The anti-Sofia-Coppola strikes with a vengeance. Here is a real story with a real character who has an actual childhood and enough discernment to make it a coming of age story with a structure.
Furthermore, it has an open twist. It is autobiography. We know this character represents the filmmaker, her personality, and possibly the genesis of her aesthetic. These are creation stories about art and the impulse to make. The artist is investigating his own presence. Self-detection.
Now we know this story is folded. It is connected directly to its maker. Her life folding with the life of her fictional character. It is HER vision, literally, and visually.
(The character in Spike Jonze HER (2013), could never conceive of a character this real and feminine.)
Something is bankrupt about American “folded” narratives. There is a lack of coherence about what constitutes subjectivity. Vision is subjectivity. But what is the logic behind vision? Is it a continuous stream? Or is it notebook-like, random sequencing of different durations?
What is cinéma, and why do we need it?
American narratives would have us believe that experience is scattered, memories are implanted or programmed, and the self is paranoid (see Philip K. Dick). And paranoia is real.
The destitute scientist/artist/writer/ drug addict is the main character, but he loses all control. He submits himself to a higher computer. He cannot trust his vision : it is shifty, dreamy, foggy, and loopy.
Italians, Mediterraneans, Spaniards, have a different idea of the self. Their self coheres. It begins with the family (as in the mafia), tribes. The self belongs to a group. The survival of the group must be maintained.
To this end, the rule of law is bendable. Passions are fluid, and skin is chafed. Blood and bones are daily occurrences. Self-induced violence is the order to survive.
What has more power? The emotional violence of Europe or the cerebral and “synthetic” haphazard and illogical Americanized version?
In America, the brain is a computer, but in Europe, the heart is at the heart. People belong to something, and that something includes other people.
This movie is not a mere story of growing up in a bourgeois European home. Having your mom played by Charlotte Gainsbourg is a quality of hip European art royalty. But can it be achieved without pretense?
Yes. Because of talent. Who else could play like Charlotte does here? A ferocious, androgynous, love mistress, eternally seductive. And also a bored teenager, with a dark side that is fatal.
She passes through life with furor. As a mother, a lover, and an artist. If one of her daughters is emotionally damaged, she doesn’t care because she is selfish. But selfishness is a quality her children adopt. It is a a survival tactic. She is the other main character of this story.
But this story rests upon the shoulders of this young actress. How does she fare?
Her blank expression on the poster says she is alone and seeks interaction. But she has a cat in a cage (Schrodinger’s?), and a bag.
She is divided in two. An elusive companion (her cat), and baggage. She keeps a notebook meant to be shown.
Constantly, she is divided in two: her parents divorce, her best friend betrays her, her love interest ignores her. She even attempts suicide (life/death) … twice (that means two times).
Things of note:
This is clearly auto-biographical, therefore it is about the artistic temperament, the need for expression. The opening montage is a dazzling multi-layered view of collage scrapbooks mixed with handwriting: primitive novels and movies.
Where is the art? The art is in the storytelling, the themes introduced, the uninhibited confession. It doesn’t hurt that the technical crew is professional and experienced. The screenwriting is daunting and personal. Scenes have different duration depending on effect. The film is essentially constructed, the way long-form experiences come together as blocks of different lengths and size.
Sexual orientation is ambiguous, violence and sex mix without moral reprimand, the sacred and spiritual manifest, the self coheres, even though it has a death wish.
What an accomplished work! Intellectual and visceral. So perceptive about the power of seduction, storytelling, honesty, and communication.