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American Vertigo (2007)

A subjective documentary, a real logbook that follows the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy in the U.S.A.


Michko Netchak


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Credited cast:
Jean-Pierre Kalfon ... Le narrateur (voice)


A subjective documentary, a real logbook that follows the philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy in the U.S.A.

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French | English

Release Date:

20 June 2007 (France) See more »

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American psycho (tv)
2 September 2012 | by leplatypusSee all my reviews

It's sheer luck that this hard to find documentary was aired on TV, all the more than I have just finished to read the companion book.

The first thing that shocked me was that it's not the writer, BHL, who voiced over his travel but a fellow actor. Then, contrary to the essay, I was disturbed by the visual media: if I watched the screen, I wasn't paying attention to the commentary and if I was listening to the commentary, I couldn't focus on the screen.

But, finally, the essay and the documentary are very close: it's exactly the same ideas, the same itinerary. The only difference is that the documentary could pass as a digest of the essay because here, his main ideas are only mentioned while in the book, the ideas are really developed. One good point would be that the documentary cut the less interesting part of the essay, that is to say the political analysis (republicans vs democrats) and the several interviews related.

Finally, I retain three scenes of this documentary where indeed the picture would tell much more than the writing: 1) the derelict town of Detroit: as BHL brilliantly edit, I see no difference between this old famous city and the destructed towns of ex- Yougoslavia. And it's frightening because there was no war in America. 2) The goodbye party of Clinton: it looks rather like a burial and it's a good thing that the sky didn't support him as he left a big stain on the presidency. 3) The unlimited lines of poor in LA: this is something that we don't see often while it says the biggest challenge of America today: not the fight against terror but the fight against poverty!

To comment about those ideas and BHL's feelings as well, I would say first that BHL is a very fine, lyric thinker. Maybe he has too much a strong opinion of himself and likes too much spotlight, but in the end, he is very wit, human and clear.

If he talks about America like a vertigo, he's right because I feel also that America is schizoid (thus my title). If we can sum up a country, I don't think that America is really united but divided. What really characterizes this country is the constant mirror effect.

They love law, justice but they can forget those rules (JFK, Guantanamo,...). They are very transparent, information can be found easily but they can rewrite facts as well (the baseball, Hollywood). They are an immigrants country but they also shamefully exterminate the native Indians. They defend liberty but they don't understand equality (which is the opposite of their late rival, CCCP).

In conclusion, if America is still the best country to feel free, there's a gap that's bleeding more and more and it's their failure to relief the poor: As the documentary shows, prisons are a way to deal with the misfits, rich are building closed towns.

With this essay, I finally understood the icon of Zombie that I see a lot now in America culture (and nowhere else): it's actually the mirror of those poor, those leftover: they have no more left and as they live in the same towns, country that the ones that got all the money, the privileges and the easy life, they are knocking in their subconscious and don't let them sleep easily.

So, finally, I don't know if we can compare BHL with Stephen King, but it would be interesting it the both would analyze France as well.

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