Plus, you get this!
The cinema of Eugene Green is back in New York, and if you set your calendar right this week, you can immerse yourself in its singular, unique, troubling, soothing, very-much-here netherworld. At Anthology Film Archives starting on January 20 and ending on January 29, Green’s baldly baroque whatsits will be up there for us all to confusedly diagram, analyze, and ultimately just sit back and enjoy. Plan accordingly.
I first took note of Green’s graceful, wholly enchanting filmmaking when his Le monde vivant played at New Directors/New Films in early 2004. A gentle fairy tale, with noble knights and fair maidens in blue jeans and T-shirts and bravehearted lions played by golden retrievers battling evil ogres, Le monde vivant distills bedtime stories down to some truthful core: gone are the golden, lustrous trappings—left is the wide-eyed, almost spiritual belief that motivates its characters. Running a little under an hour, the film consists of pretty actors standing medium-shot looking bewildered, delivering their lines directly at the camera. Lolling about a rural French backdrop, Green’s characters become one with their surroundings; in its own little way, Green’s fable is a nice companion piece to the cinema of Malick–thoughts unspool as words in hushed tones, and everyone seems a part of their natural world. It’s wonderfully innocent stuff, alternately heady and charmingly naive; in word, transcendentalist.
Special bonus for Techiné fans: Alice et Martin‘s easy-on-the-eyes Alexis Loret has become a Green regular, ever since Green’s first, Toutes les nuits, based on Flaubert’s book. And in addition to gracing Le monde vivant, he also turns up in Le Pont des Arts, his most recent, and most expansive work, which seems to subsume centuries of erudite European art culture in its delicately befuddling two hours. Things grow slightly hefty, but initially Le Pont des Arts is the comedy of the year, an awkwardly hilarious dissection of professorial pretention existing among a troupe of goodhearted university students in 1980s Paris. Denis Podalydes almost outdoes Zero Mostel in glorious mugging as reprehensible singing teacher Guigui, responding to everyone’s concerns with a pompous, foppish “Ohhh!” that wouldn’t be inappropriate in Monty Python; even more surprising is The Son‘s Olivier Gourmet really letting his hair down in a grandly comic rendition of Phaedra. These delightful fools are just waiting to go down with the ship, though, as Green’s existential heroes maneuver around them to try and figure out their place in academia, and thus, the world at large. Of course, the whole thing is scored with lush Monteverdi—a marker between Renaissance and Baroque, which perfectly defines Green’s odd plane: the whole thing feels ungrounded, lifted, ethereal, and Green seems to hate definitions. The 1980’s might as well be the 1580’s, and trying to reconcile the era only produces further moral quagmires. As lovingly pretentious as its characters, Le Pont des Arts‘s refuses to play by the rules of any set time, yet it still strictly adheres to its set of classical dramatic principles. The results are infinite and satisfying. Enjoy.