Sunday, 11 April 2010
...there were a couple of astounding Dogma films to maintain the unfashionable tradition of true soul-scouring movies. But Lars von Trier is erratic, to say the least, if always compulsive (though I can't steel myself to see the latest).
Yet it struck me, watching first Arnaud Desplechin's A Christmas Tale and then working back through the other films starring the ineffable Emmanuelle Devos and sexy, compelling Mathieu Amalric, that here at last was a filmmaker prepared to plumb the depths (no idea, by the way, why he's called 'Ousmane Desplechin' on the above DVD cover). Sure enough, in interview, Desplechin invokes Bergman - Ingrid as well as Ingmar, by virtue of her fearlessness in presenting a woman who is neither directly sympathetic nor cuddly, as he maintains they mostly are in the recent movies he's seen (Notorious was the film of choice).
If this suggests that Rois et Reine, the most recent Desplechin movie I've caught up with, is grim, that's far from the case. There's an edgy humour which applies especially to Amalric's manic-depressive hero. I slightly regret having to pass over the bewitching Devos in favour of Deneuve's cameo psychiatrist, but this little scene gives a good sample of dialogue which you never know whether to laugh or shout about. Click a second time on the screen to catch the full picture on YouTube.
In addition, the lighting in the cinematography is extraordinary, the script sometimes infuriating in that edge-of-pretentious French way but always engaging, the flashback technique and a very Bergmanesque ghost visit haunting.
Who's doing this sort of thing in literature? Back into the picture comes Hilary Mantel. Since I last wrote about my discovery, I've read a few more of her unpredictable novels, including the most vivid, as-if-it-were-yesterday of historical novels, Wolf Hall. No Mantel subject is anything like the one before it, but in terms of emotional range, asking the difficult questions and weaving an elegant polyphony of voices, family chronicles don't come any richer than A Change of Climate.
I just finished it this morning, and the last twenty or so pages have to be the most poignant of crisis fallouts in any novel; I'm too close to it to say more about subject or style except that I worship this woman and I won't stop until I've read everything she's written. As A Place of Greater Safety is still on the list, evidently I have great riches in store.