The Pornographer (2001, Bertrand Bonello)

Melancholy character drama about a washed-up pornographer. Technically speaking it’s a very nice movie, though it would help if I knew or cared what the story was about.

Pornographer and subject:

Jean-Pierre Leaud is the title character Jacques, having a rough patch with his career, his woman (Dominique Blanc of Belvaux’s Trilogy) and his son (Jeremie Renier, star of L’enfant), who is in love with Alice Houri (star of Nenette and Boni). At the beginning a narrator sums up Jacques’s career, telling us he never completed his final film The Animal in 1984 (the outline of which reminds me of Borowczyk’s nude-girl hunt The Beast). But the movie isn’t set in ’84, so I’m thinking it’s about Jacques trying (failing) to come out of retirement, with his producer (Andre Marcon, Roland in Up, Down, Fragile) taking over in the middle of his comeback shoot, leaving Jacques jobless and lost again. Ends with Jacques giving an interview to Catherine Mouchet (star of Alain Cavalier’s Therese).

Twin Peaks reference: girl dancing backwards with red curtains

M. Sicinski:

If The Pornographer has one major flaw, it’s that Bonello invests too much stock in Jacques’s integrity as an artist. Although the film is fairly clear-eyed about the kitsch factor within his most sincere ideas … The Pornographer is still indebted to certain romanticist pieties regarding art vs. commerce.

J. Renier:

The Guardian:

Essentially, the film is about the brutalisation of feeling. Leaud’s performance, a study in weary hope over experience, is as expressive as anything he has done in years. His director isn’t exactly an admirable man, but according to Bonello, whose criticism of French society is scathing, the world is worse than he is.

The Adventures of James and David (2002, Bertrand Bonello)

I still don’t think I have a good sense of Bonello’s style after watching The Pornographer and this silly short about two brothers (played by two brothers). David is a hairdresser who just opened his own place, and James is a DJ in a “Canadian electronica collective” (LOL 2002). They must not have been close, since James barely realizes his brother has financed, remodeled and opened an entire salon. Anyway, David gives James a terrible haircut (worse than the one in Cosmopolis) and that’s the joke, then it says “end of episode one,” and I don’t think there were any more episodes.

Cindy, The Doll Is Mine (2005, Bertrand Bonello)

Photographer (not pornographer) and subject, both played by Asia Argento (I didn’t realize this until the credits). Subject is told to try different poses, patient photographer only shoots when ready, finally asks if subject can cry, “because I think it would move me.” After a snack break, subject puts on a Blonde Redhead track, and manages to cry, which manages to move the photographer. All told, I liked this better than the previous two Bonellos.

Asia 1:

Asia 2: