First man

Stars and depression

Film. Far from the expected space epic, First Man describes Neil Armstrong’s difficult and long walk to the moon. Explanations.

By Jacques  Braunstein

Of course, there is 2001: A Space Odyssey, a metaphysical prelude to the wedding of space adventure and cinema. Then, the space opera declined in cultural pop kind drawing on sort codes that had preceded it on earth : war movie (Star Wars), horror film (Alien) or even western (Outland). The situation changed with Gravity and Interstellar, who recalled that space conquest could be a serious subject. Today Damian Chazelle launches a new rocket in this direction with First Man who attaches to the figure of Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon in 1969.

First man is not a nice film, it's the story of an almost silent astronaut

First man is not a nice film, it’s the story of an almost silent astronaut (Ryan Gosling at the top of the Ryan Gosling attitude), broken by the death of his daughter and always on the verge of depression. A man who has a cold blood in extreme situations inversely proportional to his attachment to life. The way the director chooses to show it to us is just as dry as his character. From space, the spectator will be content to see what the astronaut perceives through the tiny porthole of his capsule. And when, finally, the horizon widens after he landed on the moon, the director zaps the flag (patriotic acme whose absence shocks the Americans), and shows that the only activity available in the region is to rebound limply from one rock to another.

In First Man, going to the moon seems painful, each takeoff comes with unpleasant vibrations and metal noises that fill the entire space. The film evokes more the deadly claustrophobic atmosphere between the student and his teacher of Wiplash – Chazelle’s first film – than the tangy colors of La la Land. And still remember that the previous film signed by the French-American with Gosling was not a fairy tale, but the story of a love thundered by ambition.

Si le propre des grands réalisateurs est de balader leurs obsessions d’un genre à l’autre sans se dédire ou se répéter, Chazelle en est un. La solitude, l’incommunicabilité, les difficultés de l’apprentissage, et le peu de satisfaction que procure la réussite sont une nouvelle fois au centre de First Man. Film qui, accessoirement, nous console de ne pas être devenus astronaute.

If the great filmmakers’ characteristic is to walk their obsessions from one genre to another without repeating or go back on himself, Chazelle is one of them. Loneliness, incommunicability, learning difficulties, and the lack of satisfaction that comes with success are once again at the center of First Man. Film which, incidentally, consoles us not to have become astronaut.