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Posts Tagged ‘Catherine Deneuve’

Je Veux Voir (2008)

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

Gwendolyn Audrey Foster just introduced me to a stunning film by Joana Hadjithomas and Kahil Joreige.

In a scant 69 minutes, this hypnotic, absolutely transcendent film sketches many of the issues surrounding the war in Lebanon in 2006, as seen through the eyes of Catherine Deneuve, the famed French film star, who traveled to Beirut to appear in the film, and is listed as one of the backers of the project, probably in that she donated her services to the project for free. As the makers of this astonishing film told interviewer Chantal Pointbriand in the web journal Afterall,

“In Je veux voir we worked on the idea that the 2006 war represents a schism. At the time we were outside the country. We saw and lived this war out through images on television, blogs and the internet. These incredibly spectacular images ended up being, in a way, powerless. It was a very strange moment. We really felt this was a time of rupture in our history, not only in the history of our country, but also in our history as artists in the region. It’s like what Hannah Arendt said about the uncertain future, you know that there is no certainty in it.

We decided to deal with this by confronting someone from our history as Lebanese film-makers and artists, with someone outside of it, bringing together the artist and actor Rabih Mroué, with whom we have worked with a lot, and Catherine Deneuve, the French film icon. In this way we are attempting to experiment with new strategies for film-making in the aftermath of the 2006 war.

KJ: Traditionally when television shows victims of war, you can’t really identify with them because the images are designed to distance you. You sympathise but don’t identify. By bringing someone who is familiar in the Western history of cinema and someone from our world together, we wanted to see if through this encounter we could regain our face, our images, our identity, our names. And not play the role of the faraway victim, but create something that could engage the spectator. The idea was to displace the gaze and to question it. Paradoxically, the film is called I Want to See, but explores what you don’t see, or haven’t seen.

JH: The film works by constantly making you question what you’re seeing and what you’re not seeing. The film is about the way images are used in reporting conflict today and what this does to you, the spectator. Our big fear is always that, in the use of images, the use of art, the use of intellect, everything can be co-opted or instrumentalized, in order to make the individual into less of a thinking person, less of a subject, depoliticized, accepting reality in a lesser way.”

The resulting film is an absolute tour-de-force, one of those films that never leaves you once you’ve seen it. When one considers how much time is spent watching absolute junk, even entertaining mainstream junk, the shock and pleasure of a really evocative, thoughtful film comes as an absolutely pleasant surprise, a palate cleanser after so much trash and throwaway pop filmmaking, usually in the service of worn out genre and gender rules. Je Veux Voir instantly jumped into my top ten films of all time — in which there are more than 250 constantly rotating titles — but in all seriousness, this is a thrillingly intellectual film without one frame of wasted footage; at 69 minutes, it’s just perfect.

Easily available on DVD or streaming video; check it out!

For more free articles and videos, visit my website at wheelerwinstondixon.com

Tristana (1970)

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Last night I saw again Luis Buñuel’s brilliant film Tristana (1970), starring (above, from left to right) Fernando Rey and Catherine Deneuve. Shot in Toledo, Spain, the film is one of Buñuel’s most elegiac and cheerfully absurdist films, with his signature meditative camerawork, a quirky scenario based on the novel by Benito Pérez Galdós, and impeccable performances by the entire cast.

All his life, Buñuel’s main intention was to shock and scandalize the public, and this film is no exception; Tristana (Deneuve) is an innocent 18 year old girl, when the death of her mother and father leaves her in the hands of the lecherous and hypocritical Don Lope (Rey), who instead of protecting her, takes Tristana as his lover.

As the film unfolds, Tristana becomes less and less dependent on Don Lope, and breaks away for an affair with the painter Horacio (Franco Nero), which comes to an end when a mysterious illness forces the amputation of one of Tristana’s legs. Confined once again to Don Lope’s house, Tristana exacts her revenge upon the increasingly feeble older man through a series of ritualistic humiliations, and by the film’s end, the entire power structure within the household has been neatly inverted, culminating in a surprise montage at the end of the film, which alters time and space itself, calling everything that has come before in the film into question.

It’s always refreshing to see an artist at work; Tristana is a masterpiece, with not one frame out of place. Fernando Rey, who remains most famous for his work as “Frog Number One” in William Friedkin’s The French Connection, is the perfect personification of Buñuel himself on film, something the director recognized and acknowledged — they worked many times together, always with great success — and the film is a reminder that even with the smallest of budgets, all one really needs is genius to make a compelling, and lasting film, something we would do well to remember today.

About the Author

Wheeler Winston Dixon

Wheeler Winston Dixon, Ryan Professor of Film Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is an internationally recognized scholar and writer of film history, theory and criticism. He is the author of numerous books and more than 70 articles on film and appears regularly in national media outlets discussing film and culture trends. Frame by Frame is a collection of his thoughts on a number of those topics. To contact Prof. Dixon for an interview, reach him at 402.472.6064 or wdixon1@unl.edu.

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