There are two parts to this film: sequences of life in the fishing village of La Pointe Courte (a government inspector's visit, the death of a child) alternate with others following a couple - He is from La Pointe Courte, she is Parisian - coming to terms with their changing relationship.Written by
Alison Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
There is no new wave, there is only the ocean (Chabrol).
Agnès Varda's career began by the seaside in a small fisher port near Sète and temporarily ended in 2009 with "Les Plages D'Agnès" (Agnès' Beaches). Her debut was a commercial fiasco, only one theater in Paris showed it when it was released (Jean Louis Chéret, Studio-Parnasse).
The part of the man was first intended for George Wilson but he became ill and Philippe Noiret replaced him. This actor didn't like his performance, he thought he was too young (26) and the choice of Wilson was relevant (34). He said he was absent and the character eluded him. The critics thrashed him.
Hailed as the first movie of the Nouvelle Vague, the movie owes at least as much to Italian Neo-realism (Rossellini's "Viaggio In Italia" which depicted a couple's trip whose marriage was on the rocks and Visconti's "La Terra Trema" which dealt with the plight of the fishermen in a small village).
What is definitely "Nouvelle Vague" is the shoestring budget (four times less than "Breathless") and the literary, intellectual, "overwritten" dialogs which seem today almost unbearable; this bourgeois couple complaining about their heartaches, contemplating their navels, walks through the crowd as if the inhabitants of the village didn't exist. They don't relate to them: the only move the man makes is to give an ice-cream to a child. That's not much for someone who spent his whole childhood in the place. Filming on location wasn't the Nouvelle Vague's invention as too many naive people still believe today; for the record "l'Hirondelle Et La Mésange" was filmed entirely on location in...1928.
The depiction of the village wanders drastically from the precepts of the Nouvelle Vague busy being born but recalls the two Italian works mentioned above. We feel that Varda cares for them even if her two principals don't. She cares for their problems with the food hygiene people or with the coastguards'. She feels for Raphaël the young man to be jailed for five days as the gendarmes do for him. We learn he is an Inscrit Maritime (that was the name of the conscripts who lived on the seaside) and he is to do his military service: even if Varda doesn't mention it, we do know he'll have to fight in a dirty war (the Algeria war), like Antoine in "Cleo De 5 à 7".
I don't think like the precedent user that Varda's debut was her best. Actually "Cléo..." is much better. There are similarities between the two works: both Cléo and the couple move in a world they can't relate to. But the key to the 1961 effort is the fact that Cléo opens up and thanks to a soldier soon returning to fight becomes aware that people exist outside her petty world. When she takes her glasses off, what a symbol! But for the man and the woman of "La Pointe Courte" (The Short Headland) -they are only referred through this, bearing no names- they will stay with their inflated egos, their selfishness.
"They are always talking, they mustn't be happy" says a fisher's wife.
The short headland was a blind alley.
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