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'Merci la vie' (1991)
Take 'les valseuses', bring them in the 90's, replace the guys with the girls...
... and you get the film that made me understand what cinema was all about.
The simple story of two teenagers meeting at no time. The candid one, Camille, makes the audience, the more experienced one, Joelle, provides the story: in the 80s or 90s, a foolish lover decides to exploit her sickness (AIDS) to contaminate the male population of his provincial town and gain on the visits of his new patients... the clever man is a GP.
The story is made even more interesting when it suddenly jumps from one period of the 20th century to the other, France under occupation during the second world war. Whatever the period, the drama is the same.
What I liked so much in this film is the way Blier makes the last jump, when the film is no longer about the story but about the crew of the film. It is not only a simple effect, it goes on showing that life is a drama whatever the situation, that even if Joelle is an actress, still she can live the same drama.
The other great thing about this film is that you can't help comparing it with Blier's 'Les Valseuses', and read it as the story of friendship and liberty at two different times (70's for les valseuses). This is not just because of the story line, but is present at almost every shots. From the meeting of the two encounters to simple shots on the road, where both walk, one slower than the other, like an unbalanced pair.
La sentinelle (1992)
When a corpse tells a story...
La Sentinelle is worth every minutes it lasts, including the decisive ones when the director voluntary mixes the sound track, and the editing, to get us lost. For this film is just as much about sensation as it is about the story of how a dead head was set in the luggage of a young man traveling from Achen to Paris.
As Matthias discovers the head and tries to understand the reasons why it was 'given' to him, he loses all his marks in the small world of Paris French diplomacy bourgeoisie which saw him grow up. A forensic student, he starts to study the head to reveal its pasts... the rest of the plot must not be told, but is worth any thriller.
The real interest of the film is the way it looks at sensations, physic sensations, the nose bleeding, the smoking, the hearing, and the way those sensations always tell us more about the reality than any plot telling would. La sentinelle is not only to be understood as the watcher. The sentinel was also the name given to the nose by the ancient Greeks, meaning the organ of the true sensation. And it is also interesting to quote Merleau Ponty: "The sentinel, this actual body I call mine, which stands silently while i speak and act" (very loose translation from French- 'L oeil et L esprit').
Given that quality, the film is a great thriller as well, the atmosphere is quite similar to the one depicted in 'Les Patriotes'.
Many friends were unhappy at the end of the film, thinking that the film was good but that it didn't give any clue to why and how the dead head was 'given' to Matthias. I do not believe this to be a drawback, this is just the mere consequence of Despleschin playing with our sensations to lose us at the most important part of the film, when all the explanation is given but not heard.
Truly a good reason to see the film a second time and beware.
I would recommend this film to anyone who enjoys unexpected scripts, and upsets.
Along with those qualities, Despleschin's film has just the same other qualities as his other films, great casting, great light, great tempo (pianissimo), great depiction of inter personal communication.