I critici americani su Lincoln di Steven Spielberg

E’ uscito da qualche giorno nelle sale americane il nuovo film di Steven Spielberg, dedicato al presidente che ha posto fine alla Guerra di Secessione ed ha abolito la schiavitù.

Nel weekend del Thanksgiving è andato benissimo anche al box office, segnando un prepotente ritorno di Spielberg dopo i due incerti esiti di War Horse e Tintin dell’anno passato.

La stampa ha quasi unanimemente elogiato il film.

In particolare Tony Scott sul New York Times ha scritto:

It is something of a paradox that American movies — a great democratic art form, if ever there was one — have not done a very good job of representing American democracy […] The legislative process — the linchpin of our system of checks and balances — is often treated with lofty contempt masquerading as populist indignation, an attitude typified by the aw-shucks antipolitics of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” […]

There are exceptions, of course, and one of them is Steven Spielberg’s splendid “Lincoln” which is, strictly speaking, about a president trying to scare up votes to get a bill passed in Congress. It is of course about a lot more than that, but let’s stick to the basics for now. To say that this is among the finest films ever made about American politics may be to congratulate it for clearing a fairly low bar.

Scott elogia lo straordinario ritratto di Lincoln disegnato da Daniel Day-Lewis:

The most famous and challenging beard of them all sits on the chin of Daniel Day-Lewis, who eases into a role of epic difficulty as if it were a coat he had been wearing for years. It is both a curiosity and a marvel of modern cinema that this son of an Anglo-Irish poet should have become our leading portrayer of archaic Americans. Hawkeye (in “Last of the Mohicans”), Bill the Butcher (“Gangs of New York”), Daniel Plainview (“There Will Be Blood”) — all are figures who live in the dim borderlands of memory and myth, but with his angular frame and craggy features, Mr. Day-Lewis turns them into flesh and blood.

Il ruolo di Kushner e Spielberg non è meno prominente:

And the genius of “Lincoln,” finally, lies in its vision of politics as a noble, sometimes clumsy dialectic of the exalted and the mundane. Our habit of argument, someone said recently, is a mark of our liberty, and Mr. Kushner, whose love of passionate, exhaustive disputation is unmatched in the modern theater, fills nearly every scene with wonderful, maddening talk. Mr. Spielberg’s best art often emerges in passages of wordlessness, when the images speak for themselves, and the way he composes his pictures and cuts between them endow the speeches and debates with emotional force, and remind us of what is at stake.

Scott conclude con un invito esplicito:

Go see this movie. Take your children, even though they may occasionally be confused or fidgety. Boredom and confusion are also part of democracy, after all. “Lincoln” is a rough and noble democratic masterpiece — an omen, perhaps, that movies for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Roger Ebert inizia la sua recensione con un ricordo personale:

I’ve rarely been more aware than during Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” that Abraham Lincoln was a plain-spoken, practical, down-to-earth man from the farmlands of Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. He had less than a year of formal education and taught himself through his hungry reading of great books. I still recall from a childhood book the image of him taking a piece of charcoal and working out mathematics by writing on the back of a shovel.

Lincoln lacked social polish but he had great intelligence and knowledge of human nature. The hallmark of the man, performed so powerfully by Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” is calm self-confidence, patience and a willingness to play politics in a realistic way. The film focuses on the final months of Lincoln’s life, including the passage of the 13th Amendment ending slavery, the surrender of the Confederacy and his assassination. Rarely has a film attended more carefully to the details of politics. […]

There are some battlefields in “Lincoln” but the only battle scene is at the opening, when the words of the Gettysburg Address are spoken with the greatest possible impact, and not by Lincoln. Kushner also smoothly weaves the wording of the 13th Amendment into the film without making it sound like an obligatory history lesson.

The film ends soon after Lincoln’s assassination. I suppose audiences will expect that to be included. There is an earlier shot, when it could have ended, of President Lincoln walking away from the camera after his amendment has been passed. The rest belongs to history.

Kenneth Turan, per il Los Angeles Times, ritorna a porre l’accento sui tre uomini-chiave per la riuscita di Lincoln:

Hollywood’s most successful director turns on a dime and delivers his most restrained, interior film. A celebrated playwright shines an illuminating light on no more than a sliver of a great man’s life. A brilliant actor surpasses even himself and makes us see a celebrated figure in ways we hadn’t anticipated. This is the power and the surprise of “Lincoln.”

Ma esalta anche l’importanza del team produttivo che collabora con Spielberg da moltissimi anni:

Working with his usual team of equals — cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, production designer Rick Carter, editor Michael Kahn, costume designer Joanna Johnston and composer John Williams — Spielberg has paid particular attention to creating a realistic world for his characters to inhabit, seeping us in the period and seeing to it that the color scheme and the muted lighting enhance the film’s naturalistic palette.

One of the surprises and the pleasures of “Lincoln” is its portrait of the president as a man gifted at reconciling irreconcilable points of view, someone who wouldn’t hesitate to play both ends against the middle and even stretch the truth in the service of the greater good.

Kushner has said that he wrote “Lincoln” because, upset at today’s endemic lack of faith in governance, he wanted to tell a story that “shows that you can achieve miraculous, beautiful things through the democratic system.” It’s a lesson that couldn’t be more timely, or more thoroughly dramatic.

Todd McCarthy su The Hollywood Reporter ancora una volta aveva indovinato il successo del film:

Far from being a traditional biographical drama, Lincoln dedicates itself to doing something very few Hollywood films have ever attempted, much less succeeded at: showing, from historical example, how our political system works in an intimate procedural and personal manner. That the case in point is the hair-breadth passage by the House of Representatives of the epochal 13th Amendment abolishing slavery and that the principal orchestrator is President Abraham Lincoln in the last days of his life endow Steven Spielberg’s film with a great theme and subject, which are honored with intelligence, humor and relative restraint.

Tony Kushner’s densely packed script has been directed by Spielberg in an efficient, unpretentious way that suggests Michael Curtiz at Warner Bros. in the 1940s, right down to the rogue’s gallery of great character actors in a multitude of bewhiskered supporting roles backing up a first-rate leading performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. The wall-to-wall talk and lack of much Civil War action might give off the aroma of schoolroom medicine to some, but the elemental drama being played out, bolstered by the prestige of the participants and a big push by Disney, should make this rare film about American history pay off commercially.

Infine Anthony Lane su The New Yorker:

“Lincoln,” written by Tony Kushner, directed by Steven Spielberg, and derived in part from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “Team of Rivals,” is a curious beast. The title suggests a monolith, as if going to this movie were tantamount to visiting Mt. Rushmore, and the running time, of two and a half hours, prepares you for an epic. Yet the film is a cramped and ornery affair, with Spielberg going into lockdown mode even more thoroughly than he did in “The Terminal.” As befits a chamber piece, we pass from one chamber to the next: from the crowded floor of the House to the Lincolns’ bedroom, a hospital ward, and the study where Stevens likes to browbeat lesser men.
 
Lane individua due anime contrapposte nel film:
 
“Lincoln” becomes a fight. There is physical conflict, but it seems perfunctory: first, a murderous opening scrap between black and Confederate regiments, invested by Kaminski with the staccato desperation that he brought to “Saving Private Ryan,” and then, much later, a corpse-littered battlescape. The true tussle of the movie, however, is between the Spielberg who, like a cinematic Sandburg, is drawn aloft toward legend—hardly an uncommon impulse when dealing with Lincoln—and the Spielberg who is tugged down by Kushner’s intricate screenplay toward documentary grit. You can never tell which of the two tendencies, the visionary or the revisionist, will come out on top.

Anche per Lane, come per Ebert, il film avrebbe dovuto chiudersi prima dell’assassinio:

 
Hence, too, the shot of Lincoln—it should have been the closing shot of the movie—ambling down a hallway on what will be his last night out. The lofty, stooping figure heads away from us, with his back to the camera, but he doesn’t get any smaller as he goes. As Tolstoy said of Lincoln, in 1908, “We are still too near to his greatness.” Ain’t that so?
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