Sublime: Evolution

Evolution (2015)
Directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic
Written by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Alante Kavaite, Geoff Cox
Produced by Nicolas Villarejo Farkas, Ángeles Hernández, David Matamoros, Julien Naveau, Sylvie Pialat, Benoit Quainon, Sebastián Álvarez, John Engel, Genevieve Lemal
Starring Max Brebant, Roxane Duran, Julie-Marie Parmentier, Marta Blanc, Mathieu Goldfeld, Nissim Renard
Distant from lush forests where the little ladies of Innocence were secluded, Hadzihalilovic’s eerily, elegantly elliptic second feature probes the seaboard secrets of an austere, insular village. Similarly severe women domiciled there with young boys in their care feed a vermicious stew and administer an inky medicine to their charges, who are subjected to strange experiments in a dank, nearby hospital where they’re eventually committed. One peculiarly inquisitive tad (Brebant) among them discovers another boy’s corpse in the reef of his island’s bight, then witnesses the surrogate mothers’ bizarre, nightly, coastal congress, realizing too late the danger his keepers pose. For its economy, dialogue is essentially effective from the mouths of the directress’s naturalistically convincing cast, and she wisely paces this quiet nightmare elicited from a juvenile trepidity with exquisite deliberation, introducing her setting’s seascapes and landscapes in panoramas, then focusing on swimming and swaying benthos, tenebrious revelations and subtly suggestive gestures that communicate perhaps more than any conversation. As in her debut, water’s here a literally and metaphorically transitional medium, almost so ubiquitous in the umbratile hospital where our protagonist is befriended by a sympathetic nurse (Duran) as on the strand where weltering breakers underscore with Jesús Díaz’s and Zacarías M. de la Riva’s perturbing, poignant music portent and peril. Hadzihalilovic’s superbly stygian, spartan fantasy proposes a societal and interspecific parasitism, and that mercy may not be exclusive to humanity.

Sublime: Destiny

Destiny (1921)
Directed by Fritz Lang
Written by Fritz Lang, Thea von Harbou
Produced by Erich Pommer
Starring Lil Dagover, Bernhard Goetzke, Walter Janssen, Eduard von Winterstein, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Paul Biensfeldt, Károly Huszár, Hans Sternberg, Karl Rückert, Erika Unruh
Upon his visitation in a pastoral town, stern, somber Death (Goetzke) pays handsomely to lease a parcel alongside a cemetery that’s been designated for its graveyard’s expansion, where he erects a sepulchral stronghold inaccessible to all save a doughty, doleful damsel (Dagover) whose young fiancé (Janssen) he’s consigned to the hereafter, and for whose restoration she obtests. So moved is the Grim Reaper by her impassioned impetration that he challenges her for a chance at her wish: incarnated as treble doxies of as many men soon to meet their end, they may be reunited if she can rescue but one of them. In a Persian city of strident muadhdhins, whirling dervishes and veiled beauties, the sister (Dagover) of a cruel caliph (Winterstein) struggles to rescue her secret lover, a Frank (Janssen) pursued by authorities after daring to visit her in a mosque during Ramadan. Lusty, conspirative Venice is the backdrop of a tragedy whereby a corrupt councilman (Klein-Rogge) designs to dispatch during Carnival the sweetheart (Janssen) of a noblewoman (Dagover) to whom he’s hatefully engaged. Finally, Dagover and Janssen are enamored assistants to a preeminent magus (Biensfeldt) who’s commissioned to entertain China’s tyrannical Emperor (Huszár) on the occasion of his birthday in exchange for his life; when the despot claims her and imprisons her man, she may need more than magic to save them both. For its innovatory set design, Orientalist and Italian charms, dated yet vivid special effects and Lang’s captivating composition, his fatalist, fabular fantasy is nearly as impressive as it was a century ago. Moreover, its presentation of morbid theurgy is among the medium’s first and best, serving to influence many posterior. Creating her woebegone, mettlesome maiden in broadly histrionical strokes, Dagover inhabits another of many sacrificial heroines prevailing in Weimar cinema, and Goetzke’s implacably forbidding as a solemn foil to her often hysterical fervor. Exciting, funny, touching, poetic and rich with symbolic auspices, Lang’s centennial classic evokes a bittersweet poignance reliant on the verity of its burden: ever salvational, love may endure a quietus that it can never defeat.

Recommended for a double feature paired with The Seventh Seal.

Sublime: The Romance of Astrea and Celadon

The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (2007)
Directed by Éric Rohmer
Written by Honoré d’Urfé, Éric Rohmer
Produced by Françoise Etchegaray, Philippe Liégeois, Jean-Michel Rey, Valerio De Paolis, Enrique González Macho, Serge Hayat
Starring Andy Gillet, Stéphanie Crayencour, Cécile Cassel, Serge Renko, Véronique Reymond, Jocelyn Quivrin, Mathilde Mosnier, Rodolphe Pauly, Rosette, Arthur Dupont, Priscilla Galland

“Where love is, no disguise can hide it for long; where it is not, none can simulate it.”

–La Rochefoucauld, Maxims

Love rends, mends and fortifies impassioned, shepherding Foréziens of the 5th century for folly and affection in this charming condensation of d’Urfé’s classic, colossal comedy, L’Astrée. Dupery by one flirt (Dupont) incident to the fierce fancy of another (Galland) stings a jaundiced shepherdess (Crayencour) to jilt her highborn paramour (Gillet), who in rash heartbreak attempts to drown himself in the Lignon. A trio of nymphs discover him ashore downriver, then in their castle quarter and nurse to health the sheepherder with whom their doyenne (Reymond) finds herself unreciprocally enamored. Her fellow noblewoman (Cassel) frees the herdsman from immurement, then with her druidic uncle (Renko) heartens and edifies him before a Mistletoe Festival, where the adoring drovers may be reunited by an eccentrically epicene ruse. Rohmer’s casual, conversational, implicitly Christian manner is perfectly suited to the marquis de Valromey’s novel, from which all save a few of many parabolic excursus are here excised. Those judiciously retained vividly illustrate values of the seventeenth century transposed by its comte de Châteauneuf to the fifth: a dispute between our lovelorn protagonist’s stalwartly monogamous brother (Quivrin) and a ludic, licentious troubadour (Pauly) pits an amative argument for fidelity against hedonistic casuistry in promotion of polyamory; at a sanctified grove, Renko’s delphic druid skews from physiolatry to certify a monotheism for Teutates by relegating lesser gods as mere physitheistic personifications of virtues, and posits a consubstantial divinity that prefigures Christianity’s Holy Trinity. Two of the director’s perpetual performers won’t be overlooked by fans among his lovably lovely leads and their photogenic co-stars: one in three nymphs is Rosette, while Marie Rivière can be glimpsed as the reveling mother of Gillet’s straying swain. Late in life and art, Rohmer couldn’t have abridged a better story to example his final insistence that love’s as much fated as physical, or spiritual as sensual.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Love in the Afternoon or The Marquise of O.

Sublime: Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation

Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation (2012)
Written, produced and directed by Stefan Haupt
Starring Jordi Bonet i Armengol, Etsuro Sotoo, Jaume Torreguitart, Joan Rigol, Josep Maria Subirachs i Sitjar, Mark Burry, Joan Vila-Grau, Raimon Panikkar, Lluís Bonet, Jordi Savall, Luard Bonet, Josep Tallada, Joan Bassegoda, David Mackay, Mariona Bonet, Anna Huber

“Other architects compel admiration; Gaudí demands love as well.”

–Anthony Burgess, The Gaudiness of Gaudí

Its towering, bedight immanity reflects the hugeness of its architect’s heart and faith, enormously and unmistakably indelible upon its metropolitan skyline. Antoni Gaudí’s minor basilica is the most idiomatic of churches, a synthesis of Art Nouveau and neo-Gothic, conciliation of the modern and eternal, byword of Barcelona, endeavor to objectify empyrean majesty on terra firma and monument to Catalan creativity, Catholic devotion and Christ’s deathless divinity. Of his fanciful fourteen constructions in the Catalonian capital, its unequaled ambition alone beggars the baroque in curvilineal persistence and wanton intricacy. Produced during the 125th (nonconsecutive) year of its construction, Haupt’s cinematic celebration of this incomplete, incomparable architectural and religious phenomenon renders its history in contemporary context with graceful slow pans, overhead and stabile shots before, above and interior interposed by a wealth of revealing interviews. Chief architect Bonet declares deference to Gaudí’s intent, expounds on his conceptual adaptation of natural forms, reports numerous challenges surmounted and expected to realize his herculean enterprise, and guides viewers through its uniquely hyperboloidal nave; his brother Lluís, a priest who conducts Mass in the basilica’s crypt, continues this tour to designate columns denoting and dedicated to the Apostles and Evangelists; Rigol, chairman of the Sagrada Familia’s foundation, narrates its conception as a small expiatory temple instituted by bookseller Josep Maria Bocabella; theologian Panikkar relates Gaudí’s humble origins and character, and avows that his greatest work is the ultimate symbol of the consubstantial Trinity; exhibited conducting La Capella de Catalunya’s superb rendition of Bach’s Mass in B minor, Savall likens sacred structure and composition to illustrate interpretive evolutions independent of their respective creators. Disposed at its furthest flanks, the Sagrada Familia’s twain completed (of three projected) frontispieces are as antipodal thematically and stylistically as their public receptions: Christ’s birth is signified by the Nativity facade facing a rising sun to its northeast, and his death by the Passion facade before each southwestern setting sun. That former frontal’s grand exuberance was completed in 2000 after the creation and installation of its polychrome doors and symbolic statuary of Joseph, Mary and neonatal Jesus, musicians, singers, angels, flora and fauna intricately hewn over the course of fifteen years by sculptor Sotoo, a gifted and intimate epigone as dedicated to Gaudí’s vision as to their shared Catholicism. His controversial obverse is the agnostic Subirachs, once a cosignatory to an infamous open letter published in La Vanguardia on 1965.9.1 that opposed the church’s finalization, which he’s since retracted. Individuated by a harshly orthogonal angularity fashionable in the late 20th century, his elegiac images of sublunary sin, lamenting figures, and the Savior’s trials and Crucifixion is fearsome, austere and truly original, fulfilling Gaudí’s intentions for a Passion portraying sacrificial severity with stark simplicity, and widely reprobated as a failure for its inconsonant deviation from Gaudí’s idiom. Sotoo’s veneration for Gaudí is patently dissimilar to the dispassionate respect that Subirachs voices in defense of his individuality. One Joan Vila-Grau, designer of the particolored, stained-glass panes so vivid within the basilica, proclaims a similar insistence, though his manner meshes better; these patterns are exactly cut and assembled for installation by Luard Bonet. Elsewhere, the project’s executive architect and researcher Mark Burry presses software intended for aeronautical design into service to dimension parametric, digital models so to flexibly draft present and future developments, and emphasizes the need for collaborative, interdepartmental communication. Surely the least among these interviewees is one David Mackay, architect, urban planner and another cosigner of the aforementioned open letter, who without explication derogates the basilica’s postwar construction as inauthentic and jejune; exuding a rare hypocrisy, he stupidly submits that this house of worship’s purpose should be “more social” and “less religious” to fulfill contemporary, interfaith imperatives of “our culture” — thickly oblivious to the discrete incompatibility of Catalonian and Spanish, much less British cultures. Another nadir from degenerate, atheist Albion, this peculiarly fatuous, Anglo-globalist perspective is as notable for nescience as inanity, and typical of the British refusal to fathom Catalonia since Orwell’s denouncement of this masterwork. Howbeit, this ecclesiastical edifice has weathered worse, such as anarchists who conflagrated most of Gaudí’s plans and models in the anti-clerical devastation of Spain’s Civil War. Modeler Josep Tallada diligently inventories thousands of their surviving portions and fragments identified and otherwise, and Sotoo has since reconstructed numerous smashed statues. To finally consecrate this chef-d’oeuvre, Pope Benedict XVI visited Barcelona to the acclamation of godly throngs and Bonet’s reverent greeting, the event to which Haupt’s documentary culminates. Perhaps a sequel or appendix may be shot to document the basilica’s completion sometime in the upcoming score, when the third and final Glory facade comprising a gigantic conical array imaging Christ’s supernal triumph and the paths to heaven and hell will be erected, as will the remaining ten steeples to a total of eighteen typing the dozen Apostles, Evangelical quartet (to feature gargoyles crafted by Sotoo), Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ collinear above the crypt at the nave’s and transept’s intersection as the central tallest, whereupon the church’s height of 170 meters will render it in stature unmatched…yet a meter shorter than nearby Montjuïc hill in obeisance to Jehovah’s physitheistic peak. Until then, visitors and viewers alike are whelmed to witness its unfinished, richly representative grandeur. From each facade’s threefold porticos importing Christian virtues to the pinnacles of their apostolic steeples, they possess a singularly, almost otherworldly power substantiated in stone. The Nativity’s porticos are demarcated by massive columns bearing helical relief on testudine footstalls, and its Tree of Life rises mightily from its central portico of Charity. Polarily, slant sequoian columns support the Passion, wherein a morbidly osteal colonnade upholds its pyramidal pediment topped with a crown of thorns countering the Tree of Life. A columnar forest, the nonobjectively isobilateral nave’s coffers admit sunlight as that dappled though boughs, and its multiplex contours jut pointed or swell convex, leading to the apse’s soaring hyperboloidal vault of 75 meters, under which the chancel is lambently illumined. Vertices of lesser spires sprout Sotoo’s sacramental sheaves of wheat and clusters of grapes. Ellipses and lobations and crochets and curlicues, blooming bosses, liturgical motifs, canonical iconography as phantasmagoria in constant curvature everywhere teem myriad. From Montserrat’s prolate hills and botany stylized, it is the immaculate and the ethereal reified.

Recommended for a double feature paired with Teshigahara’s Antonio Gaudí.

Sublime: The Leopard

The Leopard (1963)
Directed by Luchino Visconti
Written by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Enrico Medioli, Massimo Franciosa, Luchino Visconti
Produced by Goffredo Lombardo, Pietro Notarianni
Starring Burt Lancaster, Alain Delon, Claudia Cardinale, Romolo Valli, Paolo Stoppa, Lucilla Morlacchi, Rina Morelli, Serge Reggiani, Leslie French, Terence Hill, Pierre Clémenti, Giuliano Gemma, Evelyn Stewart, Ottavia Piccolo, Carlo Valenzano, Anna Maria Bottini, Lola Braccini, Howard Nelson Rubien

“To overlook forms a large part of the work of ruling.”

–Baltasar Gracian

Risorgimento looms ineludible in the twilight of a Sicilian principality, whose aging dynast (Lancaster) wisely resigns to an eventual abdication that impels his efforts to secure his posterity’s future by nurturing the democratic instruments of national unification and conciliating his moribund aristocracy with succeeding, ascendant arrivistes of the mercantile class. That former objective is accomplished via plebiscite, and the latter actuated by arranging the marriage of the prince’s unscrupulously ambitious nephew (Delon), renowned for his heroism as one of Garibaldi’s redshirts, and the ravishing daughter (Cardinale) of a wealthy, wily parvenu (Stoppa), whose bumbling bearing and tastelessness enshroud a rare guile. Readers of Tomasi’s grand historical novel shouldn’t expect from Visconti’s lavish yet conscientiously clipped and condensed motion picture a version faithful to its source: the royal family’s beloved, essentially emblematical dog Bendicò merely occupies its periphery; Delon’s and Cardinale’s amatory betrothed are recharacterized to satisfy a tidier plot, as is the regent’s shunned daughter (Morlacchi); the book’s devastating, final chapters depicting its monarch’s transcendental quietus and the fate of his daughters are exquisite in print yet unfit for film, and rightly omitted; existential contrasts of mortality and eternity, conclusion and continuity poetically expatiated in the text are merely alluded here. Within sumptuous interiors replete with masterly portraiture, frescoed ceilings and gilt appointments, ornate relievos and statuary, and alfresco against the natural majesty of rocky Sicilian landscapes, Visconti’s focus on the story’s erotic and political aspects effects and constitutes the core of its drama, as when the philandering potentate’s shrift father (Valli) reproaches his master for backstairs advoutry or verbalizes the Vatican’s solicitudes, a potential love triangle leaves Morlacchi’s virtuous princess spurned, and an organist (Reggiani) disenfranchised by the wrongful invalidation of his sole dissenting vote harangues the minor monarch who he reveres above all others. Played perfectly (albeit typically dubbed) by a choice cast attired in costumes fabricated by Piero Tosi with the same attention to the period’s details as that endued to Mario Garbuglia’s production design, each development unfolds at a pace as stately as its protagonist in slow pans and painterly static shots, its contemplations in stark silences as stirring as Nino Rota’s soaring symphony, repurposed as a score as fit as any other of the production’s elements, and breathing the 19th century’s impassioned Romanticism. Lancaster’s liege is a representative of royalty in extremis and homage to the author’s great-grandfather, who fully fathoms the mold of his people, value of quiet compromise and necessity of sacrifice for survival. Lacking the entire substance, pathos and punch of the novel, this nonpareil of Italian formalism still stirs the spirit in its evocation of a nobility and order lost to accession.
Recommended for a double feature paired with The Godfather.

Sublime: The Conformist

The Conformist (1970)
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci
Written by Alberto Moravia, Bernardo Bertolucci
Produced by Maurizio Lodi-Fè, Giovanni Bertolucci
Starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Stefania Sandrelli, Gastone Moschin, Dominique Sanda, José Quaglio, Enzo Tarascio, Pierre Clémenti

“We do not believe in programs, in plans, in saints or apostles; above all, we do not believe in happiness, in salvation, in the promised land.”

–Benito Mussolini, Fascism

Memories of his preteen sexual crisis, father’s insanity, mother’s depravity, insinuation into the National Fascist Party, impious scorn, wile to ease his engagement to a lovely yet frivolous fiancee (Sandrelli), and obsession with the mistress (Sanda) who loathes him clarify in cutbacks the perversion of a bureaucrat (Trintignant) as he pursues with a brutish government agent (Moschin) his past professor (Tarascio), a subversive who he’s commissioned to assassinate. Bertolucci’s anachronic classic adapts Moravia’s postwar novel with gripping dynamism, selectively consorting stylistic elements of interwar expressionism, his nation’s neorealism, and the German, French, Japanese, American, etc. new waves with enthralling panache: in continual motion, each masterful scene tracks his subjects to stress signification, often turning panoramically or zooming out to disclosure. Succulent shots therein were dazzlingly photographed by Vittorio Storaro at the pinnacle of his powers to exhibit a cast nearly as attractive as their Roman, Parisian and rural locales, and Ferdinando Scarfiotti’s production design is itself a meticulous model of period replication, for which sets assiduously appointed by Maria Paola Maino breathe the zeitgeist of Il Duce’s era almost as pungently as footage shot at the E.U.R., and especially within the sprawling, austerely modern magnificence of the Palazzo dei Congressi. Purposive only to achieve normality in a country as essentially unnatural as its allies and enemies, and a party unabashedly brimming with erratics, Trintignant’s orthomaniacal hardliner queerly reflects his society’s hypocrisy while failing to mask his peculiarity. To ooze his suppressed conflict, fervor and homosexuality, the single most superbly saturnine leading man of his generation was ideally cast, a farouche foil to Sandrelli’s charming yet vacuous vivacity, the gruff charisma with which Moschin cloaks his spy’s vicious impenitence, and Sanda’s quietly desperate despite. Ominously comic, elegantly emblematic, replete with innuendoes and consummately staged and performed, this recherché achievement lucidly instances how personal frailties are exploited to advance ideological tyranny without stupidly confusing these phenomena with an aesthetic refinement and thematic maturity unimaginable in a contemporary leftist drama. Further, Bertolucci’s constriction of Moravia’s diegetic perspective to that of his disingenuously unreliable protagonist cannily contrasts his intellectual profundity and emotional superficiality, as during a reunion where Tarascio’s educator is confronted by his bygone student to challenge his interpretation of Plato’s troglodytic allegory, when a helical dance initiated by Sandrelli’s cheery inamorata daunts the anthropophobe, and in his every craven betrayal. For this umbratile man and his movement, mundanity’s baffled by villainy and excellence alike.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Z or The Godfather, Part II, for which Coppola was inspired to cunningly imitate many of Bertolucci’s techniques, and cast Moschin as a swaggering racketeer.

Sublime: Like Father, Like Son

Like Father, Like Son (2013)
Written and directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda
Produced by Kaoru Matsuzaki, Hijiri Taguchi, Megumi Osawa, Tatsuro Hatanaka, Chihiro Kameyama, Tom Yoda, Chiaki Harada, Satomi Odake, Yasushi Ogawa
Starring Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Lily Franky, Yoko Maki, Keita Ninomiya, Shogen Hwang, Jun Kunimura, Yuri Nakamura, Kazuya Takahashi, Kirin Kiki, Jun Fubuki, Isao Natsuyagi
Any brief of another flower effloresced from Kore-eda’s preoccupation with familial misadventures and their reverberations reads as that of timeworn, televised fayre via Lifetime: two irreconcilably unlike families headed respectively by a stuffy, operose architect (Fukuyama) and a jovial, lovably scruffy shopkeeper and electrician (Franky) are shaken to learn that two of their sons (Ninomiya, Hwang) were at birth covertly commuted by a nurse (Takahashi). Social convention dictates that the boys be restituted to their cognate nuclear units, but six years of parental intimacy stay all involved, and their woe is only aggravated by contradistinctions of class and constitution: Fukuyama’s aloof, white-collar striver disdains the lenience, uxoriousness and relative impecuniousness of Franky’s working-class handyman, who in turn contemns with his assertive wife (Maki) the corporate cog’s fatherly inattention in pursuit of professional projects. For all their failings and recriminations fermented by reciprocal misapprehensions, none among them are unsympathetic; the overachiever’s no more callous than his demurely adoring spouse (Ono), and oscillations and frivolity belie the depth of his counterpart’s paternal perspicacity. Once preponderate in civilized cinema beyond Hollywood’s orbit, Kore-eda’s strain of sentimentality is rooted in realism, its poignance piercing far deeper for an economy of expression, nested in precisely composed perspective shots, slow zooms, drifting pans in rich high contrast. He unsoundly deprecates consanguinity as a mere priority of obsolescent tradition in a culture where it may be taken for granted in the luxury of social and ethnic cohesion, but in doing so postulates an equally vital insight: beneath the burdensome strata of lineage, expectations and ambition, the hearts of children and their parents need beat no slower, nor at all asynchronous for that weight.

Sublime: 3 Women

3 Women (1977)
Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Robert Altman, Patricia Resnick, Shelley Duvall
Produced by Robert Altman, Scott Bushnell, Robert Eggenweiler
Starring Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Janice Rule, Robert Fortier, Ruth Nelson, John Cromwell, Sierra Pecheur, Craig Richard Nelson
Each misfortune to befall a geriatric spa’s awkward, arrogant attendant (Duvall), the girlish, guileless coworker (Spacek) who alone idealizes her, or a grim, sullenly expectant muralist (Rule) wed to a whilom stuntman (Nelson) permutes their personalities, sequent circumstances and resulting relations in this oneiric masterpiece, almost as dimly depicted as dreams from which it was conceived. For his distinguishing empowerment of leads with creative carte blanche, Altman’s best movies succeed by the strength of their innovation and intuition, and worst fail for a want thereof. Duvall indued to her obtusely oblivious oddball and Spacek her apparently artless adulator nearly their every peculiarity, extemporarily creating their eccentrics in each transformational, scantly scripted stage — an accomplishment as tremendous for its histrionic invention as the realization of roles that might’ve played as caricature. These personations and a peppered plentitude of cunning little thematic, often auguring metaphors illustrate the potential fluctuancy of ipseity, divides spanning philauty from reality, how social compartmentalism follows personal congenialities, and ostracization begets hubris and aggravates anomaly among gesellschaft and gemeinschaft alike in sun-baked Palm Springs, its very deserts denoting desolation. Engulfed by hydrous signification, this funny, flurrying ornament of New Hollywood’s latitude is richer with each screening, and the last, best, most immersive and penetrating picture of Altman’s winning streak.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Persona, Images or Mulholland Drive.

Sublime: Immoral Tales

Immoral Tales (1973)
Directed by Walerian Borowczyk
Written by Walerian Borowczyk, André Pieyre de Mandiargues
Produced by Anatole Dauman
Starring Fabrice Luchini, Lise Danvers; Charlotte Alexandra; Sirpa Lane; Paloma Picasso, Pascale Christophe; Florence Bellamy, Jacopo Berinizi, Lorenzo Berinizi, Philippe Desboeuf
In converse chronology, an abundance of beauties inhabit the miasm of this sexy, sinful quintet: a domineering young boor (Luchini) in the ’70s lures his pretty, teenage cousin (Danvers) to a beach where he forces her fellatio at high tide so that its climax concurs with his own; a busty, lusty, pious young woman (Alexandra) aroused by religiosity and libido over eighty years prior fetishizes in a sacristy ecclesiastic accoutrements before she’s confined by her aunt for an unspecified infraction in a storeroom, where her devotion and nympholepsy commove onanistic abandon before an escape results in calamity; leaving her harpsichord to pursue into a forest an extravagating lamb loose from its tether, a noblewoman (Lane) of 1765 encounters a shaggy, enormously endowed monster of notoriety before yielding with her horror to an interspecific concupiscence; a village in 1610 is visited by the forbidding Countess Bathory (Picasso) and her retinue, who expropriate its population of damsels to supply her sanguinary ablution; fecund Lucrezia Borgia (Bellamy) visits the Vatican in 1498 to bawdily cavort and relish a threesome with her father, Pope Alexander VI (J. Berinizi) and his son and cardinal, Caesar (L. Berinizi) while a Dominican friar (Desboeuf) fulminates from the pulpit against the church’s iniquity. Equally allusive and gratuitous in style and substance, Borowczyk’s interpretation of Mandiargues’ precursory short story and anecdotally historical degeneracy contrasts libertine rapture with violence and murder to emphasize the former’s hedonic virtue. As captivating as the carnality are its intervallic caesurae: a slow pan to a lingering shot of floating, perching seagulls against the backdrop of a promontory signifies a post-coital detumescence; in her boudoir, sylphs surrounding the countess’ bed pose provocatively in a tableau vivant foretokening forthcoming delirium and doom; shot with lubricious sedulity, every fine, fair figure strikes a discrete attitude of salacity. Rohmer’s, Breillat’s and Picasso’s fans are likely to be amused by the presence of their respective recurrent star, first leading lady and enterprising daughter in an especially pert and photogenic cast, attractively lensed by four(!) DPs to impersonate the vital beauty of passion and its consummation. After initial screenings, the bestial third segment was deleted from posterior reels and reused by Borowczyk as the nucleus of his next feature, The Beast.

Sublime: Boy Meets Girl

Boy Meets Girl (1984)
Written and directed by Leos Carax
Produced by Patricia Moraz, Alain Dahan
Starring Denis Lavant, Mireille Perrier, Carroll Brooks
By cunning and chance pro rata, a dejected draftee (Lavant) and suicidal model (Perrier) meet at a soiree hosted by an American socialite (Brooks) on the tenth anniversary of her husband’s demise. Both are freshly jilted, but as he rebounds from heartbreak enamored anew, her fixation on her former paramour effects unrequited consequences to fatality. Contrasting luminous whites against pitch blacks and rich grays, Jean-Yves Escoffier’s magnificent photography’s at least as prominent as Carax’s perennially preferent leading man in a foray minimally plotted but rife with representative articles and acts coupling people with their rancor, longing, morbidity and love. With devices plucked from silent pictures and the nouvelle vague’s inceptive classics, he expresses as much with urban atmospheres in which his characters loiter as monologies voicing passions and vacillations in thought and spoken diffusion. In either capacity, his leads are terrific: puggish Lavant’s expressivity engages in idle silence, or when volubly effusive to Perrier’s brooding reception. For whoever isn’t occupied by the human drama, every scene boasts an eyeful, such as a metaphoric moment when identical twins prepare photocopies, or a drifting shot scanning a synchronic sketch of Paris adumbrated by Lavant’s dreamer on his apartment’s wall, whereupon locations of personal significance are dated and annotated. Carax would recycle his amatorian themes and principals in his tremendous Mauvais Sang a couple years later, but wears his heart on the sleeve of Lavant’s ethos in this woolly debut to its conclusive, tragic twist.
Recommended for a double feature paired with Mauvais Sang.