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The beauty of the restless mind

I have spent the past few weeks in the company of people who have lost – or have lost – their minds. In the autobiography of Sinéad O’Connor Remember, the 54-year-old singer looks back on a life marked by child abuse, neglect and long periods in the sanatorium. Her latest insanity spell – according to her own diagnosis, a menopausal-induced psychosis after a hysterectomy for which she was ill-prepared – found her outside institutions for a period of six years. Great features of her life are for her always nebulous; she wrote the book in two sessions, from each side of her time in the “nuthouse,” as she calls it.

Yet the woman was once sent into cultural exile for snatching an image of Pope John Paul II while executing. Saturday Night Live it is still brilliantly shiny. She pushes the industry that casts her as the “crazy lady” with devastating intuitions, and in her madness reveals a woman who seems impervious to deception.

Similarly, in its latest Netflix special, Bo Burnham: Inside, who has written, performed, directed and edited, the comedian explores the anxiety he developed after his lightning to fame, and his suicidal feelings, which he mostly puts into song. A comedian who has gained international recognition as a teenager in streaming YouTube sketches from his camera, Burnham recalls millennial Tom Lehrer.

Sinéad O’Connor takes a picture of the Pope in “Saturday Night Live,” 1992 © Getty Images

Inside is an inner odyssey in which he harmonizes mental illness, cultural wars and the experience of the pandemic with black humor and strangely universal themes: my favorite is a sketch in which he agonizes over his decision, in junior school, to dress like Aladdin for a birthday party and if he will be exposed for cultural appropriation by the social media mob.

Finally, in In Babbu, Florian ZellerDebuting in direction, the French writer directs Anthony Hopkins toward an Oscar in an adaptation of his own play on Alzheimer’s, filling the screen with a foreshadowing similar to Polanski’s to create an atmosphere in which the audience, like the protagonist. , it feels anomic and confusing.

Although some of these projects were conceived and even executed before Covid, they constitute a set of creations that will surely be judged in the genre of “pandemic art”.

Anthony Hopkins in his Oscar-winning role in ‘The Father’ © Alamy

Watching In Babbu, the play of which was first produced in 2012, I found Zeller’s depiction of frighteningly familiar trapping – perfectly understanding the horror of mindless repetition and of living in a rapidly declining world. Sinéad O’Connor writes with a clear statement on agoraphobia that he now feels he has spent a long period in solitude, and how despite his efforts to try to socialize he prefers to be at home. Bo Burnham ends his special by dramatically exiting the claustrophobic space in which he has been working for a year on his material, only to find himself bent over in front of a reflector as he tries to leave the door.

Ironically, perhaps, these studies of psychosis, misery, and brain dysfunction would have had a much more powerful resonance than the lame cry that now accompanies our return to normal life. I trembled as I read New York magazine’s exhortation on “The Return of FOMO,” a recent cover story dedicated to the return of pre-pandemic social anxiety that you may “miss”.

“FOMO might have gone into hibernation for a while,” writes Matthew Schneier, “but we may now be on our way to a new golden age as we seek to make up for the year we lost by doing more than ever. on FOMO, a knowledge of opportunity and possibility; the catechism of “Have you been invited, are you on the list, can you take a table?”; execution of the plans. ” Eurgh. While Sinéad O’Connor left me quite euphoric, the anticipated buzz of being on the correct list suddenly made me depressed.

In the United States, or perhaps it’s a particularly New York mentality, the pandemic is now considered old news. “Now that Covid is behind us…” They have read numerous emails from my American colleagues in recent weeks. America, supposedly, has forgotten the virus out of its mind. For the most robust of the constitution, we can now anticipate a #hotgirlsummer like no other.If it is believed that the new underground advertising hoaxes, we will now begin a roaring summer in scenes reminiscent of the new musical from the film Lin-Manuel Miranda. In the Height.

For now, I feel much more comfortable in playing company. The “nutjobs,” as O’Connor gives himself permission to describe himself, have something more interesting to say. This long pause on production allowed for a powerful introspection. I hope this will be the moment when some great new works are done.

Alfred Hitchcock is the subject of a new biography by Edward White © Alamy

After all, Alfred Hitchcock’s genius as “a visual poet of anxiety and accident” may, is suggested in Edward White’s new biography. The Twelve Screws by Alfred Hitchcock, being attributed to the excessive fears he developed as a teenager in the First World War. Paranoia and terror almost all of them provided the fuel to shoot about 50 films. And as the pandemic meme reminds us, Shakespeare produced it King Lear in a year of plague, perhaps while in quarantine.

Is Bo Burnham destined to be our Covid Bard? Maybe not, but Inside it’s a brilliant study of the mind scrambled on social media. Similarly, with his “madness” portrait, O’Connor becomes the most unlikely seer this year.

Send Jo an email to [email protected]

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