The apparent apodicticity of the biblical sentence that introduces the new film by Jordan Peele, if deduced from the English translation of the verses of the Old Testament prophet, it aims to define the notion of gaze as a synonym of spectacle, in the sense of an interior reflection suddenly exposed to the obscenity of the representation. The public mockery, which occurs in the Italian editions of the text, is in Nope an obvious opportunity to reallocate the point of view on the hypertrophy of mass media images, quantifiable signs of a computational logic that devours everything through cold devices and entities. The eye of a judging God, old knowledge of patriarchal systems and of the regimes that follow from them, alternately becomes a warning and a description of the cultural nature of the gaze. But this nature leads irremediably to blindness. On the one hand, the disarming of the devices at stake, from the nostalgic cult of an auroral origin of Cinema to the pervasiveness of surveillance systems, on the other hand the stripping of the narrative architecture itself, reduced to the tense and suspended form of its own junctions, deprived of a landing place.
The plot narrative is the first to pay the price, right from the title that Peele chooses, a real wide-open eye on nothingness. It is therefore evident the strenuous refusal to oppose the identity presence of the gaze to the monstrous seduction of an eye / sphincter that engulfs and revives the vestments and trappings of a show built on the wrecks of industry, even those that allow the average critic to flush out all the quotes more or less evident.
Less explicit and as far as we are concerned more stimulating, the emptying process to which the spectatorial role is subjected, absorbed by a show that leads nowhere, in the continuous disregarding the logic of disclosure, or more simply in detecting the kinetic substance of the duel, such as that of bodies and objects simply against the landscape.
In the re-foundation of a history of Cinema observed from the margins, Peele re-semantics as usual all the ideological vectors of the gaze to bring out the repressions of the classic narrative within an apparently postmodern framework, where the debris recombined by the extreme mediatization of experience, are the only ones available so that the excluded can reconstruct alternative narratives. But when it comes to debris, these can only constitute the formation of a mirage, as often happens in the films of the African American director.
We were already saying this for Get Out, that Peele’s main interest is aimed at that semiotic and cultural cannibalization where blackness is a fragment of a broader question, linked to the cancellation of difference as a constitutive element of social and creative space.
The landscape surrounding the riding school inherited from OJ is a wasteland whose only flashes of civilization are large hyperreal amusement parks placed on the edge. The sets are those that on the one hand allude to the 3D museum reduction of the history of culture, where the augmented alteration transforms lies into an immersive experience, therefore more reliable than reality. The story of a generation, at the dawn of the new millennium, finds its imaginal roots in a blood-soaked sit-com and in a longed-for set, that of Scorpion King, the crossroads of a cinematic epic that anticipates blockbuster architecture to come. As survivors from the dark side of the dream, Nope’s characters already occupy the transitional space between market and desert, industry and perishable attractions, in search of the right image, the one that directs them to the center of a reality show and outside the cinema.
In the swirling carousel of devices, the binary opposition between digital and analog is subjected to the same corrosion. Embedded in the larger frame of digital remediation, the film footage is engulfed by the monstrous alien maelstrom, along with the lone adventurer operating behind a self-built crank machine. There is a bit of everything in Peele’s tasty parody and we are not interested in addressing its symbolic authorship, especially considering the work of Hoyte Van Hoytema with the IMAX architecture on which the visual dimension of the film is built and the colossal budget consciously employed to build a spectacular form based on the emptying and enhancement of the image itself.
The analog seems to occupy the role of fetishized detritus, the semblant of a self-destructive cinema-nostalgia and unable to see beyond the recovery of an impossible auroral horizon. Solipsist and closed in his own self-referentiality, he does not get stuck like digital devices, but fails miserably in the pseudo-scientific illusion of capturing the center of reality. It is no coincidence that Peele makes the search for perfect light coincide with an equally exemplary death where the extraordinary animal amorality overturns the pornographic gaze of the documentary maker, deluded to understand the freedom of beasts while admiring their ferocity in slow motion.
Two dreams of omnipotence in the mirror, disembodied digital automation and the reproducibility of the mechanical gesture without a look. Then more than a combinatorial game of pop relevance, the big eye that takes snapshots of enormous dimensions, like a well looking upwards, seems to reside profitably between the two worlds. On the one hand the process of development of the image coinciding with the instant, on the other the idea that the shot still contains that punctum of unpredictability, placed between the subjective dimension of feeling, and the elusiveness of the space-time perspective. The flagrancy is then a question of intensity as well as an identity assumption of the point of view.
The sabotages of the devices are, moreover, conveyed by a long sequence of functional deficits: the praying mantis that looks like a strange alien on the lens of the surveillance camera, wireless signals, smartphones and all electrical power systems deactivated by energy of the monster, the crank camera that finishes the reel and most of all, the slowdown to which it is subjected Sunglasses at Night by Corey Hart, as it is being played by Angel’s van, the video technician who disseminates OJ’s ranch with a remote surveillance system. This last example, in addition to suggesting the extensive sound design work that involves the manipulated use of a large repertoire of pop and rock music for dramaturgical purposes, once again tells the nightmare of the blackout as a thorn in the side of omnipotence. technological. Inflation of an omnipotent self well represented by the cable TV centaur who plows through the desert on a motorcycle and observes the world protected by a mirrored helmet. At the center of the protection, a hole that allows him to do the only thing he is capable of, frame.
The beasts; horses, mantises, crazed chimpanzees, territorial aliens, scan the chapters of the films like souls fleeing the oppressive centrality of the objective.
Nope by Jordan Peele (USA, 2022 – 130 min)
Interpreters: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Michael Wincott, Brandon Perea, Donna Mills, Terry Notary, Jennifer Lafleur, Wrenn Schmidt, Keith David, Devon Graye, Barbie Ferreira, Oz Perkins, Eddie Jemison, Jacob Kim, Sophia Coto
Film script: Jordan Peele
Assembly: Nicholas Monsour
Music: Michael Abels