Cinema: “Armageddon Time”, an autobiographical film inspired by the childhood of James Gray

Cinema Armageddon Time an autobiographical film inspired by the childhood

After filming Brad Pitt in space in Ad AstraJames Gray returns to Earth for his eighth feature film, Armageddon Time, who has just been released in theaters in France. Armageddon Time is an evocative and misleading title at the same time: it is not a blockbuster showing destruction with blows of special effects, but the melancholy chronicle of adolescence in Queens, a district of New York, at the beginning of the 1980s .

James Gray was inspired by his childhood and considers this period as decisive for the future of the world. ” When I was twelve, I remember one of my role models was Muhammad Ali, says the director. In the fall of 1980, he suffered a humiliating loss to Larry Holmes. A few months later, John Lennon was assassinated and then Ronald Reagan was elected president. My mother kept saying there was going to be a nuclear war. I had the feeling that an apocalypse was imminent. It was also the beginning of the market-king. If you consider the rise in inequality, it is also a global issue, everything takes root in these years: 1979-1980. I believe this is a tipping point that is still too underestimated. And then, in the middle of American cinema, it’s also the end of New Hollywood, the end of a certain type of film that I really like. And I feel an obligation to maintain this spirit. »

I want to challenge this system of oppression »

James Gray therefore films Paul, a twelve-year-old boy who grows up in an Ashkenazi Jewish family and wants to become an artist. In the public school of the district, he sympathizes with Johnny, a little black boy left to himself. The two boys do the 400 shots. But to prevent Paul from turning out badly, his parents decide to send him to a better attended private school.

By filming this bittersweet chronicle, the 52-year-old director wants to highlight the injustice of economic and racial inequalities. ” I wrote the screenplay before a whole series of police blunders, the worst being the murder of George Floyd by white police officers, he says. There are several levels of privileges. It must be understood that children who go to good private schools gain access to super privileges. They are part of the elite, and they know it. The system is completely locked: the same small group of people access the highest level and exclude all others. This is the world we live in. How can we break this vicious circle? So some will say: how to make everyone get rich? But this is an individualistic response. I want to question this system of oppression. I just wanted to show all the layers of this system. »

Melancholy family chronicle, carried by the soundtrack of the 1980s, Armageddon Time is a delicate and at the same time committed melodrama, a call to awaken consciences, but also the beautiful portrait of the birth of an artist.

► To read also: Ad Astra », the conquest of oneself

The film was presented in competition at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.