a play from the 1940’s, based on classical mythology, still speak to
contemporary audiences? Alain Resnais
will answer in the affirmative. As a
consummate cinematic game-player, he naturally stacks the deck, casting a who’s
who of French thespians in his meta-adaptation of Jean Anouilh’s Eurydice. Regardless, the star-crossed love still
resonates in You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
and Eurydice supply the back bone of YASNY,
but the framing device incorporates Anouilh’s Cher Antoine ou l’amour Rate.
Playing themselves, the leading lights of French stage and screen are
summoned to a memorial for their dear departed friend, playwright Antoine d’Anthac. As part of the ceremony, they are to watch a
video of his/Anouilh’s Eurydice, to
determine whether the avant-garde revival is worth staging. It is a work they are all familiar with,
having each appeared in previous productions.
Watching the screen, they get caught up in the story and their own
memories and begin to act out Eurydice in
concert with the recorded rehearsal.
members overlap and echo each other, but Resnais always maintains the integrity
of Eurydice’s storyline. It all sounds very post-modern, but it is
really a case of the narrative overpowering its meta-conceits rather than being
defined by them.
course, it is hard to go wrong with YASNY’s
cast. While Resnais has three sets of
Orpheus and Eurydice at his disposal, he clearly favors Pierre Arditi and
Sabine Azéma (two of his longtime collaborators), with good reason. Watching this couple on the late side of
middle age portraying the doomed young lovers is eerily moving. Their experienced faces seem to amplify the
tragedy rather than distract from it.
Nonetheless, Anne Consigny’s Eurydice is exquisitely brittle and
dignified, overshadowing the aloof Lambert Wilson.
Bond villain Mathieu Amalric exudes a deliciously Mephistophelean vibe while
maintaining the moral ambiguity of Monsieur Henri, death’s avatar, a role he mostly
has to himself. Michel Piccoli nicely
anchors the film with his warm gravitas, ostensibly revisiting the role of
Orpheus’s father, while leading the cheering section within the elite
audience. In addition to playing d’Anthac
with eccentric flair, Denis Podalydès (from the Comédie Française) was
recruited to direct the hipster Eurydice
video segments, further complicating notions of what the film is and who is its
author. It is Anouilh’s Eurydice, as well as d’Anthac’s, but it
is also partially Cher Antoine,
mostly reconceived by Resnais, but also shaped by Podalydès.
The key point is it is all good. With its cast members handing off their
batons like relay runners, YASNY’s
affection for the theater’s passion and artifice becomes infectious. Featuring music by X-Files composer Mark Snow and Eric Gautier’s richly noir-ish cinematography,
it is an unusually elegant film.
Cerebral yet strangely poignant, the highly recommended You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet opens this
Friday (6/7) in New York at the Quad Cinema.
Labels: Alain Resnais, French Cinema, Mathieu Almaric, Michel Piccoli, Pierre Arditi