Thursday, November 20, 2008

PARIS VU PAR (Six in Paris, 1965)

Here's an anthology of six comic sketches set in different areas of Paris, from directors of varying degrees of fame. I admit to not really knowing half of them (Douchet, Rouch, Pollet) and the film is ordered so that they're the opening acts for the bigger names of Rohmer, Godard and Chabrol. It's the sort of film that becomes more of a documentary over time and becomes worthy of interest aside from its cinematic merits. Its artifice is flimsy in the first place, so I grew more attentive to the colorful imagery of mid-1960s Paris. Because it was filmed in 16 mm and blown up to 35 mm, it reminded me, despite the major talents involved, of a lot of the movies I've seen on DVDs from Something Weird Video. At a certain point, or at a certain minimal level of financing, the aesthetics of the Nouvelle Vague and U.S. exploitation cinema converge. In some cases, the latter may be influenced by the former, but it may just be a coincidence.

Anyway, of the six stories, I was most impressed by Jean Rouch's effort, which was done almost in a single take. A young couple bickers because the impending obstruction of their view of landmarks by a new building symbolizes to the wife the shutting off of opportunities due to the husband's lack of ambition. Storming out to work, with the camera following her down with the elevator and out the front door, she has a chance encounter with a man who might offer the escape she's looking for, but the stakes involved in the encounter are higher for him than she realizes. Ultimately, though, we get a shock ending with little point to it. Otherwise, they're silly stories (Rohmer's tale of a man worried that he killed a bum with his umbrella is especially silly) that I'd probably dismiss out of hand if they were domestically produced, with Godard's contribution (filmed in collaboration with Albert Maysles) notable for its misogyny. The poster (or is it a box cover?) references the Pollet section about a French nebbish's awkward encounter with an older, surprisingly patient prostitute. That episode was at least convincingly awkward.

Thanks to the Albany Public Library, this was a free rental for me. It's a fullscreen DVD which probably does justice to the colorful original material, and comes with some extra interviews with participants that I didn't watch. It's worth a look if your library has it or if it turns up on cable, but it's a keeper for New Wave completists only.

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