NOTE: I don't believe this film has been released yet (as of 2011), but it has been shown in Moscow.
How to describe AN ORGANISATION OF DREAMS? Imagine a dozen mirrors. Now imagine yourself smashing them, one on top of another, until all the fragments of mirror are thoroughly mixed together. That is this film. Elements of a dozen ideas and narratives, all mixed into one. Because they are mixed there is confusion and a lessening of the whole. This film might be bookended by a Prologue and Epilogue yet it lacks a beginning, a middle and an end.
The narrative, such as it is, concerns a group of young people - two women and a man - who are interviewing people - philosophers, film producers - in order to create an art bomb: a single piece of art - poem, novel, song, but especially a film - that will lead to revolution. My description is much clearer than the film though. In the film the narrative descends into a mix of fiction and documentary (the interviews are of real philosophers and producers yet the questioners are fictional characters played by actors), narratively fragmented by sub-plots (about a revolutionary father) and alternative viewpoints (a sort of policeman who is tracking them).
That might not sound like it makes a lick of sense. Good, because this film doesn't make a lick of sense. What I have written is only the surface of this confused, fractured film.
At its heart there are two main points. Firstly, the dangers of cinema. Films are, at heart, nothing more than organisations of dreams (hence the title). It is pointed out that films have replaced imagination - the truth of which can by comparing the pre-cinema writers to the post- cinema writers and observing the way in which cinema, in its totality, captures our imagination and prevents us from creating our own vision by presenting us with another person's vision(s). Generally the film takes a very Left-wing view of this, with the usual ramblings about cultural terrorism (amusingly the film is directed by an Englishman, borrows heavily from the French New Wave and features a number of American Film Noir sequences). Because this isn't a documentary, with a coherent thesis, evidence and argument this comes off as coffee bar ramblings rather than incisive, urgent truth. Yet it is true. Cinema has been the prime catalyst for the Americanisation of the world (for good or bad).
The second major idea is a sort of rambling, romantic soixante-huitard notion of the desirability of revolution and the ability of art to act as the catalyst for this. That Europe is in ferment is undoubtedly true but the reasons are mis-diagnosed. This film offers a sort of general malaise, mentions industry once or twice, throws in a pro-secular speech that gets close to mentioning the impact of mass Islamic migration on European political and intellectual life before veering away to pin the blame elsewhere (on authority generally I think, but the point seemed confused and I can't be sure I understood properly). Not being a documentary the whole thing is left rather hazy, bar a few riot shots (I must admit to cheering the French coppers on).
Mixed into all this are the usual references. Skimmed quotes from Derrida, pointless and empty philosophy, cinematic references to Godard, images from Paris '68 (Roger Scruton's essay on May '68 and his conversion to conservatism came to mind...) and more. You've seen it before. The lack of documentary depth means these become ephemeral ideas, presented and then abandoned, a trail of intellectual flotsam that floats throughout the film, never building or mounting but rather appearing and then promptly disappearing, to be forgotten, ultimately pointless.
The ideas have heft by there is no conviction in their presentation. The narrative, skimmed from other sources, has a charm to it (I love the idea of a revolutionary art bomb, absurd as it is) but without focus or development it becomes mere chatter and image. The strain of narcissism, obvious in the conviction of surveillance by the authorities (as if they really care about a handful of tedious artists, intellectually retarded to 1968) and the self-importance of their (detail free) revolution, is unpleasant. The acting veers from amateur to accomplished, with laurels to the two older men (father and policeman), both with gloriously worn and weathered faces, and voices to match.
The film is not all bad. There is a wonderful prologue about a painter trying to capture the execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico (it has been downhill for Mexico ever since...). The cinematography of their Mediterranean (?) location, all long pale walls, is gorgeous - it made me think of Conrad's NOSTROMO. The dance scenes were very funny. The range of ideas is welcoming in a modern cinema dominated by Hollywood matters of the flesh (explosions and bodily functions) (though I dream of a cinema of the spirit, which only rarely finds its way into theatres). The variation in technique, whilst not always successful, is interesting.
This is an art film about ideas. I do not think it a very good fiction, nor a very good documentary, and I have a nagging suspicion that my tax money will be paying for this indulgence, but I am glad it exists. If you like French philosophy (heaven help you - as an Anglo-Saxon who farts and eats beef I hold philosophy in contempt, except when I like it) then you might well like this film. If you are jaded by formulaic scripts and explosions then you might like it. If you are pretentious then you might like it. Even if you don't like any of those things this is not a bad film to watch because, whilst awful, it challenges you, and everybody needs to challenge themselves once in a while.
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