Marguerite Duras was a great soul, she stood up against nothingness, with the power and fragility that is love, and she cried out. If that which is base, which is most everything, collapses around you like a rubbish tip avalanche, there is still Marguerite Duras, and films like this.
The images of the film are Paris at dusk. A city far too great to comprehend on any level other than the superficial, a city that leaves one reeling in Stendhalism. It's a blank Paris, before the stories of the day play out, it mirrors the "mains negatives" of the title, presence by absence, the hand-print revealed by the blank left when the area round it is covered in paint. The beauty of the city is revealed by the traces that people have left behind, murals, avenues of trees, monuments.
Marguerite spoke of these images as images passe-partout, images that allow the narration to infuse them with meaning. It's good to watch the film without sound first to understand how fully the perception of the images is informed by the narration.
The parallel images you don't see are of pre-historic petroglyphs, stencilled scuplted hand-prints which Duras describes as being in a cave by the sea. These were, in her interpretation, people simply recording their existence, in front of the immutability of the sea and the granite. What they have in common is that all the hands look the same, there's an equality to each person's existence implied. I have learnt in life that people require your love for them to be special, an exception. Marguerite was far from this paltry model, and loved everyone who looked existence in the eye. I plan one day to visit her grave in Montparnasse and pay my respects.
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