Tag Archives: Jean-Pierre Léaud

Weekend (1967, Jean-Luc Godard)

The best part of Weekend is Jean-Pierre Léaud singing his dialogue while in a phone booth. He then gets into a fight with leads Jean Yanne and Mireille Darc as they try to get a ride from him. Weekend is about the unreality of bourgeois life when it gets into the wild–in this case, the French countryside, which is inhabited by communal cannibals and people out of novels. Yanne and Darc, an unhappily married couple plotting each other’s murder after they kill Darc’s father for his money, are in a film, not a novel.

They soon learn the difference.

Director Godard goes for various shocks–whether through violent misogyny, quiet misogyny, violent animal cruelty, sight gags involving car accidents–and none of them ever really come across. He puts the viewer on guard immediately; when he does surprise, it’s usually because a scene is so well executed.

Maybe the best sequence in the film is when Yanne and Darc are stuck in a traffic jam on a tranquil French country road. It goes from pastoral to horrific, the constant blaring of car horns reminding the viewer not to get comfortable.

And when Yanne and Darc are on the road, Weekend might never connect (it doesn’t try), but at least it moves well. The performances are good, Godard’s almost all long shot composition is good (lovely photography from Raoul Coutard). It also isn’t forced. At least, not compared to the third act.

That third act is excruciatingly boring stuff.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Jean-Luc Godard; director of photography, Raoul Coutard; edited by Agnès Guillemot; music by Antoine Duhamel; released by Athos Films.

Starring Mireille Darc (Corinne), Jean Yanne (Roland), Paul Gégauff (Pianist), Jean-Pierre Léaud (Saint-Just), Blandine Jeanson (Emily Bronte), Yves Afonso (Tom Thumb) and Juliet Berto (The Radical).


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The Bohemian Life (1992, Aki Kaurismäki)

The Bohemian Life is almost a farce. Kaurismäki is doing a version of the La bohème story–though he’s not concerned with it being a modernization as much as filming it in modernity–and his use of symbolism is exaggerated. He’s making sure the viewer knows what he’s doing and why. These moments of exaggeration don’t come until well into Life’s second half. It’s like he’s given the viewer a chance to check out, which is an interesting approach–Life is targeted towards the appreciating audience.

The symbolism isn’t the first time Kaurismäki tasks his viewer in Life. He opens the film following André Wilms’s comically misinformed, consistently unemployed intellectual. Through Wilms, Kaurismäki moves the focus of the film to painter Matti Pellonpää and his eventual romance with Evelyne Didi.

Didi and Christine Murillo (as Wilms’s girlfriend) are “just” the girlfriends. Kaurismäki writes some wonderful scenes for the pair, especially one featuring some really muted symbolism amidst all the Technicolor (Life’s black and white) examples.

The film’s superbly acted from all parties. Pellonpää is exceptional. The actors are always earnestly dramatic, even during some of the sillier exchanges. Actually, because of their seriousness, Life never gets silly.

Kaurismäki’s direction relies a lot on movement, but rarely the camera. He and photographer Timo Salminen point the camera and let the action play out. When the camera does move, it’s usually for Kaurismäki’s subtler observations. Fantastic editing from Veikko Aaltonen too.

Incredibly ambitious, The Bohemian Life is an unqualified success.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Aki Kaurismäki; screenplay by Kaurismäki, based on a novel by Henri Murger; director of photography, Timo Salminen; edited by Veikko Aaltonen; produced by Klaus Heydemann and Kaurismäki; released by Pyramide Distribution.

Starring Matti Pellonpää (Rodolfo), Evelyne Didi (Mimi), André Wilms (Marcel), Kari Väänänen (Schaunard), Christine Murillo (Musette), Jean-Pierre Léaud (Blancheron) and Laika (Baudelaire).


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