Duras reportage III

Like many others, Duras became obsessed with her own voice, which is indeed, I admit, very enchanting. The method we have identified above, to narrate a text accompanied by images (mostly empty scenes) has become The Method for Duras. Her following films never divert enough from this approach. Césarée (78) is a short film shot in a plaza where statues are surrounded by scaffold. The sequences are regularly interrupted by black screens. Les Mains Négatives (78) is a short excursion of disordered Parisien streets in the early morning. Aurélia Steiner (Vancouver & Melbourne) (79) are two episodes shot respectively at seaside incognito and along the Seine. I have yet to find out what is Vancouver and Melbourne has to do with it. But like she herself claimed often in those texts : indifférent. And that is the way I look at these films, or should I say, the way they forced me to look at them. The stories – either there are many or only one – do not interest me anymore. That is her story. I do not have to take them as my own. As I was watching Le Navire Night (79), Agatha et Les Lectures illimitées (81), I no longer cared about what she and the other male voices (Benoît Jacquot in the first case and Yann Andréa in the second) were saying. They are just syllables haunting over the images, the exact meaning of which is unknowable.

Somehow, Agatha et Les Lectures illimitées reminds me of Prénom : Carmen. The empty house near the beach and the man and woman standing there bear some similarity of that of Godard. Of course, there is nothing hectic in Duras’ film.

These two films use two actrices : Bulle Ogier and Dominique Sanda. The former is remembered for her appearance in Barbet Schroeder’s Maîtresse (76) and the latter, for her début ten years ago, Une Femme Douce and later two Bertulucci films. As for the actors, Mathieu Carrière the handsome guy appeared already in India Song. The reason I am mentioning this trivality is that in the film we really get a close look at them. There are three sequences showing that the makeup man at work, doing their faces one by one. Enjoy the scene if you are interested in this matter. But don’t ask me what is the significance – I don’t know. The last actor, Yann Andréa, remained still more or less in the shadow in Agatha, and only jumped to the front of the camera later, in L’homme Atlantique (81). It is to my understanding that the scanty scenes offered in this latter film are sort of taken-outs of Agatha, made in the same year. Now Yann’s screen looks certainly is different in many ways to those three professionals. I wouldn’t say inferior, but it is definitely too personal. And the way Duras choose to do it is, at least for me, too indulging and disgusting. Besides, she became really obsessed with her own voice that she deemed it sufficient to make a film out of it. The last twenty minutes of L’homme Atlantique is all black.


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