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After Dark, My Sweet: Pedro Costa’s “Ne change rien”

After Dark, My Sweet: Pedro Costa's "Ne change rien"

No mere documentary, Portuguese director Pedro Costa’s enthralling Ne change rien is a cinematic offering laid at the feet of its bewitching singer-star, Jeanne Balibar. She’s glimpsed at music rehearsals, live club performances, and in studio sessions, meticulously honing vocal phrases and adjusting tempo with exactly the same attention to precision that Costa brings to his own rigorously arranged compositions. The lithe, luminous actress has a robust career in France, where she’s appeared in films by Jacques Rivette (Va savoir) and Arnaud Desplechin (My Sex Life… ) as well as numerous theater productions. She also moonlights as a chanteuse (or perhaps it’s the other way around), fronting a crackerjack quartet whose whirring loops and effects-driven guitar textures create a coolly luxuriant cushion for her throaty songs of tortured love. An ardent cinephile, Costa has cited Godard’s One Plus One as an inspiration for his approach here, which eschews voiceover and interviews in favor of moody, atmospheric detail and abundant use of long takes. But he also applies the distinctive, low-light visual style he developed for In Vanda’s Room and Colossal Youth, a tack that aligns this sultry music doc as much with the mise-en-scène of classic cinema (Von Sternberg, Nick Ray) and T Magazine–style fashion portraiture as it does with Straub-Huillet (a salient touchstone for the auteurist director) or ultrahip band-in-the-studio genre artistry. Read Damon Smith’s review of Ne change rien, which opens today for a weeklong run at New York’s Anthology Film Archives.

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