We, Americans, from childhood are encouraged to love and to emulate (identify with) endless animation and comic strip cartoon characters that as our internal objects (settled in our unconscious, defining our reactions and becoming a part of who we are) influence our behavior even when we are grownups. For children cartoon characters are entertaining, charming and much more interesting than the boringly serious adults. Their very love of cartoons becomes love for the artificial world of a cartoon-childhood which is much more pleasant and easier than the necessity to grow up into adulthood. Results are our emotional nostalgia for cartoon-childhood (our unconscious desire to return to the innocent consumption of cartoon personages) and our proclivity to cartoonize our adult behavior (our psychological attempts to transform “despotic” adulthood into a variant of our childhood communities with toy-creatures).

Infantilization of American adulthood when nominally adult people behave like children is a very dangerous price our country pays today for our childish expectations of what adult life is. Today’s video-games have become extensions of our cartoon-childhood with the results like cartoonish – patriotism, militancy, friendships, economy, concepts of social and personal life and idea of international relations.

Resnais’ film shows us ourselves when we as adults are in a permanent (direct or silent) dialogue with cartoon personages of our childhood and how this fact cripples our adulthood by making us unable to handle the challenges of the real world. The film analyzes through psychological sensibility of the characters how relations between US and Europe today have become the exchange of American and European cartoon-worldviews, with attempts by some French scholars, personified by Christian Gauthier (Gerard Depardieu) to assimilate cartoon-worldview into serious culture by finding its fake intellectual elaborations.

We see how American globalism in cartoon boots fuses with French intellectual sophistication to the cultural detriment for both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. American mass culture loses the truth of its fakery, while French intellectualism itself transforms into animation cartoon.

The film is as funny as animals in cartoon, but our desire to have fun is defined by film’s images as phony, and our laughter debunks itself – becomes impregnated by fake cheerfulness, sentimentality, simplistic expectations and imaginary desires transformed by the inevitable encounters with reality into disappointment, frustration, bravado, behavioral absurdities, and, ultimately, into shame and pain.

“I Want To Go Home” is an impressive intellectual and artistic achievement. I am not sure that we deserve it, meaning our problematized ability to understand it. The film challenges us as products of an artificial mass-culture for children. It demands from us the ability to reconsider our childhood, to be able to therapeutically overcome our need to be entertained that transforms everything into canned-laughter.

Nobody was expecting from Adolph Green, a famous Hollywood composer, such impressive performance as an actor, which suddenly made him equal partner of Gerard Depardieu.

“I Want To Go Home” is a comic anti-comedy, where cartoonish effects of commercial comedy are parodied by the adult – anti-mythological perception of the world. Resnais sarcastically laughs at the childish pseudo-laughter of cartoon-comedy.

Famous American cartoonist Joe Wellman arrives to the opening of American cartoon exposition, but is not recognized in all his glory by the woman curating the exposition, the fact that gave him psychological trauma and put him in a bitter tantrum.

Joe Wellman (Adolph Green) loudly “debunks” France as a “crack-pot country” and makes hell for his mistress Lina (Linda Lavin) who wants them to enjoy their trip to Paris.

Christian Gauthier, a French intellectual who became a specialist in American cartoon culture (to rejuvenate his career almost drowned into academic underwater currents after his famous book on Baudelaire) tries to explain his wealthy mother why he is hooked on” Americans”.

After decades of struggling in his native country USA for success Joe Wellman found in Christian Gauthier the person who is able to really appreciate Joe’s talent.

Christian Gauthier is hosting Joe and his mistress not without innocent calculation. Analyze the composition of this shot. Where is Lina looking at and with what facial expression? And how is Joe represented here in relation to Lina and Christian?

Traumatized, as both an American and a Jew, by a scandal with a American movie-director, another person Christian Gauthier glues to, Joe Wellman appeals to the French country people to help him to find his way to the airport to be able “to go home”. A local skirmish, according to cartoonish logic rooted in our unconscious, became a matter of international misunderstanding.

Posted on Oct 28 2009 –   Alain Resnais’ “I Want to Go Home” (1989) – Cultural Apocalypse by Means of Comedy – Cartoon Patriotism, Cartoon Humanism  by Acting-Out Politics