La Pointe Courte (1956, Agnes Varda) plus shorts

“They talk too much to be happy.”

Descriptions of this film focus on the blank-faced young married couple in crisis, visiting the fishing town where he grew up, debating whether they should stay together. But the couple seems to appear in about one third of the movie. The rest is about the town itself and its residents – daily fishing, problems with the law and health board, a teenage couple who want to start dating, a jousting competition in the river. Since most of the movie defies plot summary, the married couple gets more attention than they maybe deserve.

He says something like “you change your mind so much, I’m always a day or two behind.” And I’m so glad I never finished watching this with Katy (she made it about 20 minutes in), because most of their conversation is about their failing relationship, whether or not they’re in love and should break up. Katy will take this personally and think I’m trying to ask these questions indirectly myself. Also any movie containing any sadness makes her sad. Best to stick with Hello, Dolly!

Resnais-style camera moves (he was the film’s editor – the same year he made Toute la memoire du monde), some highly posed, French-poetic shots of the couple, which are all the more arresting against the reality of the small fishing village. But Varda doesn’t shoot it like reality. The sea, the clotheslines and nets, the shacks and neighborhood cats all look like an expensive set, arranged for the pleasure of her camera. An unbelievably accomplished debut.

Of the two actors, Silvia Monfort was in a couple movies with Jean Gabin, also a Robert Bresson movie I’ve never heard of, and Philippe Noiret was the uncle of Zazie dans le metro, also in Topaz and Coup de Torchon.

Ydessa, The Bears, and etc. (2004)

I like documentaries with twist endings. There’s a shocker at the end of artist Ydessa’s gallery display of thousands of framed photographs of people holding teddy bears: a bare-walled third room containing only a mannequin of Hitler, kneeling as if in prayer. Ydessa’s parents were holocaust survivors, and some of their family members didn’t survive – the exhibit is dedicated to them. I didn’t warm up to Ydessa very much, but I like the layout of her exhibit, the photos themselves and the film.

Nice Varda-esque touch: Ydessa says she’s created a fiction that looks like documentary: that everybody is happy and has a teddy bear. “Reality and fiction – I’m somewhere in between.” And of course in her montage of photos from the exhibit, Varda sneaks in a photo of herself as a child.

7 P., cuis., b… (1984)

I think the title is real-estate shorthand for “seven bedrooms, kitchen and bath.” Shot in a former hospice during an exhibition created by Louis Bec, who played the older father. So I’m not sure which of the visual ideas came from Bec and which from Varda, but it’s a remarkable little film. Unseen realtor is showing this property to unseen doctor, the doctor moves in, starts a (large) family which grows up fast. They go through a couple maids and their oldest daughter gets a boyfriend and rebels against her father. Older yet, and the father has died. The rooms go from bare to slightly dressed to crazy – the bathroom totally covered in feathers at one point. Characters speak through each other, repeating phrases like in Marienbad.

Yolande Moreau, who’d play a chef in Micmacs:

You’ve Got Beautiful Stairs, You Know (1986)

A celebration of the Cinematheque and its front steps, intercutting with famous film scenes set upon steps. Some semi-re-enactments – I liked the buggy tossed down the steps, Potemkin-style, and the mildly concerned man at the bottom who leaned over to check that nobody was inside.