1991: 2 movies

posted on 2016 March 25

Les amants du Pont-Neuf
Written and directed by Leos Carax
Produced by Christian Fechner
Cinematography by Jean-Yves Escoffier
Editing by Nelly Quettier
Production Design by Michel Vandestien
Art direction by Franck Schwarz
Set decor by Irène Galitzine
Costumes by Robert Nardone
Hair-styling by Nathalie Champigny
Make-up by Isabelle Legay and Valérie Tranier
Special Effects by Philippe Hubin
Pyrotechnics by Isabelle Tillou
Starring Juliette Binoche, Denis Lavant,
and Klaus-Michael Grüber

   Messy, brutal, possessive love meets the grim, smelly lives of street-dwellers. Both are examined thoroughly, unflinchingly, and both are given the room for growth and transformation, or to stay immobile, to stagnate and die. The real treat here is the epic cinematography, the wild, poetic editing, and the amazing special effects and stunts. The actors' performances and the soundtrack all rock, as well. Somehow, it all ties together in a balancing act that maintains strong qualities of adventure, compassion, romance, philosophy, the search for self-love, and formal beauty. It's truly an unpredictable ride!
   The title translates from French to "The lovers of New Bridge", in reference to the Parisian structure, Pont Neuf.

La double vie de Véronique
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Written by Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz
Produced by Leonardo De La Fuente
Music by Zbigniew Preisner
Cinematography by Slawomir Idziak
Editing by Jacques Witta
Production design by Patrice Mercier
Costumes by Laurence Brignon, Claudia Fellous,
Elzbieta Radke
Starring Irène Jacob

   This movie is made specifically for re-watching. The movie's opening scene, of the world through the eyes of a loved child, is as beautiful as it is epic. The scene introduces us to our protagonist, and it also serves as a beautiful way for Kieslowski to tell us how he thinks we should enter into this movie: full of child-like wonderment. During the opening credits, we are shown a couple of shots of a tv screen showing us a silent depiction of our protagonist at an older age. The screen shows us a couple of moments during her ordinary life. But at this stage, since we are more interested in the fact that we are not looking at the shots directly but as shown through a tv screen in some shadowy place that sees intimate moments and has the space to think about them. The fact that this technique was used previously in the first episode of Kieslowki's Dekalog mini-series allows us to see that he has perfected the technique here, and that he is a director who has grown.
   As his name approaches in the writing and directing slots, we begin to thrill, and we realize that this is partly because we have experienced the greatness of his work before, and we are excited to see what he's cooked up this time. Partly due to the beauty of the preceding scenes, and partly due to the awesome music, which again relates back to the movie because later in the movie, the composer Zbigniew Preisner comes up as a Classical composer known as Van Den Budenmayer, though he is not shown and only mentioned as a truly historical figure. It's an extremely smart and coyly funny gag that appears in several of Kieslowski's movies. We smile at the gag behind the music, but we smile at the music itself even more, because it is so good. What is it exactly? New music, or an attempt to recreate fresh classical? We can't decipher what it is or when it's from. That's when we ought to realize that Preisner is one of the greats. There's Ennio Morricone. There's Bo Harwood, Edward Herrmann, Zbigniew Preisner, and a few others. Later would come: Angelo Badalamenti, James Horner, and some others. Certainly he is among the top 10 composers of movie-soundtracks. And we are greatful to Kieslowski for introducing us to him.
   Then Kieslowski's name appears in the credits in a gold font, and we are immediately filled with honor to live in a world that Kieslowski lived in, and to receive this gift from him that is presently unravelling. And that's when we prepare to get into the movie: We get our child-of-wonderment on, and we focus on the mood of the music. It's glorious! It's celebratory! It's grandiose! That's when the credits end and the scene opens onto a girl's choir, focusing in on our protagonist. We are startled to realize that this music is the same that was playing during the credits. It's not an old recording, it's not a studio session. This is part of the movie, and we've been watching it and loving it even before we were ready to jump in. This makes us feel as if we have never left the spirit of wonderment.
   We focus in on the young woman, believing that she has kept her sense of wonderment, just as we are in wonderment at the music, the cinematography, and the brilliant writing and production. The woman sings with such innocent joy, such sincerity and completely devoid of self-conscious censoring that we are startled. We rarely see such an honest performance, and we begin to wonder about the actor who plays her, Irene Jacob. We have to agree that she is as beautiful as she is good at her job. A rain begins to fall and the rest of the choir runs back for cover, leaving only Jacob and her character. They bring the song to completion even as they become soaking wet and isolated on the stage. Still her joy is intact, in fact, it is expanded with the wetness, and we admire her simple appreciation of singing in the rain. When the song is over, completed to perfection, and the rain shifts into total downpour, we see the glinting drops into a shower of heavenly praise, and we see the character and star, unified and radiating her modest glory out at us. What an introduction of a star, and a character! We are grateful to Kieslowski for introducing her to us, and we are in awe of  life itself, because Kieslowski has taught us that this is the best way to experience life, with simple appreciation and spiritual wonderment. All of this occurs within the first five minutes. That's how great this movie is! Did I mention the fact that this movie changes the way we think? It broadens our minds. This seems to be the greatest purpose of cinema, and Kieslowski has found it here! This is why this movie is one of the all-time greats. It is a milestone. 
   On top of all that, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak insures that every shot is a gem. The title translates from French to "The double life of Veronique".

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