Tuesday, May 1, 2012

From Russia With Love in the Afternoon

I think the consensus around Sergei Eisenstein is: technical genius, awful storyteller, great filmmaker. The awful storytelling part is usually said along with ALEXANDER NEVSKY and IVAN THE TERRIBLE, films with ridiculous narratives but astounding visuals.  I think POTEMKIN is basically above reproach.  Its propaganda is overlooked by just how ruthless its techniques are at getting our pulse racing.  The cuts are amazing, for sure.  They build epic crescendos of suspense and emotion.  The Odessa stair sequence gets a lot of credit, which it deserves, but the first battle sequence aboard the ship is just as frenetic, exciting, and legendary to behold.  POTEMKIN is considered essential viewing for film students (we, of course, watched clips in the only film class I ever took), and its pedestal status may seem offputting, but really, taken for what it is, it’s a great piece of early filmmaking.  It speaks its own language, and for that, it’s (at the very least) fascinating to watch for any film lover.  I had been meaning to watch the whole thing for a long time, so I’m glad John picked it so that I made sure I finally did.


If I weren’t in such a writing funk, I’d do a whole post on LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON.  It’s a terrific film, and I agree with John, a great way to end the Moral Tales.  Here’s another free association block like I did with CLAIRE’S KNEE.  I don’t have the patience to find narrative cohesion:

-Rohmer is interested in what draws us away from the reality we have created for ourselves. Frederic has a beautiful wife, a young child, a lovely home–he is what is commonly referred to as “living the dream.”  But he is compelled by fantasy or a selfish desire of the imagination towards unreality.  He loves to escape through reading, he wants to be in urban places, he wants to be lost in the crowd, he wants an amulet that will bring all women to him.  The desire towards fantasy, towards unreality is really at the heart of what draws Frederic away from his wife and family.  His time with Chloe is a game, a form of play-acting.  It may spring from boredom, it may spring from loneliness, but the afternoon has become a time for make-believe in Frederic’s life.

- What is lost when we are caught within our fantasies?  John writes something completely perfect and beautiful about the ending: “He redeems the time which he had previously set aside for estrangement. A slice of time which had been named loneliness and lust is renamed LOVE.”  Frederic had lost love and a connection to actual things, most importantly his wife.  At the end, he realizes that the afternoon does not have to be a time for make-believe, but for something real.  He does find love in the afternoon, but it is not with Chloe; it is where it has been all along.
Thankfully Rohmer isn’t trying to preach to us here, but he is perhaps reminding us how easily we can lose sight of what is right before us when we are busy visualizing what isn’t there.  The film is, in some ways, a plea towards the lived-moment or inner experience that we often neglect.

-Interestingly, the women that flock to Frederic’s amulet are all from previous Moral Tales.  John is right when he says that the scene beautifully depicts how we navigate through our sexual impulses when we are swimming in a sea of the opposite sex.  That is really what the Moral Tales deal with–how we all navigate.

-Rohmer does wonderful things with mirrors.  When Frederic and Chloe meet for their afternoon affairs we often see them standing by a mirror but not looking into it, perhaps reflecting the hollowness and negligence of their fantasy time. And before Frederic can go through with the sexual act with Chloe, he sees himself looking ridiculous in a mirror, shirt half over his head.  It’s enough to change his mind and make him realize what a mistake he is making.  Does he see the hollowness?  Does he finally feel the emptiness that his time with Chloe is built upon?  Yes because he walks away.  How do we know his time with Chloe was ultimately empty?  Because he walks away.

-Interesting and kind of humorous distinction between calling the film “Chloe in the Afternoon” and “Love in the Afternoon” because they do not carry the same meaning at all.

- Finally, the film ends with an Ozu “pillow shot.”  Have we been brought back into contact with the lived-moment in this shot?  If it is a true “pillow shot” then yes, but perhaps there’s something more subversive there that I’m missing.

No comments:

Post a Comment