Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (2013) ***

NR, 115 min.
Director: Alain Resnais
Writers: Alain Resnais, Laurent Herbiert, Jean Anouilh (plays “Eurydice” and “Cher Antoine ou l’amour raté”)
Starring: Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azéma, Anne Consigny, Lambert Wilson, Mathieu Amalric, Hippolyte Girardot, Anny Duperey, Michel Piccoli, Michel Vuillermoz, Denis Podalydés, Andrrzej Seweryn, Vimala Pons, Jean-Noël Bruté, Gérard Lartigau, Michel Robin, Jean-Chrétien Sibertin-Blanc

A story that was lost this past weekend between the Spirit Awards, the Raspberries, the Oscars, and John Travolta’s mispronunciations was the death of one of French cinema’s great masters. Alain Resnais passed away Saturday, March 1. He was 91.

Resnais was a fringe member of the French New Wave Cinema that influenced film toward more realistic representation of the human condition and narrative ambiguity through more radical filming techniques. Resnais tended to lean more toward left-wing politics in his films than the fairly non-political New Wave artists. He came to prominence with his documentary on the Nazi concentration camps, “Night and Fog” (1955); and is best known for his early films “Hiroshima mon amour” (1959), “Last Year at Marienbad” (1961), and “Muriel” (1963).

His most recent film released in the U.S. was “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”, an unusual adaptation of the Jean Anouilh play “Eurydice” that sees past cast members of the play gathered together after the death of its fictional author to watch a new version of the play performed by an avant garde theatre group. In watching the film the previous casts begin to relive the play again in their own performance, enhanced by CGI locations. It’s a very unusual film that will probably only appeal to actors and frequent patrons of theatre. The themes deal heavily with love, aging, death, betrayal and loss. I particularly liked the way the themes of the play wind themselves throughout all levels of the false realities built up by Resnais.

Resnais completed one more film before his death, which will likely see a U.S. release this year. His passing is part of the harsh reality that a generation of filmmaking greats is coming to the end of their lives. Hopefully, their contributions won’t be forgotten by a new generation of filmgoers who only demand that their films be filled with explosions and special effects without any glimpse into the human soul. That is what interested the French greats, the human soul. Without that, film has no soul.

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