In part one there is talk of a project on the subject of love, with the example of three couples, one young, one mature and the other elderly. At this point the author comes into contact with a young woman he had already met three years earlier. Just as the project is about to become reality, all problems of an artistic or financial nature having been resolved, the author learns that the young woman has died. Part two concerns the events of three years earlier. While interviewing an historian, the future author meets for the first time the young woman, who is training as a lawyer. She has been asked by her own grandparents, formerly of the French resistance, to examine a contract offered to them by Americans who want to make a film about their activities during the Nazi occupation of France.Written by
History. Hollywood and Americans (but which Americans? The ones without history who buy others' images, the ones between Mexico and Canada). Adulthood (which doesn't exist). Resistance and WWII. Cinema. Spielberg, Schindler. Balzac (but briefly). Simone Weil. The Matrix (dubbed into Breton, please!). The English. Nude scenes in films. Grandparents. The past, self and memory. What could be finer than a JLG romp through the modern world? It starts with B&W stock and ends in saturated video and imposed montage. It has texts, quotations, historical anecdotes, book covers; and hence is in itself eminently quotable. There can be no resistance without memory or universalism. Isn't it strange how history has been replaced by technology? But why politics by gospel? The Church is in step with time. The truth may turn out to be sad. Every thought should recall the debris of a smile.
Vaguely didactic, this film left me slightly worried about JLG's intensity as an artist of ideas. There's signs of the onset of scattered carelessness, of not being bothered with the unity or expressive power of ideas. And unity is what JLG's extraordinarily broad canvas has always been about. It's still hallmark JLG no other director can get away with such a bold and direct transcription of ideas onto film. I was channel surfing of an evening and came across spare B&W dialogues about artists and projects and literature. I thought, This could only be by a New Wave director. There's the standard multiplicity, or what I like to call the trialogue of his style: dissociated, cut-up or multileveled/multilingual dialogue layered onto diverse semantic images, sometimes doubled images or of varied media, mixed with natural sound, musical refrains, interjections. Text, sound, image usually concordant, sometimes broadly dissonant and multivalent, sometimes silent. But always thinking, writing, philosophizing. A poetry of three media; a tricolour meditation. And, as always, things, ideas and events shift subtly in meaning in the JLG cinema, in the space of thought, the crossed trialogue, the unreality of the mind a train deliberately honking past an ambling reader is somehow neither intrusive nor uncontrolled; there's a sense of pre-ironic structuralism maybe (from studies in ethnology), of images stripped of semantics and signs, to toss jargon in a way unfair to a film decidedly a-theoretical. But when a character turns and says, When did the gaze collapse? and the dialogue becomes one about TV's precedence over life (I feel our gaze has become a program under control. Subsidised. The image, Sir, alone capable of denying nothingness, is also the gaze of nothingness on us. (I hope not, says another)), then you're in very close and delicate (as narrative) thought space. Something close to mere ideas, or ideas only, stripped of coherent context. There's also a background insinuation of deeper melancholy or near futility; of the difficulty of making a difference through signs and words, of fatigue or exhaustion with the world and ideas; as though JLG no longer wills the poetry from the image or desires its latent mystery. Whether or not this functions as a critical element of the film re: modern media, I dunno. The worry lies in resultant projects that are mere thought files set to image and music.
The film seems to be stitched together with quotes. Let feelings bring about events, not the contrary. Be sure to exhaust what can be communicated by stillness and silence. (Bresson) What bothers me is not success or failure. It's the reams and reams written about it... Why bother saying or writing that Titanic is a global success? Talk about its contents. Talk about things. But don't talk around things. Let's talk on the basis of things... They're confusing life with existence, treating life like a whore which they can use to improve their existence. The extraordinary to improve the ordinary. One can enjoy existence, but not life...
All in all, I can't say this is satisfying cinema like Two or Three Things I know About Her or Masculin, féminin, and there's almost zero performance quality in this just bland faces reading (not acting) mildly philosophical lines (these characters are not even objects, let alone subjects). Neither has it the shouted intensity and layered brain work of Hélas Pour Moi. Eloge is not a plot less anti-story but something nearly a-storical that retains elements of meta narrative (disquisitions on tragedy etc). A lack of emotional integration or joyous inwardness, offset by tired, late-night images reaching for poetry and finding very little (the most suggestive scenes were the empty train sheds). And not as much sharp humour as could be: the Americans get the occasional barb, but they're mild, easy stings. Not a consistently questioning essay nor an intensely located setting for ideas and disquisition, nor an acting out thereof, this is largely a struggle to define the late arrival and realisation of History in terms that are opposed to cinema and culture (the yanks with their contracts and fat thoughtless dollars, the exploitation of historical verité, the End of Cinema etc). Sporadic without rambling, unreal whilst actuating thought (the intrepid manufacture of ideas), I yearned for the guerrilla-intensity of hardcore JLG. He's still one of the primary artistic models, and I love his head space, but...
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