Benjamin Bardou’s Infernal City

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The short films of Benjamin Bardou capture a kind of melancholy from within the virtual urban landscape of Grand Theft Auto IV‘s Liberty City. Bardou cites his influences for these short “movie simulations” as being Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, and the philosophical works of Jean Baudrillard and Charles Baudelaire.

My movies, in general, are influenced by the reading of writers like Jean Baudrillard, Walter Benjamin and Charles Baudelaire. These thinkers wrote about the dream forms of our societies (simulation, fantasmagory, spleen and ideal). A bad dream plunged into the 19th century from which we must wake up. Some of them try to formulate a theory about this awakening. In cinema art, the editing technique (montage in french is more appropriate I think) could be a tool for the awakening of the consciousness. – Benjamin Bardou

Do Computers Dream of Electric Sheep? is an obvious reference to Phillip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, which inspired the film Blade Runner. The other cited influence on this short was Jean Baudrillard, who was very critical of our perceptions of reality. In this case, we can assume that we should be critical of the nature of the city and whether we are human or cogs within the city’s machine.

Do Computers Dream of Electric Sheep? explores the dreams of our computers (GTA is like a daydream). I tried to grasp the fascinating sensation of the big city. I remembered a sequence of Taxi Driver in which Scorcese shot the night city life. In one moment, a neon word appears in the camera: FASCINATION. This movie is about that. – Benjamin Bardou

Spleen – Pluviôse, irritée contre la ville entière is Bardou’s more recent cyberpunk “movie simulation.” The music playing during this piece is Nightstalker by Kenji Kawai from the Ghost in the Shell soundtrack. Not surprisingly then, Ghost in the Shell is cited as an inspiration for this piece, as is Baudelaire’s poem Spleen.

Spleen – Pluviôse, irritée contre la ville entière, whose title is borrowed from a poem of Baudelaire, is a more poetic and colorful exploration and wandering of the city. For Baudelaire, the infernal city produces a state of stupefaction and it leads to the spleen. This movie is about this meditative state. It’s a good sensation for the exploration of a dream. – Benjamin Bardou

The spleen that Bardou references here is a symbol from the time of Baudelaire of fear, agony, melancholy, moral degradation, and destruction of the spirit. You can read the poem Spleen here, or Pluviôse, irritée contre la ville entière (Pluviose, irritated against the whole town) here.

When Bardou’s “movie simulations” are viewed in the context of the inspirational material that they are drawn from, you can really feel the ennui that is associated with modern life, and life in the city. Viewed outside of the context of these complex influences, you can still feel the emotional content that is present in the film, but you might miss the deeper underlying messages.

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