Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cinema du Look

Jean-Jaques Beineix’s Diva (1981) has been re-released and is now playing at the Ritz at the Bourse. The film is credited with launching the Cinéma du Look, a French film movement in the 80’s and early 90’sthat often criticizes capitalism by showcasing spectacle. I have never seen this film, so I will surely heading to the Bourse to see Diva on the silver screen.

You are probably familiar with the Cinéma du Look through Luc Besson, who directed La Femme Nikita (1990) and The Fifth Element (1997). If you seen either of these films (I prefer The Fifth Element, by far) you know that are loud action/adventure films that spare no expense when it comes to special effects or costumes—not the type of film one typically expects come out of France. Another director of the Cinéma du Look is Leos Carax, who happens to be the director of one of my all time favorite films: Les Amants du Pont-neuf or Lovers on a Bridge (1991). Here's a picture from Les Amants. The homeless lovers are drunk on the ninth bridge where they live, and they shrink into miniature versions of themselves with an old fashioned trompe l'oeil, as if they were in a film by George Méliès.

The French New Wave of the 50’s and 60’s is credited with rebelling against “le cinéma du papa”, and I would argue that the Cinéma du Look also rebelled against the cinema of their fathers. However, their rebellion took place decades later, and therefore their style and technique were entirely different. The films use similar techniques of glossy, Hollywood blockbusters to contrast their disenfranchised characters and the various depictions of late-capitalist societies.

Since so many trends from the 80’s are resurfacing lately, maybe it is time to revisit the Cinéma du Look. Luc Besson recently release a film called Angel-A (2005), which you might call an very French adaptation of Wings of Desire or It’s a Wonderful Life, topped off with a chain smoking, immortal femme fatale. In Angel A, an angel name Angela saves a man from suicide and teaches him to love himself. She performs this feat alongside the Seine, in French Cafés, while dancing in strip clubs and by beating up gangsters. As an angel who is neither dead nor alive in a film that is both seedy and holy, she perhaps signifies the simultaneous death and rebirth of a somewhat forgotten movement that I highly reccomend. (Here's a picture from Angel-A. )


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