Ed Driscoll

French Ego Juice

The Journal’s “Taste” section says that George Lucas has taken a cue from such US-based filmmakers as diverse as Jerry Lewis, Alfred Hitchcock and Michael Moore, and looked to France for respect and the imprint of master auteur:

The ecstatic reception for director George Lucas and his new “Star Wars” film in Cannes this week reminded us of other creative people who have had to look to France to find the respect they were missing at home. One was Alfred Hitchcock, who was elevated from thrillmeister to true artiste only when his work was blessed by director Francois Truffaut and other French arbiters of culture. Now Mr. Lucas, apparently due in part to an anti-Bush, anti-Iraq War message detected in “Star Wars: Episode III–Revenge of the Sith,” finds himself a sudden darling of the Cannes intelligentsia.

On Sunday, Mr. Lucas got a special Cannes Film Festival trophy for his film at a bash aboard the luxurious Queen Mary 2. War in Iraq aside, ain’t life sweet?

What’s got some people cheering and others frowning about Mr. Lucas’s latest movie is the assumption that it is an indictment of the Bush administration for allegedly abusing power in order to wage war and persuade the American people to abandon central tenets of democracy. One supposed tipoff is a scene where the villainous Chancellor assumes emergency powers. When a compliant senate applauds him, a character laments: “So this is how democracy dies–to thunderous applause.”

Then there is the moment when the character who will become the dreadful Darth Vader says that those who are not with him “are my enemy.” That line is being read as a disparaging echo of President Bush’s post-9/11 comment that “you’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror.”

Asked at Cannes about the meaning of his movie, Mr. Lucas has been rather coy. Perhaps reluctant for commercial reasons to let the Bush-administration analogy be taken too seriously, the director keeps insisting that he wrote the basic “Star Wars” saga decades ago. He was thinking of Hitler, Vietnam, Watergate and Nixon, he has said at various times; and if recent events have proved him prescient, that just shows that history keeps repeating itself. Though he couldn’t resist adding in Cannes that “the parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we’re doing in Iraq now are unbelievable.”

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In truth, the themes of “Star Wars” are so universal, and so familiar (like Darth Vader, Satan is a former good guy gone over to the dark side), that they can be read any way one likes. The message that freedom and democracy must be vigilantly protected is always worth repeating. The only question is whether America today fits the description of a corrupt empire led by a dictator; and even if Mr. Lucas does believe that, “Sith” is not going to change any more minds than “Fahrenheit 9/11” did.

Meanwhile, why not let the master entertainer and merchandiser of the “Star Wars” franchise enjoy the rare taste of haute acclaim? The old SCTV comedy show once did a sketch called “Jerry Lewis Live on the Champs-Elys