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Jimmy P. by Arnaud Desplechin

February 3, 2014


Jimmy Picard is a Blackfeet Native American who has fought for his country during WWII, he is a resident at the Winter Hospital in Topeka, Kansas but the doctors there ignore how to treat his headaches and nightmares, so the head of the medical stuff decides to call his friend Georges Devereux; Deveraux is introduced as an anthropologist but we’ll soon discover that he is a psychoanalyst from Europe who cannot practice in America yet where his non-Freudian approach is not welcomed and little by little we’ll find out that Devereux is not his name, the doctor is not French, he is a Romanian Jew: the new film by Desplechin presents the meeting of a member of the Vanishing Race with a Wandering Jew, they are two renegades, one of them is the doctor and the other one is the patient but they will need each other to work together to reconstruct their new selves so to try to become citizens anew.


What does it mean to be an American? What really is the melting pot? What do you have to do and there is any price to pay to become part of it? It is bizarre to have to take notice that a film investigating such peculiar American topics comes from a French director, it makes perfect sense that the director is Desplechin who has spent his career as a filmmaker dealing with literary and psychoanalytic themes. Jimmy Picard says he is a Catholic and he seems to know very little about his Blackfeet spiritual heritage, Devereux has been baptized when he was in France, but now he says he has no religion, his only credo is doing good, helping others; different ways to deal with women and sexuality is another unavoidable theme here but the heart of the film is an exploration of cultural identity: Jimmy is a Native and an alien at the same time in his own country, apart from the war and the hospital he has spent his entire life in a reservation where in fact very little of his culture has been preserved, while Jimmy is an unaware renegade Devereux is a willing one, but if one of them will succeed creating an American identity it will not be a matter of will but of skin color. With Jimmy P. being a film about a prolonged therapy session we get a lot of flashbacks and dream sequences and they certainly are its most cinematically interesting moments: in the beginning Desplechin uses filters and film grain to fully differentiate reality from dream, but he then merges them until we can not distinguish them anymore: just like Jimmy Picard and doctor Devereux will need to face and understand them both to recover their sanity, the viewer will need to go the same course to comprehend their struggle. As a two hours long therapy session Jimmy P. is not an easy film to watch, but Amalric and Del Toro are two brilliant casting choices and thanks to the unusual situation – real life Jimmy and George met for only one hour a day – we are not confined to a room, there is no visual monotony here and its deep layers of thought make it a fascinating cinematic experience.

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