A Man Asleep (1974)

11 04 2008

Bernard Oueysanne’s adaptation of Georges Perec’s 1967 novel Un homme qui dort constantly tip-toes on a line of cold and intellectual pretentious nothingness. The constant narration and never-ending montage style restrict the film from being connected to the “contemplative” cinematic sensibility. When I call this unique, I really mean it, there isn’t any other film out there that is quite like it. Perhaps Chris Marker’s oeuvre is on the same wavelength but other than that, nothing is close. If this is a failure because of it’s ambitions than it’s admirable and necessary one. Through the most unlikely of directions, Oueysanne and Perec have created something to display just how delicate every bit of our human existence is. For that alone, a viewing should be a necessity.

Our unnamed protagonist lives in a small apartment and after some deliberation and exposition, attempts to cut himself off from the rest of the world. He will only participate in the essential, sleeping, eating, and smoking. However, he is not so quick to welcome such a secluded world and begins to fill time with many other fleeting activities. Some months, he makes a habit to go to the movies. Other times, he plays solitaire or spends the night at a bar. For the entire running time, he does not say word but instead his thoughts are eloquently articulated by an ever present voiceover.

It’s important to note that this not a precursor to Chantal Akerman, nor is it similar to Tati, or Tsai, or anyone else who falls underneath the usual “minimalistic” category. Instead, the film is a montage, a constant montage. An overwhelming amount of poetic images flood our minds, in a feverish fashion. The thoughts of our unnamed protagonist are anticipated by such images and make the film as interesting as it is. Without these images, the observation of the world’s appearance and textures seem useless. Despite the obvious literary influence, the “story” (so to speak) needs its images or else it would be the cold, dead, unemotional art that it occasionally appears to be.

The self-reflexive nature is detaching, just like it should be, but I can’t help but think that the film’s undying coldness does almost make it too bleak for its own good. On the other hand, if our unnamed protagonist fell in love with a girl, the narrative’s purpose would be tainted. The ending, which outrightly states that the man’s seclusion led him to no deep answers, could probably have ended with him meeting people, too. But again, this is merely some post-viewing pondering brought on by a mind that is unfamiliar with this strictly loner aesthetic. It’s the lack of changes that the character’s deliberate loneliness brings that makes the film profound. Perhaps his fictional experiment in isolation gives hope to loners across the world, or maybe it just illustrates how much we humans need other humans to interact with. Maybe the film does all of this, or maybe not, but all I know is, it certainly has invoked hours of thought in me and created an experience that will be difficult to forget.



One response

13 04 2008

très beau texte qui me fait très plaisir. Merci.

Le dvd (avec version américaine) est disponible (zone 2)


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