Sunday 18 November 2007

Place de la république (1974) Louis Malle

The more films I see by Louis Malle the more I realise that he was a rather unique filmmaker. It goes beyond the lack of any consistent theme or subject matter, to a completely different approach to what film is. People like Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford for instance made films in a number of genres or styles, but they contributed so much to a particular genre that they're identified by it. Malle is more like a Billy Wilder, who hopped around from genre to genre yet consistently made powerful and memorable films. However he went beyond that and didn't even restrict himself to the standard genres, delving into surrealism and documentaries.

This is a documentary but it isn't even standard for that format. Malle spent ten days with a small crew filming in a small area in the the Place de la république just asking questions of people. There's no point, no focus, no concept of where the film should go. It's simply directed by who would talk to the camera. One lady early on suggests that the lack of a plot or actors 'might work in a documentary but you'd need a commentary.' There isn't one. The most fun part for me was the lady raving about her mother-in-law who is a famous actress, not realising in the slightest that she was talking to a director who had worked with her twelve years earlier.

The problem with this film is precisely its charm. It has no focus and comprises of a whole slew of little vignettes that are fascinating to watch. Unfortunately that's not particularly easy to stay focused on for an hour and a half. In fact it's almost impossible if you're not in a theatre because there's always something else to multitask on and then you find yourself missing half the film because you're looking somewhere else.

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