Arnaud Desplechin

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#76 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jan 12, 2020 3:01 am

I went back and watched Desplechin’s first feature, La vie des morts, which is a more tightly contained milieu of family dynamics functioning dysfunctionally (yet comfortably) as they fight mourning - or perhaps they’re coping with death in their own individual ways - though this is still anything but a typical procedure in examining them. The opening breakfast explosion has no roots planted in audience awareness and the rant about suicide and children’s inherent hatred for mothers is hilarious, intense, and confusing all at once. The film continues to follow a strange path that’s loose in structure even if clearly deliberately structured around the little details and big ones equally. At a brief ~50 minutes, this is more like a third of a Desplechin film, but a third is better than none and I loved this, even if it’s a thin slice of greater things to come.

Marianne Denicourt, who steals scenes in his later films too, absolutely runs away with this film from her first scene having a panic attack in a bath tub, and if this one leaves you wanting more, at least we get her burning intensity contrasted with the idiosyncratic behavior of her family members for a good chunk of an hour. It’s always refreshing to see a filmmaker’s debut and witness a skill set and perspective already present from the start. I highly recommend checking this one out, especially in preparation for the “first films” list project coming up sometime in the future, as I’d expect this could very well make my own list. I mean, grown men practicing boxing at a funeral, a playfully dramatic and lengthy impromptu poetry recital, and one character woefully declaring that he doesn’t wash dishes because it “bores me to death” sans context while staring off into space are all markers of classic Desplechin, and those aren’t even close to the best parts of the movie, which come when it bravely and carefully lifts the coating of dark humor and shows its heart.

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#77 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Jan 12, 2020 10:27 pm

Made as a TV movie, La forêt finds a more consistent balance than most Desplechin in a rather straight focus on a few interpersonal relations, the barriers to exercising the will, and the inherent humor in communication. This really does resemble a filmed stage play, which it is, and while the narrative does takes some unexpected turns in introducing more characters and motives to muck up the narrative, I prefer his films made with a bit more breathing room. What is lost here is the authentic chaos that reveals a soul and opens up space for this energy to spread. There are scenes of raw emotion but they cannot overcome their artificiality, even if they would be far worse off in another filmmaker’s hands. This was a fine enough piece of passive entertainment, with witty dialogue, well-paired dynamics between actors, and strong technique. Worth checking out, even if it’s missing some of Desplechin’s auteurist charms just by definition of its less personal source.

I don’t have a strong urge to revisit Jimmy P but I feel a bit similarly in that it suffers in comparison to Desplechin’s other work because it doesn’t possess the personal intimacy I crave from the filmmaker. The film still retains his humanist meditations and offers space for the rapport-building process of therapy, which is the most significant, and the depiction of that aspect of the therapeutic relationship is a pleasure to watch unfold in all its empathy and absence of ulterior ambitions, which is where the director shines through the cracks to insert his beliefs in the product.

La Sentinelle is an amusing first full feature because it appears to follow the blueprint of a neo-noir crime plot or political thriller on the conceptual pitch, and yet its contents and vibe are unmistakably within the rhythm of Desplechin’s later films abandoning any connection to genre. There are spacious musings on young men brushing up against the curiosities of life, playful interludes, communication navigations, and enough dry humor to turn the realistic into surrealistic (there is an early scene involving doctors in medical school sheepishly struggling with their lesson while examining a dead body that had me roaring). If anything this is more of a romantic comedy-drama than the crime thriller it toys with, though it’s really just about a guy entering adulthood, having experiences, and contemplating his identity. It’ll be interesting to see how Desplechin handles the return to the “crime” film once we get English subs for Oh Mercy! but my guess is it won’t be quite so loose in structure or intentionally subverted from its visible subject.

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#78 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Jan 14, 2020 12:13 am

Léo, en jouant 'Dans la compagnie des hommes': A strange meta-exercise, especially in light of the interview Matt posted upthread about Desplechin’s comments on film vs. the theatre. I’m not going to analyze this through heavy post-modernism, but Desplechin strikes me as someone who enjoys the depth of drama and the breathing room of filmmaking unhinged from constraints, often demonstrated with playfulness and puzzling distractions to the main narrative. Here he has his fun with the play but cannot help bringing it all back to the actuality of the authentic being filming the rehearsal and revealing the pure tightly followed narrative drama as artificial. I don’t know if Desplechin is trying to make a point but I do think that he is probably not interested in rigid filmmaking or perhaps cannot resist the urge to capture meandering and rambling realism, and all the comedy and magic such an eye allows even in the banal process of a play reading.

Going hand in hand seemingly is L'Aimée, a documentary that transforms into a narrative in the telling of a deeper mystery narrative that is only “found” by Desplechin’s curiosity and willingness to ask questions with genuine interest. His empathy is fascinating to watch as the interviewer to his father, and in asking him how he feels regarding deep-seeded relationship dynamics is indicative of how the director thinks about his characters, by feeling through them. The final lines are heart-wrenching and beautiful, and this is the perfect feature to accompany Un conte de Noël on Criterion’s disc, for there are uncanny similarities between them, down to the physical resembles and internal feel of the house and neighborhood, the makeup of family members who visit, and even Desplechin’s own nonchalant admittance of his frequent heavy drinking and other familiar characteristics he exhibits in voiceover and disposition. I thought this was a wonderful film and one of those fiction-doc hybrids that actually works, especially when as personal as this.

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#79 Post by Never Cursed » Fri Jan 17, 2020 1:25 am

Trailer for Oh, Mercy! which indicates that it will be released in Australia through Madman Films

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#80 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sun Jan 19, 2020 1:10 pm

Never Cursed wrote:
Fri Jan 17, 2020 1:25 am
Trailer for Oh, Mercy! which indicates that it will be released in Australia through Madman Films
Well perhaps this trailer, which paints a rather gung-ho police procedural, may do the business of inciting interest but those of us anxious to see something bearing the imprint of Arnaud can rest assured of a different ride. Certainly the first half of the film sports the hoary old chestnuts of grizzled police inspector and rookie junior patrolling the mean streets of feral life but this is very much an affair of two halves which evolves into a tragedy of wretchedness. The main character Daoud, a placid long serving inspector of Algerian descent cuts an almost Franciscan figure in his approach but exudes a charisma that demands respect from his underlings.
Desplechin has expressed his desire to paint a portrait of his home city Roubaix. Roubaix, in the most northern extreme of France where if you tripped over you would land in Belgium, was once a prosperous and proud textile city which has fallen into disrepair and disrepute, it's people abandoned and prey to predators. And so we are guided on a road trip illustrating the tragedy of the city and its inhabitants before we arrive within the confines of the interrogation room of the commissariat following the discovery of a callous murder. This is where we find Desplechin at his most refined with scenes both harrowing and moving which powerfully elucidate the tragic human cost of all this.
The English version will be called Oh Mercy which may hint at this or else some marketing whizz thinks it exudes the right level of True detective funkiness but the French original of "Roubaix une Lumière" perhaps expresses the author's ambiguous intentions more.

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#81 Post by tenia » Sun Jan 19, 2020 4:01 pm

Dont know if you got the same impression, but it made me feel like Desplechin was making some kind of updated 50s film noir, except now the detective is drinking Perrier instead of whisky.
In any case, the Miss and myself liked it a lot, though the rookie's voice over and general christian behavior felt vastly pointless, and there also was a few moments that felt like superfluously piling on the derelict state of the region nowadays (note : I studied nearby at Lille for 3 years).
IIRC, nearby populations didnt really like how Desplechin paints the area in the movie, though I suppose it'll never be as bad as where Dumont shot (IIRC again) Flandres.

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#82 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Sun Jan 19, 2020 5:07 pm

I agree that it seemed that it was the traditional detective re-modelled into a sort of new-age saintly figure which was a bit worrying at first but I bought into it quickly as it seemed an integral part of his character rather than superficial. I also found the narration element from Louis and his diary/cahier entry perhaps the most clumsy aspect like an except from the Lonely Planet guide to Roubaix and was expecting it to turn into something more radical like the to camera narration in Conte de Noël but as it soon fell to one side I just shrugged and ignored it. I can't believe that Desplechin thought it anything other than expedient to slip in something expositional about the state of Roubaix rather than stylistically invigorating. On the whole though these are minor quibbles given what I think he has succeeded in creating with this seemingly perverse but heartfelt hommage to his home town and its people. Re the local displeasure - Arnaud's handling and portrayal of his characters are light years away from Bruno's so I doubt whether he'll ever receive the same degree of flak! (Add smiley emoji of you choice)

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tenia
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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#83 Post by tenia » Mon Jan 20, 2020 3:37 am

NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
Sun Jan 19, 2020 5:07 pm
Re the local displeasure - Arnaud's handling and portrayal of his characters are light years away from Bruno's so I doubt whether he'll ever receive the same degree of flak! (Add smiley emoji of you choice)
As I wrote, it certainly isn't that bad, but still. And there were a few times (including, precisely, in Louis' voice over) that seemed like pointlessly piling on clichés of the derelict town/area and probably didn't help. It exacerbated our impression that the whole voice-over and christian stuff were superfluous.
But this made me feel of Dumont, whose name you can't even pronounce in some of the villages he shot his earlier movies because it might get you thrown out.

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#84 Post by NABOB OF NOWHERE » Mon Jan 20, 2020 7:51 am

tenia wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 3:37 am
NABOB OF NOWHERE wrote:
Sun Jan 19, 2020 5:07 pm
Re the local displeasure - Arnaud's handling and portrayal of his characters are light years away from Bruno's so I doubt whether he'll ever receive the same degree of flak! (Add smiley emoji of you choice)

But this made me feel of Dumont, whose name you can't even pronounce in some of the villages he shot his earlier movies because it might get you thrown out.
I wonder how the people of Orleans feel about Bruno?

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#85 Post by barryconvex » Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:51 am

I spent the holiday weekend catching up with Desplechin whose films I ignored for some reason despite my unreserved love of A Christmas Tale. I don't really know why I didn't look into the rest of his output earlier (maybe I was waiting for English friendly blu rays to be issued?) but better late than never. Out of the three I watched-Kings & Queen, My Sex Life and Three Souvenirs Of My Youth (I refuse to use the English title given to Souvenirs)- it was the latter that I responded to the most. They're all excellent and filled with complex individuals but Paul Dedalus is one of the smartest, fully realized and greatest characters of 21st century cinema. I'm fine with the film's first two chapters but the third, the section of Souvenirs that chronicles his remembrances of his introduction to, courtship of and early relationship with his muse, Esther, is one of the high points of the past decade.

Stories of young love are rarely this convincing but Desplechin delves into the marrow of Paul and Esther's bond, burrowing deep into its highs and lows. Paul's memory has transformed her into someone who looks quite different from the adult Esther, but her personality is already formed. She's self assured (bordering on haughty) and independent with her beauty attracting a constant stream of male attention. She's the girl other girls of that age are envious of to the point of open hostility. Paul approaches her as someone with nothing to lose giving him a carefree sheen that dovetails with his low key charm and complete lack of bravado. She likes him, we can see what she sees in him and they spend more time together. When Paul eventually leaves for college in Paris she finds herself alone, something she's not accustomed to and unsure how to deal with. She writes him constant letters and Desplechin has her read some of them directly into the camera. A voiceover would only have diluted the effect of unfiltered longing and as delivered by Lou Roy-Lecollinet the intensity of her feelings and the impact they're having on her psyche cuts to the heart of her character. This all could've gone so very wrong a hundred different ways but for a remembrance of one's youth Desplechin keeps the mood keenly unsentimental. Paul may be a budding intellectual but he's still susceptible to the same hormonal impulses as anyone else his age. Esther is lonely and seeking solace. Add in a few hundred miles and it's a recipe for a relationship that is anything but placid, with each taking turns hurting the other and both having petty affairs along the way. Desplechin concludes things with an epilogue that, in a single scene, all but defines who Paul is and why he's such a memorable character. He can be a real prick sometimes or hopelessly immature sometimes but I deeply admire a man who doesn't forgive and forget when it comes to his true love.

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#86 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Jan 22, 2020 5:22 pm

barryconvex wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:51 am
Paul's memory has transformed her into someone who looks quite different from the adult Esther, but her personality is already formed. She's self assured (bordering on haughty) and independent with her beauty attracting a constant stream of male attention. She's the girl other girls of that age are envious of to the point of open hostility. Paul approaches her as someone with nothing to lose giving him a carefree sheen that dovetails with his low key charm and complete lack of bravado. She likes him, we can see what she sees in him and they spend more time together. When Paul eventually leaves for college in Paris she finds herself alone, something she's not accustomed to and unsure how to deal with. She writes him constant letters and Desplechin has her read some of them directly into the camera. A voiceover would only have diluted the effect of unfiltered longing and as delivered by Lou Roy-Lecollinet the intensity of her feelings and the impact they're having on her psyche cuts to the heart of her character. This all could've gone so very wrong a hundred different ways but for a remembrance of one's youth Desplechin keeps the mood keenly unsentimental. Paul may be a budding intellectual but he's still susceptible to the same hormonal impulses as anyone else his age. Esther is lonely and seeking solace. Add in a few hundred miles and it's a recipe for a relationship that is anything but placid, with each taking turns hurting the other and both having petty affairs along the way. Desplechin concludes things with an epilogue that, in a single scene, all but defines who Paul is and why he's such a memorable character. He can be a real prick sometimes or hopelessly immature sometimes but I deeply admire a man who doesn't forgive and forget when it comes to his true love.
I appreciate the more literal reading, even if I found the idea of skewed memory to be integral to understanding the depths of these scenes and made me come away with a different attitude towards the film. One of my favorite parts is his first meeting of Esther which you describe so well - where all the girls are hostile towards her and when he confronts her about her beauty and gives her attention she responds with self-obsessed declarations of her attractiveness as fact. I took this to be leaving space for the unknown degree by which Paul's memory is altering details to service his emotional charge of how he felt about her in that moment, and still does at the time he recollects said experiences. He wants to remember Esther as this goddess with a light around her, who is an angel and knows it. He also wants to believe that he was full of courage in approaching her and playing those games. Did the events occur exactly as they did? With memory, they never do, but that doesn't mean they didn't happen at all or that courage was lacking, it just speaks to the subjectivity of being removed from a moment and affected by personal history and emotion. Similarly, while the events of the relationship's trials and tribulations certainly occurred, Desplechin leaves open the possibility that this narrative is also jumbled based on resentment and pain. Does Paul give himself the satisfaction of his own effects on Esther, or did she just move away sans explanation? Was she actually affected by his behavior and then in turn reacted based on him or is that his preferred narrative to the truth of being deserted? What is the source of whatever alterations, if any, are being made within his memory: does he want to give himself credit to make sense of events, or did she hurt him so badly that he needs to smooth edges to rationalize the voids of meaning? Is it fair to say that "she hurt him" with Paul as the victim, or does this imply that he is owed something as the center of the world, and would it be more fair to say that "he felt hurt because of her actions"? Is it serving the psychology of the ego, the philosophy of the existential, the sensitivity of the emotional, or all three and more? What matters is his subjective perspective, and how he feels about the events and how his narrative plays out, not what is objective - because his subjective experience is objective reality to him and us in the schema of this story.

I didn't come away admiring Paul like you did, but I did relate to him, for how many of my memories of relationships are skewed to protect myself in some way, sourced in a sea of solipsistic shadowy corners via defense mechanisms even in a bright room of peripheral vision, or just through the natural process of growing with them through time and development? All of them to some degree, but what are closer to truth and what are farther from it don't matter as much as how they impact me, just like Paul, and the gratitude of Desplechin's validation is not to damn Paul or question the "source" as I have rhetorically, but to meditate on the value of his experiences and to empathize with even the "prick" and "hopelessly "immature" parts of us all, as well as the lovers, defenders, motivators, and sufferers within us and for that I think he sees hope that life will keep turning and we will keep gathering information to comprise our identities and continuously initiate growth, even if it's not visible to us or others.

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#87 Post by barryconvex » Thu Jan 23, 2020 3:54 am

A big part of the reason I reacted to Paul the way I did wasn't because I necessarily identified with him or his experiences but rather because I thought Desplechin identified with Paul and by extension presented something universal about love and empathy. Which is why, along with your thoughts about subjective memory and how our perspectives on our youths can shift to suit our needs, I agree with this completely:
...but to meditate on the value of his experiences and to empathize with even the "prick" and "hopelessly "immature" parts of us all, as well as the lovers, defenders, motivators, and sufferers within us and for that I think he sees hope that life will keep turning and we will keep gathering information to comprise our identities and continuously initiate growth, even if it's not visible to us or others.
It's by not whitewashing Paul's past or any of his lesser personality traits that Desplechin (and Amalric- how have i not yet mentioned how good he is?) crafted not just a great character but revealed something optimistic in his own nature. I think the key words you used were "empathize" and "growth". Love can grow out of empathy and a desire to be a better version of oneself is inherently optimistic.

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#88 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jan 23, 2020 9:03 am

I think your use of “optimistic in his own nature” is the ticket, rather than a conscious desire to be a better person Desplechin takes the humanist attitude many therapists try to drill into the heads of the problem-focused skeptics, which is that often times people are doing the best they can. Paul may exhibit qualities of someone who has empathy, self-pity, shreds of optimism and also hints at misanthropy, but Desplechin trusts that regardless of his degree or optimism or empathy, he will still experience growth because all experience gives us valuable information that services that process even if we don’t know it. It’s an incredibly optimistic way of looking at growth because it trusts that the person doesn’t need to be extra conscious and possess all the right qualities to get this from life, and both validating his humanity and taking it a step further to say “and he will continue to develop in spite of curious choices and even suppression” is pretty insightful and positive. So Paul is optimistic in his own nature, unique and yet the same, and possesses his own strengths and abilities for change even if he’s not always aware of this optimism.

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Re: Arnaud Desplechin

#89 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Mar 25, 2020 7:29 pm

Rewatching My Sex Life and I love it even more, quickly becoming perhaps my second favorite film of the 90s. The early narration that bluntly sums up Paul’s solipsistic attempts at empathy through “thinking” people rather than feeling for them is so on point that I can barely contain myself. The reveal that this stated grandiose belief of saving his friends through thinking of them is that he has low self esteem and knows he cannot ever stop thinking rings true to the defenses of the cognitive-heavy person compensating for a lack of emotional intelligence, not a lack of emotionality, with the one skill they know they cannot shake. Instead of turning judgmental at the apparent narcissism we know that the narrator is only scraping the surface of Paul’s own surface-level thoughts when the truth is that his ego isn’t shameful but one that is searching for meaning, connection, and belongingness. Paul desperately wants to care about others and himself, and even if his default to only think will come up short at fulfilling his dreams, he still must use it as a tool, so he’s left with a psychology that is as complex as it is objectively both tragic in half-measured practice and commendable in quiet resilience, but completely honest and personally relatable.

Desplechin has spent his career drawing complex characters, but never has he shattered the myth that the self-absorbed aren’t bursting with affection better than here, opting for a humanistic approach that feels for the struggle to develop and access the strengths or abilities to fulfill one’s deepest social and individualized desires and needs. It’s no different than his brother who thinks his way into conforming to a tangible role in a priest to hold onto his spiritual-awakening-of-the-week following Marion Cotillard’s naked dance, grasping at meaning to desperately forge a position that will help him find connection with humanity.

This is expertly and concisely conceived in about a minute of voiceover during a cold NYE walk, and would maybe be my favorite short film if isolated from the nearly three hours of perfection on top of this to make it one of my favorite films, period. The meandering socialization and plights of identity are compulsively digestible, and when Paul persistently asks his friends and himself what he was like not ten years earlier in college with no trust in memory or secure sense of self, we understand him better than any deep analysis could ever do for us. It’s one of the most fascinating, raw, and validating films on anthropology ever made, thanks in large part to the humor that exists so naturally it reminds me of similar occurrences and dynamics from my own life.

Another favorite scene that emphasizes Paul’s growth in awareness throughout the film comes late when he essentially states that the reason life is worth living is that moment of fear when physically connecting with a woman by sticking your hand down her pants; initiating contact and the rush of insecurity that comes right before the sex, the dopamine rush of self-consciousness prior the culminating action. Paul recognizes that the meaning of life is in the process, and he’ll spend the rest of his life wavering along the scale of acceptance of that realization like the rest of us. The ending lays bare the simple truth that when we strip away all the fearful defenses and cognitively-driven solipsistic rationalizations, we change people and people change us just by participating in this life, as powerful a message as any. I’m a bit self-conscious myself in how much I identify with this film, but I think the ability to identify with the meat here is a good thing in and of itself.

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