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The business tycoon Nicolas Saccard is nearly ruined by his rival Gunderman, when he tries to raise capital for his company. To push up the price of his stock, Saccard plans a publicity stunt involving the aviator Jacques Hamelin flying across the Atlantic to Guyana and drilling for oil there, much to the dismay of Hamelin's wife Line. While Hamelin is away, Saccard tries to seduce Line. Line finally realizes that she and her husband were pawns in Saccard's scheme, and she accuses him of stock fraud. Written by
It does not matter that this is adapted from Zola, and generally received then and now as a prestigious release that should be accorded a place in history. It matters because it's one of the most striking films in the transition towards a cinema that does not merely chronicle life, whose primary means of expression is no longer drama and does not aspire to emotion, but instead sculpts from space and uses the camera as a calligrapher would a brush.
There is a match-cut from the engine of a plane to a madly spinning camera looking down from a ceiling that is perhaps the most impressive in the entire 30 years of cinema until then. And there is a lot of the camera choreographed to dance, or painting with our gaze incomplete motions across rooms.
Resnais would take all this thirty years later to revitalize French cinema.
Story-wise, it is about two puppet-masters vying for the control of the same world. The film begins on the level of the stage, the stockmarket, this new temple of the modern world devoted to capital, and pulls back to reveal who holds the strings, who re-invents the broadcasted reality.
Like Zen calligraphy, this is not about the painted signs on the scroll and what they mean, but the disciplined soul revealed by the flow of ink. Watch it like you would unfold a scroll, the ink is in the image.
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