Tuesday, November 14, 2006

[1980] MON ONCLE D'AMERIQUE: You know, when respectable film critics hype the heck out of certain directors--like Alain Resnais--you, the film novice, are not quite sure what to expect when you start watching their films. I mean, when I started watching this I was not expecting a clever, whimsical little tale of thwarted relationships and thwarted ambitions. But that's what I got! This is the story of Rene Ragueneau (Gerard Depardieu), a middle management type of working slob; Janine Garnier (a very Cate-Blanchett-meets-Gwyneth-Paltrow Nicole Garcia), a young and single professional; who is the mistress of Jean Le Gall (Roger Pierre), a respectable government minister of some kind (I think.) And their various failures and trials. The first fifteen minutes or so are quick 'n' dirty biographies of each of the leads, done in quick, ironinc flashbacks, reminding me of Wes Anderson, or contemporary Japanese whimsy like Stereo Future or Kamikaze Girls. Plus Resnais is using as another distancing technique voiceovers by and interviews with Henri Laborit, who apparently was a respectable pharmacology researcher (I think his theories are no longer in favor, though.) Laborit's there to a further layer of explanation for the character's foibles, but the effect is mostly comic, like when Resnais quickly cuts from characters trapped in awful situations to rats trapped in electrified cages (or when he has rat-headed actors quickly reenact previous scenes.) AND there's another layer of irony provided by quickly inserting scenes from old black and white movies--so there's about five Greek choruses going on at once. It kind of craps out in the end, but it mostly keeps you moving with the energetic whimsy throughout. (The title--My American Uncle--refers to the three leads mentioning American uncles on occasion, and how these mysterious uncles tried to be better than they actually were, and how they were inspiring, but none of the characters were actually sure if their uncles had succeeded at anything in the new world. So it's America as impossible dream, I guess.)

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