The Arts on Film: Young & Beautiful (2013)

It’s no surprise that once again I find cause to write another one of these posts after having seen a new Ozon film. Though his love of 1960s French pop is as strong as it ever has been its really through the dissection of one artist’s particular work that we have underscored many themes, ideas and conclusions that are examined by this latest film.

Young & Beautiful
tells a cockeyed coming-of-age story wherein a girl, Isabelle (Marine Vacht), after losing her virginity decides after a random solicitation to become a prostitute. Much of the film is about eschewing easy answers and furthermore rebuffing the notion that there is a singular explanation for her actions. It is rather not a mystery such as a investigation of characters and their reactions to given situations.

In many ways Isabelle’s tendentiousness to engage in such activity, her lack of compunction about it and the fact that she doesn’t really think about the consequences until things go very wrong are illuminated, or at least speculated upon, by dissection of the following poem by Arthur Rimbaud.

It’s not just the first line, but the explication by one student which surmises that there is no change only cycles that repeat really diagram a pattern of behavior that occurs in the film; not just by Isabelle necessarily but also by her family.

Ultimately, the film draws a similar schema to In the House in terms of familial claustrophobia, coexisting and commingling, but whereas it may be as intriguing intellectually, especially in the use of cited source material, it falls a bit short in the visceral arena.

Be that as it may, enjoy Rimbaud’s words free of the brilliant construction of Ozon’s scene and ruminate on them anew if you have seen the film.

Arthur Rimbaud

Novel

I.

No one’s serious at seventeen.
–On beautiful nights when beer and lemonade
And loud, blinding cafés are the last thing you need
–You stroll beneath green lindens on the promenade.
Lindens smell fine on fine June nights!
Sometimes the air is so sweet that you close your eyes;
The wind brings sounds–the town is near–
And carries scents of vineyards and beer. . .

II.

–Over there, framed by a branch
You can see a little patch of dark blue
Stung by a sinister star that fades
With faint quiverings, so small and white. . .
June nights! Seventeen!–Drink it in.
Sap is champagne, it goes to your head. . .
The mind wanders, you feel a kiss
On your lips, quivering like a living thing. . .

III.

The wild heart Crusoes through a thousand novels
–And when a young girl walks alluringly
Through a streetlamp’s pale light, beneath the ominous shadow
Of her father’s starched collar. . .
Because as she passes by, boot heels tapping,
She turns on a dime, eyes wide,
Finding you too sweet to resist. . .
–And cavatinas die on your lips.

IV.

You’re in love. Off the market till August.
You’re in love.–Your sonnets make Her laugh.
Your friends are gone, you’re bad news.
–Then, one night, your beloved, writes. . .!
That night. . .you return to the blinding cafés;
You order beer or lemonade. . .
–No one’s serious at seventeen
When lindens line the promenade.

-Arthur Rimbaud

The Arts on Film: In the House (2013)

Introduction

Enumerating how many artistic disciplines exist is not the purview of this series. Rather the idea of this series is to briefly explore an iteration, an instance, of another artform in the world of cinema.

In an upcoming series of posts I will state that I believe that cinema is the ultimate artform because of its ability to encompass or represent all the forms that came before it. Its elasticity is such that I believe it will be able to dialogue with whatever comes next.

However, this post seeks to satisfy a simple aim by illuminating a work cited by a film. To learn more of it and the artist in question. In short, just a bit more than information the film deems suitable.

In the House (2013)

In the House (2013, Mars Distribution)

I have had some troubles picking up this series wherein the other arts are featured in films. However, I’d rather feature a film that speaks very specifically about the works of an artist with less information than not to mention it at all.

In The House references several writers, naturally as the lead is a French teacher and frustrated writer and has a protege with a flair for the written word. However, just one painted is ever mentioned through the course of the film. That painter is Paul Klee.

In doing a web search I was able to get these screen captures that give you a closer look at the paintings discussed. One review cites the titles as Rettung,
Unterbrechung and Hoffnung.” Which if memory serves is right.

Any other light that can be shed on them would be appreciated.

In The House (2013, Mars Distribution)

The Arts on Film: Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

Introduction

Enumerating how many artistic disciplines exist is not the purview of this series. Rather the idea of this series is to briefly explore an iteration, an instance, of another artform in the world of cinema.

In an upcoming series of posts I will state that I believe that cinema is the ultimate artform because of its ability to encompass or represent all the forms that came before it. Its elasticity is such that I believe it will be able to dialogue with whatever comes next.

However, this film seeks to satisfy a simple aim by illuminating a work cited by a film. To learn more of it and the artist in question. In short, just a bit more than information the film deems suitable.

Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

Ivan's Childhood (1962, Janus Films)

This series does not occur without Edmond Davis-Quinn‘s poetry. I was reading it and got to thinking about what the last time I read a poem was. I knew it was likely an allusion to one in a film and so this series was born (and it won’t always be poetry but democratically traverse the arts).

When thinking of the idea of references to other artforms in films one of the first ideas of poetry in Ivan’s Childhood, Andrey Tarkovsky’s first feature film. There isn’t a direct quotation here but when I revisited this film (I viewing many of his works in hopes of having a better frame of reference for his book Sculpting in Time, which I still need to finish) I read the Criterion booklet and they translated one of Arseny Tarkovsky’s poems for the booklet.

In such films as Mirror (1975) and Stalker (1979), Andrei Tarkovsky explicitly references the poetry of his father, Arseny. Although no such direct quotation exists in Ivan’s Childhood, there are striking connections between the imagery in the film and his father’s 1958 poem “Ivan’s Willow,” thus distinguishing it as a possible source of influence. It was translated for this release by Robert Bird.

Ivan’s Willow
by Arseny Tarkovsky

Before the war Ivan would walk down the stream
Where they grew a willow, no one knew whose.

No one knew why it loomed over the stream;
No one knew this was Ivan’s willow tree.

In his canopied raincoat, killed in combat,
Ivan came back to his willow’s shade.

Ivan’s willow,
Ivan’s willow,
Like a white boat, it floats downstream.

Not only the images strike one as being similar, but also in referencing his father’s work, at least by inference, Tarkovsky may have by that means made the film more personal. For as cerebral as he was, he was still working from a very personal place and working from a short story, it was key to bring it closer to home.

While I came to greatly appreciate the works of Andrei, the works of Arseny were elusive. Now I search and see they are available. Perhaps, I anglicized his name wrong prior. Alas, in this booklet and in Tarkovsky’s films I caught glimpses of another artist, another work of art that intrigued me.

Ultimately, that’s the idea of this series: a quick underscore of another work highlighted in a film that’s worth noting. This was the first that came to mind and hopefully more will follow.

Review- Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Werner Herzog in Chavet cave. (IFC Films/Sundance Selects)

Cave of Forgotten Dreams is Werner Herzog’s meditation on the cave art which was discovered when the Chauvet cave in France was first unearthed in 1994, a sight that is seen by a privileged few human eyes. Meditation is an apt word for it also, for while these examples of cave art are the best preserved, some of the oldest and most detailed we’ve found there’s still plenty about them shrouded in mystery which scientists of varying disciplines are trying to piece together.

This lack of certainty with regards to the subject leads this to be a documentary of a more poetic nature, which makes Werner Herzog the perfect director to tackle the subject. Herzog has shown in his documentary work not only the ability to write illuminating narration and deliver it exceedingly well but also to make almost any subject fascinating, render it in an interesting fashion and find an emotional angle in which to attack it.

The attack in this instance is somewhat deterred by some production restraints that are placed on the film by the curator of the cave. While perhaps there’s too much time dedicated to discussing them they do have bearing on the story in two manners: firstly, it’s a Herzog documentary and whether you like it or not he will be involved in it. He’s not one to distance himself from his subject. Second, it does illustrate the efforts that researchers are taking to maintain the pristine conditions of the cave so they can continue to study it without any more degradation than necessary.

Despite lighting limitations there are many wonderful images captured within the cave and as any true artist would Herzog uses the limitations to his advantage. One prime example which you see frequently is the camera hardly moves, the light pans over to it; the light level changes, shadows emerge and then fade to black. It makes the transition more natural than it would be with ideal lighting conditions and its exploited well.

Heightening the poetry and emotion of the piece beyond what it should realistically be expected to achieve is the music. The scoring of this film echoes a timelessness and a message being conveyed across the aeons that is difficult to communicate in words.

While the film isn’t as tightly edited as it could be there are sequences within in it that are like pieces of music themselves with crescendos and then silences and then the extended montage of just cave images that they were able to shoot closer since research for the year had been concluded.

The interviews are also pivotal, thankfully they weren’t too numerous if anything at times an intercession was lacking but the positive that came from them was that they were revealing attempts to elucidate the impossible.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams owes much of its success and some its struggles to its subject matter. The subject matter couldn’t be more interesting: it’s a fascinating examination of unanswerable mysteries of a bygone era and the dawn of man. However, much is unexplained, which allows your imagination to work and that’s good but leaves you in search of some closure. Regardless, Herzog does add a nice button connecting the cave to the modern day in a very creative way and it’s a film well worth seeing.

8/10