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It was eagerly awaited for years,the trailer which was the whole film
in fast motion looked ravishing, and it seemed as if in this,perhaps
his last film,Godard would deliver his final testament,a summation of
all the themes which have run through his work for the last fifty
years.From the beginning it looks absolutely stunning.In its high def
cinematography the colours are gorgeous,the Mediterranean setting
recalling that of Le Mépris ,but whereas the latter film was a profound
meditation on European culture and civilisation,here the characters
spout banal platitudes about politics or philosophy as the ship sails
along past various cities; in the Spanish section there is a scene of a
bullfight,in the Italian section a clip from a Rossellini film,it's
In the final section the film switches to one of Godard's favourite subjects,the daily routine of a family with young children who run a petrol station and have for no apparent reason a pet llama.Here finally the film shows some kind of rapport with its characters but it is already too late.Yet despite its faults it still exhibits all the hallmarks of Godard's style,the brilliance of his framing and editing,the crucial way sound plays against image,but the feeling persists that perhaps he has no longer anything to say.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While it seemed to divide audiences at Cannes showing and has yet to
find a wide release,Garrel's latest film is almost as good as anything
he has done over the last forty years.Exquisitely photographed by
William Lubtchansky,the regular cameraman of Rivette,it depicts a
strangely deserted,almost spectral, Paris devoid of tourists and the
constant hum of mobile phones.Louis Garrel plays François,a trendy
photographer who starts an affair with an unstable married
woman.Eventually she is confined to an asylum and commits suicide.
After a period of time he has a relationship with a more conventional
girl who becomes pregnant.He is accepted by her family and happiness
seems to beckon but his obsessive love for the dead woman comes back to
haunt him in a manner reminiscent of Cocteau.
There is little dialogue throughout,and like most of his previous work there is a purity of image which is reminiscent of the silent cinema.Unlike "Les amants réguliers",his previous film which was a reflection on the disillusionment of politics,this is more of a return to the subject of obsessional love which has haunted most of his oeuvre.
The theme of stubborn individualism has always run through Ichikawa's work and it was not surprising that he wished to film this true story of an ordinary twenty-three year old who crossed the Pacific in a small yacht,a feat which no Japanese had ever accomplished.The hero is played by Yujiro Ishihara,a hugely popular star in youth movies who is utterly convincing in the role.It is the accumulation of small details which make the film so compellingly realistic:the daunting planning and purchase of items from three sets of screwdrivers to a meticulously controlled diet of canned foods,beer and water. He is subjected to all the ordeals which lone sailors speak of,namely,above all,the loneliness of each day,the sleep deprivation,the unforeseen accidents,and above all the vagaries of the weather,his small vessel unceasingly lashed by unforgiving storms,even the presence of a shark which almost catches him off guard having a swim. Throughout the film we see flashbacks to his rather humdrum existence working for his father and then for a travel agency,his bickering relationship with his father,his rejection of his mother's endless pleas for him to stay at home.It seems as if the typically conformist pressures exerted by the Japanese family have in part driven him to find relief in the open seas. And when the end of the voyage comes,it is one of the most perfect and beautifully filmed climaxes in modern film history.
It is one of the most written about and blogged about films of the last few years.References abound,from Bresson to Hitchcock,Rohmer,Murnau,even Dante and Petrarch,but is it too slender to sustain such a formidable weight of cultural allusions? While it is undoubtedly true that it is reminiscent of many other films,there is something sufficiently fresh and different which makes it definitely stand out. The story could not be more simple.A dreamy looking young man waits alone in a café in Strasbourg scanning each female passer by in the hope that she may be Sylvia whom he met in the city six years ago.Eventually he sees someone who may be her and he begins to obsessively pursue her through a labyrinth of streets and alleyways.Yes, "Vertigo" is of course brought to mind and there is a wealth of allusions to the feminist theory of the controlling power of the male gaze.But there is more to it than that.The ditching of much narrative,characterisation and even dialogue give rise to a new form of cinema experience,a concentration on the purely sensuous aspect of cinema,an increased awareness of the power of everyday sights and sounds which cinema usually elides in favour of a forward thrusting narrative and a well-defined protagonist.
Out One:Noli me tangere was always too long to get any type of
commercial screening so it was edited down to this four hour
version,not short by any means unless it is compared to the sprawling
original.But this is not just a condensed version,it is rather a
reorganisation,out of which another film emerges,clarifying certain
points while obscuring others,shining a light on some characters while
pointedly neglecting others.
While the long version takes several hours for the narrative to spring into life with the passing of the message to Colin/Jean-Pierre Léaud,here this pivotal event takes place within the first thirty minutes,and so the conspiracy begins.Now all of Rivette's favourite themes (the theatre,conspiracy,paranoia,all set in a Paris far from the usual tourist haunts) which were crystallised in his first film,"Paris nous apparteint" come into play.The very long and gruelling theatre rehearsals are necessarily curtailed and various sets of characters are introduced who are usually kept apart from each other but at various junctures like pawns on a diabolical chessboard they can suddenly interact.The literary influences are,clearly,Balzac's "Histoire de treize" and Lewis Carroll although the presence of Borges,a favourite author of Rivette,with his stories of conspiracy and parallel worlds,is also apparent.The end too is much more satisfactory,infinitely more spine-tingling than that of the long version.And when it is over we want nothing more than to relive the whole maddening experience again.
As usual the Straubs take as their starting point a literary text,this time Brecht's novel "The Affairs of Mr. Julius Caesar" which they use to deconstruct the harsh reality of Roman history.The dialogue is spoken in lengthy monologues by a peasant,a writer,a banker and a lawyer speaking directly to the camera.These dialogues are interspersed with three very long tracking shots of a car driven by a young man through the streets of modern Rome,a device which anticipates Kiarostami's "Ten" by thirty years.These modern scenes set up the dialectic between past and present,between the economic and civil corruption of ancient Rome with the decadence of its modern counterpart.While the ancient buildings have decayed,the same political and economic dilemmas which Brecht's characters describe still thrive amidst the new vistas of Rome's gleaming office blocks and skyscrapers.
One of Godard's least seen films of the sixties,yet one of his most
interesting and mature works.At first viewing it seems to be a
typically Gallic story of adultery as the married woman of the
title,Charlotte (Macha Méril)is torn between her airline pilot husband
and her lover,an actor.But in contrast to how Truffaut,for
example,treats adultery in the contemporaneous "La Peau Douce",Godard
uses it as a pretext to explore the consumer culture of the sixties.He
investigates the role which the media plays in forming Charlotte's
tastes and opinions,focusing on the endless stream of
advertisements,record sleeves,films and magazines to which she is
exposed every day and which informs her views on every subject from
politics to fashion. Her frequently naked body is seen in
close-up,fragmented,com modified like all the other fetishistic images
seen throughout the film.
As usual with Godard there is a plethora of references to filmic and literary figures who have influenced his work.There are a series of cinéma vérité type interviews with the husband,their son and filmmaker Roger Leenhardt which break up the narrative flow in an acknowledgement to Brecht,who would be a key figure in Godard's development in the next decade,whilst Charlotte indulges in several soliloquies reminiscent of Molly Bloom in "Ulysses",one of his favourite books.Formed by this melding together of disparate elements and techniques,"Une femme marieé" brilliantly expresses what it must have felt for a young woman to be alive in the summer of 1964.
It sounds a very forbidding film:over three hours of watching a woman
do the repetitive household chores which are the norm for housewives in
every part of the world.Of course in no Hollywood film would we ever
see the lead character run a bath,peel potatoes or lay a table in real
time:these are all actions which a commercial director would ruthlessly
elide in favour of a powerful narrative,and yet this is never a boring
film.Once the viewer becomes accustomed to the different pace and
rhythm,there is something hypnotic and fascinating about the daily
routines which Jeanne Dielman performs every day.
Narrative,however,has not been entirely banished from this film.There is something strange and unspoken in Jeanne's relationship with her son who comes home every day from college,eats the evening meal,studies, and then pulls out his bed from the wall.Jeanne's life too is shrouded in mystery.Her afternoon encounters with a series of mostly elderly male clients is presented in a straightforward manner totally at odds with the sexual titillation provided by,for example,"Belle de jour" where the camera followed closely Sévérine's sexual encounters.In this film the camera waits discreetly at the bedroom's door until the client takes his leave.
While it is a "feminist" film,a film which was directed by a woman,starring a woman and which had all female crew,it nevertheless has a meaning for men as well.And if you find this film boring,as some viewers do,then you must also find life boring.
This is a good example of how inventive the short film format may be;much is condensed into the twenty-three minute running time, making this film seem much longer than its duration would suggest.The film has its roots in a theatre production of a play by the Austrian playwright Ferdinand Bruckner which Straub had been asked to direct by a German theatre company.He considered the play too verbose and cut its length from several hours down to just ten minutes,and it is the production of this play which forms the centrepiece of the film. The film begins with a long,hypnotic tracking shot along a Munich street frequented by prostitutes.This short scene is followed by the ten minute play which stars a young Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Hanna Schygulla.The next two scenes seem to belong in a different film completely.They concern an actress and her black boyfriend whom her pimp is trying to kill before her wedding,hence the film's title.Eventually the narrative logic begins to make sense as the girl is a prostitute and her pimp was one of the characters featured in the play. While most directors would have needed several hours to make sense of this plot,Straub miraculously manges to make all the disparate elements play off against each other in an enthralling experimental work which may be one of his greatest achievements.
Just as "Céline et Julie vont en bateau" owed a great deal to the American cinema of the fifties,so its follow-up "Duelle" pays homage to certain films of the forties,in particular the work of Jacques Tourneur whose work created the maximum of suspense and fear with the minimum of means.This slight,ghostly tale of two goddesses of the sun and the moon who are permitted to spend only forty days on earth per year has a strange,ethereal quality which recalls the ambiguity and hidden menace of "Cat People".The playing in the lead roles of Rivette regulars Bulle Ogier and Juliet Berto is mesmerising,whilst the settings in a race-track,run-down hotel,a deserted metro station and a dance hall have a seedy,haunted feeling,and while the story might seem rather opaque,Rivette has confirmed that in order to understand it fully it is necessary to read two French novels,"Le Carnaval" and "La Femme celte" which are unfortunately both out of print.
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