Friday, April 13, 2018

L'écran D'argent

I have been on a French movie kick lately! French is a language I tried to learn in high school but any retention of what I learned was an utter failure. I've since tried again through listening to audio tapes, but again, failed. It is a very pretty language, and two failures doesn't mean I am doomed forever, so who knows, I may still learn. I just heard about this lawyer who failed the BAR exam 99 times before he passed. He has the sort of 'never-give-up' spirit that is hard not to admire! It would be awesome to watch a french movie with out subtitles and know what is going on, but for now I am happy with the subtitles.

I watched two Jean-Luc Goddard movies recently, both with similar endings: Breathless and Vivre Sa Vie. Both films also had a similar contemplative feeling and enchanting yet tragic characters.

Breathless was about the strange relationship between a casual couple, one who held a secret from the other that could lead to his demise! What I liked about his movies is while it's plot could be summed up explaining it is a crime capor, it is really a character study and a relationship study. Plus, it is so pretty to look at! But in the end, it is also really sad. All the characters seem unmoored and drifting through the world alone even when together.


Vivre Sa Vie has a plot that we hear a lot, although maybe it wasn't as prevalent back in the 60's when it was made. It is a story of a young woman who finds herself on the brink of poverty and remedies her situation by becoming a prostitute. But then, she and one of her John's fall in love and she attempts to leave the lifestyle to be with him. This movie like Breathless is so much more about the character than the plot itself. Anna Karina who plays the main character Nana is charismatic and tragic to watch. It is difficult not to feel empathy for her and her struggles. What made Vivre Sa Vie particularly beautiful is the way it was told: Through little connected vignettes.


Another french movie I watched recently is 'Umbrellas of Cherbourg.' This movie was visually beautiful, full of colors and interesting sets and awesome sixties fashion. For being a movie that had such a cheerful color pallet it was an incredibly sad story, partly because of its nontraditional movie ending.

The movie's dialogue is completely in song from declarations of love to the most casual chit chat. This is another indicator of cheerfulness, happy endings, and romanticized movie world. I am going to get into spoilers here, so don't go further if you don't want to be spoiled...

The story is about two people in love, Genevieve and Guy. Right before Guy is enlisted to fight in the Algerian war, Genevieve gets pregnant. But watching these two love birds, there is no way you believe anything except that if these two crazy kids in love can't make it, nobody can! But that is the thing, they don't make it! At least not as a couple. Another man, a wealthy slightly older man, falls in love with Genevieve while she is several months pregnant. Genevieve's mother wants her to marry this rich gentlemen. In the beginning of the movie, Genevieve has great notions of true love and tells her mother she is going to marry guy. But later on after Guy has been gone (for not even a year!) she tells her mother she can feel that her great passion is not what it once was. With the rich man in love with her, she has to make a decision to abandon her love for Guy and instead opt for a future with more certain conveniences and safety. Since she is expecting a child, she has to think about practical matters. Or she can wait for the father of her child who she once loved deeply but now is not as certain about, and if she stayed with him, her future would be uncertain. She ends up going for the rich guy, breaking not just Guy's heart but all of our hearts because who doesn't want to root for true love. But at the same time, the viewers can understand Genevieve decision. It wasn't made lightly. But it was made practically.

The saddest part of the movie is that what we like to perceive as true love built on destiny does not prevail. But in the end, the characters are not miserable. The two ex-love birds meet again on a snowy night. Genevieve is now a fancy lady with a little daughter. She seems sad when confronted with all she lost when she sees Guy again. But she does not seem like her life is sad. And Guy seems very happy with his life, his wife and child. And because of this, the movie should be a happy movie but it is not. No one likes their notions of true love dispelled! But in the end, there is a hope for us all that reality has its own sets of peace and happiness even if it did not turn out like a fairy tale. This movie was a really beautiful and poignant story that sticks with you after viewing it.

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