Thursday, September 3, 2015

Film Capsule: Éric Rohmer's The Marquise of O... (1976)

The Marquise of O… (1976)
Directed by Eric Rohmer

This exquisite mid-70s German production, the first of three successive period films by the late French New Wave sophisticate, is at once the most regal and least arch of the director’s theatrically mounted trilogy. Proceeding from the announcement of the widowed title character’s (Edith Clever) unexpected pregnancy, the film unfolds through a procession of meticulously staged, largely interior tableaux, wherein the family of the expectant mother deliberate on the social and moral codes precipitated by their beloved’s potentially wanton behavior. While they surmise everything from illness to immaculate conception, a dashing count (Bruno Ganz) steps forward to offer his hand in marriage, the continued refusal of which prompts an emotional and spiritual reckoning within the Marquise, whose destiny is ultimately summoned through obligations outside her own control. While Rohmer’s style, at once densely detailed and starkly artificial, knowingly accentuates the chamber aspects of the drama, it’s his attention to the emotional dimensions of the material which renders this one of his most powerful character studies. (August 28-September 3, showtimes daily, as the headliner of BAM’s “Period Rohmer”) [BKMag]

DVD Review: Agnès Varda in California (1967-1981)

If adaptability is one of cinema's great intangible skills, then Agnès Varda has proven the utmost emblem of versatility for well over half a century. Narrative features, nonfiction shorts, essay films, and cinematic self-portraits—seemingly nothing has proven outside the Belgian-born director's reach, no subject too unfamiliar (or, for that matter, personal), no milieu too foreign. Following no less than a dozen short films and Nouvelle Vague-stoking features throughout the late '50s and early '60s, Varda would relocate to Los Angeles in 1967 with her husband, Jacques Demy, who had been summoned to Hollywood to embark on his debut studio production, Model Shop, inspiring the first significant creative reorientation in a career marked by them. Considering the breadth of topical interest on display in the work produced during Varda's initial California exodus as well as, later, her second West Coast sojourn in the early '80s, there's no doubt that in each case the timing was, at the very least, fortuitous. Nevertheless, Varda has consistently been drawn to social margins and to eccentric subjects, her knack for finding herself at one cultural crossroads or another too poetically and politically apt to dismiss as sheer serendipity.