Motherless Brooklyn Saturday Mood

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Tonight it’s just us here

Watching an old rerun

Of a detective movie

With trench coats and cool hats

The jazz night is my favourite

Listening to those cats,

Sipping strawberry cocktails,

Savour our whispered chats.

My definition of a perfect #saturdaynight 😋

Beyond the sweetness of the scene described in these lyrics is my liking of a certain kind of vibe. The 50’s vibe, which I had the pleasure of tasting quite recently, when I watched Motherless Brooklyn.

A complex story with intriguing characters, built within the noir atmosphere of a 1950’s New York, recreated by Edward Norton. He directed the movie and played the main part, that of a private detective suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome, trying to solve the murder of his mentor. The movie is old school, it uses long conversations between characters, a voice-over narrating the detective’s thoughts, thus contributing with an overall calming effect, while in the actual scenes, the mystery, the tension is amplified by the uncontrollable condition of Norton’s character, Lionel Essrog. It’s complicated to be a detective who stumbles upon the games of the big sharks and not being able to keep your mouth shut, not even undercover.

The actors are perfectly cast – from the protector we see too little of due to his tragic demise, played by Bruce Willis, to the villain brought to life on screen impeccably by Alec Baldwin. His character, Moses Randolph, shows an array of traits suitable for a tyrant: God complex, power obsessed, racist, hedonistic and cruel, yet nevertheless visionary. Moses is based on “real life city planner Robert Moses, which is largely to blame for the Brooklyn Dodgers leaving Brooklyn for Los Angeles” *.  

Motherless Brooklyn is the nickname Lionel got from his mentor, but I also see it as depicting symbolically the state of the poor people who had to relocate to make room for the developer’s plans. The devious idea of “designing the overpasses for the parkways to be low, so that lower income people could not ride buses into the city, thereby limiting racial integration in the suburbs” * stuck with me and stopped me from romanticizing this period too much. There were hard times and just a handful of fighters for the people, there was great development for the city, absolutely, but it came at the expense and the suffering of the many. Still, let’s not get too saddened by this, because, in a subtle and intense way, we are reminded that there were also wonderful things happening at the time: jazz bands playing in Harlem, brave while always elegantly dressed women “Gabby Horowitz portrays activist Jane Jacobs who battled Robert Moses over slum clearance in Greenwich Village” * and at least one upright reporter wearing hat and braces. The unforgettable presence of the Brooklyn Bridge stays with us while lingering questions about life’s infinite shades of grey complete the characters in all their humanity. People are mostly good or bad, the rest is weakness and ambition, sometimes a little bit of love. The hero who started the crusade was “just a gumshoe, trying to make a buck”, the loyal colleague took his “loyalty” to the boss’s widow, the mad scientist, while undeniably well intended, lets his idealism and hope for legacy turn him into a coward and expose his Achilles’ heel. And the good guy of the story doesn’t really come in the shape of a hero, with his Tourette induced reactions in every social situation he encounters. Edward Norton challenged himself again with a difficult character who, like in real life, has to play the cards he was dealt and function as highly as his strangely wired brain would take him. The unforgettable presence of the Brooklyn Bridge stays with us while lingering questions about life’s infinite shades of grey complete the characters in all their humanity. People are mostly good or bad, the rest is weakness and ambition, sometimes a little bit of love. The hero who started the crusade was “just a gumshoe, trying to make a buck”, the loyal colleague took his “loyalty” to the boss’s widow, the mad scientist, while undeniably well intended, lets his idealism and hope for legacy turn him into a coward and expose his Achilles’ heel. And the good guy of the story doesn’t really come in the shape of a hero, with his Tourette induced reactions in every social situation he encounters. Edward Norton challenged himself again with a difficult character who, like in real life, has to play the cards he was dealt and function as highly as his strangely wired brain would take him.

What we visually get from this film is an imprint of a time when, in spite of their troubles and challenges, people were beautifully dressed all the time. How can we bring that self-respect back? It wasn’t about the money, everybody wore coats and hats casually, but there was no concept of casual clothing. Here’s the thought to save from this Saturday night: if you spend more money on fewer pieces of clothing and in doing so, you’d take better care of them, would you also take better care of you? If you take your time to dress up when going outside, would you learn to savour time and ultimately life better? I don’t know, just watch the movie, do it for the jazz, at least!

*(imdb trivia info)

 Photo credits: Glen Wilson/Warner Bros. Pictures via AP

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Motherless Brooklyn Saturday Mood