Thanks to LEAVES
, I've watched all the Zulawski I could get my hands on this year. More than anyone else I can think of, Zulawski requires re-watches and time to mull over. That's not to say his images don't have immediate visceral impact. They do! But my thoughts about them don't make sense till days (or weeks) after.
My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days
– I love this movie so much, though it’s definitely not easy to explain why. It’s partly the emphasis on language, I’m sure. And, of course, it’s a mournfully nostalgic screwball comedy. How could I not love that?!
Zulawski keeps us constantly off-kilter, with odd camera angles and distorted reactions, just as the main character is, by his slowly failing mind. Every interaction of the two main characters feels like it’s part of a different history – a long-term relationship, perhaps, where they've fought and made up for years on end. The first time through this is understandably confusing, but the second time it's full of power. Partly this is due to the music – the love theme seems over-the-top, even silly, during early scenes, and becomes more appropriate as we go along. By the end, I felt it was finally played without irony. And, their mannered acting style disappears, too, leaving just a fleeting moment of pure happiness. So perfect!
– What a crazy journey through one man’s madness! Zulawski definitely picks wonderful faces to watch for two hours, and the images are seared-in-my-brain memorable, but I can’t say I necessarily enjoyed it. The electric-guitar score is very strange, though it definitely adds to the nightmarish feel. The nun is best part, in all her metaphorical weirdness. As political allegory, it’s striking in its overwhelming disillusionment, corruption, and hopelessness. Unless we’re supposed to get a sense of hope from the devil’s ‘beautiful world’ dance, haha!
On the Silver Globe
– I went into this one with trepidation, but found it completely mind-blowing. I had to be a little patient through the very first part as the stranded astronauts struggle to maintain their grip on sanity. But the second time through it was fantastic. I expected to understand what the characters were talking about the second time, but no. I think I’d almost understand it better with the subtitles turned off – maybe I’ll try that next time.
Most of my favorite things in the film are in the second half, when Marek lands and finds the society in crisis. People are still speaking in monologues, but now their speeches fit together like puzzle pieces and I understood everything on some level (at least until the very end). Marek’s doomed craziness is a perfect match for the society consumed with fear and desperation. Most important, this part is filled with some of the most beautiful images I’ve ever seen: the underground city, Ihezal, the Shern city, the scarves on the water, everything really. I love how strangely convincing it all is, despite the insanity and the stylization. I’ve never seen anything like it!
The only thing I don’t like is the cars. Why are there cars? I guess there are thematic reasons; I think he’s trying to make that section, that time and place, feel sort of contemporary, the starkest possible contrast to the other planet. The people are bored, dull, lifeless, compared to the crazy life and energy of the new civilization. And it’s supposed to be the most familiar feeling, with the theater, the casino, and the… government chambers? Still, it throws me violently through the fourth wall every time the cars appear. I need a seat belt, haha.
The reconstructed parts work better than I could have imagined, especially when it feels like we’re looking at the intended audience of the video that’s been sent back. It has such a fitting sadness to it, sadness for the lost movie, sadness for the broken society. Loss, grief, mournful nostalgia! I love how the film itself becomes a historical artifact – sent, not through space and time, but through oppression and censorship. It almost seems wrong to like the effect as much as I do, since it wasn’t what he’d originally planned.
– This one started really well. The slightly off-kilter love story was great, and the way the main character lived through her camera was well done. But, the story got more and more melodramatic – not melodramatic in a hyper-emotional way, like My Nights
, but in a black-market-organ-stealing-ring-assassinating-their-enemies sort of way. The biker/photographer character set my teeth on edge, so maybe I can blame some of my reaction on him.
La femme publique
is terrific! It’s somewhat similar to La Fidelité, but with everything working instead of falling flat. It’s like Russian nesting dolls, getting more interesting the more you dig. I love the movie-within-the-movie, where the director is completely misinterpreting the Dostoevsky novel The Possessed
to promote his political agenda. Plus, The Possessed
is sometimes translated as The Devils
, and there are a lot of similarities between the movie-within-the-movie and Zulawski’s The Devil
(minus the radical misinterpretation, of course). And, that Vertigo-like game she plays with the crazy Czech guy is amazing – all the drama of the old relationship in the new relationship. In My Nights
, he kept a similar relationship dynamic, but stripped away the plot reasons behind it. Anyway, this movie is ridiculously fun. The curtain call!
I thought L’amour braque
was kind of a chore. The antic style reminded me of a cartoon, although most cartoon plots are clearer and more thoughtful! I did read that the main character in The Idiot
is epileptic, so that helps explain things a little bit. Of course, Sophie Marceau is impossibly beautiful in it. And I liked the last minute or so, with the Hungarian (?) song and the weird dream imagery.
L’important c’est d’aimer
– This movie had a strange effect on me. I thought I didn’t like it at all, but it got under my skin and wouldn’t let me watch anything else until I watched it again. Now, although it's not at Silver Globe
- or My Nights
-levels of pure awesome, I love it anyway. The performances are strangely conventional for Zulawski; aside from a couple of disturbances in restaurants, everybody seems pretty normal; nobody throws a fit or bites glass or acts crazy at all. Well, I guess Klaus Kinski is pretty over-the-top (and awesome), but isn’t that ‘normal’ for him? I had some trouble with the music – I thought the love theme sounded sarcastic, like the composer secretly hated the film. Or maybe it just sounds like that to me because the love story is preposterous. I could never even look at that other guy (the main character, haha) with Jacques Dutronc around! So I guess Romy Schneider is
acting crazy, but in a subtle way that only I can see. And Dutronc’s character gets the short end of the plot, for sure. So, anyway, there are certainly things I don’t like about it, but, overall, I love it. Confusing!
More Zulawski talk:
The Third Part of the Night and The Blue Note