Saturday 19 January 2008

Tout va bien (1972)

Emphatic and memorable titles unfold in the red, white and blue of the tricolor, while an unseen director calls for takes. When the visuals start, they're in the form of cheques that quickly add up the cost of some movie called Tout va bien, amazingly enough the title of our movie too. It's a dissection of what makes a movie, from the very basics on up, and it focuses on Her and Him, deliberately generic for a while, played by French legend Yves Montand and Jane Fonda, who was already established as a major actress in 1972 but was more important at the time as Hanoi Jane. She was in France in 1971 because of her anti-war work and her notorious trip to Vietnam came the same year as this film, 1972.

Montand is Jacques, who seems to be a director of TV commercials, and Fonda is Susan Dewitt, a journalist working for the American Broadcasting System. The pair of them end up locked inside the manager's office at the Salumi factory, with the manager, hostages of the workers who are on strike. Everyone seems to have grievances, but they disagree with each other's grievances and are as upset with the union as they are with management.

Jean-Luc Godard and co-director Jean-Pierre Gorin play a lot of tricks on us here that are fascinating to watch. I particularly enjoyed the set which is a cross section of a building where we see what everyone inside is doing through the mere absence of an entire wall and long scenes take place within that set, moving smoothly from room to room without the need for cuts. I'm sure Lars von Trier was paying attention, and probably many others too. My impressions are that this isn't a great film in itself but it's a hugely important on e that probably fits pivotally into timelines of technique.

Our perspectives keep changing. We are thrown into the story then yanked back out again. We see characters become actors and then become characters again. We see long static monologues that really don't seem to have much of anything to do with anything. I blurred out what some of them were actually saying while focusing on the people in the background who just stood there and looked uncomfortable. Then we switch to Jane Fonda who sits there doing nothing while the story unfolds in sound. Whole scenes unfold around the manager's inability to find a bathroom.

To be honest, the strangest thing about this movie is that as scenes kept going without any real reason to watch them, my eyelids kept drooping only for my eyes to open again and catch back up with the plot, and at one point they drooped on a domestic dispute and reopened on a black and white picture of a man's erect penis, spanning the entire screen. Needless to say they didn't droop again for a little while. They started again on the long scene in the supermarket though which looked stunning in its use of choreography and crowd dynamics.

Without much of a story or a point that I could determine, this is hardly a film to sit down and bubblegum through, but it does very much seem like a film to sit down and analyse scenes. It's almost perfect made for class material. I wonder if that was the point.

No comments: