Thursday, July 6, 2023

"The Dirty Stories of Jean Eustache" at SIFF Cinema: Jul 14 - 23

In an atypical move, SIFF Cinema have adopted the totality of the retrospective of "Jean Eustache: A Rarely Seen French Director", from the premiere of the Janus Films series run at New York's Lincoln Center. As the Film Society at Lincoln Center put it; "Few filmmakers have captured the sheer sorrow and humor of being alive in a time and place more majestically than Jean Eustache. A fellow traveler of Cahiers du Cinéma in the late 1950s, Eustache was a satellite figure of the ascendant Nouvelle Vague while it was revolutionizing the aesthetics and aesthetic politics of narrative cinema. But he emerged in the second half of the 1960s as a singularly formidable filmmaker in his own right, directing several fiction films and documentaries before producing one of French cinema’s all-time masterpieces, the titanic and epochal "The Mother and the Whore". This film is considered the centerpiece of any Jean Eustache retrospective, “It’s a historical marker in a way that few other films are,” wrote Jonathan Rosenbaum in the Chicago Reader; “not only the nail in the coffin of the French New Wave and one of the strongest statements about the aftermath of the failed French revolution of May 1968, but also a definitive expression of the closing in of Western culture after the end of the era generally known as the ’60s.” At the time of the release of this new restoration by Les films du Losange, Richard Brody wrote for The New Yorker, "'The Mother and the Whore', Newly Restored, Still Overwhelming". In which he states; "It’s overwhelming in its length and in its emotional intensity. It’s a self-consuming masterwork that seems to burn itself up as it passes through the projector. It’s a film of rage and self-punishment, of arrogance and humiliation and, ultimately, of ferocious irony about pleasure and power, desire and submission. What’s original in its style is the sheer profusion of dialogue, which exceeds in quantity, density, and tone even the talk in contemporaneous films by Éric Rohmer."

Richard Brody continues by saying; "Where Rohmer’s cinematic language is dialectical, Eustache’s is torrential. The characters in “The Mother and the Whore” don’t so much talk with each other or even at each other as bare their souls verbally and pour out confessions in soliloquies - especially the movie’s protagonist, Alexandre, as played by Jean-Pierre Léaud." In this "Threesome and Then Some", as it was put by The New York Times, Léaud's Alexandre is a creature of impulses and monstrous in his insistence. Adopting and discarding attitudes, he is given to absurd, self-hypnotizing rants that fascinate Veronika, charm Marie, and repulse the viewer. He conceives himself as a dandy who reads Proust and listens to Édith Piaf, and his obsession with the past, mainly the aborted revolution of 1968, is the focus of his delusions. Yet, as established by Roger Ebert in his 1999 review; "The first time I saw "The Mother and the Whore," I thought it was about Alexandre. After a viewing of the newly restored print being released for the movie's 25th anniversary, I think it is just as much about the women, and about the way that women can let a man talk endlessly about himself while they regard him like a specimen of aberrant behavior. The film made an enormous impact when it was released. It still works a quarter-century later because it was so focused on its subjects, and lacking in pretension. It is rigorously observant, the portrait of an immature man and two women who humor him for a while, paying the price that entails". Here in this series, framing the above masterwork SIFF presents the totality of , "The Dirty Stories of Jean Eustache", which features the titular "A Dirty Story", alongside, "Robinson’s Place", "Le Cochon", "Numéro Zéro", "The Virgin of Pessac", Eustache's own remake "The Virgin of Pessac '79", and "My Little Loves". The latter, on which The New Yorker's Richard Brody weighed in again, offers a summation of the series as a whole; “In Eustache’s loamy, holistic vision, the events are shaped less by the demands of drama than by the meanderings of consciousness itself."