Sunday, August 15, 2010

Moon Gutter

Moon in the Gutter is a film I have wanted to see since I first read about it in the winter 1989/90 issue of Sight & Sound magazine. Despite the fact that it was a monumental failure and one that had apparently sunk the French company Gaumont I was intrigued enough to seek it out. How could one not be? But I could never find it on VHS and it didn't seem to come around even to the many venues in Los Angeles.

But just recently it was released on DVD by Cinema Libre.

Starring GĂ©rard Depardieu, Nastassja Kinski, Victoria Abril and Dominique Pinon the film is about a dock worker named Gerard (Depardieu) who becomes obsessed with finding the man who killed his younger sister. Hitting an emotional snag in his life he falls for a photographer (Kinski) and attempts to leave his girlfriend (Abril) and the dingy docks where he lives and works. But that proves impossible.

The film succeeds mostly in the production design and cinematography departments. The sets are big and colorful and even though they feel like set pieces each scene has just the right aesthetic - at once claustrophobic and wide open. The DP was Philippe Rousselot who employs beautiful tracking shots and an almost too glossy look to what is otherwise a dark setting.

To be sure, Moon in the Gutter can only really be judged by the criticisms stacked against it. And after now viewing it I can see why the critics were disappointed. Coming off of the success of Diva Beineix was expected to be the next big French director. And as critics are wont to do they sunk their teeth into an artist whom they had previously placed on a pedestal. Adding insult to injury Gaumont trashed the extra footage negatives thus making it impossible for Beineix to ever create a definitive version like he did for Betty Blue.

The film is a tad long and considering Beineix's original length was around 4 or 5 hours I can't imagine the film being better or even more fleshed out. I can only imagine more beautiful shots and perhaps more intrigue. If anything there is a lesson here about studios giving a director too big a budget and a director who thought he could fulfill the promise of that budget.

Moon in the Gutter
is a film worth seeing but an asterisk will always hang above it.

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