Jun 7, 2013

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!

You sure ain't. I shoulda known better.
It is worth comparing this film by Alain Resnais and Bruno Podalydes with the Taviani Brothers' Ceasar Must Die. Both films are about staging plays for the medium of cinema, and in a sense, they are both about the transformative power of art, both made by directors at a late stage in life, but this is where the resemblance stops. For if Caesar Must Die is an emotionally rich, deeply human masterpiece that actually demonstrates the transformative power of art with real people (see here), Resnais' film is yet another misadventure into French intellectual pretentiousness, or as it is more accurately described, mental masturbation. It is nearly insufferable. And boy, is it cheesy.
This is the kind of French movie that gives French movies a bad name.
You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet is an adaptation of Eurydice by Jean Anouilh. It stars a number of formidable French acting talents, including the great Michel Piccoli, Denis Podalydes, Pierre Arditti, Matthieu Amalric. A bunch of famous actors are mysteriously summoned, in an annoying sequence in which each one answers the phone (being a big bunch, it takes forever), to the ridiculous house of a playwright (Podalydes) to read his will. This forces them (and us) to watch a new version of his play Eurydice by a young troupe of actors on a big screen TV. I was hoping that the famous actors would eviscerate the young and their cliched warehouse production, but no such fun thing ever happens. As the big names watch the rookies, they start reenacting the play itself and their performance intercuts with the one on the TV screen. I assume this is supposed to be some sort of arty Chinese box funhouse: ooh, I am watching a movie about a video about a play that is being performed by two sets of actors at once. Alas, the play is a garrulous, semi-poetic exploration of love and death and youthful rebellion: all bombastic ideas and no action. It sounds like it was written by a feverishly talented teenager, and it would be even more boring if the whole production weren't so kitschy, and I mean this in the worst sense of the word. There is a particular kind of French predilection for philosophical pomposity that falls into the preposterous. The play is about young lovers, but here they are played by much older actors. I know this must mean something important about the irrelevance of age and the eternal qualities of art, but as directed by Resnais with a very heavy hand, the play is much more unfunny than it could be and the actors ham out of control, particularly the two famous actresses playing Eurydice (there's three of them). Sabine Azema is positively ghoulish and Anne Consigny fares a bit better, dissolving in tears at all times. The movie is well edited and very well made, despite its unrelenting vulgarity. The backdrops are hideous, the cinematography garish, the actors are unhinged by hamming, except for Piccoli (always impeccable) and Amalric (being a messenger of death, he has the best lines and he delivers them well). Even the music sounds like it was made on a Casio.
Everything in this movie is artificial, but nothing is art.

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