Fascinating cinematic descendant of the Nouvelle Vague
In jazz there was a second wave": artists mainly on Blue Note like Andrew Hill and Bobby Hutcherson who followed in the footsteps perhaps 5 years after the emergence of the New Wave in Jazz (Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Sun Ra). In the French New Wave of the late '50s into '60s, the shattering influence was felt years later, and this Pacal Aubier feature is the epitome of that.
It brings together many disparate Nouvelle Vague elements: the in-your-face politicization of the medium by Jean-Luc Godard; the left-bank conversationalism of Jean Eustache, Jacques Rivette and even Eric Rohmer; and especially the fondness for reinventing icons in the casting: here in the form of a tour de force performance by the great Alain Cuny.
Cuny plays a famous author who is also caught up in left-wing politics, and though the film is set in Le Havre the title conveys a Utopian notion of a faraway place, analogous to Cuba, that captures the imagination of left-leaning folk. The film's many adventurous set-pieces have a lot of Godardian elements, especially a nebulous tough- guy in a trench-coat who injects himself improbably into many situations, played by Nouvelle Vague regular Laszlo Szabo, whose namesake was an even more famous Hungarian in the world of chess.
Leading ladies Bernadette Lafont and Alexandra Stewart also hail from the New Wave pantheon, but the juiciest female role goes to pretty Albane Navizet. She never made it but looking through IMDb it turns out I've seen nearly all her films, mostly soft-core eye candy assignments.
Rivette is saluted with an English-language performance of "Romeo and Juliet" inserted near the end of the film, akin to his many theatrical interludes in films such as "L'amour fou". Themes covered here by writer Aubier are diverse, ranging from the obvious political ones to a look at celebrity (a hot topic in the '60s and of course even more relevant today).
Going back to my first comparison, effective use is made on the soundtrack of avant- garde jazz, sounding much like the exciting "play it LOUD" approach of Coltrane's 1965 breakthrough LP "Ascension". Jazz was a big part of New Wave films and films in general during the '70s, and sadly no longer is used -best current jazz soundtrack I've heard of late was a snippet backing Matthew McConnaughey in one of his weird Lincoln talking-to-myself TV commercials.
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