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YA 5_1 HD, in English, with critical commentary

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Published on Jul 27, 2010

This clip is offered in hope of making available an English-language version of "Young Americans" (YA) of higher visual quality than seems to have been available online, together with comments (below) that may enhance appreciation of YA as dramatic art.

Episode 5 is titled, "Winning isn't everything." Questions that may be worth asking about YA episode 5, part 1, include:

-- This episode concerns parent-child relations, depicted in context of Rawley's summer-term parents' weekend, which features a crew rowing regattta. For both parents and children, "true" winning, in the sense of Rawley's motto, is, as Finn suggests to the crew team before the final heat of the regatta, is not about outcomes, but about turning personal obstacles into opportunities for growth. For the parents, that entails recovering youth's passion to grow and realize one's potential, rather than despairing of growth as Scout Calhoun's father does: "Our children most clearly embody our potential ; we hope they learn from our mistakes." For the children, it entails developing compassion for parents, rather than blaming all one's problems on them, as Jacqueline Pratt does with her mother. How does awareness of the narrator's perspective of reliving youth from maturity add an intra-personal dimension to the interpersonal theme of parent-child relations? With what results in the cases of Will Krudski and Bella Banks, the two characters who seem to be both old and young at once?

-- Krudski's narrating voice-overs, at the start and close of this episode, are almost the same. Both concern "expectations," some of them inherited, and how "they change as we change." This recalls not only Finn's and Krudski's theme of "exceeding expectations" in episode 1, but also Krudsk's narrative voice-overs in episodes 3 and 4. In context of the narrator's perspective, might Krudski's opening and closing voice-overs represent his original and re-lived youths? How does the difference between the two voice-overs, about "moments that create new expectations," describe how re-living youth better than he lived it originally may enable him to escape the complacency that his father seems to represent?

-- Hamilton Fleming responds to Pratt's news that her mother will visit with uncharacteristic brusqueness and self-absorption: "You get caught, you get booted. And I'll never see you again." That's in the same vein as his last remark to Pratt in episode 4: "If you were a guy, I'd punch you." Yes, she's deceived him, and if she's caught she'll be expelled. But a character whom we know to be extraordinarily sensitive and compassionate is now speaking in terms only of consequences for himself. Why? Would the calculatingly compassionate Fleming enter into a doomed relationship with an emotionally troubled girl without some strategy for healing this "raven at [his] window with a broken wing"? Might that be what he thought about lying on his bed after the cotillion? We now begin to see what that strategy is: Fleming will pretend to be self-centered, focused on Pratt's body rather than her mind and emotions, and fearful of being perceived as gay. To take this as anything but a mask is impossible. Fleming has proven that he's anything but self-centered, loves Pratt for her soul more than for her body, and has the courage to be gay, not merely to be perceived as gay. However, he not only masks his own compassion verbally but also, by speaking of consequences only for himself, appeals to Pratt's compassion -- the underdeveloped faculty on exercise of which Pratt's hope of emotional healing depends. To overcome feeling unloveable, Pratt must love. In the second half of YA, Fleming is the same calculatingly compassionate character he was during the first half; however, his words mask his emotions, which are revealed only by his deeds. True love "speaks like silence."

-- May Fleming's masking of his mind in second half of YA partly suggest why YA's narrative perspective and adult level of meaning are masked? Is YA compassionate art? Could it edify us, could it save us from complacency and "realism" in art so effectively, if its intent to do and its means of doing so were naively evident?

The two still shots at the start of this clip are of Jean Raoux's "Orpheus and Eurydice" (c. 1720), in the Getty Museum, Los Angeles, and of Antionio Canova's "Cupid and Psyche" (1796), in the Louvre. The lute music played during those still shots is Hans Neusiedler's "Gassenhauer" (a tune heard on the street, c. 1536). YA's musical theme for its Pratt/Fleming scenes, previous episode recapitulations, and most crew rowing scenes, Hans Zimmer's "True Romance" theme, is adapted from Carl Orff's "Gassenhauer nach Hans Neusiedler" (1935).

-- Ichabod Grubb, July 2010

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