Wednesday, August 26, 2020


Christopher Nolan: Tenet (2020), starring John David Washington as the Protagonist.

Tenet / Tenet.
    A Warner Bros. Pictures Presentation. A Syncopy Production. A Film by Christopher Nolan.
    GB/US © 2020 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. PC: Syncopy / Warner Bros. P: Emma Thomas, Christopher Nolan. EX: Thomas Hayslip.
    D+SC: Christopher Nolan.
    DP: Hoyte von Hoytema – negative: 65 mm horizontal – colour – 1,43:1 (70 mm IMAX), 1,90:1 (Digital IMAX), 2,20:1, 2,39:1 (35 mm) – released on 35 mm, 70 mm (also horizontal), D-Cinema. Shot and finished on film. Cameras and lenses by Panavision and IMAX. Kodak motion picture film. 65 mm laboratory services and prints by: FotoKem. IMAX Post supervisor: Sarah Moshe.
    PD: Nathan Crowley. AD: Rory Bruen, Jenne Lee. Cost: Jeffrey Kurland. Make-up: Luisa Abel. Hair: Camille Friend. VFX: Andrew Jackson. VFX by DNEG. SFX: Scott Fisher. M: Ludwig Göransson. Supervising Music Editor: Alex Gibson. S: Richard King. ED: Jennifer Lame. Graphic Designer: Phillis Lehmer. Casting: John Papsidera.
    C: John David Washington (the Protagonist), Robert Pattinson (the Protagonist's handler), Elizabeth Debicki (Kat, Sator's estranged wife), Dimple Kapadia (Priya), Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh (Andrei Sator, a Russian oligarch who communes with the future), Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Clémence Poésy (Barbara, a scientist), Himesh Patel, Danzil Smith (an arms dealer and Priya's husband), Martin Donovan, Sean Avery, Jack Cutmore-Scott, Rich Ceraulo Ko, Fiona Dourif, Yuri Kolokolnikov.
    Filmed on location in USA, Estonia, Italy, UK, Denmark, India and Norway. Including the cities of Tallinn, Ravello, Amalfi and Mumbai. 19 May – 12 Nov 2019.
    [Script reader n.c.: Kip Thorne, theoretical physicist, expert in gravitational physics and astrophysics, Nobel laureate.]
    5334 m / 150 min
    International premiere: 26 Aug 2020.
    US premiere: 3 Sep 2020.
    Finnish premiere: 26 Aug 2020, distributed by SF Studios with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Timo Porri / Hannele Vahtera.
    4K DCP viewed in a press preview at Finnkino Itis IMAX, 20 Aug 2020. Finnish review embargo 26 Aug 2020.

Tagline: "Time Runs Out".

AA: Tenet is a magnificent futuristic spy thriller with apocalyptic resonances and philosophical implications. It looks and sounds gorgeous and goes all the way to take us to an immersive global super adventure. 

Film-makers need broad shoulders to carry the impossible mission of saving the world's cinemas in a pandemic year. Tenet was made for the cinema, works fully only in the cinema, and is an experiment in the essence of the cinema.

Christopher Nolan is the rare film-maker who makes the biggest blockbuster hit movies that are at the same time uncompromisingly experimental. Stanley Kubrick (whose distributor was Warner Bros., too) was a parallel case.

There is also an impressive continuity and consistency in Nolan's experiments. His oeuvre can be compared with J. B. Priestley's cycle of time plays (such as An Inspector Calls). Memento was a memory play. Insomnia was a sleep play. The Prestige was an illusion play. Inception was a dream play. Interstellar was a time tunnel play. Tenet is a time inversion play.

All this gets expressed in the Bond / Batman style megalomaniac global adventure idiom, where an exceptional agent meets a super villain who is out to destroy the world. The villain's motive remains obscure, but his mottoes include "If I can't have you, no one can" and "When I die, the world dies with me".

Much of the action is still in direct lineage with the cinema's earliest super action spectacles launched by Victorin Jasset at Éclair in 1908, films such as Nick Carter contre Zigomar. We have super heists, catamaran chases and bungee jumps. But we have not had bullets flashing backwards through inverted air, nor car chases in which the enemy's car speeds by in reverse mode from the future.

A parallel world intrudes ours. We are asked to enter a time tunnel to reverse action. In the time tunnel we run the risk of meeting ourselves. We even run the risk of getting into a gunfight with ourselves. But there is a ban: don't touch your future self. There is also the grandfather paradox: what happens if we kill an ancestor. Tenet is an adventure on a two-lane corridor of time where time runs forward and backward. Time itself changes direction. The villain's super weapon is turning the entropy of the world. A weapon much more catastrophic than a nuclear threat.

I don't know if Tenet's science is accurate, but it is a poetic vision about facing the Quantum Age: we know that quantum computing works, but we don't know how and why.

Tenet is also a poetic vision of the New Gilded Age of the Capital in the 21st Century. The super villain Andrei Sator (Kenneth Branagh) is its embodiment, a Russian oligarch who has become the most powerful man in the world. We are reminded of the situation in the USA where Russia has installed a puppet president, and Britain, which corrupt politicians on the take from Russian oligarchs have managed to remove from the EU to hide their criminal wealth and protect tax shelter privileges.

Much of the action of Tenet takes place in a world of free ports, tax havens, Swiss bank accounts, private jets and high security elite establishments. Even the art market plays a central role: works of past masters who lived in poverty now command obscene prices. An art forgery incident has made the female protagonist Kat (Elizabeth Debicki) a slave to Sator's will.

A world of epic financial fraud, where money rules, and money turns the world into its own image. "Time is money". In Tenet, money can buy the future, and through time inversion, even the past. Tenet is a dystopian spectacle about moral hazard.

Time-twisting has appeared in many films before: Back to the Future, the Terminator cycle, Groundhog Day... But Tenet goes further than any film so far.  Christopher Nolan has commented on the inherent ability of film to analyze time by time lapse and slow motion. Of course montage is also a time machine, including the triple parallel montage of Dunkirk. In the tesseract sequences of Interstellar and the time inversions of Tenet Nolan opens new doors for the cinema as a medium privileged to convey the phenomenon of time.

Tenet is a top production in all departments. John David Washington as The Protagonist brings a quality of silent dignity to his performance, different from other superheroes. Perhaps he is somewhat "a man without qualities" like a secret agent is supposed to appear, able to switch roles like a chameleon.

Daringly, Nolan creates cinema that does not primarily address emotions: instead, he addresses the senses and the intellect. The Nolan impact is alienating and intriguing at the same time. It is not Brechtian (Brecht did address emotions but in a novel way), but there is an affinity in an approach that is not based on a conventional identification strategy.

Associating about Brecht I stumble upon the last words of Kuhle Wampe: "Whose tomorrow is tomorrow? Whose world is the world?"

I watched Tenet in the first row of the cinema to register Hoyte von Hoytema's extraordinary cinematography at close range. The source of the 4K DCP on display is state of the art photochemical, expanding the possibilities of analogue film in handheld IMAX camerawork. There is a rich variety of visual registers in the global adventure. Ludwig Göransson's thundering score is strong on rhythm and percussions, and it contributes to an ambience of menace and purpose.

Like Dunkirk, Tenet is a film without an Atempause, without respite, and it's remarkable that it works so well for two and a half hours. Perhaps the reason for the relentlessness is that the premise is so outlandish that Nolan wants us to watch first and think afterwards.

Le Carré Sator, Oppède, Luberon, Vaucluse, France. " Le carré Sator est un carré magique contenant le palindrome latin SATOR AREPO TENET OPERA ROTAS. Ce carré figure dans plusieurs inscriptions latines, la plus ancienne connue qui a été trouvée à Pompéi ne pouvant être postérieure à l'an 791. L'énigme formée par le sens de cette inscription a intrigué de nombreux savants et suscité diverses hypothèses, utilisant des interprétations exégétiques juive ou chrétienne et provoquant le scepticisme sur une signification de l'inscription de la part d'historiens de l'Antiquité romaine. " Source: Wikipédia L'Encyclopédie libre.

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