I used to think there wasn't anything more disheartening than the conversation about film in which the person you're talking to says that they don't watch subtitled films because they find the words distracting and they spend most of the time looking at them. 'But what about all the great films your missing' I shout at them 'You're willing to watch any old shit just because its in English?' That's what I used to think until I saw this pseudo-intellectual wankfest, an example of a poster that's better than the movie. The reputation of this film is based on one detail. Bridget Bardot's arse. She spends much of the film naked and we get to see it a hell of a lot. And in technicolour. It's the first thing we see at the start of the thing, along with the rest of her nakedness, and it's there all along against fabulous back drops. Which would be fine and a perfectly good way to spend ninety minutes depending on your mood. It's a pity you're distracted all the time by the plotless, joyless machinations of everyone else involved.
Apart from the fact that the film within a film of Homer's The Odessey looks like a less likely prospect than Jim Belushi in K-9000 at the box office (do we really need to see so many statues in makeup?), was it at all necessary to make so many scenes massively long by having the dialogue translated between the French and English characters by someone who is actually there. It's a stylistic choice and it might have worked in France, but for the international market, it means we hear the dialogue in French, read what it says in the subtitles then hear it again in English. For minutes on end. I have no idea what they talked about for this very reason. It's the kind of film in which people make pronouncements and look intense and have issues about the nature of their being and humanity. But for some reason it feels as profound as deciding not to clip your toe nails on a Sunday because it might be bad luck.
Fritz Lang plays himself, its rumoured because he was hard up and need the money. His appearance doesn't feel as prestigious when you know that. And if you wanted to punch leary John Voight in Anaconda for a poor performance under no pressure, just see Jack Palance here making a pass at Bardot. He reminded me a lot of someone I went to school with who used the chat up line 'We'll dance and then I take you into the corner and kiss you.' It worked for him, and for some reason Bardot leaves with leatherface at the end even though they share no language. I've a theory about Palance. At some point in his early forties he woke up one morning looking like he did in City Slickers, up until then he was young as he is here. I've never seen him in some missing link between stage.
Film students will probably notice the similarities with Jean-Luc Godard's good film, Breathless (A Bout De Soufle) in that the middle half hour consists of a couple hanging around an apartment insulting each other and getting in the way. But whereas in that film, Godard was playing about with time and editing and lalalala, here real human emotions go out of the window as Bardot mopes about and her boyfriend sits in a bath in a hat smoking a cigar. I can't imagine how tedious this section was to watch in the cinema, although on tv its like seeing the last half hour of Big Brother Live in French without the ability to vote anyone off.
< spoiler>> The ending of the film is exactly the kind of thing which gives art house a bad name. Having gone through all this nonsense to do with the boyfriend not being able to get his head around accepting money for doing actual work on the screenplay, Bardot buggers off with Palance one of the world's worst drivers, who manages to get them both killed in a road traffic accident between two lorries. Cut to the boyfriend, fully aware of the deaths but not seeming to care either way. It's the kind of moment which happens in films like this as a way of saying something profound about the fragility of human life. But its actually elitist shite designed to make the viewer feel either thick or in the target audience's case self-satisfied because they think they understand what its all about. Idiots.< spoiler>>>>
This dismantling of narrative was considered not only artistically but politically subversive. Screen theory recognised no difference between illusion in art and in life. Positing cinema as one of Althusser's 'ideological state apparatuses', it equated cinematic illusion with the dominant ideology, and offered a sweeping critique of cinematic forms it held accountable for that ideology because conducive to that illusion. Aiming to politicise art, such theory assumed that its anti-aesthetic posture was the same thing as a political position, and so, in its negative way, it wound up aestheticising politics. Its proponents invoked Brecht as a model for political Modernism, but neither his theory nor his practice accorded with their notions. Brecht never thought that Modernist distancing or deconstruction would be enough to make art political, and his 'epic' theatre was very much a storytelling theatre. Politics entails action, and the representation of action in art calls for narrative of some kind.
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