23 September 2011 | chaos-rampant
The camera as the calligrapher's brush
It does not matter that this is adapted from Zola, and generally received then and now as a prestigious release that should be accorded a place in history. It matters because it's one of the most striking films in the transition towards a cinema that does not merely chronicle life, whose primary means of expression is no longer drama and does not aspire to emotion, but instead sculpts from space and uses the camera as a calligrapher would a brush.
There is a match-cut from the engine of a plane to a madly spinning camera looking down from a ceiling that is perhaps the most impressive in the entire 30 years of cinema until then. And there is a lot of the camera choreographed to dance, or painting with our gaze incomplete motions across rooms.
Resnais would take all this thirty years later to revitalize French cinema.
Story-wise, it is about two puppet-masters vying for the control of the same world. The film begins on the level of the stage, the stockmarket, this new temple of the modern world devoted to capital, and pulls back to reveal who holds the strings, who re-invents the broadcasted reality.
Like Zen calligraphy, this is not about the painted signs on the scroll and what they mean, but the disciplined soul revealed by the flow of ink. Watch it like you would unfold a scroll, the ink is in the image.