia—as Haenel is a major actress, what she had to say was a big story in the media—and how the film industry missed the boat on the #MeToo movement, and the resignation two weeks ago of the entire board of the César Academy following the open letter signed by 400 filmmakers and actors condemning the Academy’s opacity, elitism, and sexism. Second, there were an exceptional number of very good French films last year, all of which have been nominated for one or more awards. So here goes.

BEST FILM: Les Misérables.
A terrific movie—which I will write about soon—the best of the North/Sub-Saharan African immigrant-populated banlieue ghetto genre in years, if not ever (and it was a big commercial success to boot, with over 2 million tix sold, which is a lot for France). J’accuse (An Officer and a Spy), on the Dreyfus Affair—which I will also write about before too long—is also excellent (and a box office success), as is Hors normes (The Specials), a crowd-pleaser (and box office hit) based on a recent actual story in Paris, of the heroic, almost superhuman efforts of two men (an orthodox Jew and a Muslim, though that’s just a detail, not dwelled upon) who run an association (unlicensed, housed in a Hasidic synagogue) to care for and prepare for adult life severely autistic children and adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds who have been turned out of established institutions, which cannot cope with them, but with the association being threatened with closure by state inspectors (spoiler alert: the ending is happy). Also very good is François Ozon’s Grâce à Dieu (By the Grace of God), about the Bernard Preynat affair, the pedophile priest who sexually abused dozens of boys from the 1970s to the early ’90s in the Lyon area, and of the campaign of three of his now adult victims to bring him to justice—which was achieved shortly after the film’s release—and in the face of stonewalling from the church hierarchy. Likewise with the gritty policier Roubaix, une lumière (Oh Mercy!), described by cinephile and loyal AWAV reader Massilian as a “grand film, without doubt Arnaud Desplechin’s most poignant and heartrending,” and quite simply “excellent” and “formidable.” I was less taken with Céline Sciamma’s Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), considered by a number of US/UK critics to be the best French film of the year but that I thought a little overrated. As for Nicolas Bedos’s crowd-pleasing rom-com La Belle époque, also praised to the high heavens by US/UK critics, it was perfectly watchable but didn’t knock my socks off.

BEST DIRECTOR: Ladj Ly for ‘Les Misérables’.
Eric Toledano & Olivier Nakache for ‘Hors normes’ are also meritorious. Likewise Roman Polanski for ‘J’accuse’, except that it would, for obvious reasons, be unconscionable for the César Academy to give him the award (and he will wisely not be showing up at the ceremony anyway).

BEST ACTOR: Vincent Cassel in ‘Hors normes’.
I have long disliked Cassel but he is quite simply excellent in this. Also tops are Jean Dujardin as Lt. Col. Picquart in ‘J’accuse’, Damien Bonnard as the good cop in ‘Les Misérables’, and Roschdy Zem as the cop (good) in ‘Roubaix, une lumière’. Somehow I won’t be surprised if Daniel Auteuil gets it for his role in ‘La Belle époque’, as a disabused 60-something illustrator en fin de carrière seeking to rekindle the spark with his wife (a crowd-pleasing theme), played by Fanny Ardant (best supporting actress nominee).

BEST ACTRESS: Karin Viard in Chanson douce (The Perfect Nanny).
I actually did not like this film—a (flawed) cinematic adaptation of Leïla Slimani’s 2016 Goncourt-winning novel—which I found creepy and had me uncomfortable throughout (and not to mention the horrific ending), but Viard’s performance as the nanny from hell is disconcertingly powerful. She’s an exceptional actress. Eva Green is also very good in the very good Proxima, in which she plays a French astronaut training for a mission on the Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station, realizing the dream of her life but which she has to juggle with her responsibilities as the mother of an 8-year-old child. The film—which is technically very well done (and partly shot in Russia and Kazakhstan)—is a tribute to all the astronaut/cosmonaut women/mothers over the years of all nationalities, indeed to all women who have sought to excel in demanding professions and succeeded, all while raising children. The always pleasant Anaïs Demoustier is likewise good in Alice et le maire (Alice and the Mayor), as the earnest, newly-hired normalienne adviser and speechwriter to the ageing longtime mayor of Lyon (played by Fabrice Luchini, whose character rather obviously conjures Gérard Collomb), who was once full of ambition and bubbling with ideas but is intellectually and politically running out of gas and in need of inspiration (which his perky adviser, Alice, provides). I wasn’t too enamored with Chiara Mastroianni in Chambre 212 (On a Magical Night), who plays a late 40ish university professor and femme volage who walks out on her nice guy husband to spend a night in an apartment across the street (on Rue Delambre in Montparnasse, which I’ve been on several thousand times), where she can revisit (in her head) the moments spent with the many men in her life, including a student (Vincent Lacoste) half her age (a fantasy of male directors) and her husband when they were young. The film didn’t work for me. I was also not too taken with the invariably very good Adèle Haenel in ‘Portrait de la jeune fille en feu’, though am pretty sure that she’ll win the award for this.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Louis Garrel as Alfred Dreyfus in ‘J’accuse’.
This is a coin toss, as Grégory Gadebois is also good as Lt. Col. Henry in the same film. Likewise with Swann Arlaud and Dénis Menochet in ‘Grâce à Dieu’. I can’t speak to Benjamin Lavernhe in ‘Mon inconnue’ (Love at Second Sight), as I haven’t seen this one.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Sara Forestier in ‘Roubaix, une lumière’.
Hands down. Also tops is Laure Calamy in Seules les bêtes (Only the Animals), a slick, riveting, non-linear thriller that travels back-and-forth between the rugged Grands Causses in deepest France and teeming Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, and with sudden twists in the plot. Really good movie.

MOST PROMISING ACTOR: Anthony Bajon in Au nom de la terre (In the Name of the Land).
This is a very good film (and was a box office hit) about a farmer (Guillaume Canet) in the 1990s in the Pays de la Loire, who, buried in debt, ends up taking his life; a true story of director Edouard Bergeon (Bajon is him as a teenager) and his father, dedicated to the farmers who, facing financial ruin, commit suicide (and they’re numerous, as we learn in the credits at the end). Alexis Manenti as the bad cop and Djebril Zonga as the conflicted POC cop in ‘Les Misérables’ are meritorious, as is Liam Pierron, the cheeky teen with attitude in La Vie scolaire (School Life), directed by Grand Corps Malade and Mehdi Idir, a first-rate film (and big box office hit), almost documentary-like, about a middle school in Saint-Denis and the interaction between pupils, teachers, and staff. The umpteenth film of the jeunes de banlieue genre but a good one. Benjamin Lesieur is touching as the young Joseph in ‘Hors normes’.

MOST PROMISING ACTRESS: Céleste Brunnquell in Les Éblouis (The Dazzled).
A no-brainer. This 13/14-year-old girl (her age in the pic) is simply stunning in this terrific movie about a devout bourgeois family in the Charente that joins a traditionalist Catholic community, but which turns out to be a cult, with the brainwashed parents under the spell of the community leader-guru (played by Jean-Pierre Darroussin) but the children wiser to what’s going on. Nina Meurisse in Boris Lojkine’s Camille is good in this very good biopic of the intrepid photojournalist Camille Lepage, who was killed in 2014 while covering the civil war in the Central African Republic. A tribute of sorts to the brave reporters who risk their lives informing the world of nasty wars in poor countries that few outside those countries’ regions know or care about. Lyna Khoudri is radiant in Papicha, as a first-year university student in Algiers during Algeria’s 1990s ‘years of terrorism’ (Islamist). And Mame Bineta Sané is memorable in the somewhat surreal Atlantique (Atlantics), set in contemporary Dakar, Senegal, entirely in Wolof and with a migration theme (I was looking forward to this film, which, while good and worth seeing, fell a little short of my expectations).

BEST FIRST FILM: ‘Au nom de la terre’ (In the Name of the Land).
‘Les Misérables’ is the obvious choice but as I’ve already named it Best Film I’m not going to repeat it here. Mounia Meddour’s ‘Papicha’ and Mati Diop’s ‘Atlantique’, though French co-productions, are not stricto sensu French films, so I’m not sure if they belong in this category (I will write separately on ‘Papicha’, in an eventual post on contemporary Algerian cinema). ‘Le Chant du loup’ (The Wolf’s Call) has been well-reviewed but I have yet to see it.

UPDATE: ‘Les Misérables’ happily won best film, Roman Polanski best director (!), Roschdy Zem best actor (deserved, and for his entire career), Anaïs Demoustier best actress (surprising; not an obvious choice), Swann Arlaud best supporting actor (he’s good), Fanny Ardant best supporting actress (pourquoi pas?), Alexis Manenti most promising actor (why not?), Lyna Khoudri most promising actress (nice; A Star Is Born), and ‘Papicha’ best first film (salutary hat tip to the dynamism of contemporary Algerian cinema. which gets little help from the official cultural establishment there). Full list is here.

As for Polanski’s award, this prompted an immediate walkout by Adèle Haenel, followed by Céline Sciamma and others. Polanski is a great director—no dispute about that—and, all things being equal, he did deserve the award for ‘J’accuse’. But all things are not equal and given Polanski’s personal history with women, it was unconscionable to give him the award. It’s almost as if the old men of the César Academy (and maybe some of the old women too) were thumbing their noses at the #MeToo movement. Good for Adèle Haenel.

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Jean Daniel, R.I.P.

He died last Wednesday, at age 99, if one hadn’t heard. I followed his editorials and commentaries in Le Nouvel Observateur regularly from the 1980s on. I liked his learned, moderate left sensibility on French politics and society, and largely agreed with his analyses of geopolitics and matters non-French. Adam Shatz, who met Jean Daniel and has written about him, has a nice remembrance in the London Review of Books. A national homage, presided by President Macron, will be held for him on Friday at the Hôtel des Invalides, before his funeral at the Montparnasse cemetery. France does indeed honor its intellectuals.

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2020 Oscars

Voilà my annual Oscars post. I’ve seen all of the films in the top categories that have opened so far in France (or Germany). The list of nominees is here. Here are my brief takes, beginning with the Best Picture nominees.

Ford v Ferrari: Best popcorn movie of the year, not to mention the best on auto racing since the terrific Rush (which is to say, one of the two best movies ever made on the auto racing theme; okay, there’s also Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, so one of the three best). I thoroughly enjoyed it (as did movie-goers in France, who gave it the thumbs way up). It’s a great story (a true one, of course) and with a first-rate cast (Matt Damon and Christian Bale are tops). If you haven’t seen it and can appreciate a well-done, entertaining movie for the grand public, by all means do so; you won’t regret.

The Irishman: I’ve had mixed feelings about Martin Scorsese’s films over the years (having seen all but two or three). Of his gangster pics, I thought ‘Goodfellas’ was excellent (there’s a general consensus on this), though not so much ‘Casino’. ‘Mean Streets’ is a little dated but still worthy (I saw it recently, for the first time in four decades). ‘The Departed’ was okay and all but the Hong Kong original, ‘Infernal Affairs’, did not need a remake. ‘The Irishman’, while not a chef d’œuvre, is up there with ‘Goodfellas’. The story is gripping, the acting exceptional (particularly Joe Pesci; and Anna Paquin’s character—Frank Sheeran’s catatonic daughter—was as it should have been), and one simply does not see the three-and-a-half hours go by. As for the story—of the mob of the era, the heyday and demise of Jimmy Hoffa (played by Al Pacino), and, more generally, of an important slice of American labor history, indeed modern American history tout court—the pic is worth seeing for that alone (here in France, I’ve had to tell people the story of Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters, which are unknown). All the characters were real, as the events, though with a few exceptions and one major one in particular, which is the big issue with the film. As one is probably aware (though not in France), Scorsese’s screenplay is based on an account—that of the real-life Frank Sheeran (“the Irishman,” played by Robert De Niro)—that is almost certainly not credible, and particularly in regard to the murder of Jimmy Hoffa. In other words, the story is, at crucial moments, bullshit (on this, see the articles by Bill Tonelli in Slate and Jack Goldsmith in the NYR Daily). Now a movie may recount historical nonsense and still be riveting, top-notch entertainment, e.g. Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK’, which is based on a crazy conspiracy theory. And such is the case here. But still. If Scorsese’s œuvre were not driven by a bullshit version of history, he wouldn’t have been able to make the movie, and least not as he did. It’s still a good one, though.

Jojo Rabbit: It takes an addled mind IMHO to conceive of and make a light comedy about the Nazis and Hitler, and with children at the center. What an unpleasant movie, and which is, moreover, not at all funny (I didn’t chuckle even once, let alone laugh out loud). Its Oscar nominations—and particularly for Best Picture—are incomprehensible. That’s as much as I have to say about it

Joker: I was initially not going to see this one, as it’s not the kind of movie I normally see and I have not been a fan of Joaquin Phoenix, but relented in view of the hype. When asked by friends what I thought of it, I replied that it’s both a horrible movie and a very good one. It’s horrible because of the extreme violence—actual and psychological—and from practically the opening scene. The violence and psychological abuse visited upon the Phoenix character, Arthur Fleck, are almost unbearable to watch, and all the more so as Fleck is, in the outset at least, a harmless man with a miserable life and suffering from mental illness plus a neurological disorder (on the mental illness theme and controversy over it, see this piece in The Guardian). Watching cruelty and humiliation visited upon vulnerable persons, I just hate that—though it’s a fact of life (there are so many cruel, sadistic people in this world) and not at all gratuitous in the film. It is indeed central. The ramped-up Bernhard Goetz-style vigilantism that Fleck indulges in after getting the pistol also unsettles—and in part because one feels grim satisfaction, at least initially, in his actions. As for what’s good about the film, there’s first Phoenix’s extraordinary performance. It’s an acting tour de force. Then there’s the image of “Gotham City,” which is, as those over a certain age will readily recognize, 1970s-80s New York City on steroids. It’s been a few decades since one has seen such a dystopian depiction of NYC (recalling ‘The Warriors’, ‘Escape from New York’, even ‘Taxi Driver’). Except that this one is not cartoon-like. The demagogic mayoral candidate—and Fleck’s putative progenitor—could be contemporary (suivez mon regard) and the nihilistic mob at the end—though whose rage against the injustice of the system is comprehensible—is positively Black Bloc-like, though in a polity where there has been a breakdown in state and civil society institutions, and with massive cutbacks in public services (causing Fleck to lose his mental health benefits). If the unspeakable person in the White House is reelected this November and then succeeded by a member of his family in 2024—the system having been thoroughly rigged—then this Gotham City vision could await us a decade down the road. But I digress. On account of these “very good” features of the film, I thus scored it a 4.0 (very good) on Allociné, though won’t recommend it to everyone (and definitely not to my mother).

Little Women: I was not familiar with Louisa May Alcott’s novel (what it’s about) before seeing the movie, which I am not ashamed to admit, as boys did not read such books in my day (and it was not assigned in any of my English classes in middle or high school). I found the first half of the film a little slow-going but got into it in the second. It’s a good period piece (of 1860s New England) and with a fine ensemble cast. And it’s a nice, heartwarming story to boot. So good movie.

Marriage Story: This one has been praised to the high heavens across the board but I frankly thought it overrated. Adam Driver is first-rate and Laura Dern is good, that I will grant, but Scarlett Johansson underwhelms IMHO. Grosso modo, I just didn’t relate to the marriage crisis and the way husband and wife interacted, which just struck me as so American. Their scènes de ménage irritated. I couldn’t imagine French couples acting out in such a manner. But one French friend of my generation liked it (and his wife even more) and with Paris critics and Allociné spectateurs alike giving the pic top marks. So maybe I’m the one who is à côté de la plaque. Go figure.

1917: I’ll see any epic film on WWI—not that many come out—in part because I’ve been teaching the subject (to American undergraduates) for a number of years and have been making the rounds of WWI sites in France (and with some major ones still to go). This one (set in the Pas-de-Calais) is engaging and well-done, and effectively conveys the horrors of the war on the front line, though I felt that the depiction of the trenches was maybe just a little sanitized, that they were in reality more insalubrious. But just a detail. Peu importe.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood: I see everything by Quentin Tarantino, though not everything he does need necessarily be seen. This one was perfectly entertaining—and several notches above the execrable The Hateful Eight—the cast is great (Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio are fun), and it has its moments, but I gave the pic no thought after leaving the theater. It’s empty calories. So it’s said to be a tribute to the end of an era in Hollywood. Bon, d’accord. Personally I have nothing in particular to say about it. C’est tout.

Parasite: I’m a total outlier on this one, which absolutely everyone—critics, audiences, and friends (with a single exception), and on both sides of the pond—has been showering with gushing, dithyrambic praise. I mean, everyone thinks this a chef d’œuvre. Quite frankly, I’m mystified. I found the pic entertaining enough when I first saw it last spring, with the grifter family adorable in its own way and its con job on the rich family amusing. This part was fine, though nothing to knock one’s socks off IMHO. Pas de quoi en tarir d’éloges. What turned me off, though, was the violent, over-the-top denouement, which I didn’t like, thus causing me to downgrade my score of the pic on the Allociné scale to 2.5 (so-so). The film is, according to critics, a metaphor for class struggle, which is to say, it has a neo-Marxist message. I’ve never thought of South Korea as a class-ridden society—or more than others—mais qu’est-ce que j’en sais? So there are rich people and poor people in South Korea. Quoi de neuf sous le ciel? Class struggle is indeed a theme in some of Bong Joon-ho’s films, e.g. his 2013 ‘Snowpiercer’, which was praised across the board but that I hated. So in view of the gushing, dithyrambic praise of ‘Parasite’—and consequent slew of accolades (Golden Globes, Oscar nominations, etc)—I decided that I should see it again—give it a second chance—which I did last month, at a special screening at my local cinéma municipal. The verdict: I upped my appreciation a notch—to 3.0 (okay/not too bad) on the Allociné scale—but continue to deem it overrated. One thing: as a foreign language film, it does not belong in the Oscars’ Best Picture category to begin with.

And then there are these:

Judy: A biopic of a once-famous, now forgotten American actress and chanteuse, of her profoundly sad life, from cloistered, regimented childhood to alcohol and drug-fueled demise in middle age. One still listens to Frank Sinatra but does anyone Judy Garland? The pic is entertaining enough, though not essential. One may see it or decide not to see it. Renée Zellweger (Best Actress nominee) is very good. She carries the film. The sequences with the gay couple are touching. C’est tout.

Bombshell: A good movie for the grand public of the fetid swamp of Fox News—and the culture of the American right more generally—and, in particular, of powerful, malignant narcissistic men obsessed with their quéquettes (translation here), the despicable male here being Roger Ailes, though to be fair and balanced, this syndrome of course spans the political spectrum and knows no ideological boundaries. An open and shut case for #MeToo. The actresses are all good: Charlize Theron (Best Actress nominee) and Nicole Kidman as Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, respectively, and Margot Robbie (Best Supporting Actress nominee) as the fictitious Kayla Pospisil (your generic ditzy Fox News blond).

The Two Popes: A remarkable film about the relationship Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins, Best Supporting Actor nominee) forged in the latter years of his papacy with his future successor, the then Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce, Best Actor nominee). The two men are, as one knows, on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum—such as it is in the Catholic church—though the flashbacks to Argentina in the 1970s show the future Pope Francis to have been no leftist. I was thoroughly absorbed in the film. And the performances are first-rate.

My vote:

BEST PICTURE: ‘Joker’.
I hesitated on this in view of its downsides, but such is likewise with the n° 2 choice, ‘The Irishman’.

BEST DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips (‘Joker’).
I would have gone with Martin Scorsese had he not based his screenplay on an account recounted by a mythomaniac.

BEST ACTOR: Joaquin Phoenix (‘Joker’).
Hands down. Adam Driver (‘Marriage Story’) is also worthy. Antonio Banderas (‘Pain and Glory’), while excellent, does not speak English in his movie and which ain’t American to boot, so no to him.

BEST ACTRESS: Renée Zellweger (‘Judy’).
Saoirse Ronan (‘Little Women’) is second. As I haven’t seen ‘Harriet’ I can’t speak to Cynthia Erivo.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Joe Pesci (‘The Irishman’).
Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood’) is also good. Haven’t seen Tom Hanks in ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Laura Dern (‘Marriage Story’).
Sort of by default, as there’s no obvious choice (but definitely not Scarlett Johansson in ‘Jojo Rabbit’!). Don’t know about Kathy Bates in ‘Richard Jewell’.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM: ‘Les Misérables’.
A no-brainer (I’m also rooting for the home team). ‘Pain and Glory’—perhaps the best I’ve seen by Pedro Almodóvar (I’m normally not a fan of his, so am not familiar with much of his œuvre)—would be worthy. As for ‘Parasite’, see above. I haven’t seen ‘Corpus Christi’ or ‘Honeyland’.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: ‘For Sama’ and ‘American Factory’ ex æquo.
Both are terrific (and which will soon be posted on). ‘Edge of Democracy’ is good. ‘The Cave’ is a superb documentary on Syria, so Robert F. Worth informs us in the NYR Daily, but I have yet to see it.

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Sad day

Credit: John Thys/Getty

A profoundly sad day, one should say. That’s what yesterday—January 31, 2020—was, with Brexit finally done (it was another kind of day outre-Atlantique—an outrageous one, with the US Senate Republicans voting to protect the criminal in the White House—but we won’t get into that here). I predicted after the 2016 referendum that Brexit would finally not happen, and held to that until last December’s general election, banking on a second referendum that would necessarily result in a ‘remain’ victory. Guess I was a little off. But I will insist, as I have all along, that there is no valid argument for Brexit. Not a single one. None whatever. And this assertion is only confirmed when listening to or reading pro-Brexiters, as in this NYT piece by journalist Tanya Gold, who checked out the Brexit celebration party in London last night and sought to engage the revelers in discussion. A lot of blather about “sovereignty”—whatever that’s supposed to mean in our globalized world—”taking back control,” and other vacuous slogans. Little England’s Trump base.

The UK will, of course, now be free to conclude a free trade agreement with the USA, and with Trump dictating the conditions: chlorinated poultry, hormone-treated beef, the NHS thrown open to the US pharmaceutical industry and  its pricing practices, et on en passe. Somehow I don’t think BoJo will take this leap.

The best commentary one will read on yesterday’s day in infamy is by novelist and screenwriter Ian McEwan, published today in The Guardian, “Brexit, the most pointless, masochistic ambition in our country’s history, is done: The magic dust of populism has blinded reason, and damage and diminishment lie ahead.” This passage is nice:

Take a road trip from Greece to Sweden, from Portugal to Hungary. Leave your passport behind. What a rich, teeming bundle of civilisations – in food, manners, architecture, language, and each nation state profoundly and proudly different from its neighbours. No evidence of being under the boot-heel of Brussels. Nothing here of continental USA’s dreary commercial sameness. Summon everything you’ve learned of the ruinous, desperate state of Europe in 1945, then contemplate a stupendous economic, political and cultural achievement: peace, open borders, relative prosperity, and the encouragement of individual rights, tolerance and freedom of expression. Until Friday this was where our grown-up children went at will to live and work.

That’s over…

Why any state would renounce the free movement and right to live and work for its citizens in the 27 European Union member states is beyond comprehension. And particularly as the UK gains nothing in return from being outside the EU. As McEwan reminds us, none of the Leavers’ visions of a ‘Global Britain’ or other such ambitions were in any way thwarted by membership in the EU—and a privileged one at that, with the UK’s opt-outs from the single currency and Schengen. And absolutely none of the problems in the UK that fueled Brexiter sentiment were in any way a consequence of it being in the EU. As for the influx of migrants from Poland and other post-2004 enlargement states, it was the UK’s sovereign decision to immediately open its labor market to nationals of those states, whereas all the other EU member states save Ireland maintained restrictions for at least two years. No one in Brussels told the Brits what to do. But I know I’m preaching to the choir on all this, as it’s just so obvious.

Another reminder from McEwan:

The door out of Europe was held open by Corbyn for Johnson to walk through. In this case, if you travelled far enough to the left, you met and embraced the right coming the other way.

Unless something big and unexpected happens, this will be the last time I will post on the UK and EU until at least the end of this year.

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