Archive for Jean-Luc Godard

Partner Up

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2019 by dcairns

The final day — officially, anyhow — the Day of the Dead — of PROJECT FEAR. we have survived the efforts of our crazed cult leader to crash us out of the EU, like the Rasputin guy piloting the Siberian Express off a cliff in Sergio Martino’s HORROR EXPRESS. Instead, we’re lingering on a siding, waiting for the zombie cossacks to dismember our institutions. I did what I could.

First up, Tim Concannon turns his steely gaze — a braver man than I! — upon Val Guest’s AU PAIR GIRLS. Is this British soft-porn “romp” a European horror film? Tim argues YES. Go check it out.

(Also, you should hear his podcast. Amazingness! And a big influence on a certain other podcast.)

My friend Martin Allison wanted to contribute something but couldn’t decide what, so I sent him two random films. One was Bertolucci’s PARTNER, which I still haven’t watched but I knew that (a) it uses the Doppelganger theme, hence the uncanny is present and (b) Pierre Clémenti at one point does a Max Schreck impression. That was enough for me.

Martin’s “rant” as he called it is very interesting to me because his objections to the film are exactly those of Bertolucci himself, who felt he was too much under the Godardian influence and needed to break free from it, which was why he gave the Paris-based professor in THE CONFORMIST Godard’s phone number and then murdered the guy.

Here’s Martin:

On my first viewing I didn’t even realise this film was directed by Bertolucci, this in many ways sums up what you need to know.

To paraphrase Mr. Burns, at first glance this film feels like it was made by a bargain-basement-Godard.

The clear lifting of Godard’s visuals is very confusing. Considering how Godard’s films are so detached from emotion, character and plot – and therefore solely rely on images to relay arch themes in an obtuse way – copying this style without having a clear purpose is absurd.

Godard’s images are an attempt at embodying the platonic ideal, the image of something physical stands in for something metaphysical; an idea.

In a very strenuous and lazy summary; to Plato a bed was a representation of an idea, rather than a physical structure, therefore a painting of a bed was a representation of a representation.

What we have with Partner is an imitation of a representation of a representation.

Having a quick glance at the surprisingly high IMDB rating, it looks like any positive reviews have confused the merits of Bernardo Bertolucci with the merits of this film. The conceit shines through in any review above 5/10 saying something along the lines of “As an experiment, Partner is more of a success than a failure.” – the problem being it’s a film, not an experiment and must be judged accordingly.

The narrative (little that there is) concerns a guy who encounters a double of himself and then they have some obtuse and ponderous interactions where one stands at one end of the screen and the other stands at the other.

The film comes in a strange place in Bertolucci’s filmography – between thematically (and in many ways stylistically) similar Before the Revolution and The Conformist, which both deal with the idea of a character being seduced by an ideology, fascism to be specific.

We go from disconnected scene to scene, none of which actually slot together meaningfully.

It is curious as Bertolucci’s films before and after this one successfully work with meandering plots and non-chronological scene progression. Of course, with both of those films, there is a clear purpose to why they are structured as such – revealing information to the audience in a meaningful way, forming an arc to the films as a whole. Which can only strengthen my assumption that Godard was being ripped off, but without understanding
why his films were made that way.

A handful of his new wave films have fairly disconnected scenes, but manage to come together to form a whole (Vivre Sa Vie), whereas in Partner it feels like a lazy structural device, without any justification.

Two bizarre scenes I think worth mentioning are one in which our main character uses an artificial cobweb gun at this acting forum he appears at (there is a cool shot of cobwebs over small trees, fitting for this time of year).

And a scene in which a 60s campy euro-pop track with the word ‘Splash’ repeated over and over plays over the main character and a woman who took her bra off for some reason earlier in the film dancing around a washing machine and half-undressing, rolling around in the bubbles from the wash – before the protagonist strangles her. The problem here being I can’t tell if it’s supposed to be satire or sincere, either way it’s poorly realised, self-indulgent, confusing and embarrassing.

What bothers me about any positive reviews for the film on IMDB is that they have nothing to do with the film, as it simply isn’t very good and doesn’t work. Just because a good director was involved, it feels like there is an extra level of projection and open-mindedness granted to the film, an un-deservingly huge benefit of the doubt can be the only explanation for these ratings.

The film is loosely based on The Double by Dostoyevsky – but you wouldn’t know it.

There is an examination of the duality of man going on thematically, but it’s so on the nose I’m angered it’s been overlooked by all these apologists on IMDB, as it’s by no means subtle.

When did ‘experimental’ become a convenient way to excuse something that is bad, which just happens to have a more academic fan base?

Visually the film does have some interesting frames to offer up, as well as bright primary colour palettes similar to those found in Godard films.

A couple of scenes display enjoyable ideas – a parody of the Odessa steps from Potemkin and a scene where large piles of books move around (little carts underneath) spookily as our protagonist sits in place afraid.

I found a concise summary of this film on IMDB, as I doubt I can write one so well, read it for yourself.

From user ‘Darth-Chico’;
“Exuberance carries this film half way, after that it degenerates into an exercise in employing old art film clichés. Though he bases his movie on the Dostoyevsky story ‘The Double‘, Bertolucci apparently has no message, and no original way to present it. By the end this movie has dragged you through a tedium of stupidity and indulgence. This is the kind of
film that gives art movies a bad name. 4/10 “

A Mess o’ Flowers

Posted in FILM, MUSIC with tags , , , , , , on March 13, 2018 by dcairns

Was talking to my first year students about editing. Showed them a robbery scene from BONNIE AND CLYDE. Probably didn’t say as much as I could’ve, but the clip was well received, and the first question, from two separate sources at once, was “What’s the name of that film again?” because they immediately wanted to SEE the whole thing.

Which has to be good. And if you’re shocked that they didn’t already know it, remember they’re young, they haven’t had the chance to see everything.

(If you want to get angry at anyone, the BBC and Channel 4 would be suitable targets for their willfully falling down on the job of introducing their audience to great cinema.)

I introduced the film’s stars with their names and the words “And the Oscar goes to…” because that is likely to remain the principal recognition factor for those actors for a little while, but they WILL live it down…

Why this scene? Well, Dede Allen’s cutting of the robbery itself is masterful, with the tautness of each movement, the sparse soundtrack a series of steps and clicks and thuds with dead air between, creating a sense of a tense but very METHODICAL operation being undertaken.

(Gene Hackman was recognised as someone who was grumpy to Wes Anderson.)

And then the car chase — the music being an existing recording rather than a specially made score, simply dropped into place and cut in and out of as required. The fast-and-loose continuity, designed to get a sense of life and jeopardy and velocity into the ponderous movements of aged vehicles. I didn’t have to point out the moment when one camera operator jerks sideways as a jalopy gets a little TOO close for comfort (Objects in Wide Angle Lens May Be Closer Than They Appear).

And the recklessly bold interruption of the chase with cutaways to the bank where witnesses are being interviewed by the papers: sudden silent static shots interrupting the flow of the chase with TOTAL RUDENESS, bringing things to a momentary standstill, seemingly slamming the brakes on every aspect of the tone and pace the sequence is otherwise trying to achieve. And yet, it’s absolutely right. Because the filmmakers have decided, for the sake of the story, that robbing banks is exciting and fun. And the bank scenes are hilarious.

“There I wuz, staring into the face of DEATH.”

“All I can say is, they did right by me, an’ I’m bringin’ me a mess o’ flowers to their funeral.”

By the second interruption, it’s no longer an interruption but part of the peculiar rhythm of the piece, which behaves like a game of musical chairs. The brutal treatment of the music is probably the main survival of the early notion of Jean-Luc Godard directing the picture.

Jamais

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 22, 2016 by dcairns

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I think I’d seen MAUVAIS SANG (ridiculously translated as THE NIGHT IS YOUNG) in around ’88, but maybe I only saw bits, on TV. At that time I thought Beineix was cool and I found Carax annoying. Now, though Carax is perhaps a bit precious at times, I regard my late-teenage affection for BETTY BLUE and DIVA as mostly youthful folly, and Carax seems like the true filmmaker.

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What’s black and white and red all over? This film, though it also has grey, and blue (so it can do Godardian tricolor shots) and the hero’s jacket is a sort of leather harlequin thing with a lot of yellow, a colour that appears otherwise only on the ubiquitous yellow cigarettes the cast smoke. Those yellow cigarettes, and the film’s fictional STD and sinister big pharma company (“Darley-Wilkinson” — always say the name twice, ominously — and those initials recall Griffith, from whose vaults Carax is stealing a disease called cinema) show Carax’s interest in world-building — a few little clues tell us that we’re at a slight remove from our usual reality. I suspect Carax of being inspired by REPO MAN.

The only movie flat-out quoted with a clip is the Pathe-Natan production LA PETITE LISE, seen on a TV set, and referenced in dialogue whenever the young Denis Lavant speaks of Julie Delpy’s character (“Ma petite Lise”). LA PETITE LISE, by the way, is the most important earl sound film that few of you will have seen. Like that film’s hulking hero, Lavant is newly released from prison but his freedom is to be short-lived…

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Lavant is so young! Bizarre and compelling and strangely beautiful, except when he smiles, terrifyingly, a lipless lesion crammed with crockery abruptly splitting his porous deadpan. He looks like if Lee Marvin had a monkey.

Fiona had been utterly charmed by Michel Piccoli in DIABOLIK. “Inspector Ginko is so NICE! He’s the nicest man in this whole film festival.” I don’t know if he’s that nice, but Piccoli plays him that way. He’s back here, older and heavier (Carax cruelly makes his aging crooks play lots of scenes shirtless. Crime seems very very homosocial, to say the least, despite the presence of Juliette Binoche.

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Binoche is already slightly annoying. But also sweet and gamine and surprising and stunningly photographed.

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The film is so fey — and it’s probably forty minutes too long — its B-movie antecedents moved their crime stories forward along with their romances, whereas this one drops the heist for huge stretches. I wish Carax was just 1% more into plot, or brought a friend along who was. But the charming bits are charming indeed, and the visuals beautiful, and Carax’s use of music, which somehow frustrated me as a kid (he cuts it off dead sometimes, like JLG) now seems generous and ecstatic.

EIFF is showing a season of Cinema du Look classics — LES AMANTS DU PONT-NEUF tomorrow!