As Trump spoils for whatever fight he can find, former New York Times war reporter Chris Hedges’s appalled characterization of “the psychosis of permanent war” strikes a resonant chord in Johan Grimonprez’s unforgettable new video, | blue orchids |. Constructed around two chilling interviews—one with Hedges, the other with former arms dealer Riccardo Privitera—the 48-minute piece examines the sustaining role of commerce in global conflict. Cutting between the twin encounters and a reconstruction of Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh’s 2010 assassination, | blue orchids| illustrates with stunning effectiveness that killing is a business—and a perennially lucrative one.
The work is entirely on-brand for Grimonprez, who made his name with 1997’s Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, a brilliant subjective analysis of airplane hijacking as interpreted by television news. It’s also a near impossible act to follow, so a shorter video screening directly after—Raymond Tallis | on tickling—is thoroughly upstaged. But while it feels less urgent than its predecessor, the second film is stimulating nonetheless, with the titular philosopher-neurologist framing the phenomenon that people cannot tickle themselves, only each other, as an emblem of the role relationships play in the formation of identity. After the horrors of | blue orchids|, Raymond Tallis seems touchy-feely and abstract, but it’s none the worse for that.