Thursday, July 15, 2010

Two Waving

Think about this for a moment; Way back in 1961 "L'année dernière à Marienbad" by Alain Resnais and "Paris nous appartient" by Jacques Rivette were released. The Nouvelle Vague had just leapt onto the world stage and Hollywood was beginning to wane a bit as many filmmakers and movements were about to burst forth in what would be the most creative decade in world cinema since the 1930's.

But for the sake of this post consider the fact that there is little doubt that no one was thinking that almost 50 years later in 2009-2010 both Resnais and Rivette would still be making films and giving cinephiles everywhere something to delight in for a couple of hours.

The world of cinema is a very different one than it was in 1961 - but it's reassuring to know that Resnais and Rivette still make the films they want to make with little or no interference from producers, studios or the marketplace. They have pretty much set their own pace and the world has had to conform around them.

So what about the new films?

Les herbes folles [Wild Grass] by Resnais is a rather dramatic and surreal tale about the power and mystery of love and 36 vues du Pic Saint Loup [Around a Small Mountain] by Rivette is a tale about a woman's reluctant entrance back into the world of the circus with the help of a man she doesn't know. Both are not what I would call masterworks but they have elements that only masters could really attain. Rivette's pacing is tremendously sure and Resnais has a way of turning a film from drama to comedy to surreality in the matter of one agile scene.

Rivette, as he usually does, plays with the conventions of a fictional proscenium as an allegory to the real world ultimately leaving us satisfied and reflective while Resnais plays with narrative structure never really defining the story or the character motivations and leaving us even more puzzled [but exhilarated] by the end.

Both films are unconventional love stories featuring older [40 and up] characters who are trying to reconcile their past so they can get on with their lives. Both deal with men who show up in a confused woman's life but then the tables reverse as the women, though independent, find they need the men in their lives at this particular point. And the men then find they need to make some sort of commitment in order to free the women.

Stylistically the films are very different. Resnais eschews his recent theatrical staged films for a lot of swooping camera movement [by DP Eric Gautier] and color while Rivette keeps it more laid back and simple with scenes that frame their characters outdoors [with a mountain in the background] or in dark tent of the circus.

Both films are recommended and welcome.

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