Last night I finally saw Michel Franco‘s New Order, a dystopian theatre-of-cruelty film that reminded me in some ways (certainly tonally) of Ridley Scott‘s The Counselor.
New Order premiered on 9.10 at the just-wrapped Venice Film Festival, and last weekend won the Silver Lion Grand Jury prize.
Set in Mexico City, it’s about a violent revolution against the wealthy elites by an army of ruthless, homicidal, working-class lefties. Director-writer Franco (After Luca, Chronic) is clearly tapping into all the insurrectionist anger out there (Black Lives Matter protests over the summer, the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, last year’s French Yellow Vest demonstrations) and imagining the ante being raised a couple of notches.
Remember those rightwing thugs (“Los Halcones”) murdering leftists during that Mexico City demonstration in Roma? New Order is a roughly similar situation but with the lefties pulling the trigger, and with a lot more ferocity. Rage against the swells.
It struck me as a nightmare vision of what could conceivably happen if the ranks of our own wokester shitheads were to dramatically increase and anger levels were to surge even more.
New Order, trust me, is brutal, vicious and cold. But it’s so well made, and so unsparing in its cruelty. Franco is definitely the new Michael Haneke. He’s a very commanding and exacting director, but the film is ferocious and vicious, more so than even The Counselor (and that’s saying something).
I’ve sorry to admit I’ve been been derelict with Franco’s work before this. I’m going to try and catch up at the earliest opportunity.
I’m figuring that any serious fan of The Counselor would definitely be down with New Order. Especially given its Mexico City location, the fact that it deals with hostage-taking and exorbitant demands, and the fact that it has the same kind of cruel, compositional decisiveness and clarity of mind that Scott’s film had, only more so.
Franco is a very strong but, on the face of it, heartless director. Personally, I’m sure he’s personable and affable and humane and whatnot.
A filmmaker friend assures that Franco “is a nice fellow…he has a very surgical mind and his dramatic construction seems to veer towards the inexorable.”
Critic friendo: “I love those kinds of filmmakers! I feel their vision is actually quite compassionate — they’re just trying to be honest about a cruel world.”