Wednesday, December 29, 2010

La prise de pouvoir par George Herbert Walker Bush

Staging a dramatic scene
means finding conflicts.
It's mathematical: change
a rhythm, immediately you
have an emotion.

   Roberto Rossellini on
   La prise de pouvoir par
      Louis XIV, 1966

The American head of state came to the city of San Francisco for a mid-day levée at the St Francis Hotel, on February 28, 1990, to extract money from partisan nobles willing to watch him eat lunch. 

A great change in the rhythm of the most thriving and open public square in the United States was staged, to lend the requisite drama to the dynast's nourishment. The people needed to sense the power; the nobles needed to worship the glory. Millions were spent to barricade the people; Saks, Hermès, Gucci, Magnin, Macy's, Tiffany were locked for the duration. The sun, itself, beamed obsequiously.

The most extreme health emergency in the history of the city was decim-ating it without notice from the head of state, apart from relief there was no threat to "the general population." The majesty of his serenity remained unblemished through lunchtime jests about a government he destroyed in Nicaragua.

Yet, gaily, unabashedly, the nobles filled the hall, paid-up in advance and cashed out to their toes to treat themselves to his approving glance. The cable cars fell silent to their stride across the tracks, the moated palace opened to their glossy, clinking slippers.
Every street was emptied to facilitate escape; several contingencies were available to the vast and armored Cadillac. But lads with buttons in their ears and on their jackets will chat with a tidy fellow. He'd head up Post, and then to Nob Hill. He'd pass the Bohemian Club.

We'd be there, at Sutter and Taylor. The reason there is no image of yet another limousine on this roll of film is that the hand was readied for a different gesture of commemoration, steady and vivid in its offering of a solitary finger of god-speed. And as the well-fed occupants of the con-veyance's back seat sped up the hill, it was delightful to see the gesture reprised from the sheltering window at their back.

Roberto Rossellini
The Taking of Power by Louis XIV

Tag Gallagher, film essay
  The Criterion Collection, 2008©

Photography Laurent
Leica M-6, 50mm Summicron
Ilford Ultra Pan


  1. oh how i pine for the heady days when gw, dicky, and donny watched over us like angels from above, protecting us from all those wanna-doers of evil. America was truly in her finest... ummm... obsequious... hour :)

  2. has anything changed since then?

  3. Well, I'm afraid the vaunted security clearance of this blog has been modified, and a couple of Secret Service pensions have fallen under Republican scrutiny. That aside? Yes, the Bush family Supreme Court has given corporations the unrestrained right to stand in for jaywalkers to pay for Republican feasts - as an exercise of free speech, mind you. That's what their jingoism, their sanctimony, and their demagoguery have always been about. And that's not small change. It should let the cable cars run on time from now on.