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À bout de souffle (1960)
Homage to classic American cinema and great example of innovative European cinema
Even though, the chances are slim that anyone ever reads this review, especially when they are hundreds of reviews already out there, it seemed necessary to express enthusiasm once more and to add one or more previously neglected detail.
It is OK to watch this film in bed on a small b/w TV. But whether or not you chose such a nostalgic setting, it is definitely OK to watch it a hundred times.
The film is about style. It breaks rules and surprises us with fresh editing. It delivers an atmosphere which is hard to beat. Do not make the mistake to believe the protagonists are seducing each other. They are solely seducing you. The naturalness of the famous bedroom talk is a performance. It is,however, a performance which is particularly enticing because of its off-beat naturalness. By the end of the film at the latest it becomes clear who is ultimately addressed: Jean Seberg looks directly into your eyes.
The story of the mysterious women is repeated once again but expressed strangely and beautifully by Jean Seberg. Whereas the hard-boiled gangster turns out to be a shallow copy of the romantic hero represented in western cinema, the heartless and mysterious femme fatale embodies the audience par excellence: she does not only watch the hero's actions with detachment, she also repeats his gestures, she constantly asks questions and then finally she turns to you for answers.
Thus, ultimately the film is not about gangsters or femmes fatales but about cinema itself. It pays homage to the classic American cinema and provides at the same time the best example of innovative European cinema. It deconstructs former cinematic rules and accelerates breathlessly with innovation.
Eagle vs Shark (2007)
The last romantic hero...is a woman
After a summer night of mellow festival dancing, we ended up in sleeping bags watching the open air screening of this film. The drizzling sound of light rain, which the sweltering heat turned into immediate steam, fed into our personal soundtrack and added another side to romanticism.
This exceptional film entertains a sweet awkwardness which is glamorously embodied by its two main protagonists. Cartoonish movements, looks and dialogues convey the insecurities of almost grown-ups.
To begin with we are asked to be open-minded and to step bravely into a world where adults live in kids' universes. In this strange dimension we are confronted with the seemingly classical tale of girl meets boy. But the film offers us another take on love. We are drawn into a beautifully funny and sad tale about outsiders, wannabes and true heroes.
By the video game scene at the latest we realise who is true hero and who is mere sidekick. We encounter another or maybe even truer version of the shiny knight who is mesmerising the audience not by out-shining everyone else or by occupying the centre stage but by holding back for the sake of others. More so, we are invited to discover who is usually absent in the tales of shiny armour and chivalry: the person who makes the hero. This person turns out to be the secret star of the film. She breaks our hearts because she is the one who loves. We are falling slowly for her and for her persistence which at some point excels our own.
Confronted with the sweltering heat of a long festival summer and with the painfully enduring love of a heroic female, some of us fell asleep with sweaty eyes and blazing hearts.
The Vicious Kind (2009)
Inevitable for the passionate ones
During a star-free night at an already emptied drive-in theatre, this film made my heart burn. This very last screening of a winter's night did not attract an audience but one sole viewer. And if you have an understanding of passion and pain you might not even be comforted by a crowd. You might prefer solitude while watching cinematic characters fight and love.
There are no exceptional techniques, there is no dazzling style. Visually the film holds back. As a result one character can step forward. Only this person seems to inhabit the film's universe and this could be considered a drop of bitterness.
However, this one person is able to entertain without the necessity of applause. He embodies the passionate being who bites back after being wounded. It is easy to fall for the broken one as long as you believe that there is a chance to heal. He is explosive. His hatred is an exceptional passion in disguise. In a universe of flat personalities he stands out. He cares too much, he loves too much and he cannot stop being passionate about every single soul. As a result, his viciousness is not inspiring hate but love from us and from them. We and everyone else are attracted because he is so full of what everyone else seems to lack.
The film presents us a world where people are not grown-up emotionally. Passions are rare and feared. In this universe people do not easily possess passionate love. Only the protagonist seems to own it but he also seems unable to handle it. Still, he is able to inspire another person, maybe even the audience to love him back. We learn that pain and love do not end, but jump like a virus from person to person. Love stories repeat themselves.
Passion is portrayed as a very dangerous form of love, one which easily feeds into a vicious cycle of being hurt and of hurting in return. But whether or not you can handle the pain and the guilt, for the passionate ones it seems inevitable to fall for it at least once in their lives.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)
Because grey is more eerie than red
We entered the abandoned auditorium of an amateur cinema without knowing that we paid for double tragedy. We had envisioned a journey from birth to death, not expecting that both: beginning and end would include unresolved tragedies.
Shot in the eerie style of better horror film days, the cinematic grip holds us down with fragment story telling. The narrative seems chaotic until a red thread appears in muddy waters. We did not mind the stereotypical colour games which sell out the colour red.
The editing succeeds in unearthly linking mother and son. This construction of a double vision enticed our lazy eyes. To melt both characters into each other while constructing for both a very different melt down convinced us of unique cinematic moments.
Mother and son are fascinating because both explore the grey zones of neither/nor. They are not, however, painted as complex entities beyond comprehension. Instead, they inhabit the "greyness" of being emotionally confusing. Who is guilty? Who made the mistake? We are asked to answer and to divide our sympathies. But at the same time it is clear that there is no easy way out. Everything we see could already be the result of tragedy. There is no objectivity. There is no moment untouched by pain. So, how can we form an unprejudiced opinion? Our roller-coaster ride turns out to be the aftershock. But this is no secret: from the beginning we are told we are heading towards tragedy.
Mother and son are compelling us to remain seated. But Tilda holds everything together. She keeps us wondering. She is even more multi-faceted than you could have expected. In our minds we built her monuments while watching every step.
We keep guessing even though the film is long over. These cinematic characters do not stop polluting our thoughts. One day we will return to the amateur cinema. Whether we will be sitting in the silence of a lit screen or in the noise of a lit auditorium, this film haunts us.
Code 46 (2003)
Our Cinema-Free Future
In the secured dark of a soon to be closed down theater, we found this rare moment of in-between time. The camera painted our salty mood in light colours. The cast absorbed our trembling worries in fast pace. We were about to lose cinematic time. Still, this piece offered no reason to why we traded our seats so readily. The heroine is not yours. She stays out of reach. Some will complain and as soon as they do you will cherish her even more. The less they comprehend her actions, the more you will fall for her. But be aware of her heart which is divided in seemingly small compartments. She feeds the lonely and takes out the suicidal. She could be the harvester of every scene. She embodies the illusion of a combat without opponents. Her body swings in each direction. She is the engine of every moving image. The hero is far easier to digest. Almost as pale as the city he seems defeated. As a result you will swallow each and every word. Luckily, this story is not about words. Between the holes of architectural voids and fast tracks of epic-free sound something strange occurs: for a fleeting moment tragedy is caught lying. Sublime tastes sweeter when you stir in beauty. This is the formula they try to feed you. Delicious but restless. Every angle is shot with culinary knowledge. Only the last track leaves you hanging: the final pop piece falls short. Imperfection always strikes when art is planned. We sighed without regret. When the lights came back, we were quite happy. We were content to leave before the building was taken down. Behind us they closed the premises and declared our state cinema-free. Reflecting on this peculiar circumstances, I believe we watched in memory of our past while dreaming a wonder.