Perhaps a simple ‘thank you’, said at the right time, would have been enough to avoid a stormy night between ‘Malcolm & Marie’, even if, considering everything, this is not at all true. In this ‘Carnage’ in black and white and full of ‘fucking’ and ‘bullshit’ (the most used words), there is all the hate that often hides love when there is still passion. And in addition there is the immense vanity of two artists who confront each other, challenge each other, provoke each other, envy each other.
The theatrical film, just landed on Netflix and written and directed by Sam Levinson (author of Euphoria and son of the best known Barry), stars Malcolm (John David Washington), an African-American director, full of himself after the full premiere of good reviews of his latest film, and his partner Marie (Zendaya), former actress and drug addict.
What happens between the two just back home? The hell. It all starts subdued: she accuses him of having neglected her at the premiere, of having done the idiot with the beautiful leading actress and also of not being jealous of her. He defends himself as best he can, denies, counterattacks. The quarrel then takes a jazz course, that is to say that one goes for solos: one of the two monologues at length, arguing accusations, and the other listens in silence, just waiting for his turn. We fight, we make peace for a while and then we start again. Among a thousand cinematic citations, this sort of ‘wedding scenes’ in American sauce shot, among other things, totally during the lockdown with its added value of neurosis, proceeds claustrophobic, but with an intelligent script (as it is for the monologue in which Malcolm lists the clichés of some criticism of blacks, just like he and his partner are). The real reasons for the quarrel of this young and beautiful couple? To avoid spoilers, they cannot be revealed, but those that the film shows are not necessarily the only authentic ones.
Among the many quotes of ‘Malcolm & Marie’ there is also one dedicated to Gillo Pontecorvo for having made The Battle of Algiers taking to heart the reasons of the Muslims despite being a Jew. Written, shot, edited in the midst of the pandemic, the film, Levinson points out, “given the restrictions it was conceived as a story between two people alone in a house”. And again the director-screenwriter: “I thought: what is the most terrible thing that one partner can do to the other? And I remembered when at the premiere of my ‘Assassination Nation’, a film that was really difficult to make especially for editing, I didn’t thank my wife Ashley who was the producer. We didn’t fight like Malcolm and Marie, it was actually a pretty straightforward conversation, but it made me think a lot about what partnership really means and how it feels when your contribution is not recognized “.