A disturbed actress seduces a photographer; they begin an affair. As her mental and physical health deteriorates, important questions are raised on love, caring, relationships, responsibility and moral choice, reaching the inevitable climax.
Philippe Garrel and Laura Smet prepared for a year before the shooting of the film. See more »
Bleak and beautiful
If you notice, the two negative reviews for this film are complaining that it's in black & white. If you entertain that sort of criticism for even 2 seconds, then do not bother with this film, or anything by Bela Tarr, Orson Welles, Kurosawa, Godard or any of the other masters known for their bold use of monochrome. If, on the other hand you realize that b&w is an artistic choice that not only sets a particular mood but allows for striking visuals not possible with color (such as, just to name 1 example, the Wellesian "Citizen Kane" trick of having different actors at different distances from the camera yet equally in focus, but with a certain 2-dimensional b&w flatness to the scene that challenges the eye like an MC Escher drawing), then strap yourself in for a great experience.
Visuals aside, this film impressed me for the sheer fact that it's an artsy film that doesn't get bogged down in its own artsiness. Yes, it definitely has an unconventional style with a laconic, brooding presentation often associated with a maligned subset of artsy films known as "artsy-fartsy", but this film never gets so abstract that you lose sight of the presentation. It has a very interesting story that keeps the film's momentum rolling even though the pace is heavy. Imagine taking the story of a fast paced Hollywood thriller but telling it with poetry and room to breathe, as well as suspense. Just when you think this film has said all it has to say, something completely unexpected happens to ignite your imagination.
With that in mind, I'll say very little about the plot since this film is best experienced as it unfolds, one surprise at a time. All I'll say is that it is a story of love affairs, but not in any way you've seen. The trailer makes it look like a simple love-triangle type drama, but that couldn't be further from the truth. This is a deep, psychological look at love and madness. And it is the latter half (madness) that makes for some very surprising and thrilling plot elements.
Some reviewers & critics have compared this movie (both favorably & unfavorably) to the works of cinema master Jean Cocteau ("Beauty and the Beast", "Orpheus", etc). That's a fair comparison, and if you like Jean Cocteau's visual inventiveness and minimalistic special effects (which, to me, stand the test of time far better than anything Lucasfilm ever put out), then you're in for a treat in the 2nd half.
I would also compare the style (again) to Orson Welles and his films like "Macbeth" and "The Trial" where the camera is not always focused on a predictable target, like the person who's talking, but instead it focuses on some other character. Or conversely, the camera may remain so tightly on the person who's talking that we wonder how the other people may be reacting (angry? sad? compassionate? apathetic?). This was a masterful way of adding suspense and tension. Excellent acting makes those closeup shots absolutely haunting.
I should also add that the soundtrack is perfect. Simple yet chilling violin/piano pieces, used sparsely, add tremendous character to the story. Most of the film, however, is without music, often giving it the tight feel of a stage play.
I went into this film expecting to hate it for some reason. Maybe its less-than-inspiring DVD cover and inaccurate IMDb plot synopsis (somebody fix that!) made me think it would be an indulgent, voyeuristic spectacle about a bunch of jaded automatons who can't figure out their love life. But instead it turned out to be an extremely complex, mind-bending mystery that kept me riveted up until its memorable last image.
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