Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Two Days, Two French Films: The Past and Blue Is The Warmest Colour

Monday and Tuesday. The Past and Blue Is The Warmest Colour. Vastly contrasting, yet uncannily similar in the technical sense. A fine trait of French cinema, close range shots are in their abundance - a technique used to have the audience feel a greater presence in the film itself. Little flourishes of music so common in American film are rare. They never tell you how to feel, but rather provide genuine incentive for you to feel such things. It's stark and its cinematic realism but its terribly likeable - its not weak sentiment but just a combination of raw, rich acting, sensitive directing and subtle film editing.  

At its material core, the two films could not be any more different. Le Passé is an in-depth inspection of less than a week in the life of a family of complex dimensions. You have the central character Marie Barrison (Bérénice Belo) who is soon to be divorced from her Iranian spouse Ahmid (Tahar Rahim) and remarried to the young sullen Frenchman Sahmir (Salim Kechiouche)  whose wife is in a coma. Marie's daughter Lucia (Pauline Berlot) harbours an ill-concealed disapproval of her mother's new relationship and it is only time before everyone understands the full basis of this persisting aversion. Blue, by some contrast blossoms as an innocent love story between literature-passionate high school student Adèle (Adèle Exarchopolous) and our older blue-haired woman, mysterious fourth-year fine arts student Emma (Lea Seydoux).

What I admire most about both films is the construction of several infinitely layered characters. The Past encompasses several intriguing characters who work together to create an unforgettable narrative of personal drama. The two star actresses of Blue are revelations to the world of cinema - Adèle Exarchopoulos in particular is something to be marvelled at. From a simple scene of no dialogue to ones of momentary catharsis, to the many natural dance sequences (see video below), never for a second do we doubt Adèle's sincerity. In the three hours that we encounter Adèle, we learn of her traits, her endearments, her desires and regrets. From the smallest detail of her impulsive hair-touching, to her other-wordly dancing to the outward demonstration of her heartbreak, the audience is with her - never leaving her side. 

In Blue, the first time that Emma and Adèle lay eyes on each other no acquaintance is made. They don't really meet. As they cross each other, nothing is unusual or out of place except that Adèle has just seen for the first time that one person who will change her life and somehow she feels its gravity. In that moment of complete bewilderment she seems to forget where she is and where she is headed. She turns repeatedly to look at Emma. This riveting 20-second sequence captured the general appeal and wonder of the film as whole. 

I can honestly say that I felt the adult performances in Le Passé to be no more cultured or seasoned than that by the sole teenage actress, Pauline Burlet. Here, director Asghar Farhardi should be commended for not neglecting to depict the world of teenage whims. Le Passé did better what The Descendants already did extraordinarily well - it took a family drama and crafted the ugly reality into something that was endlessly intriguing. It also precluded the most haunting ending of film to be seen all year. 
A common trend these days for many films is to show just a short excerpt in someone's life - a week in Inside Llewyn Davis, a day in The Poker House. Whilst hardly neat nor conclusory, the thought-provoking manner of the film is a welcome change to the formulaic nature of many films today. I believe this new form of cinema to be more successful in filling its prescribed job of mimicking life, of reflecting it. Because when ever is life neat and conclusory? Its messy and compromising - you can never just shake off the past, your past and in this case The Past.  

Blue Is The Warmest Colour A+
Le Passé A

No comments:

Post a Comment