COMUNITÀ: All'ombra di Las Vegas, le persone reali, in una situazione irreale, affrontano un futuro incerto.
Carmen Gray
Critico cinematografico freelance e collaboratore regolare di Modern Times Review.
Data di pubblicazione: 23 marzo 2020

Alcuni sostengono che negli ultimi tempi la nostalgia per le epoche culturali passate si sia accelerata; che un decennio finisce a malapena prima di riciclare le sue mode. Anche così, è una scossa sentirsi annebbiati per i tempi del cinema di una quindicina di giorni fa, quando il Berlinale era in pieno flusso frenetico e il coronavirus, già tristemente devastando Central Cina, aveva iniziato a registrarsi sui radar della maggior parte dei partecipanti, ma non aveva ancora chiuso festival e teatri come luoghi di ritrovo fisici in molte parti del globo. Quel compiacimento occidentale non durò a lungo. Con la selvaggia incertezza prevalente su quanto durerà la pandemia e la sua rottura alla normalità, i festival deragliati hanno provvisoriamente riprogrammato le date, con fragili speranze piuttosto che con fiducia.

Annullamenti e rinvii

Cannes ha previsto la fine di giugno come potenziale alternativa. Israele Docaviv e la Repubblica Ceca Finále Plzeň hanno scelto nuove slot per settembre, e altre, tra cui Salonicco, hanno rinviato a una data ancora indecisa. C'è anche il bisogno di trovare modelli alternativi con cui i festival fuori sede possano ancora accadere proprio ora; per portare i loro programmi al pubblico che ha bisogno della capacità del cinema di espandere i mondi più che mai mentre la vita quotidiana si riduce al divano di quarantena domestico e nelle sue immediate vicinanze, e di trovare una casa per le lunghe ore di lavoro creativo che sono state avviate proprio come il teatro le tende stavano per aprirsi. Ha perfettamente senso, quindi, che alcuni festival, come quello danese CPH: DOX e della Svizzera Visions du Reel, hanno spostato i loro festival online, con il pubblico dei loro paesi (e in alcuni casi più lontano) in grado di trasmettere le selezioni.

Some say nostalgia for past cultural epochs has been speeding up in recent times; that a decade barely finishes before we recycle its fads.

CPH:DOX had just a week to go until opening night when it became clear that the festival’s physical version would be impossible, as the global health crisis worsened and the Danish government clampdown on gatherings and closed its borders to foreigners. It’s a nightmare for any festival team, not to mention to all the filmmakers involved. It felt consoling to still be able to help the event come alive in some way as I pressed play on the first film I had lined up as a (now virtual) press guest to watch on my couch, not to mention getting much needed artistic nutrients and distraction during self-isolation.

The roaring 20s

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also feel downhearted for the conversations, happy hour wine in hand, that I wouldn’t be having in the physical city of Copenhagen, usually a place I associate with a preternatural calm, and a festival industry hub that is always infused with laidback, convivial atmosphere. But it turns out that it was the perfect mood to be in for Naso sanguinante, tasche vuote, a docufiction from Turner Ross and Bill Ross IV chronicling the last night in operation of a dive bar in Las Vegas called the «Roaring ‘20s». The watering hole is not real — the brothers enlisted barflies they found elsewhere to essentially play themselves in a mocked-up new Orleans location — but it nails the kind of raggedy charm and soulful sense of community that is the antithesis of standardising gentrification, and of a world that is irrevocably leaving the romance of such Bukowskian places behind. Regulars lament the Celine Dion-isation of a more commercialised Vegas, and that the bar will probably be replaced by a chain pharmacy.

Regulars lament the Celine Dion-isation of a more commercialised Vegas, and that the bar will probably be replaced by a chain pharmacy.

The bar’s scruffy couches and parodic signs («Please do not throw your butts in the urinal, it makes them soggy and hard to light,» reads one) scream anything-goes, derelict homeliness. In such a place, one can even take one’s pants off to get comfortable (and an Australian regular does). But it is the staff and clientele themselves, eccentrics from the margins raw with dashed dreams and an undimmed hunger for connection, perched on their stools for the long haul, who comprise the real heart of the place. Most have given their lives over to alcol, but this is in no way a moralistic film; rather, it captures the essential part in the social fabric played by a congregation point, accepting of all quirks and failings, for those who have — for whatever reason — found themselves left with nowhere else, and have been drawn to the bar night after night to laugh, dance and be together. «It’s a place you can go when nobody else don’t want your ass,» says a black army veteran who has been mentally scarred by war, talking about the country he served having turned its back on him.

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets-Las Vegas Documentary - post1
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, a film by

Un posto da chiamare casa

Another regular, a washed-up actor who looks ravaged by heavy boozing hours put in over the years, is conflicted over the route his life has taken after first «ruining his life sober» as he puts it, and advises a younger patron: «There is nothing more boring than a guy who used to do stuff but doesn’t anymore because he’s in a bar.» Boring, however, this rag-tag array of tipsy heart-to-hearts and bawdy abandon is not, because the Rosses manage to capture the pathos and radical acceptance that comes with realising every stray deserves a little TLC and a place to call home. And that very intangible quality we might call «healing community,» which, as the limits of a framework built on the aggressive primacy of the market reveal themselves amid the COVID19 crisis, we will need to work hard to find a way back to more and more. A warmth-infused last night in the bunker as an era ends, Naso sanguinante, tasche vuote is a portal to the kind of place we’d best not forget, in this strange and uncertain blip of virus-blocking walls and virtual-only connectivity.

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