Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2018 3:18 pm 
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EUGÈNE GREEN: WAITING FOR THE BARBARIANS/EN ATTENDANT LES BARBARES (2017) - RENDEZ-VOUS WITH FRENCH CINEMA

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An elegantly formal workshop film from Eugène Green

The film is the offshoot of an evening workshop in Toulouse April-May 2017 led by Green. It was reported on in Cineropa by Alfonso Rivera, who described it as a "daring" experiment. He did not simply film the workshop but went about a plan to make a film that uses images of Toulouse. He wrote a screenplay, brought his usual dp by Raphaël O'Byrne and a sound engineer, chose 12 actors from 35 candidates. But the result will not appeal to everybody. Some will find it too stylized, its archness alienating. Richard Brody of The New Yorker, however, has good things to say about it both in a piece on "the must-see films of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema" (including also Bruno Dumont's musical Joan of Arc beach movie and one about three Iranians, two thin and one very overweight); and his short review for the magazine's front section movies listings.

Anyone who has carefully watched Green's previous feature, Son of Joseph (NYFF 2016) will find many similarities. There is the expressed distaste for modern digital devices, shown here in the confuscating of the cell phones of all the multi-identity players when they come to the chateau (except for the "SDF" or homeless person, who has none), and the implied mockery of "bobos," or bourgeois (rich) bohemians (or pseudo bohemians) whom Joseph and Vincent in Son of Joseph both agree they "detest." Green has long tended to consider Americans uncouth, and one of the barbarian groups feared by the refuge-takers in the film are "United Statians."

Also carrying over from the previous film is Bressonian dialogue, meaning speaking very slowly (in Green's case archaically using all he liaisons), framed front and center and staring into the camera when speaking. Green also repeats some of the same verbal jokes, like giving feminine forms of French nouns that don't exist, like "auteurse," and the joke that a female bobo is a "bobine." There is something engagingly lame about these, but they are also one of the things that will turn off viewers or leave them indifferent, and Green sometimes sounds like an amiable but incorrigible curmudgeon.

Green's anti-modern and moralistic opinions are freely distributed through his dialogue (not counting the lines acted out directly from a 12th-century play about a knight defeating a sadistic tyrant). But another element, maybe the key one, is the way Green, for all his retro grinch tendencies, visibly revels in the pure feelings and beauty of youth. The cast (save the bobo couple) consists of attractive young men and women with rich resonant voices. They're not Hollywood movie stars, but something better. They have class. And since Green is a longtime figure of the French historical theater with a focus on the 17th century, they have formal thespian skills. Green's idiosyncratic entertainments are a celebration of all he is.

Waiting for the Barbarians/En attendant les barbares, 76 mins., debuted at Gijón (winning the Grand Prix Asturias there) and Turin, with no commercial release planned.

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