Raiders of the Lost Ark, a 40th anniversary reassessment by Dr. Rene Belloq, Archeologist

Bonjour. Like the bon mot about Mrs. Lincoln and the play, I am still asked, 40 years hence: aside from the ending, when your head explodes in a million crimson chunks, what did you think of the film, Rene?

One shrugs. One sighs. Mon ami, I have reservations.

Peru—In a sweltering jungle Dr. Indiana Jones has chosen to wear a battered leather jacket, filthy chinos and a brown wool hat, soon to be accessorized by cobwebs and tarantula merdeDe trop, no? Exactly when did field archaeology become Casual Vendredi?

Conversely, I have chosen short sleeves, a pith helmet and boots, cool and correct. If years of looting other cultures’ religious artifacts has taught me anything, it’s that one cannot expect to exploit indigenous peoples with hauteur alone: a smart ensemble and two semesters of conversational Holvitosis whatclaims the Chachapoyan fertility idol.  C’est vrai: Teamwork makes the dream work.

America—Here Dr. Jones teaches in a three-piece suit. For a brief moment our putative hero fails to look like a pit-stained imbecile, an oversight he spends the next 90 minutes over-correcting.  

Nepal—Dr. “I have not once consulted the weather before packing” arrives in the frozen Himalayas without gloves or a scarf and starts barking orders at his androgynous but resourceful former paramour. “Give me the necklace! For you, a fistful of filthy greenbacks!” Back in Paris it would be I giving her the necklace, I assure you. (Cartier, 12 Boulevard des Capucines. Ask for Hubert.)

Egypt— I would like to report that Jones’ fashion choices improve in Cairo. C’est impossible. Once again he sports the cowhide and the felt bonnet in a city whose average summer high temperature is 96 degrees. Such information might inform the wardrobe choices of a shrewder man, like Sallah, who has sense enough to wear a straw hat in such heat, but for Jones? No, he is too busy shooting swordsmen in the street, drag skiing behind trucks and pity boozing with Nazi simians to notice. For fashion stupidite, take back one kadam.

(A minor point but it continues to irritate: Jones does not shave. Though a cobra might claim to be charmed gazing face to face with such stubble, I suspect, if pressed, he might say something like, really monsieur, you come to my Well of Souls looking like this? Expect a table in the back. In an hour.)

As for myself, I spend tout le adventure wearing a breathable white suit, cool Egyptian cotton shirts and a white chapeau. Why? Because I am a professional, because I am a full-grown adult, because I believe we must adapt to our climate and not wear whatever fell out of my goddamn closet and because I am not a toxic masculinity, non-collaborative, one-language-only speaking, Ark stealing American fucking idiot, that is why.

Example: At one point, I clearly swallow a fly. C’est la vie. One does not obtain radios for talking to God without ingesting five flies an hour. Insouciance, Dr. Jones. It cannot be lashed with a whip.

(And, because tout le monde keeps asking: Yes, I had a couture satin gown in Marion’s size and matching pumps waiting in my tent. And what would you suggest: that I not have a couture satin gown in Marion’s size and matching pumps waiting in my tent? With respect, perhaps it is you that has been digging in the wrong place.)

Geheimhaven—After a tiresome opera comique with Jones first swiping a Nazi jacket that is laughably too small, then pummeling a stormtrooper to acquire a jacket that fits, the man finds himself sans chemise. Are we to believe the Nazis would see his chest foliage and say “schnell”?  One could compile a lengthy dossier on the shortcomings of National Socialism, but slipshod grooming and presentation would not be in it. Unlike Jones, who fails ever upward, Nazis dress for the job they want, not the job they have.

Finally, I spared no expense having a glorious jeweled tunic worthy of Klimt fashioned for the Ark opening ceremony at the Tabernacle. Checkerboard pattern. Muted earth tones. An Old Testament inspired turban that says, even if the Ark is filled with dust and sand, no one can deny that I, Dr. Rene Emile Belloq, chose the proper headgear to speak to God. Everything was parfait. The night was sparkling, the cameras were rolling, Jones and Marion were lashed to a post, bit players at last. It was just me and the Ark. And then…

Let’s just say the tunic was ruined.  I don’t mean damaged, we can fix that. I mean ruined, as in those deep red Provencale brain stains are permanent. I am still sick about it. And the hat. It really fit, you know? It’s like He didn’t even care.

Apres les explosion, one becomes…discouraged.


T. Kent Jones has written for The Daily Show on Comedy Central, Air America Radio with Marc Maron, The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, and many others.

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