Saturday, 29 May 2010

Femme et Fatale vont en bateau

It might be partly provocation on my part, but what Femme Fatale reminds me of most, is the explorations of Rivette's house: when is a fiction a construction? Is a fiction a construction, or is it a destruction, an unravelling of something that exists? Is vision understanding? There's something about (the idea of, since it happens off-screen) Antonio Banderas rushing down to help a beautiful woman he doesn't know get up that reminds me of one post-68 girl running after another on a huge parisian flight of stairs.
Haven't seen Sliding Doors, but I strongly doubt I would find it half as enjoyable as Femme Fatale. From what I've understood of SD, it's fate that creates the opportunity for choice. In Femme Fatale, choice is always there. It's the consequences that create fate. Which is why Brian DePalma is still miles away from Inarritu's world of coincidence: the ending comes ambiguously close, but it's free choice that dominates.
And this is probably the best heist scene of the 2000s (the other one I can think of, Inside Man, is made into a whole film, which is kind of cheating).

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Epics and Lists

One figure of style that seems to have gone out of fashion is the list. It survives in cinema only as the most conventional montage of, say, images of a city (children and pigeons in the park, people walking in the street, to show us all the lives that will be lost in Rock, for example; or a montage of images of the loved one, now dead; stuff like that), that functions not on the principle of heroic accumulation, but of signifying what they represent (so that in fact, in all those cases, one image should be enough).
But think back to most of the great epic poems, Homer, Virgil, or even other literary models (Shakespeare, Dante, Farid Ud-Dinn Attar, the Ramayana), and they are teeming with lists, lists of enemies killed, or valiant heroes, or extraordinary deeds... They function on a dynamic principle that all elements gain a critical mass from being together, complement each other to a certain degree (it is not enough for the wise hero to be included, if the brave hero, strong hero, cunning hero, good-spirited hero... are not as well).
I was reminded of these moments as I watched the scene in Go-Go Tales in which Ray introduces all the girls to his (almost non-existent) audience: here is a list in all its purity, a rattling of names, an accumulation of bodies that ends up embodying not the abstract idea of "the strip club", but the reality of its community, with its inner tensions (the dancer who refuses to dance, the one who asks for money) and its outer pizazz. Abel Ferrara does something quite amazing: he lists parts to show that the image they call up is more than the sum of them (if that's not dialectical film-making...).

And footnote: Brad Stevens is tremendously helpful in linking this to Le Crime de Monsieur Lange.