1965: 2 movies

(Last updated 13 December 2014)


Le bonheur
Written and directed by Agnès Varda
Produced by Mag Bodard
Music by Jean-Michel Defaye
Cinematography by Claude Beausoleil and Jean Rabier
Editing by Janine Verneau
Production design by Hubert Monloup
Costume design by Claude François
Set design by Joseph Gerhard and Charles Merangel
Starring Jean-Claude Drouot, Marie-France Boyer,
Claire Drouot, and Sandrine Drouot

   This movie takes us away to paradise. The colors, the music, the crispness of the photography, all feed our senses deliciously even before the credits have finished rolling. Why can't the world be like this? Why is their such sadness and ugliness in our world? Where does that all come from? This movie somehow captures all of that, making for the most beautiful movie you've ever seen before it shifts into the most horrific of horror movies. She's really something, that director, Agnes Varda, to be able to capture so much meaning and beauty and folly in one piece.
   But the most interesting thing about this piece is that it feels as if the photography is telling the story. Cinema before this movie was either black and white, or a dreamy Technicolor, while here it's in bright crisp Eastmancolor which looks more real and current than anything that preceded it. And it wouldn't be for another 25 or so years that color would be used so vividly and game-changingly again. This movie because of its colors symbolizes the transition into a new era of cinema, a more real and pertinent cinema. And Varda doesn't let the opportunity to honor such a turning-point go to waste. While we sit in wonder and awe at the beauty offered to us, we desire more, that's why we continue to watch to the end. Cleverly, the characters share our desires, wanting to maximize their paradise: more beauty, more love. And through this rare and thorough personification of characters, we receive a flood of meaning. We witness the struggle between tradition and modernity, country life and city life, faithful monogamy and free love, having your cake and eating it, and the happy moment versus the bleak progression of time. This movie is also about how the tender and beautiful often die while the cheap and faithless often live long. It's a modern spin on Shakespeare's Hamlet and Murnau's Sunrise. Color-wise and editing-wise, it also serves as Varda's knockout punch against Godard's Le Mepris. It plays like a ballet, or a music video, like flipping through a photo album, like a stroll through a Monet exhibit, or like the haunting memories of a person with a guilty conscience. The scene with the still photograph is one of the most powerful moments in cinema.
   The title translates from the French to "Happiness".


Vivian
Directed by Bruce Conner

   Rock and roll, beauty, art and death all swirl around in a way that is wild fun. Master director Conner's trademarks are present: breakneck editing, the cinematic equivalent of distortion, and upbeat rock music. Here, we see a beautiful girl who, in reference to the song, Mona Lisa by Conway Twitty, which is the only soundtrack, gets into a horizontal art display case. Juxtaposed with this, we also see the same girl sitting, talking, and goofing around, always with an exuberant joy. The song lyrics about an admirer trying to figure out if a pretty girl is real or "just a cold and lonely, lovely work of art" plays in out ears while we witness the two possibilities. On the surface, we gather the ridiculousness of trying to make Vivian or any other person into a work of art because of how macabre and death-centered it comes across. But beyond this, the movie comments on the life that cinema can contain as an art-form. Movement, mannerisms, posture, demeanor, personality, and warmth all shine forth from the screen, as opposed to cold, vague, inanimate objects in a gallery.
   In the end, this movie is a poem. Conner is the lover sharing with us the beauty of his beloved and how his love for her centers around her life and freedom.

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