First time watching this in high-def… oh my.
First time watching this in high-def… oh my.
It’s Cannes Fortnight 2021! I was gonna watch this anyway, eventually, then noticed there’s a new Gaspar playing Cannes this year, so “eventually” became now. In in the mood for some cinema after taking things easy post-True/False, rounding up some recent Cannes titles I missed, and some by this year’s crop of directors.
Wonked-out closing/opening credits sequence, then the camera spirals and weaves around a courtyard, Massive Attack’s La Protection Centrale. I didn’t know what was happening for a good long time, the I Stand Alone guy philosophizing with anonymous Frenchman Albert Dupontel (a war survivor in A Very Long Engagement), but it becomes clear as the movie woozily whips us through the rest of the story in reverse order. I was gonna say it takes us from one sordid scene to another, but that’d be underselling one of the most extremely sordid films of the last twenty years. I read a piece recently, thought it was by Charles Bramesco but can’t find it now so who knows, calling Promising Young Woman a weaksauce take on the rave/revenge story, and it came to mind a few times while watching this, a decidedly strongsauced rape/revenge story, because is that such a desirable thing? Is the point to seek out the most extreme rape/revenge cinema? Ultimately, the “time destroys all things” thesis, the film title and the reverse-action gimmick framing the horrors had me appreciating this much more than, say, Revenge, though I can’t feel naughtily transgressive about liking a movie that comes highly recommended by every critic I respect.
A bunch of silliness in the first half which escalated wonderfully in the second. At the beginning Cowboy and Indian try to construct a last-minute birthday gift while Horse takes piano lessons with a cute female horse. But pretty soon they are all enslaved by snowball-prankster kung-fu scientists within a giant arctic penguin robot. Plastic toy stop-motion!
Finally coming full circle, we watched a streaming documentary about people starting a site to stream documentaries. The team’s founder is a film nut whose dad was the local grocer, but it’s not a town of film nuts and their group isn’t doing much outreach, so instead of a doc-crazy Columbia MO situation, it just seems like some outsider weirdos in a town that has no need for them. Sturdy, observational doc by Simon, who makes pretty nice movies but I’ve missed why she’s considered a master of the art. Anyway, nobody was ever hanging out on the online chat channels T/F set up for Teleported attendees, so I had to look to twitter for a sense of film-viewing community.
Manu (Grégoire Ludig of Dupieux’s Keep an Eye Out) picks up his friend Jean-Gab (David Marsais) in a stolen car to get paid to deliver a briefcase, but they sidetrack upon discovering a giant fly in the car’s trunk, then take over an old man’s camper as a training ground to teach to the fly to rob banks. After they burn down the camper attempting to cook a meal, blonde India Hair (Staying Vertical) mistakes Manu for her classmate and brings them home. “Rich girl fridge!” “Gimme that ham!” Brain-damaged Adèle Exarchopoulos rats on them, the fly eats a dog, things work out in the end. Fun and short, I will keep watching Dupieux movies forever.
Watched on Kaurismaki’s birthday, this movie suddenly taking priority after I learned that André Wilms’s character Marcel from Le Havre originated here. Not as much rock music as usual for A.K., but prime cut “Leave My Kitten Alone” plays in a major scene. My second movie this week where someone is given two opera tickets instead of cash. I don’t think the dubbed French quite works, and Sam Fuller’s French seems quite bad, but quite the droll movie.
Marcel is a drunk writer, who meets a couple other poverty-level artists including composer Kari “Polonius” Väänänen, and they become fast friends, sharing cash and a car and living spaces. The painter (Matti Pellonpää, manager of the Leningrad Cowboys) gains a benefactor in Jean-Pierre Leaud then gets deported, Marcel gets set up by publisher Fuller, women come and go but the painter’s love Mimi (Evelyne Didi, great) sticks with them until the end.
With the composer, left, in their ridiculous three-wheeled car:
Mimi with Rodolfo:
AKA Let The Devil Take Us Away
Young stranger Suzy meets blonde Camille who lives with Clara, not home yet, while the first two have a frank sex conversation one minute after meeting. This is Brisseau’s familiar apartment from Girl From Nowhere, his media collection on full display near a nice tube TV with a DVD player. Clara comes home and after their inevitable threesome, they open the door for a guy who is threatening them with a gun. This is Suzy’s ex Olivier, and Clara decides to rescue him from the cops and have sex with him until he completes his novel, living in another apartment with Tonton, an uncle who “causes hallucinations.”
Everyone opens up about their pasts and their feelings – it gets philosophical about family and relationships and sex and acting. Camille demonstrates her greenscreen photoshop art, winking within Brisseau’s homebound prosumer-grade cinema which uses the same effects for Tonton’s astral projections.
Reading my notes after the fact, it’s hard to piece the plot back together – a lot happening in 80 minutes, but it all made perfect sense at the time. Lange was working for a smalltime publisher named Batala, a scam artist and rapist. Lange just wants to write silly westerns and see them published. His dreams are working out, his stories gaining popularity, the cute Valentine is in love with him, but when Batala’s interference tries to bring it all crashing down, Lange kills him and goes on the run. Good movie, and commie film critics give it extra points for showing the publishing workers taking over production.
Lange is plain-looking René Lefèvre of Le Million. Valentine is Florelle of Lang’s not-great version of Liliom. This movie is set at a hotel where these two are crashing while fleeing for the border after the murder, most of the action shown as flashbacks as Valentine tells the story to the locals so they won’t turn Lange in. Jules Berry, who plays the villain, later costarred in Le Jour Se Leve – another film written by Jacques Prévert in which Berry is murdered and we learn the full story as the killer is hiding out in the aftermath.
Three women are into one guy – I’m not sure if he loves and leaves each one of them in series, or if he flits between each in his suicidally fast car. Pearl is a rich socialite, Athalia a rich artist, and Lucie an ordinary city girl, and he affects different personas around each: a strong tyrant type, a weaker type, and a caring type – until his reckless driving finally catches up with him.
Our dude, carefree:
I’d forgotten most of the plot by the next day, rewatching scenes now to remind myself, was just paying attention to style – Epstein bringing his great flair for composition and editing and overlapping images to the kind of melodrama he was making earlier in the decade. It feels like he wanted the climactic speed-and-death montage to go on forever.
Athalia worrying aloud to a friend:
Based on a novel by white supremacist Paul Morand, who also adapted Don Quixote for GW Pabst… Lucie appeared in Renoir’s The Sad Sack, and our main dude starred in a possibly-lost 30’s version of Judex.