The Young Pope & The New Pope

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Clarence
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Re: The Young Pope

#51 Post by Clarence » Thu Jan 23, 2020 11:42 pm

I also have a digital hd code from my blu-ray if anyone still needs a copy for the discussion.

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jindianajonz
Jindiana Jonz Abrams
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Re: The Young Pope

#52 Post by jindianajonz » Sat Jan 25, 2020 4:22 pm

I'm loving this show, and anybody who is on the fence about participating should jump at the chance to get Clarence's code, if they haven't already. Big thanks to Therewillbeblus for letting me have his code!

I'm currently halfway through (episode 5 completed) and still don't have a firm grasp on where this is going or what its trying to do, so I think you all made the right choice in not breaking it down episode by episode. Unfortunately, that also means I'm struggling to put any coherent discussion together, so instead I'm going to focus on my feelings episode by episode, which will likely result in me talking about all the things I'm pretty sure this show isn't.
Spoilers through episode 5Show
Jude Law has given us a fascinating cipher of a character. As I approached the end of episode 2, I still naively believed that this pope would be the liberal reformer hinted at in the dream sequence opener. Sure, he was being harsh with the cardinals, but what reformer wouldn't have conflict with the status quo? And he freed a kangaroo, surely he has strong liberal impulses to not want to keep a wild creature caged? But then he gave his first address to the masses, and I realized that, like the cardinals who put him in power, everything I thought I knew about him was wrong.

What's fascinating is that ever since then, I don't feel like I have a better grasp on who he is. He is chameleonic, and seems to adopt a different personality depending on who he is talking to. When in front of groups of people, he is rigid and wrathful, straight from the old testament, but with his adopted mother or brother, he shows signs of compassion and happiness. Unless of course he is addressing them in front of others, in which case is causticsity creeps back in. He jokes to Tommasso that God doesn't' exist and at different times claims to have his own lapses in faith, but then we see him on his knees proclaiming to God that he never doubted- or is it just an act for the nun in the next room? Likewise, he shows Esther a unique gentleness that isn't present anywhere else in the show- enough to win over even Cardinal Voiello- but later interactions make me wonder if this is an act as well. But then again, he did offer a prayer for Esther and her husband to become pregnant, but then- well, it's just contradiction after contradiction.

So who is Lenny Belardo? To Voiello, he is a savvy and brutal political wunderkind. To Tommasso, he is a deeply uncertain leader who may be having a crisis of faith. To Guitierrez, he's a friend to stroll through the garden and share secrets with. To Esther, he's a wise and devout leader with an unending supply of sage advice. To the the masses, he's a mysterious and wrathful embodiment of the old testament. To Sister Mary and Andrew, he's the son and brother deserving of uncompromising love and support. How can all these people be reconciled into one man, and which are more true than all the others? I have no clue.

Likewise, I'm still not sure what Sorentino is trying to do with all this. It's easy to make comparisons to Donald Trump, but I think this is a red herring. Both are dark horse candidates who came to power from people who cast mistaken views on who they were, but that's where the comparison ends. Whereas Trump will negotiate anything to ensure his survival, Belardo has a such a zelous devotion to his plan that he seems willing to sacrifice the entire church- and therefore the source of all his power- in order to achieve it. Maybe there are parallels with Italy's proto-Trump, Berlusconi, but I don't know enough about him to make any arguments on this front.

Regardless of feeling a bit adrift in all this, I'm loving every minute of this show, and can't wait to see where it goes next.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Young Pope

#53 Post by domino harvey » Sat Jan 25, 2020 4:57 pm

Nice thoughts! I’ll refrain from engaging your post til you finish, as I don’t want to confirm or deny anything for you, but I’ll have more to say when you polish it all off (as I’m certain you will as well)

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therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: The Young Pope

#54 Post by therewillbeblus » Sat Jan 25, 2020 5:12 pm

jindianajonz wrote:
Sat Jan 25, 2020 4:22 pm
Spoilers through episode 5Show
Jude Law has given us a fascinating cipher of a character. As I approached the end of episode 2, I still naively believed that this pope would be the liberal reformer hinted at in the dream sequence opener. Sure, he was being harsh with the cardinals, but what reformer wouldn't have conflict with the status quo? And he freed a kangaroo, surely he has strong liberal impulses to not want to keep a wild creature caged? But then he gave his first address to the masses, and I realized that, like the cardinals who put him in power, everything I thought I knew about him was wrong.

What's fascinating is that ever since then, I don't feel like I have a better grasp on who he is. He is chameleonic, and seems to adopt a different personality depending on who he is talking to. When in front of groups of people, he is rigid and wrathful, straight from the old testament, but with his adopted mother or brother, he shows signs of compassion and happiness. Unless of course he is addressing them in front of others, in which case is causticsity creeps back in. He jokes to Tommasso that God doesn't' exist and at different times claims to have his own lapses in faith, but then we see him on his knees proclaiming to God that he never doubted- or is it just an act for the nun in the next room? Likewise, he shows Esther a unique gentleness that isn't present anywhere else in the show- enough to win over even Cardinal Voiello- but later interactions make me wonder if this is an act as well. But then again, he did offer a prayer for Esther and her husband to become pregnant, but then- well, it's just contradiction after contradiction.

So who is Lenny Belardo? To Voiello, he is a savvy and brutal political wunderkind. To Tommasso, he is a deeply uncertain leader who may be having a crisis of faith. To Guitierrez, he's a friend to stroll through the garden and share secrets with. To Esther, he's a wise and devout leader with an unending supply of sage advice. To the the masses, he's a mysterious and wrathful embodiment of the old testament. To Sister Mary and Andrew, he's the son and brother deserving of uncompromising love and support. How can all these people be reconciled into one man, and which are more true than all the others? I have no clue.

Likewise, I'm still not sure what Sorentino is trying to do with all this. It's easy to make comparisons to Donald Trump, but I think this is a red herring. Both are dark horse candidates who came to power from people who cast mistaken views on who they were, but that's where the comparison ends. Whereas Trump will negotiate anything to ensure his survival, Belardo has a such a zelous devotion to his plan that he seems willing to sacrifice the entire church- and therefore the source of all his power- in order to achieve it. Maybe there are parallels with Italy's proto-Trump, Berlusconi, but I don't know enough about him to make any arguments on this front.

Regardless of feeling a bit adrift in all this, I'm loving every minute of this show, and can't wait to see where it goes next.
Episode 5Show
Your impressions are right on target for where you’re at but keep going and I think you’ll get a better sense of him. Having said that, it’s best to leave open the possibility that these characteristics, perspectives, and beliefs Lenny has or does are not mutually exclusive. This is what I mean when I say it’s a challenging show: how does one wrestle with the idea that they both believe in god unconditionally and also doubt and are driven by the ego? That they have liberal dreams and yet conservative motives? Empathy and love as expressed in selfless action and prayers for Esther (and a fondness for my favorite, Bernardo), and hardened spite for plenty of others? I think when you finish it, this will make more sense, but this film demands a complex welcoming of all the contradictions in humanity and then goes further by providing an out through the spiritual as opposed to a solely anthropological or psychological evaluation. Great thoughts and I look forward to your later ones especially as you look back on the points you proposed here!
This post made me think about
AllShow
the ambiguity of Lenny’s election that also becomes another point of curiosity upon rewatches. We have reason to believe that this is done through divine intervention from Lenny praying to God during the voting even though he wasn’t favored, but we also have reason to believe that Voiello conspired for him to win. I forget if a clear explanation is ever offered but I thought that bit of mystery between the corporeal and spiritual was fitting on a socio-political level to the enigmatic worldview that populates nearly every crevice of this film.

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senseabove
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Re: The Young Pope

#55 Post by senseabove » Mon Jan 27, 2020 4:41 am

I was able to squeeze in the first two episodes tonight, and at first I thought maybe it's just that I was raised to believe Catholics are idol-worshipping crypto-Satanists with too much money and that one dead President and so have really no point of reference, aside from a trip to the Vatican museum once upon a time, so it pleased me to skim what's been posted out-of-spoilers so far and find that yes, esoteric does feel apt, and others have said it.

I stopped short of reading the back-and-forth over why, though, and since I doubt I'll get to much more before next week, I don't think I'll read anything else, but I'm curious what themes Pachyderminator feels are being hammered home, because I'm delightfully baffled so far... Religion is politics with funny hats? The church is corrupt? Sanctity is slim pretense? Those are the things I feel beaten over the head with, but they don't feel like themes so much as planks it's getting down before we start the real show,
SpoilerShow
whose overture is that iconoclastic speech that I have no clue what to do with.
So for now, at the end of episode 2, all I have to say is that Jude Law is brilliantly opaque in this.

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knives
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Re: The Young Pope

#56 Post by knives » Mon Jan 27, 2020 6:43 am

You'll figure out what to with it in about four episodes.

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The Pachyderminator
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Re: The Young Pope

#57 Post by The Pachyderminator » Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:40 am

Thinking it over some more, I'm beginning to suspect that I'm responding to this film much like Merlin does to Memento in this cartoon, if that makes any sense. It seems natural to me because it just happens to touch on a lot of my personal hobby horses/obsessions. This in turn probably means I need to be careful not to import too much personal baggage when interpreting it, so I may ultimately find it as difficult to get a good read on as anyone. I'll get some of my impressions about the first half on record and then say no more until I've finished.
Episode 5Show
Lennie's crisis of faith is central, but the particular way it's expressed is very important. He's not tempted by moderation or liberalization of the faith: his mind is polarized, with complete disbelief in God on one hand and a harsh, fierce, almost fanatical manifestation of faith on the other. The result sometimes looks like rank hypocrisy, but I can't help thinking he's quite sincere on both counts. The dream sermon in episode 1 shows the insecurity of his faith, his fear that any relaxing of standards will lead to a complete reversal of all his treasured beliefs, and he fears it precisely because he also wishes for it. How long these two contradictory attitudes can coexist in one mind, and how parasitically they can feed on each other, is something that many people wouldn't believe is possible unless they've experienced it. This duality is shown quite well in the way Lennie prays: fervently but also desperately, as though trying to convince himself, and simultaneously with more than a hint of arrogance.

The psychoanalytical source of this insecurity in Lennie's childhood, with his parental abandonment issues, subsequent clinging to the Church as his only rock in a storm, and mother-fixation on Sister Mary, honestly strikes me as extremely heavy-handed and one of the less impressive aspects of the story, especially in contrast to the much more subtle character drawing seen elsewhere. Some of the best scenes are the ones among the cardinals, as they struggle to resist while staying strictly within the system, under absolute obedience to a frighteningly arbitrary authority. Spencer has two moments that show the tension between resistance and capitulation very movingly and economically, being convinced by Caltanissetta that his mission as a priest is to fight the good fight tirelessly, even without hope, and two episodes later, with this in mind, being the first to submit to Lennie's bizarre hazing ritual in the Sistine Chapel. Voiello, to my mind, is fully as fascinating as Lennie himself, as a ruthless political schemer who retains a surprising openness to the "breath of the Holy Spirit" or simply to the misgivings of his heart, even as these things make him vulnerable during a political crisis.

It's also fascinating how the show alludes to various controversies and news items about the Catholic Church today without getting bogged down in specifics. Homosexuality in the clergy and the sex abuse scandal are matters of concern, but are only used in such a way as to keep the drama moving. The (putative) dialectic between Benedict XVI and Francis is very much there in the background, with Pius XIII serving in some ways as a purified expression of the caricature of Benedict XVI as regressive and inquisitorial. This even comes out in details like the red shoes Lennie uses for the ceremony with the cardinals where he humiliatingly demands their obeisance (Pope Benedict wore red shoes, and for some reason it was a thing in the news when it turned out that Pope Francis didn't plan to do so). He also sometimes seems like an antimatter version of the modern era's actual young Pope, John Paul II, who brought the papacy to an unprecedented level of public visibility and was the first Pope to travel extensively - especially in the credit sequence where, if I saw that right, Lennie's shooting star literally knocks a statue of John Paul II off its pedestal!

Something that hits me in episode after episode, and one of the clearest signs that Lennie's condition is unsustainable, is that he doesn't know what to do with the pomp and majesty of the Church that he so revels in. There's no sign that he cares about the meaning of the papal tiara or any of the rest of the pageantry. In his address to the cardinals, after going so far as to have his jewel-covered person carried in on a litter, his speech doesn't aspire to solemnity or awe but only caustic bitterness and sarcasm. He talks as if the law of the Church is everything to him, but in the very first episode he bribes a priest to violate the seal of confession (a very serious matter in canon law). He's shown baptizing and celebrating Mass, and both acts seem mechanical. When he provides spiritual counsel, he sometimes swings back to such harshness that even Sister Mary is appalled (at Suree's sister's funeral).
As I said earlier, I wouldn't even venture to guess where the story is going to go from here. Almost anything seems possible.

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senseabove
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Re: The Young Pope

#58 Post by senseabove » Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:20 am

Episode 3Show
Pardon the unpolished, jotted-note style—I'm tired, but ended up watching an episode before bed and wanted to get thoughts down, so didn't do the "figuring out the actual names and quotes" part or the time and a half again of rejiggering sentence and paragraph structure that I normally would. (Also I'm teeeerrrrible with character names... Normally I'd figure them out, but you folks can do that for me this time.)

Alright, things feel like they're starting to find a place here. The homily has been clarified, if only by two tics, with the Pope's recession into shadow as a method of immediately destabilizing... well, everything, top to bottom. The hints or red herrings this episode, that Lenny/Pius actually does have a more complex reasoning for that than a power grab enabling his vindictiveness or a delay until he figures out how to enact that power grab, and that it isn't as purely selfish as we've been lead to think (or at least the cardinals fear), are tantalizing, though I'm daunted by the audacity of it setting itself up to climb the mountain of what faith can even mean in the modern world—as Not Abe Vigoda said, the question is no longer whether God exists, but rather why do we depend on God? Which obviates existence. Balance all that with the revealed-to-be-alcoholic priest affirming to Lenny that Voiello does not believe in God, but is merely a politician trying to wield power, and Voiello's own assertion that the foundation of his power is "no vision whatsoever" but due to his "placing importance on the irrelevant things" like everybody's secrets.

On Lenny/Pius and Law's performance, we're seeing him facet his personality with different people—blasphemer with the priest on the roof, gentle and reflective with the priest in the garden, vindictive and domineering with Voiello, needy and domineering with Spencer. Mary is the only one who seems to get him in all his whiplashing rawness, and I can't decide if he knows that and lets it or genuinely can't quite control himself with her, nor if she knows that, knows what to do with it, or is just holding on for the ride and trying to do what she can (and if so, with what motive...).

And an observation about technique: the comment when the bearded priest is leading Esther up and says, without really explaining it, that the "Upper Apartment" or whatehaveyou is designed to be unsettling... So much of the "architecture" of this is just that, especially the editing, with its use of things like unsituated inserts of shots that, on consideration, are happening near the primary action but which are not composed into the space by the camera—the shot of the bearded priest feeding horses when Lenny is watching the skaters—or the disorientingly short transitional shots breaking entrance/exit conventions of characters moving in and out rooms—we get a sudden movement from the scene's focal character, a very brief shot of them in a hallway or otherwise different space, and then them suddenly in a new space, but we aren't shown a doorway in their line of movement or them entering or exiting through one. A different example of it disregarding those rules is when we start with Lenny walking along the plane toward screen left, down a colonnade (with footstep sounds) and out of view around a corner while the bishop (?) is talking about congregants being fearful to even enter their churches, then suddenly appearing seated two seats to his left. The bishop's face during that bit is a marvelous bit of direction by Sorrentino, showing both profound bafflement and a simultaneously dawning awareness that the rules just no longer apply with this guy.

One question, in case I missed something in the narrative: why the hell is the marketing woman there all the time? He doesn't seem to consult her or even talk to her, really, so I don't get the impression that Lenny wants here there. Is it just because she's so obsequious? Should I just wait and see, for narrative or symbolic developments?

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domino harvey
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Re: The Young Pope

#59 Post by domino harvey » Tue Jan 28, 2020 12:53 pm

I think I can answer your last question in a non-spoiler way (I’ll still spoiler it though)
Cecile de France’s characterShow
The Vatican is a lot of things, and one of them is a business. Deciding how the Pope can generate money is a key component of the process for the Church. I won’t comment more on Law’s attitude or reasoning as I don’t remember how far along in the narrative these become more clear, but what you’re noticing is the important thing: she’s given high priority in audience with Law because of the high priority of monetizing the pontiff
Loving all these responses so far! So excited for all the members weighing in to hit those last episodes and have all of the pieces fall into place

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Young Pope

#60 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:27 pm

senseabove wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:20 am
Episode 3Show
Balance all that with the revealed-to-be-alcoholic priest affirming to Lenny that Voiello does not believe in God, but is merely a politician trying to wield power, and Voiello's own assertion that the foundation of his power is "no vision whatsoever" but due to his "placing importance on the irrelevant things" like everybody's secrets.
Re: Voiello (Episode 3)Show
Interesting observations on Voiello but by this point we've been him interact with his disabled child "son," a form of purity as he sees it. I think his political agenda becomes more complex over time, but at the very least, regardless of his own personal compromise, or an assertion that he doesn't believe in God, there is an indication that he does believe in "goodness" or innocence as he views this child, and in a manner of speaking is following God's principles in taking care of this boy, or perhaps views the boy as emblematic of God's grace in a soiled world, and thus clings to him as an affirmation of that belief. I think that relationship speaks more to Voiello's character's faith in a strange subtle way than his louder actions do.

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senseabove
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Re: The Young Pope

#61 Post by senseabove » Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:46 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 12:53 pm
I think I can answer your last question in a non-spoiler way (I’ll still spoiler it though)
Cecile de France’s characterShow
The Vatican is a lot of things, and one of them is a business. Deciding how the Pope can generate money is a key component of the process for the Church. I won’t comment more on Law’s attitude or reasoning as I don’t remember how far along in the narrative these become more clear, but what you’re noticing is the important thing: she’s given high priority in audience with Law because of the high priority of monetizing the pontiff
SpoilerShow
Up through Ep. 3, we haven't been given any indication that he cares about "monetizing the pontiff" yet. The only thing we've seen so far is his opposition to it, at least in the old way, with him being adamant about no pictures. In episode 3 we're learning that he does care immensely about his image, if not yet in the literal, monetizable sense, but we also haven't seen her do anything but ask about Papal tat and kiss his ass, so it wasn't clear that she's there to advise or enact his ideological "image," or that he wanted her around for monetizing, or what. But I guess either or both of those are imminent and her presence was just so we wouldn't forget her and will be prepared for more direct involvement. In any case, sounds like I haven't missed any plot points up to this point regarding her role. Thanks!

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senseabove
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Re: The Young Pope

#62 Post by senseabove » Tue Jan 28, 2020 2:02 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:27 pm
Re: Voiello (Episode 3)Show
Interesting observations on Voiello but by this point we've been him interact with his disabled child "son," a form of purity as he sees it. I think his political agenda becomes more complex over time, but at the very least, regardless of his own personal compromise, or an assertion that he doesn't believe in God, there is an indication that he does believe in "goodness" or innocence as he views this child, and in a manner of speaking is following God's principles in taking care of this boy, or perhaps views the boy as emblematic of God's grace in a soiled world, and thus clings to him as an affirmation of that belief. I think that relationship speaks more to Voiello's character's faith in a strange subtle way than his louder actions do.
Ep 3Show
I mean, there's also the scene of him yelling at the kid playing with his cars because the rug "costs three times [his] country's GDP," which goes the other way. I'm not sure pinning belief in innocence or his "following God's principles" to the kid who, by all we've seen, has absolutely zero agency means that much. He can't sit on the roped-off chair. Maybe we'll find out more about that relationship, but right now, it's the "For 10 cents a day, you could [feel better about your miserable, affluent life]" assuagement of someone with absurd access to money and power.

Speaking of which, does the Vatican just... have an orphanage? And Voiello has his own separate cluster of kids in his apartment? I assume this is information I'll get soon, since Esther seems involved with the kids. I'll file it under "is this a thing I'm supposed to know about Catholics" for now.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Young Pope

#63 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 28, 2020 2:50 pm

senseabove wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 2:02 pm
therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:27 pm
Re: Voiello (Episode 3)Show
Interesting observations on Voiello but by this point we've been him interact with his disabled child "son," a form of purity as he sees it. I think his political agenda becomes more complex over time, but at the very least, regardless of his own personal compromise, or an assertion that he doesn't believe in God, there is an indication that he does believe in "goodness" or innocence as he views this child, and in a manner of speaking is following God's principles in taking care of this boy, or perhaps views the boy as emblematic of God's grace in a soiled world, and thus clings to him as an affirmation of that belief. I think that relationship speaks more to Voiello's character's faith in a strange subtle way than his louder actions do.
Ep 3Show
I mean, there's also the scene of him yelling at the kid playing with his cars because the rug "costs three times [his] country's GDP," which goes the other way. I'm not sure pinning belief in innocence or his "following God's principles" to the kid who, by all we've seen, has absolutely zero agency means that much. He can't sit on the roped-off chair. Maybe we'll find out more about that relationship, but right now, it's the "For 10 cents a day, you could [feel better about your miserable, affluent life]" assuagement of someone with absurd access to money and power.
Ep 3Show
I'm not suggesting that Voiello is absolved of his character defects as a result of caring for this boy as any kind of "charity" work, if anything the opposite (though I really don't think we're supposed to judge these characters based on surface-level assumptions either way). My interest lies in what he is seeking from this boy in regards to his faith. I absolutely disbelieve that it's for an ego-boost as your "for 10 cents" argument suggests, but rather that despite all of his willful, non-spiritual actions, this action is a feeble attempt, probably unconsciously, to reach the spiritual for a man who has lost/is struggling with his own authentic faith. Yeah, he yells at the kid because he's human and angry and when we are angry we don't make logical actions or sound arguments - so I wouldn't place any more importance on his statement about how much the rug costs when you'd be hard pressed to find anybody on this earth who hasn't projected a nonsensical reason on another in a moment of acute emotion. Voiello is a flawed man, doesn't necessarily treat this child like Jesus would, but the significance is the question of why is he even trying in the first place, and I think it's greater than a surface-level pat on the back. Diane Keaton's empathetic confrontation of it to him, and Voiello's nonverbal anxious response, which doesn't go much farther than that, opens up the door for that to be a profound question beyond such an easy answer.
I may be alone here, but one of the most fascinating paths this show takes is a judgement-free perspective on the act of judgment itself. The show paints each character as complex enough to warrant questions rather than demanding answers, and on a meta-level we as both viewers (the ultimate judges) and human beings, who naturally judge against their own values constantly (I would say judgement is a fair, innate and healthy act- for if we did not judge it would reflect on our lack of morals in the first place, while resentment is where judgement becomes obsessive and problematic), are validated in this act through characters as surrogates who also judge themselves and others, and thus become open-minded to consider the value of the judgments themselves. I think the film operates by the cardinal rule of human interaction: validation as the key ingredient to open a pathway to willingness to engage with another and achieve harmony. So while the characters undergo these complicated inner psychospiritual conflicts we do as well in confronting our own judgments with the information we are given on each character in each given moment. Perhaps because this information and our opinions change so frequently coupled with the characters' own alterations in perspective, I feel validated in that judgment as human every time I watch this, and this provides a base by which I can surrender such judgments and engage with each character as a curiosity. So Voiello is a great example, as is Lenny. This also asks on an even wider level, who can judge with an honest account other than God? And it asks this question while understanding that as humans (and viewers) we are destined to engage in this process, and vying to be Gods ourselves.

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senseabove
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Re: The Young Pope

#64 Post by senseabove » Tue Jan 28, 2020 4:34 pm

therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 2:50 pm
Ep 3Show
Diane Keaton's empathetic confrontation of it to him, and Voiello's nonverbal anxious response, which doesn't go much farther than that, opens up the door for that to be a profound question beyond such an easy answer.
The door is open, and that's the plot point that opened it, yes, but at this point, at the end of Ep. 3, that's about all we've been shown, and the focus has been on his machinations rather than his ethos or its relations to them—and what we have seen of it in action (in that confrontation I mentioned, in particular, and the outburst that complicates things) seems pointedly antithetical to what might be other evidence that that ethos is anything other than severe and self-serving. But again, that's so far. Maybe we'll get there, now that Lenny is established and the gears are beginning to turn, and I don't doubt the show is capable of it given how controlled the narrative establishment has been in these three episodes, but I'm not there yet...

And to further that point, following on the rest of your post, perhaps on this first watch through I've just been more interested in Lenny's enigmatism (and Law's performance swinging with wild control from destabilizing camp to perspicacious subtlety, brilliant because you could swap those adjectives and still be spot on—I keep thinking of Amy Taubin on a recent Film Comment podcast describing an actor as "knowing what her fingernails are doing"), so haven't given as much though to Voiello and his "psychospiritual conflicts" as I have Lenny's, which I feel like I've just been given the (possible) range of in Episode 3.

P.S. It's really weird to write reactions to a TV show episodically, especially when you're talking to several people who have much more information than you.

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knives
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Re: The Young Pope

#65 Post by knives » Tue Jan 28, 2020 4:47 pm

The Pachyderminator wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:40 am
Thinking it over some more, I'm beginning to suspect that I'm responding to this film much like Merlin does to Memento in this cartoon, if that makes any sense. It seems natural to me because it just happens to touch on a lot of my personal hobby horses/obsessions. This in turn probably means I need to be careful not to import too much personal baggage when interpreting it, so I may ultimately find it as difficult to get a good read on as anyone. I'll get some of my impressions about the first half on record and then say no more until I've finished.
Episode 5Show
Lennie's crisis of faith is central, but the particular way it's expressed is very important. He's not tempted by moderation or liberalization of the faith: his mind is polarized, with complete disbelief in God on one hand and a harsh, fierce, almost fanatical manifestation of faith on the other. The result sometimes looks like rank hypocrisy, but I can't help thinking he's quite sincere on both counts. The dream sermon in episode 1 shows the insecurity of his faith, his fear that any relaxing of standards will lead to a complete reversal of all his treasured beliefs, and he fears it precisely because he also wishes for it. How long these two contradictory attitudes can coexist in one mind, and how parasitically they can feed on each other, is something that many people wouldn't believe is possible unless they've experienced it. This duality is shown quite well in the way Lennie prays: fervently but also desperately, as though trying to convince himself, and simultaneously with more than a hint of arrogance.

The psychoanalytical source of this insecurity in Lennie's childhood, with his parental abandonment issues, subsequent clinging to the Church as his only rock in a storm, and mother-fixation on Sister Mary, honestly strikes me as extremely heavy-handed and one of the less impressive aspects of the story, especially in contrast to the much more subtle character drawing seen elsewhere. Some of the best scenes are the ones among the cardinals, as they struggle to resist while staying strictly within the system, under absolute obedience to a frighteningly arbitrary authority. Spencer has two moments that show the tension between resistance and capitulation very movingly and economically, being convinced by Caltanissetta that his mission as a priest is to fight the good fight tirelessly, even without hope, and two episodes later, with this in mind, being the first to submit to Lennie's bizarre hazing ritual in the Sistine Chapel. Voiello, to my mind, is fully as fascinating as Lennie himself, as a ruthless political schemer who retains a surprising openness to the "breath of the Holy Spirit" or simply to the misgivings of his heart, even as these things make him vulnerable during a political crisis.

It's also fascinating how the show alludes to various controversies and news items about the Catholic Church today without getting bogged down in specifics. Homosexuality in the clergy and the sex abuse scandal are matters of concern, but are only used in such a way as to keep the drama moving. The (putative) dialectic between Benedict XVI and Francis is very much there in the background, with Pius XIII serving in some ways as a purified expression of the caricature of Benedict XVI as regressive and inquisitorial. This even comes out in details like the red shoes Lennie uses for the ceremony with the cardinals where he humiliatingly demands their obeisance (Pope Benedict wore red shoes, and for some reason it was a thing in the news when it turned out that Pope Francis didn't plan to do so). He also sometimes seems like an antimatter version of the modern era's actual young Pope, John Paul II, who brought the papacy to an unprecedented level of public visibility and was the first Pope to travel extensively - especially in the credit sequence where, if I saw that right, Lennie's shooting star literally knocks a statue of John Paul II off its pedestal!

Something that hits me in episode after episode, and one of the clearest signs that Lennie's condition is unsustainable, is that he doesn't know what to do with the pomp and majesty of the Church that he so revels in. There's no sign that he cares about the meaning of the papal tiara or any of the rest of the pageantry. In his address to the cardinals, after going so far as to have his jewel-covered person carried in on a litter, his speech doesn't aspire to solemnity or awe but only caustic bitterness and sarcasm. He talks as if the law of the Church is everything to him, but in the very first episode he bribes a priest to violate the seal of confession (a very serious matter in canon law). He's shown baptizing and celebrating Mass, and both acts seem mechanical. When he provides spiritual counsel, he sometimes swings back to such harshness that even Sister Mary is appalled (at Suree's sister's funeral).
As I said earlier, I wouldn't even venture to guess where the story is going to go from here. Almost anything seems possible.
Honestly this hits on a lot of things I feel on the film and perhaps why I was so surprised at the word esoteric earlier.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Young Pope

#66 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:35 pm

senseabove wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 4:34 pm
therewillbeblus wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 2:50 pm
Ep 3Show
Diane Keaton's empathetic confrontation of it to him, and Voiello's nonverbal anxious response, which doesn't go much farther than that, opens up the door for that to be a profound question beyond such an easy answer.
The door is open, and that's the plot point that opened it, yes, but at this point, at the end of Ep. 3, that's about all we've been shown, and the focus has been on his machinations rather than his ethos or its relations to them—and what we have seen of it in action (in that confrontation I mentioned, in particular, and the outburst that complicates things) seems pointedly antithetical to what might be other evidence that that ethos is anything other than severe and self-serving. But again, that's so far. Maybe we'll get there, now that Lenny is established and the gears are beginning to turn, and I don't doubt the show is capable of it given how controlled the narrative establishment has been in these three episodes, but I'm not there yet...

And to further that point, following on the rest of your post, perhaps on this first watch through I've just been more interested in Lenny's enigmatism (and Law's performance swinging with wild control from destabilizing camp to perspicacious subtlety, brilliant because you could swap those adjectives and still be spot on—I keep thinking of Amy Taubin on a recent Film Comment podcast describing an actor as "knowing what her fingernails are doing"), so haven't given as much though to Voiello and his "psychospiritual conflicts" as I have Lenny's, which I feel like I've just been given the (possible) range of in Episode 3.

P.S. It's really weird to write reactions to a TV show episodically, especially when you're talking to several people who have much more information than you.
Yeah I suppose my perspective on events is in hindsight of the collective experience even sans new information in certain areas, though I think how one approaches the film has just as much to do with it as where the content builds, and this speaks in relation to how knives and I are viewing the film differently. This film certainly has specifics by which we can read into it clearly, but the questions it forces us to sit with allow the work to serve as a canvas to access in a variety of different ways based on one's own personal depth to the material. I have no problem being alone here (though at least two others have also called this esoteric now, before and after me) but I had a spiritual experience watching this for the first time (not a statement I make lightly) as reflected by the comments I've made, and I recall it evolving pretty consistently throughout as I was repeatedly godsmacked by how this film forced me to challenge my own relationship to spirituality across psychological and existential space. I also know that I come at this kind of content with an attitude of being high on expanded periphery within the last five-plus years due to changes in my personal life, and I'm sure that my first go-through was also taking the content as-is one step at a time, but yeah maybe my experience is esoteric because the film holds a special meaning to me that is both psychologically complex and also whittled down to simplistically spiritual (not trying to say that this is the only way to get "special meaning" out of it, but just at face value, that my own meaning is related to this as difficult material). But I also think that regardless of how "clear" one sees things, the end result is one that offers limited opportunities to easily accept and more avenues to confront these difficult questions, which is why - even if that "approach" will be subjective and warrant individualized experience - I'm having trouble with the perspective that doesn't see how this could be esoteric, or perhaps to put it another way 'to be full of abstract, uncomfortable, and challenging ideas,' to many viewers.

I'm curious to get into this more after mid-February, especially regarding your reading/experience of viewing this for the first time, knives- because you're easily the forum member I've found myself seeing eye to eye with on spiritual films the most up to this point through a similar lens, and I'm eager to dig into how and why we part here; at the very least the discussion will undoubtedly lead to new perspective on an already wildly vast film.

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Re: The Young Pope

#67 Post by knives » Tue Jan 28, 2020 6:23 pm

Well, we could talk a little now. I do find your statement funny, if correct given Rossellini et al, as I reject the term spiritual wholesale and never in seriousness refer to a work that way. I wouldn't be surprised if I've never used the term before now on the board. I don't even understand what spiritual means it seems so broad to me.
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One thing I'm curious about is how people will react to the ending in light of there being now a sequel. At the time I took it as a messianic statement, but now I don't know.

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Re: The Young Pope

#68 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 28, 2020 6:35 pm

Perhaps we use different language but I was referring to the angles by which assessing films that I at least consider to be spiritual. I agree that spiritual is as broad a word as possible and one that I've said my thoughts on in other threads, I believe also Rossellini ones, in response to members trying to make it tangible. The fact that it's so broad and subjective is what I like about it because what it means to me is rather what is not explainable. To put it another way it is defined by what it is not which is the psychological and other assessments of analysis by which cognitive-based people analyze works, or life. So the broadness fits with my reading of this canvas which forces abstract thought through less comfortable (to many, at least Western-culture tendencies) methods (i.e. not cognitive) which is why I referred to this as esoteric to begin with. Are you actually saying we haven't aligned on perspectives on those films, or are you just finding the statement funny because of the specific semantics that one of us likes and is more comfortable using than the other?

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knives
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Re: The Young Pope

#69 Post by knives » Tue Jan 28, 2020 6:38 pm

The later is funny. It's almost like the three blind men and the elephant, but everyone agrees it's an elephant just using different names.

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Re: The Young Pope

#70 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 28, 2020 8:09 pm

Yeah and I think this explains our disagreement over verbiage in the first place. Beyond obviously having a different perspective in approaching material as all people do, you made an initial point about my use of esoteric as potentially stemming from my social context, while your opposite feeling is based in your own. The rejection of the word spiritual and my magnetic attraction to it are both obviously rooted in contextual biases as well (as is everything). It’s funny to think back in time when I’d roll my eyes at anyone who dropped the S word but my comprehension of what it means has changed drastically and now the word is utilized constantly in this comfortably vague broad definition in my daily life. I may be comfortable now with the way this show affects me but I can see how it is esoteric to a large population of stateside folks at least those who struggle to embrace an agnostic stance towards the cosmos.

I just finished watching Godard’s Hélas pour moi and at the end a character pronounces, “The deepest human instinct is to wage war against the truth” with I believe the “truth” signifying the invisible that is referred to throughout and that Godard is on an endless mission to seek. I think that’s in a nutshell the context by which I’m measuring this film to be esoteric; the discomfort of facing an intangible idea.

Regarding your spoiler:
knives wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 6:23 pm
SpoilerShow
One thing I'm curious about is how people will react to the ending in light of there being now a sequel. At the time I took it as a messianic statement, but now I don't know.
AllShow
I’m actually very glad that the project will be over before the new series is available in full with English subs so that my own perspective won’t be tampered with in discussions. I took the ending of The Young Pope the same way as you, but to go a step further the lack of ‘finality’ in answering what Lenny’s exact fate is fits like a glove with the ambiguity of the mood of the film. We don’t know god so we don’t get all the answers just as Lenny doesn’t even if he gets some, and so living with his fate open is like a cherry on top of the mindset we’ve grown accustomed to adopting by this point.

If we were to believe that he had filled his purpose with god or achieved his own acceptance of his identity to let go of/work through his psychology toward spirituality (my definition) then I’m curious how Sorrentino will re-establish his role in this sequel and if he’ll take the character to new depths of growth or use his self-actualization as a constant by which other characters grow (not that he didn’t serve as this catalyst in the first film but as one more complex and inconsistently self-conscious himself).

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Mr Sausage
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Re: The Young Pope

#71 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jan 29, 2020 3:15 pm

Let me register my bafflement at the first two episodes, which I've just now seen.
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I was expecting a very materialist, political show about the workings of the Vatican state, and there is some of that, but it's...not perfunctory, that's not the word. But there because it has to be there, in order to get to something else. I don't know. I have a lot more questions than anything.

The opening image is striking and I wonder how symbolically it's going to represent the rest of the show: the pope, a baby, crawls atop a mass of abandoned, unformed humanity and ends, an adult, crawling out from underneath it.

So far, the film sustains a fine and skillfully handled ambiguity between Lenny as a perfectly human, explicable figure with human motivations, and Lenny as an unknowable divine figure, a god in human form here to enact a mysterious plan. The first two episodes hold this ambiguity unresolved.

I think part of what makes these episodes so confounding is their tone. There is something ever so slightly ironic about even the most straightforward scenes. You half expect at any moment for people to crack a smile and look at the camera--in the first episode especially. It's so hard to know how seriously to take much of what's being said, which leaves stuff like Lenny's admittance he does not believe in god as less revealing than it'd be in any other movie.

I wonder if Lenny's thoughts and pronouncements on god are a recapitulation of his relation with his absent parents, his torment at their absence, his faith that they exist, his pointless and backward-looking quest to find them. He's a smoker, which is carefully emphasized, and carries around a pipe from his parents: a holy relic?

What a confounding misdirection to have him lay out that Texas kid's letter and then give the exact opposite of the heartfelt, down-to-earth, sentimental speech the show had otherwise been signaling. It's bracing and, again, confounding. Lenny is the great, swirling mystery at the centre of Vatican life. Utterly confident and utterly insecure, asking for help and then rejecting it, cultivating personal relationships and then pulling the rug from under them. Lenny is a nightmare example of how not to do human interaction. What is he?

The film has an odd symbolic relation to animals. There're the random tortoises in the first episode, hardly indigenous to Vatican city, and then the kangaroo, a dangerous animal with the ability to disembowel a human now roaming the gardens after having been miraculously tamed, or something. Lenny brushes off the kangaroo with real rather than mock sincerity. He acts like a god, seems to think he's not, later implies that he is, then undercuts any suspicions of omniscience, then all but becomes a petulant theocratic dictator in a speech where he may as well have declared himself god.
Looking forward to more confusions next episode!

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senseabove
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Re: The Young Pope

#72 Post by senseabove » Wed Jan 29, 2020 5:15 pm

Your comment about the show's tone made me think about its use of music—a just-shy-of-cheeky base slide in episode one or two was an early "wait—what?" moment for me—which made me remember that my first and only exposure to this show pre-twbb's nomination thread was this tweet that I just dug up again, about a needledrop —from a scene somewhere further along than Ep 3—that I had had basically assumed was a funny shitpost but now assume is not one.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: The Young Pope

#73 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Jan 29, 2020 5:27 pm

Music does play a complicated role so far.
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The false awakening in the opening dream is anchored by a cliche, holy sounding classical music, that's interrupted with modern, vulgar rock music via a poor radio connection (unstable connection with ineffable, invisible frequencies that disrupts the boundary between ancient and modern--or so one can say, but should we even be making much of this since it's also such a joke?), before switching to a calm, ominous, repetitious electronic soundtrack that Lenny verbally approves of. It's that third choice that's so strange and makes the moment the subtlety it would've lacked otherwise.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Young Pope

#74 Post by domino harvey » Wed Jan 29, 2020 6:18 pm

I think one of the funnier ways the show tweaks the conventions of being squeezed into a format it doesn't really wear comfortably, television, is how
Whole series, but not a narrative/plot spoilerShow
the episodes cycle through several different opening credits before sticking with one for the remainder of installments-- Sorrentino won't even stop destabilizing viewers in something as simple as that!

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Young Pope

#75 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jan 29, 2020 7:31 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Wed Jan 29, 2020 6:18 pm
I think one of the funnier ways the show tweaks the conventions of being squeezed into a format it doesn't really wear comfortably, television, is how
Whole series, but not a narrative/plot spoilerShow
the episodes cycle through several different opening credits before sticking with one for the remainder of installments-- Sorrentino won't even stop destabilizing viewers in something as simple as that!
Later creditsShow
I also forget which episode, maybe the penultimate one, the song switches up on us to something classical, completely changing the mood and feel of the credits while keeping the images the same.
Sorrentino did explain the credits a bit which isn’t anything astounding but hints at some thematic intent without being a spoiler in any way.

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