Automation And Other Things In “A Nous la Liberte”

Rene Clair‘s 1931 film, A Nous la Liberte, ends (almost) with a comically ironic look at the replacement of man with machine in the factory—before it was known that society would weather this storm—and it induces us to wonder how relevant this matter is to our own time.  In any case, what is actually central to the film is that an escaped convict, Louis (Raymond Cordy), is hungry for freedom but, after becoming a wealthy manufacturer, leads men into forms of captivity.  He means no harm, though, and finally he loses his business and is free only in the way he was after escaping from prison.  He hits the open road.

Liberte is such a weird little flick it is not exactly my favorite Rene Clair.  Again, statements are put to music and the plot is bulging.  It is as artificial as it is satirical (more so).  But uniqueness is uniqueness; Clair is cannily and charmingly daring.  And Liberte does succeed at making you think.

(In French with English subtitles)


“The Affair” Of Another Season

So far I have seen six episodes of the TV series, The Affair, Season 2, on DVD, and I’m considerably impressed by it.

Noah (Dominic West) has left his wife Helen (Maura Tierney) for a former nurse, Alison (Ruth Wilson), and has also been arrested—the plot just has to be enriched—for the murder of a cad who impregnated Noah’s daughter.

Many of the scenes with Helen are powerful (and one, alas, which is artsy), as when she tells her strident mother to leave her house.  The show examines the ties with other people that cannot quite be severed as well as those that are severed all too easily.  It is intelligent enough, in one episode, to have Alison talk the way the black hero in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man talks: she complains of her own invisibility, that people never see her, Alison the person.

I hope I am not repulsed by anything in The Affair and wish to stop watching it.  So far it’s been riveting, and I’d like to write about the remaining episodes.

Sad Cases In Vegas: “Leaving Las Vegas”

Cover of "Anti Social Studies 101 (Escape...

Cover via Amazon

Presenting debauchery and distress apropos of booze and sex, Leaving Las Vegas (1995) is Mike Figgis‘s candid but pretentious story of short-term love between a drunk (Nicolas Cage) and a hooker (Elizabeth Shue).  Cage no longer has a wife or a job and wants to drink himself to death in the Las Vegas to which he travels.  Shue gets knocked about by her pimp who eventually tells her to get lost before he is blown away by mobsters.  Oddly, Shue remarks to Cage that she is happy; I fail to see how she could be.  But if she is, it doesn’t last:  By the picture’s end, she becomes as much of a veritable loser as Cage.

Another detail I don’t understand is why someone as beautiful as Shue has to settle for being a prostitute.  How did she get into this profession?  Couldn’t she have become a model or a dancer or an actress?  Or was she too lazy?

LLV‘s pretentiousness lies in its artiness.  The use of slow motion is matched in frequency only by the use of cinematic snippets fading to black.  The soundtrack is egregiously fancy, although the often mellow musical score, written by Figgis himself, is pleasant.  As for the acting, Cage is not exactly uninteresting, but neither does he have sufficient personality for an important leading role like this.  Hence he has to resort to being somewhat mannered.  Shue, on the other hand, is as haughty, sensitive, friendly-flirty, and pathetic as Sera the hooker was meant to be.  She is not that well developed a character, but this is screenwriter Figgis’s fault; what Figgis required Shue provided.  It’s just about the only asset in this critically acclaimed failure of a film.

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