L’Amour, L’argent, l’amour (2000)

27 10 2008

I’m finding it very difficult to start this review for the nostalgic weight that the film itself holds for me. It almost perfectly sums up what I looked for in films about two years ago. It’s a grainy, jump-cut happy, montage-driven film about two lonely people finding each other. In a way, I almost wish I could have seen this two years ago. It’s not as though the film’s power has been completely lost simply because I prefer “slower” movies now, but I definitely would have connected with it more then than I do now. It’s sort of like an early Lukas Moodysson film wrapped inside of Olivier Assayas’ dreamy style with 8mm montages that are equal parts Gummo and Fallen Angels. Needless to say, the film does feel a bit over-stylized at times, but I can’t help but love something so kinetic and ambitious.

The opening sequence of urban nightlife fading in with grainy, almost incomprehensible footage of the protagonist perfectly sets one up for what to expect for the next two hours. The constant use of overlapping fades is a bit irritating at first, but it becomes less noticeable once one falls into the film’s rapid fire editing and pacing. Another sign of the film’s true nature as being “formally crazy” is present in how the whole thing feels like a very prolonged montage. To call the editing elliptical would be an understatement. As pretentious as it sounds, Groning really demolishes any sense of time. Some sequences become patterns, occasionally reappearing in a completely different order than originally shown.

This is why the otherwise ugly film stock really shows a sense of being truly poetic. While this is still a narrative film, it gives off the sensibility of something archival. John Cassavetes’ Faces would be a fine point of comparison in this respect, but I wouldn’t want this review to get bogged down in how both filmmakers are interested in the relationships between men and women. It’s enormously impressive how such a grainy aesthetic can capture such legitimately beautiful images, yet at the very same time come off as trying to feel like home videos a la the 8mm sequences in Korine’s Gummo. At the same time, Groning (probably unintentionally) juggles the romantic longings of Wong Kar-Wai’s cinema into these scenes.

It is inevitable, then, that one could argue against the film’s personal expression, but of course, it has something to say. In retrospect, the young lovers are never seen in a particularly flattering light. Sabine Timoteo is likable, but perhaps only because she’s one of the best and best-looking living actresses in modern cinema. The male, though, is predictably a bit too passive for his own good. For the first half of the film, at least, he’s definitely not the power figure in the couple’s relationship. Before they fall in love, he’s actually embarrassingly resistant to his future lover’s advances. In fact, much of the dramatic material comes off as a bit cringe-worthy.

I’m not saying that all the narrative events are painfully melodramatic, but they certainly aren’t subtle, either. Instead they exist within that space that most similarly-minded films would fall in. Fucking Amal, for example, bears very little narrative similarities, but it does have a very like-minded feeling behind it. The grainy cinematography definitely helps, but I’d like to think it is more than simply that. There is one narrative element that is perhaps a bit too self-consciously “serious art film-ish” and that is the seemingly random sequence in which, Marie is brutally raped.

This really does nothing to progress the film, except prove that her profession is one that cannot be depended on. Yet somehow, it is another aspect of the film that I can simply forgive the problems on the account that I, at some point in my cinematic life, was really affected by such things. And yet, everything that follows this scene is completely devoid of conventional dramatic principles. The remaining twenty minutes or so are almost like a lost artifact from everything that came before. The scene where the couple’s car catches on fire is a bit silly, but it leads to one of the most fitting and accurate conclusions in any film.



One response

28 10 2008

Romance gives me the power to live beyond ….

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