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Sunday, May 15, 2016

Marseille on Netflix: Enjoyable and Relevant

I just finished binge-watching Marseille, all eight episodes released this month in this made-for-Netflix French TV series with English subtitles, and I liked it a lot.  I mean, it's a little over the top with key points in the plot hinging of suddenly revealed family relationships, but the grit and dialogue and relevance to politics today, and probably yesterday as well, more than compensate.

The series was savaged by French critics, at least according to Wikipedia, check it out if you're interested, but c'est dommage,  I couldn't care less what French critics or for that matter critics of any nationality think about a television series or a movie.  Ok, I do think André Bazin's Qu'est-ce que le cinéma is a masterpiece, and I often quote it, but he wrote that a long time ago, and though he was a film critic, the book presents a theory of how film works, what it does and is, and is not a critique of any particular movie.  Regarding those, I find they more often then not miss the mark.

But back to Marseille, it doesn't, and in fact presents what I suspect is a pretty accurate portrayal of the democratic process at work in any city in today's free world, that is, the part of the world that is free, in other words, in which elections count.   But those elections are so subject to such noxious manipulation and deceit on all levels that you can see why Churchill quoted some unknown source to the effect that "democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others," and the venerable Socrates hated it outright.   Well, Marseille does a riveting, colorful job of exposing just why that is so.

Now, I'm about to start pointing out the special relevance of Marseille to what's going on in the United States today, and I know what you're thinking, and you would be right: Donald Trump represents the worst of the democratic process writ large.   E. M. Forster, another critic of democracy who thought there was no form of government that was better, expressed his views in Two Cheers for Democracy (published in 1951 but composed of material written earlier) - and had he known of Trump, he likely would have entitled his book One Cheer.

Fortunately, Trump has not yet won, and doesn't even formally have the nomination, so Marseille can be appreciated at least at this point as fiction with no quite analog in the real world, joining Boss, Borgen, and of course House of Cards as searing political drama, with lots of sex, crime, local flavor, and good acting - especially by Gérard Depardieu as the Mayor, Benoît Magimel as his deputy, and Stéphane Caillard as his daughter - as well as edge-of-your-seat vote counting.  So, see it and enjoy.

And if you're interested in the connection of Socrates to Trump, check out this little essay, Socrates, Time Travel, and Donald Trump, published just a few days ago.



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