Reviews written by registered user
|6 reviews in total|
When I first saw this film I was amazed by it. The freshness and the imagination of the two protagonists, the way in which it recognised the magic (real magic) of Paris, and the strange parallel worlds it created in which Celine and Julie are both deeply involved and creating, and then acting, their own parts. On re-viewing it more than ten years later though, I was surprised to be a little disappointed. The magic is so thin. Celine and Julie have taken the, very conscious and explicit, decision not to grow up, and as a result, although they are beautiful adults, their world is a child's world. Their imagination is child-like, in its imagery (sweets, plastic "dinosaur eyes", rather thin puns), in its chosen surroundings (cases full of dolls), its disasters (a grazed knee), its aims (largely disruption of the concerns of surrounding adults), in its ridiculing of sexuality and its steadfast refusal to admit that fantasy is sometimes, necessarily, dangerous. Without any danger or any desperation, it seemed on second visit a charming but slightly futile game.
The problem with this film is that nothing is left for the viewer to assume, deduce, or imagine. Everything which one might need to know in order to understand the full narrative is shown, in detail - and the audience doesn't need that: as a result the film lasts .... what? two and a half hours? .... at least half an hour of which is certainly dead matter. There are some very impressive incidents, but the impact is muffled. I can't help feeling too, that, given that Corneau seems to want to make the most of his setting and given what that setting is, even the photography represents a wasted opportunity. It's dramatic, but it could have stood you still. Imagination needed!
The best thing about Bunuel is his ruthless lucidity, and it's thoroughly on display here. All his films start from the conviction that no one is to be pitied - or even if they are, Bunuel, like life, will not oblige, and neither the audience nor the person concerned should expect it of them. Which is not to say that all abuses are right - the film postulates that between fascist and violent criminal there is little difference, and then, true to lucid form, makes it clear at the end that evil does *not* automatically bring about its own destruction; a fact not to be lamented but fought over. Bunuel said he thought it was his most erotic film. It's not an unreasonable claim. There's not a single sex scene. Go figure.
Just to get a little balance here:
The film is a lot of fun, certainly, and worth watching, but it has its problems. The winks towards modern issues and modern cultural references are hilarious to start with, but by the end of the film you do get a bit tired of them, and wonder whether a *little* bit more interest in making characters' attitudes credible in the 17th century wouldn't, finally, have improved the film. Another point - would it not have been possible to let Sophie Marceau definitively win just *one* of her battles? As it is she always seems to put up a good fight, but, in the last resort, her father or her boyfriend have to rescue her. I feel that the film-maker in his heart of hearts agrees with D'Artagnan when he suggests she should go back to making jam. Oh well, Sami Frey is still sexy.
Is it worthwhile adding another reiteration of the praise which so many people have already heaped on the film? Yes, I think, if only because it will be for a while the first you read. This film is magnificent - and entirely believable; I came out stunned. Principal reasons - the way that Bess's conviction that she can affect the course of events through her love and her direct line to God is neither confirmed nor denied - the story simply moves in ways which her prayers may or may not structure (personally, I think the last shot is a mistake, but different people have different reactions); the ambiguity of the secondary characters - especially Dodo and the doctor - perfectly consistent with themselves yet alternately vital supports and desperately damaging, with motivations which are obviously complex but which are never obvious. The elder breaking his glass - a scene to make you gasp. The way that very intense feelings are taken, not only seriously, but for granted. The portrait of the Calvinist community, which makes it clear that, terrifying and unforgiving as this religion is, it is somehow appropriate to a terrifying and unforgiving life where everyone *has* to know how to suffer. That'll do for starters. The "chapter headings" are accompanied by assorted seventies songs. One of them is by Leonard Cohen. That's a good touchstone - if LC stands you still, go to see this film. If LC bores you rigid, DON'T, under any circumstances.
When I came out of JB, I started wondering why I'd enjoyed it so much; and then I realised - how often in the cinema, even now, does the woman pull all the strings, twisting the men round her little finger simply by the use of her brain, and come out the winner in a thriller? Pam Grier gets the cool wisecracking role which used to belong to Bogart once: "too cool for school" (as Ordell says). AND she's 44, AND she announces as much, AND she's still sexy as hell.. My role-model for the week, if not the year! It helps that Jackson is a worthy opponent and a thoroughly charismatic "villain" - in the end the film does come down to a rather classic "flawed hero(ine) v. attractive baddie" story, but that's part of the fun. Everyone else puts in good performances, and Forster looks like Leonard Cohen, who really ought to be an actor. Great. I didn't find it long even in a very uncomfortable cinema.