YA 4_5 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.

Questions that may be worth asking about YA episode 4, part 5, include:

-- Insofar as Will Krudski is reliving youth in maturity, his romance with Caroline Busse seems morally questionable. In episode 4, this moral tension is resolved by Caroline's rejection of Krudski for lying. On a naive understanding of YA, Krudski is a deceitful character: he cheats to be sure of entering Rawley in episode 1, hides his going to Rawley from his townie friends in episode 2, and deceives Carloline about his social class in episode 4. Does understanding YA's narrative perspective make Krudski seem less or more deceitful? Is the masked narrative perspective the root of Krudski's other deceits? Many old tales, like that of Faust, tell us that sorcerers pay a spiritual price for magical powers. Does YA seem to re-tell those old tales in a young way? Is Krudski's deceit justified? Upon what does that depend? What is its ultimate purpose, who are its ultimate beneficiaries?

-- What is connoted by Sean McGrail's remark: "Grace is Grace"? How does the providence of Rawley bring forth good from Bella's sister's irresponsibility?

-- Like "Jake" Pratt, Bella Banks reenacts a fairy tale and gets a miracle during the cotillion. Although Scout Calhoun is what Bella wants, McGrail's miraculous rescue of her stepfather's gas station makes Bella see McGrail as what she needs However, awareness of YA's narrative perspective suggests that Bella, surrounded by antiques that betoken her maturity, needs, like Krudski, to "go to Rawley," to rejuvenate. The craving for security and stability expressed by her clinging to the gas station seems a character flaw that Calhoun offers her an unseized opportunity to outgrow, and that Rawley's providence will force her to outgrow at YA's conclusion. Bella's re-enactment of the Cinderella tale is one in which the scullery maid proves afraid to leave home to marry the prince, untrue both to the old tale and to her own potential. Why did Antin juxtapose a "false" fairy tale to a "true" fairy tale of "true love" in episode 4 -- and title the episode after the false fairy tale rather than the true one?

-- Is YA's dramatic climax also its moral climax - or does that come a bit later? Does it take more or less courage for Hamilton Fleming to kiss Pratt after the cotillion, knowing of her gender deception and all that it implies, than it took for him to kiss her during the cotillion believing her to be a boy? How and why does he summon that courage as he lies thinking on his bed? What does he think? The song lyrics played during that scene speak of growing tenderness tearing apart fears. What must Fleming's fears at this point be? What do those lyrics suggest about the candor of his behavior throughout the rest of YA, during which he almost never mentions and never fully articulates either those fears or his compassion for Pratt's condition? Does Fleming mask his mind from Pratt during the second half of YA, as Pratt masks her body from him during its first half? If so, is this merely because Pratt's emotional state always precludes full honesty between them? Or must love, insofar as it is "true," always pretend to be more selfish, more passionate and less compassionate, than it is? Can compassion plainly reveal itself to its object without ceasing to be compassionate? Or is it, like Eurydice, dissolved by sunlight, able to walk only in the shadows, loving passion's song but speaking silently, by deeds?

-- What is the "self" that Matthew Arnold's "Self-Reliance," Finn and Krudski in discussing that poem, and Krudski in his closing narrative voice-over, urge us to "resolve to be," of which our dreams, Krudski warns us, may be unworthy, the "identity" that we lose by "chasing after what we want"? Is it what we are, or what we should become, a self that "exceeds expectations"? What is one's "true" self, in the sense of the Rawley motto? How does its creation require "true love"? Why, symbolically, do Pratt and Fleming come late to class, missing the discussion of "Self-Reliance"? Why does the camera focus on them during Krudski's voice-over?

The two still shots at the start of this clip are of François Perrier's "Orpheus before Pluto and Persephone" (c. 1650), and of Antionio Canova's "Cupid and Psyche" (1796), both 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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