Hollywood mentality


I have always defended Hollywood cinema. This is not to say I am blind to its vices. When more and more French films are starting to have a Hollywood mentality, things become hard for me to swallow. Recently I saw a film called Ne te Retourne Pas. No, I have to report that I was unable to finish the film. And this is because I was constantly disturbed by this mediocre, unimaginative and clichéd understanding of human value. First there is this setting of a bourgeois nuclear familiar with its stereotyped family gatherings and career encounters. Then there is the husband’s deeply assuring baritone voice and his anxious looks, as if he would help if he knows where to put his feet in. But as usual, when it comes to tell the story of a woman on the verge of nervous breakdown, the husband is mentally thousands of miles away, curiously disabled and peripheral to the emotive experience of our heroine. In this film the way one experiences emotion is so fake (comparable to another film that I just saw, Coppola’s Tetro) that I soon lose interest in wherever the story can potentially go.

No, this is not Hollywood; this is contemporary French cinema.

I am not suggesting that filmmakers should always go for absolutely unusual stories. In the good old days, different mentalities can be found behind the same story. Louis Malle’s Le Feu Follet is the exact example. Whereas a Hollywood counterpart, Lost Weekend, focuses on how the guy does the job, with the help of all the caring people around him, naturally—what a splendidly humane place is America!—a genuinely French film on the subject depicts a b&w gritty world of antagonism where not a weekend but a life is lost. It is not that our hero has no friends—he does have, some of them rich, some sincere, some female—what more can you ask? Yes, he does ask for more. And he is paralyzed by having to wait for the future to come. A friend says in the film “I wallow in her warmth like pig in a trough”. This is adulthood, and he doesn’t want to be part of it. He doesn’t want to go to New York.


There are some interesting things to say about Ne te Retourne Pas though. It has little to do with the film, but mainly with Sophie Marceau. I have always regretted the fact this generation of French filmmakers have a different taste for actresses. They have little use for a beautiful face such as the one possessed by Marceau. Her films—and I have seen a lot—are mostly mediocre, despite that some of them are well made (Firelight,Fanfan), some interesting in a special sense (all by Zulawski). Compare her to Moreau I find Moreau is too overtly sensual—pay attention to her lips. Yet Moreau was able to secure many roles that have an intellectual identity. Sophie is far less lucky. Now I see an alternative solution for her: she really becomes more and more like Joan Fontaine.





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