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Christophe Honoré is one of those typical French author cineasts: it doesn't get any artier than this. Nothing wrong with some pretentious French cinema of course. Métamorphoses has some very strong and unique moments, especially because of the transgressive way Honoré explores Ovid's mythological universe and transports it to a contemporary context. On the other hand, the transgressive style and content are harmless and even quite loyal to Ovid's poem. Seen in that way, this film isn't transgressive at all and has more of an artsy, experimental pretence. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, but it all is quite superficial for a movie that attempts to be something much more. The cinematography is extremely beautiful though, as well as the soundtrack and some of its symbolism. But when it comes to French l'art pour l'art cinema, I think Les rencontres d'après minuit succeeds way better in its intent. Maybe because, although the film also is very autoletic, it transcends itself by subverting some bourgeois notions. Something Métamorphoses didn't do at all. But then again, maybe it's just me and my limited way of experiencing films like this.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really liked this movie. The theme is of all times.
It's about a young adolescent growing up and becoming an individual. She learns all kinds of symbolic life lessons through the Greek myths in which she gets involved. The friction between plain reason and raw instinct. The wish to avoid the vulnerability which makes one human. The metamorphoses of becoming a feeling human instead of wanting to be an untouchable God or getting lost in living your urges and becoming a wild man. It is subtle yet piercing because of the simplicity and plain message the scenes send out. It is unadorned and shows the human vulnerability in it's core. Beautiful.
Liberally taking stories from Ovid's epic poem that bears its name,
Metamorphoses is a rich and variegated sequence of interconnecting
stories, telling of Gods and men, the women they seduce, and their
impact in the heavens and on earth.
And it's a pretty fine spectacle. We see Europa (Amira Akili) stolen from the human world by Jupiter (Sébastien Hirel) while Bacchus (Damien Chapelle) cavorts with women and men and animals. There's the unknowable purposes of the Gods at play, we see, juxtaposed against the very real human traits of desire and lust.
It is a fairly explicit film. I feel like a good proportion of screen time has one character or another (and often many) naked or in some state of undress, and there are numerous rather lascivious close ups of genitalia in particular. It all adds to the salacious tone of the film, of course, and further promulgates the films intentions.
As a result, there is indeed something thrillingly exciting and a little titillating about the film even as one is searching for its artistic merit. It's not pornographic by any means, but it does seek to illustrate desire in a way that speaks to the audience kinetically.
In this way, it's actually rather successful, even if it does stand to be a little perplexing. I think if I were to see this film in complete isolation, I'd likely be more harsh on it, but at a film festival, it was a fine piece of programming, and a good entry in a rich selection of films.
Seen by your reviewer at the 2014 London Film Festival, 'Métamorphoses'
transplants Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' to modern-day, working-class France
(for those unfamiliar with Ovid - I'm not sure I'd ever heard of him -
he was a poet from ancient Rome). A group of Roman deities wander the
countryside meddling in human affairs - meddling that generally
involves nudity and livestock.
I can't make up my mind whether or not I like this film; I will say it was engrossing. Despite the 'flashbacks within flashbacks within flashbacks' structure, writer/director Christophe Honoré manages to keep the storyline, such as it is, flowing neatly and the viewer does not get confused about where he is in the narrative.
Little of the nudity is particularly attractive; unfortunately Honoré has gone for people with natural, rather than film star (or indeed classical god-like), bodies! But my main concern is the treatment of the many animals in the film: a cow simply standing tethered in a field is one thing, but in the scene where a lion and lioness are trapped in a room and the lioness begins to attack the lion, one wonders whether that was spontaneous action or was she trained to do it - and if so, was anyone concerned for the animals' welfare?
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