It’s time to get used to it: as expected, after music, cinema is being swept away by a whole new way of accessing images: subscription, at home and on the move. And, as with music, after the distribution of cinema films on ad hoc channels and in cinemas, on telephones and tablets, we have seen some of these films broadcast directly on these channels and then on platforms. Then, alongside films, came series, which had existed on television for a very long time under the name of ‘soap operas’. Some of them have become cult favourites: The Wire, Friends, Peaky Blinders, Six Feet Under, Fauda, the Schtizel family, and so many others.

Now these platforms are going one step further: if they are not very daring in their artistic choices, subject to ruthless profitability requirements, they are offering their subscribers made-to-measure programmes, taking into account their preferences, deduced from the programmes they have already seen.

Soon, with artificial intelligence, we’ll be going much further: we’ll be offering viewers the chance to see, subject to copyright, the films they like with other actors: you want to see Humphrey Bogart in Raiders of the Lost Ark? No problem! Marylin Monroe as Sissi? Of course! Coluche as César (by Pagnol)? That’s easy! Then, we’ll suggest replacing, in all their greatest roles, the actors that the new (and judicious) ethical rules no longer tolerate; then again, we’ll look back at the balance of genres and origins: do you want to see La Grande Illusion again with a cast that is not only socially just (as is already the case), but also with female characters and with actors of colour? Quite possible. Then we’ll go so far as to offer everyone the chance to take part in writing a film or series that will be made just for them, with the actors, scriptwriter, musician and director of their choice, living or dead, real or fictional. All you have to do is provide a very large number of specifications to an artificial intelligence. Everyone will have their own films. And it will be even more revolutionary when we combine it with video games and virtual worlds… Everyone will have become a creator and will live the life of the characters of their choice.

We will then not only have lost the cinema as a meeting place, but we will also have done away with a major topic of conversation, films or series available to all. We’re not far from that.

A very recent series, Succession (whose extraordinary Season 4 has only just been released), evokes the prolegomena of this future. It is first and foremost a formidable family drama, about the struggle for succession between four children of an all-powerful father, in a very large American media group. It’s played by some great actors (in all the roles, major and minor), with crazy dialogue, a more than effective score and a script that’s almost perfectly realistic, even if it’s always on the verge of excess (as is the reality of this world). Of course, not all powerful families are monstrous, like this one; and many of them have lasted and continue to last, generation after generation, only because of their seriousness and modesty (we come across one such family in Succession, tempted by the poison of money against its own values). Nonetheless, the series’ description of the world of takeovers and mergers is luminous, and the apparent excess, which will shock specialists, is in fact very carefully copied from reality; in particular, the bankers, investment fund managers and lawyers are shrill with truth. Finally, we hear, as if in a watermark, the end of a world: it’s not just the succession in a family. It’s the constant use of drugs of all kinds; a ballet of helicopters, private planes, SUVs, blasphemy towards nature. It’s not just class and gender contempt that’s constantly displayed and repeated; it’s not just people being humiliated, exploited and murdered. It is also the announced end of the all-powerful media, which has made and unmade presidents, and which is about to be swept away by social networks, artificial intelligence and everything that dictators, from Putin to Xi Jinping, but also fake democrats, in the United States, Italy, Poland, Turkey and elsewhere, are beginning to use in an increasingly massive and cynical way. Without anyone, either in this series or in the real world, really giving a serious thought to the real long-term issues: social justice, climate, violence, the artificialisation of the world, in which they are the actors.

See Succession. And let’s make sure that reality ceases to be in their image. So that our succession is not reduced to bankruptcy.

Painting : Edward Hopper, New York Movie (1939)