He had some future that James Dean,
This review is from: Rebel Without A Cause (Special Edition) [DVD] (DVD)
In this film James Dean is quite convincing as an actor and his part is perfect. A difficult part in that trinity of J, Jim (for James), Judy and John, in one letter Jesus three times and one of the three will have to be sacrificed, crucified in a way, falling right upon a random police bullet when unarmed.
Just such a concentrate of the film shows how ridiculous the world was in 1955. The war was over and the horror of before, during and after was so bleak that the whole world was stoned into full paralytic dullness by the holocaust, the genocide, the fifty million victims and the huge destruction of goods and infrastructures but also of morals and ethics and plain human decency. No surprise that John had Plato as a middle name. The philosophy we could have then was nothing but the good thinking of an elite in a society where 80% of the people were slaves, like in Athens.
In a world like that what is left for the young?
The question is actually slightly premature in a way since these high school teenagers in the early 1950s had experienced the war. They had the horror of the end of that war and they had nothing to thrill them into believing there was some kind of future worth living. No allusion is done to it but there is nothing but the Cold War to enthuse these young people. With that kind of perspective there is not much any one can do to motivate them. We can even wonder if the world exists for these young people in this film.
The parents are dead war heroes, or plain absent. They can also be neurotic and paranoid survivors who want to do things differently and well and do not see that either they run away from what these young people want, or they just ignore what they want, or they just leave them to their own means and to die playing some chicken dare over a cliff. The world is unable to provide these young people with the two things they want: love and a cause they could commit their lives to.
And they will get none.
The school system will go on harping on stars and constellations and will not see that some bullies are imposing their norms to everyone and that those these bullies decide to victimize will have to survive the death of their bullying challengers or die. What a beautiful perspective. Death in both cases. And they do nothing about it, the teachers and the guidance counsellors, and it is still going on. The pedagogical masters who are in fact monstrous monstrosities are just ignoring their very mission which is to build in all the young people they are entrusted with an idealistic vision of the future that makes them ready to work with everyone as equals and to respect everyone else in all their parameters and personalities. The school system has drastically been failing since 1945.
The police is not better since they can only brandish weapons and shoot first. Nothing has changed there either since 1945. They do not wait for the presumed criminal to start shooting or to really prove he is dangerous for himself or for others. They neutralize him for life by inflicting him death first and wondering afterwards. In the particular case of this film the police officer who shot the boy did not get any order from his commanding officers, in fact it was the reverse, and he was under no menace from an unloaded gun and the other young man had actually said so but it must have gotten lost in translation from plain English to police speak.
Young people want to invest their tremendous energy in some cause, but they have none worth even blinking half an eye. Young people want to love everyone and find love in everyone, and not that kind of churchlike love but all the shades of love you can imagine, fatherly, motherly, friendly, brotherly, sisterly and even plain childlike and adult love. That's a lot and I can tell you that has not change since Auschwitz: love is the last thing anyone will provide the people around them on a daily basis, and if anyone tried to do that he or she would at once be classified perverse, paedophilic, peevish, petulant, in one word depraved, though in fact that someone is only trying to give what they want and need to deprived people.
But deprivation is the basic goods of this society.
Is there any hope? For the dead chap certainly not though he is going with the coat of one who was his friend and he knew it more or less. For the young man who gave his coat he found a girl friend but will that be enough of a cause to satisfy his rebellious needs? He also finally found some understanding on the side of his father and especially of his mother. Will she be able to remain that open or will she go back to her frigid paranoia and escapism? For the girl Judy she lost a boyfriend down the cliff who was a bully and she got a new one who was the bully's plaything. Did she win anything? And how long will she be able to go on with her subservient attitude: waiting for and finding the man she wants to submit to?
Without a cause and without a commitment to that cause, there is no hope on this earth and in this society. You should read the exchanges of young people on Facebook reacting at the French presidential election to understand nothing has changed. They want to commit themselves to a cause but politicians only propose them obedience to some authority, left, right or whatever, but never the reverse: let's hear from you and what you would like to commit yourself to in order to serve your society and other people, not only satisfy your personal and selfish interests.
A film that still speaks to us even if it has aged technically.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU