Liveblogging <i>La Captive</i>

by twhalliii
March 8, 2006 2:46 AM
1 Comment
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I’m new to this liveblogging phenomenon, but from what I understand it involves posting updates to a single blog entry during an event, keeping the reader abreast of the author’s impressions as the event unfolds. So, in an effort to keep up with what the hip kids are doing nowadays ( or in a shameless batting of the eyelashes at The Reeler ), I thought I would unwind from an arduously intense day by liveblogging a DVD. After all, now that Wellspring is gone and everyone seems to agree that this is the future of foreign film distribution, I better start to think of seeing films like this in my bedroom, laptop in hand, as an event! Buy your stocks now, people!

Tonight, I’ll be drawing from the top of the ol’ Netflix pile; Chantal Ackerman’s La Captive. Let’s hit the play button and begin, shall we? Oh, and duh: SPOILERS!

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A Scene from Chantal Ackerman's La Captive, or so I believe, as I haven't watched it yet

9:58pm: Hit 'Play'... the sound of waves crashing on a beach, the opening credits roll. Sylvie Testud! I just saw Fear and Trembling recently on another rental, and I loved it. Excited already. I should also mention, as the credits end and the scenes of 8mm film of impossibly beautiful girls on the beach rolls along, that this film is loosely based on a story by Marcel Proust. I am also a fan of Time Regained by Raul Ruiz, but I never found the right sherpa to guide me up the intellectual Everest of Remembrance of Things Past. One day. 10:05pm: I like this already. Beautiful tracking shots through the streets and alleyways of Paris. I have not seen a lot of Chantal Ackerman's films, only recently having watched Tomorrow We Move (Sylvie Testud again...), but she clearly has a beautifully formal style. Serious stalker vibe going on, though. Oooh, title card! Trés literary! 10:13pm: Dunno how many of you have seen Chabrol's recent film The Bridesmaid, but I am getting some serious tonal echoes. Sculpture, obsession, self-recognition. Ackerman knows how to move a camera. One of the things I noticed in so many of the submissions to the film festival, and in most of the American films at Sundance, is the lack of meaningful camera movement. Then, a perfect counterpoint: the still I pasted above is slowly materialzing before my eyes as Ackerman, with aching patience, holds the camera perfectly still as the couple in the frame discuss the smell of sex. A quick pan up, glass between the lovers, a barricade to true intimacy. 10:24pm: Let's talk about music for a second. I love classical music of all stripes. In this scene between Simon (Stanislas Merhar) and Ariane (Ms. Testud), the couple lie in bed talking about the mundane aspects of everyday life, and their unity is underscored by a lovely piece of violin music. The minute Ariane is asleep, off goes the music of romance, back into a cold, silent sense of possession. 10:37pm: Ariane sings the musical theme, off camera. I think I heard her call out the name of her girlfriend, Andreé, during a love scene. And now, a possible singing lesson. I know why the caged bird sings! (sorry, I had to). 10:38pm: Ariane and her girlfriend Andreé pick up the tune as a duet and exit. Lovely device. The moment the door closes, Simon and the camera start prowling. He would easily have fit in a Patricia Highsmith or Oscar Wilde novel. Empty, privileged observer. Who is La Captive? Simon in his emptiness, or Ariane in the bonds of Simon's controlling obsession? 10:43pm: Simon picks up his own musical theme. Think Stalker meets Hitchcock. Again, prowling the alleyways of Paris, this time at night. A pure noir moment from Ackerman here. 10:50pm: Music again, this time a reference to a modern adaptation of Carmen. This isn't going to end well. 10:54pm: There is a perfectly represented sense of male sexual anxiety boiling under the surface here; the threat of homosexual betrayal by a female lover. Ackerman has it right; desire and suspicion. 11:04pm: Oops! Got wrapped up in the film; the long take in the backseat of the car, the night passing through the boughs of the trees. And now a balcony scene where Ariane and an unknown woman duet an Italian opera. Female connection, both behind bars. Simon: "I'm burning to know what goes on between women that doesn't go on between a woman and a man..." 11:12pm: We're moving into Eyes Wide Shut land; an inteview with a lesbian couple, a street of prostitutes. Ah, but Simon's impotence, his "allergy", takes us back to a constant rhyme in the film: Ariane asleep, Simon violating her, this time emotionally. 11:13pm: ... and now, for the third time, he attempts to make love to her while she sleeps. I smell couples counseling. 11:20pm: Now, even I am getting sexually frustrated. I like how Ackerman has updated the old idea of denied sexual gratification by finding it in sexual and emotional impotence. That said, not easy to empathize with a character this closed off. Nice Freudian moment here with Simon seeking the affection of his grandmother before heading back to Ariane's room. He's got it bad. 11:27pm: Weird realization... 98 minutes into a French film, and no one has smoked. ?? 11:39pm: Blogging is becoming much harder... the film's central relationship is intensifying and on a rollercoaster of emotion. Again, Ackerman's tone is all her own. And I love these Bressonian frames; empty, awaiting the arrival of the impending action. A trip to the country by car recalling Louis Malle (for me anyway) and now a sea-side estate with huge, empty rooms that brings to mind the aforementioned Ruiz adaptation of Proust, Woody Allen's Interiors and the opening credits of the film. 11:49pm: The music swells, a long shot of a small motor boat at sea, slowly approaching the shore. Simon is alone, Ariane lost. Silence for a brief moment, and the promise to be apart forever, tragically kept. What a climax... credits rolling.... All in all, amazing movie. Just what I needed. Well. That was fun. I am not sure what kind of nerd I must be to have just done this. Then again, you read to the end. Bonne Nuit!

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1 Comment

  • Herman | January 23, 2008 8:07 AMReply

    Thanks . . . that was great! I saw this at a French films week at Lincoln Center a few years ago. There was a Q & A with Ackerman afterward. This was a nice reminder and so much more informed than my own experience. I do remember a couple of slow-ish driving scenes shot through a windshield that evoked VERTIGO for me. If this is on Netflix, I'm going to recommend it to a friend.