Edward Norton: “I wrote Brooklyn Affairs long before Donald Trump was elected”

Edward Norton: “I wrote Brooklyn Affairs long before Donald Trump was elected”

Première loved this film when it was released in cinemas in 2019. Here it is back on France 3.

He had almost disappeared. His intense and cerebral presence was one of the big shocks of the 2000s… But over the past ten years, Ed Norton had become rare. A schizo supporting role in Birdmanan awesome cameo in the awesome Alita, appearances at his friend Wes Anderson’s house and… nothing. Not much. It was said that he had become uncontrollable and megalomaniac, that he had gone into politics (his commitment to Obama), that he preferred activism or technological business to Hollywood marvels, as a comic book fan…

In reality Ed Norton was working on a film, Brooklyn Affairs. This second feature film in 20 years (his spiritual-romantic comedy In the name of Anna dates from 2000) is an adaptation of a hipster thriller by Jonathan Lethem which recounts the delusional investigation of Lionel Essrog, a private man suffering from Tourette’s seeking to avenge his murdered boss. On his way, Lionel encounters a stubborn giant, a transcendental meditation club, femme fatales and a violent doorman. A little bit of Chandler, cartoon à la Tex Avery and a few surrealist lurches: in the book the pulp had passed into postmodern karcher.

When he discovers it, Norton falls in love with Lethem’s style, but above all, with the main character: “He’s a brilliant guy“, he told us recently. “But his illness isolates him. Yet it is not just an affliction. Tourette’s is a handicap, but it is also a strength that leads him to surpass himself. I liked the paradox that constitutes the character: he is alone, abandoned, but he is tough, much smarter than his friends. He is victimized, but he is certainly not a victim !”

Just before entering the Fight Club ring, Norton decides to adapt the book… which will require a gestation of 20 years. No doubt because he decided to adapt it by moving the plot to the 1950s. Slouchy hats, old cars, New York at night… The film looks from afar like an elegant and racy neo-thriller, recycling all figures of the genre.

However, it’s more than that. By imagining a villain who holds the city of New York under his thumb, Moses Randolph (played fabulously by Alec Baldwin) a frightening construction titan, we go beyond the simple thriller to become a romantic and committed fresco. “Randolph is inspired by Robert Moses, a construction magnate who had an essential influence on the city between the 1930s and 1960s. He is Baron Haussmann of New York. He was a very powerful man, but corrupted by power. I really believe that excess of power ends up damaging people, no matter how brilliant and idealistic they may be… I wrote the film well before the election of Donald Trump but the echoes between this character, his vulgarity, his predatory aspect , and some politicians who govern us are now obvious. You just have to watch the news channels to understand what we lose, what democracy loses, when citizens abandon all their checks and balances. This is the crux of the film for me.

Above all, as he explained to us, Norton walks on very personal ground: “My grandfather (James Rouse Editor’s note) was an urban planner, far ahead of his time in terms of social ethics. He had a global vision of the city, a very progressive vision: he thought that a city can only be designed by considering all aspects of the community: education, infrastructure, the environment… That’s not the case. is not just buildings; first of all, they are people who must live together. His philosophy and inspiration are still very present for me and Brooklyn Affairs is naturally nourished by his thoughts.”

A film noir, coupled with a social film and what’s more, is very personal: Brooklyn Affairs is an exciting prototype work.

Brooklyn Affairs: Edward Norton creates a superb neo-noir thriller (review)

Similar Posts