Saturday, June 29, 2013

YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET: M. Resnais' playful masterwork to open in the L.A. area

When the latest film from that French giant of cinema, Alain Resnais, opened here in New York City at the beginning of this month, it received the usual, mostly sterling reviews that this fellow tends to collect (80% positive critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, with 70 % of the audience liking it). Yet the film -- rather deliciously titled YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET -- played but a single week at the Quad Cinema in Manhattan, then beat it out of town. The attendance was not, shall we say, staggering -- and nothing like it would have been back in the 1960s and 70s, when foreign films were in their heyday.

M. Resnais, shown at right, is now 91 years of age, and he just keeps cranking 'em out -- on a schedule, these days, of a film every three years. He's no Woody Allen (in terms of output, or most any other way) but this achievement remains pretty impressive, particularly since his films (with maybe the exception of I Want to Go Homewhich, over-the-top as it is, offers some bold fun) are remarkable, intelligent, surprising and varied. You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet (from here on to be known as YASNT) is all of these things -- and a good deal more. Combining techniques from theatre and film, the movie actually joins the two at times, distilling a particular kind of artifice that, I suspect, no one does better than the French.

The story, such as it is, involves a famous (and imaginary) playwright named Antoine d'Anthac (played by Denis Podalydès, shown at bottom, center) who had suddenly died. His last request is to the set of real actors, famous French men and women who have supposedly worked with and for this guy. They meet at his castle-like home high on a hill, where they learn that he has instructed them to critique a new production of his play Eurydice (actually the play by the famous mid-20th Century French playwright Jean Anouilh, together with material from another of his plays, Cher Antoine ou l'amour raté, with which I am not familiar).

These actors comprise some of the cream of the French stage and film scene, and because they all have played parts in this play previously, now, as they watch the young cast auditioning for the right to perform the play again by presenting a filmed rehearsal, the older crew begins to perform the play themselves -- with great relish and enthusiasm. Except they are far too old for the roles now. And yet, how very well do they perform them!

Anouilh's play is a retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice legend, but, ah, what a grown-up version of the myth we have here! It's moral, thought-provoking, moving, and fiercely intelligent as it nails everything from the male's destructive jealousy to the female's need for love at any cost. And in giving us an Orpheus and Eurydice shown in youth, middle age (Lambert Wilson and Anne Consigny, above) and the senior years (Sabine Azéma and Pierre Arditi, below), Resnais plays with age, theater, film and performance in quite wonderful ways.

Anouilh's play is also about death, the fear and the embracing of it, as well as about life and the fear and embracing of it, too.  (It gives that amazing actor Mathieu Amalric, below, the opportunity to play a superbly intelligent version of Hades, and he seems absolutely born to it.) In all, this is a wonderful work, combining that special French combination of drama, philosophy, romance and artifice. The film, in fact, should send audiences back to the original source.

Meanwhile, we have YASNT to content us. And if this short review makes the movie sound rather special, exotic and for sophisticated tastes -- it is. Being conversant with the classics will help, and if you are initially put off by the artifice, know that, as it moves along, the film grows stronger and more surprising and meaningful.

Resnais' set design of very theatrical rooms adds to the artifice, and his use of split screen  is absolutely first-rate, making the differences between the various Orpheuses and Eurydices shine all the stronger. TrustMovies is delighted that in Los Angeles, the film -- from Kino Lorber and running 115 minutes -- will be opening this coming Friday, July 5, at three venues: Laemmle's Royal, in West L.A., the Town Center 5 in Encino and the Playhouse 7 in Pasadena. Click here, then scroll down to see all currently scheduled playdates, cities and theaters.


katia said...

Alain Resnais’ Latest Film “You ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” (2012)
Love and Life, Death, and Art
Why Eurydice, again and again, endless times in history, many times in theater and cinema? What is her magic, for those who are addicted to love, vulnerable to life and philosophically sensitive to death?
What could Eurydice do for the fist- or money-brutes of the 21st century, for whom life is beyond life and death? But those who are still alive (who feel that they will die – who didn’t lock this feeling into their wallet, weapon or self-sacrificial apotheosis) cannot be without her.
It is for us, the dreamers and lovers of Eurydice, Resnais latest film is made. We are not like the protagonists/actors of Resnais’ film who are Orpheus’s eternal peers, we, the viewers, are the little brothers of Orpheus – we need Eurydice, who is simultaneously ideal and real, everything and the particular, nearby and sliding away, alive and dead, here with us and somewhere else without us.
Love is the attempt to resolve the incompatibility between life and death. But love always fails in this task of a mediator between them. By the logic of things love is doomed to exist on the territory of life. Instead of reconciling life and death, love is destined to give itself either to life or to death. Only on the ontological space of art love can reach self-realization by being itself and able to address both – life and death.
Art is a miraculous condition that can make life and death – co-exist palm to palm, elbow to elbow, shoulder to shoulder sharing the same heartbeat which is love. The conflict between life and death – between ontological light and ontological darkness is still there. But they “negotiate” through love as a “translator”.
Art is Eurydice because Eurydice is art – the art of combining life and death through the thread of love between Orpheus (human heart struck by the mystery of human existence) and Eurydice (the projection of this mystery into Orpheus’ creative gift).
Eurydice is between love and life, between love for life and love for death, between just living and the empty grace of death, between yearning and apathy, between passion and inertia, trembling and tranquility. She is between being human and being a ghost. She is as love is, simultaneously generous and aloof. She is what Orpheus wants her to be because she is what he wants – he needs to possess and to surrender his possession, to keep and to lose, to melt together and to disentangle, to be and not to be. He wants Eurydice in both forms, because only together, in their irreconcilability they make love exist, they make love to him.
Eurydice is art because art is Eurydice. And Orpheus is a (mortal) artist of the immortal desire to live and to die, to die and to live. We see in “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” the impossible Resnais’ actors who are still living and dying, dying and living in front of us through the vehicle of the cinematic screen. They are Orpheuses and Eurydices, themselves and us, carriers and incarnation of psycho-socio-cultural archetypes by which we live and die, we, the slaves and the rebels of life and death, shy and confident lovers for whom life and art is the ultimate womb, for whom life is a mother and death is a father, for whom love is the unity of the two, life and death.
Resnais, Eurydice and Orpheus, Resnais, cinema and we, the viewers, Resnais, life, art, death and love. We live because we are connected with art – with Eurydice and Orpheus via Alain Resnais, Sabine Azema, Pierre Arditi….

By Victor Enyutin

James van Maanen said...

Wow -- Katia/Victor, this is some description! And a very interesting take on Eurydice (and Orpheus, and love and art and the movie and its actors).

Thanks so much for taking the trouble to post it. I expect that M. Resnais himself will have read it or will read it at some point.