“Green sun, red alert: when Hollywood sounded the alarm”, on Arte: return to a premonitory film


After man has exploited all the natural resources of the Earth, it finds itself without trees, streams, oceans or animals… A sort of open-air dump overcrowded with humans. Under a permanent scorching heat, they pile up in basements, sometimes hidden, or under tents, which resemble to be mistaken those of our peripheries. But no.

At the end of this long introductory sequence, which connects jerky shots at high speed, a message is displayed: “New York 2022: 40 million inhabitants”. And it’s very disturbing. It’s hard to say otherwise after seeing Soylent Green (Green Sun), a film by Richard Fleischer released in 1973, so prescient it is almost fifty years later. This is why it would be a shame to miss its rerun, followed by the documentary by Jean-Christophe Klotz which is dedicated to him, even if the title (Green Sun, Red Alert: When Hollywood Sounded the Alarm) is oversold – it was Richard Fleischer, not Hollywood, who was sounding the alarm.

We would have liked to know a little more about this filmmaker, son of Max Fleischer (creator of Popeye and Betty Boop) and director, among others, of The Faceless Assassin (1949), 20,000 leagues under the sea (1954), Torah! Torah! Torah! (1970). The documentary filmmaker preferred to find his son Mark Fleischer, who points to the denunciation of the social fracture and the allegory of the cannibalism of capitalism, present in the progressive fiction of his father.

The sequences devoted to the actors are the most interesting. Starting with Charlton Heston (interpreter of the hero of Green Sun Richard Thorn), then crowned with his success in The ten Commandments (1956): the speakers rehabilitate him, affirming that we should not keep the image of the old actor suffering from Alzheimer’s who led the NRA (American arms lobby), but those, little known and shown here, of the one who prepares the march for African-American rights in 1963.

Excess of consumerism

The actress Leigh Taylor-Young, her partner, becomes laughing and playful at the evocation of filming anecdotes, while emphasizing that she was called “Meuble” in fiction, women being considered there as furniture, and not as human beings. Edward G. Robinson, then 79 years old, interpreted Sol, the librarian and friend of Thorn, but above all the living memory of a bygone era, whose beauty will only appear at his death, during a scene that has become iconic.

Read also: Richard Fleischer, American filmmaker

When Soylent Green was released in theaters, the American counterculture denouncing the excesses of consumerism, two years after the organization of the first Earth Day. In a report for the Club of Rome in 1972, “The Limits to Growth”, the economist Dennis Meadows exposed for the first time the physical limits of growth.

No more than that of the Club of Rome the message of the film is not really passed. “Richard Fleisher (…) is an ecological moralist of the kind: “Look what will happen to you if you are not good with the trees.” Everything is simple to naive souls; what is less is to succeed in a film about the future that is not simplistic »writes Colette Godard in The world of June 29, 1974.

In 2012, Dennis Meadows republished the same report, with the same conclusions. Facing the camera, the editor of the famous opening sequence of the film does not hide a certain pride: “It holds up. It hasn’t aged. It is collective suicide. »

Green Sun, Red Alert: When Hollywood Sounded the Alarmby Jean-Christophe Klotz (Fr., 2022, 52 min).

“Green sun, red alert: when Hollywood sounded the alarm”, on Arte: return to a premonitory film