One week ago, Mad Men ended with the image of Don Draper smiling into the camera. On the other side of the screen my face, as two ancient Greek theater masks facing each other, was rather the opposite: the face of disappointment. What a lacking finale –if not a complete disaster–, to the point that our own Homecoming Queen, who actually confessed to like the episodes, preferred to discuss the latest Penny Dreadful episodes over the series finales of a series of the relevance of Mad Men. This fact made look back to this year’s fiction and wonder: are we having a bad year?
Modern cinema took off with two stares into camera: Harriet Andersson challenged the audience to judge her for her new affair in Summer with Monika (Bergman, 1953), and Jean Seberg did the same thing seven years later in À bout de souffle (Godard), probably a direct quotation of the previous film, when in its last shot she pretended to be something she was not. The look at the camera was thus established as a breach in form, the characters acknowledge their own performative act, related also to a subversion of the social and genre conventions, both women betray their lovers. Cinema would never be the same again, self-consciousness and reflexivity would become the main features of contemporary cinema, from films about the essence of cinema and acting (Persona) to studies of the generic and the thin barrier between reality and fiction disappearing in our current society (Synecdoche New York). Viewer, actor and character converge into one single entity.
Some weeks ago we got the news that Rick Mayall had passed away at his house in London. Comedy was in mourning, we had just lost a main cast member of one the most influential sitcoms of all time whose echoes we can still hear in today’s TV shows. We had lost one of The Young Ones.
“That’s season one in your face, motherfucker!” – Rick Sanchez
“We’ll definitely be back next year. if not, it will be because an asteroid has destroyed all human civilization…” – Abed Nadir
A drunkard scientist and a emotionless television-obsessed student, both alter egos of their own maker, the tormented genius, Dan Harmon. Both aware of their “characterness”, their fictionality, the rules of the worlds they live in to the point they can play with the same conventions they are created by. Just another day in Harmontown*.