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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Alain Resnais | Vous n'avez encore rien vu (You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet)


three lost souls
by Douglas Messerli

Alain Resnais and Laurent Herbiet (writers, based on plays by Jean Anouilh), Alain Resnais Vous
n'avez encore rien vu (You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet) / 2012
 

In many ways, Resnais’ late-career film Vous n'avez encore rien vu (with the terrible American title of You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet) is a quintessential expression of the themes of his films.  Resnais has always focused on the fleetingness of love and life, and of how the actions of the past continue to effect and even destroy the joys of the present and the future.

      Here, cleverly, Resnais has chosen two plays by the late French playwright, Jean Anouilh (Eurydice and Cher Antione ou l’Amour rate) which themselves deal with those very themes, asking Bruno Podalydès to direct an independent theatrical production of them, and then interweaving their performances with those of his fictional characters, gathered together as part of playwright-director Antoine d’Anthac’s supposed “will,” which calls up the major actors who have, over the years, performed these same roles.

      Some are now quite elderly, others in their middle-age, while the cast in the filmed production, using what appears to be a warehouse as their backdrop, are young figures from La Compagnie de la Colombe.
      As the filmed drama gets underway, the renowned actors (who include Anne Consigny, Michel Piccoli, Lambert Wilson, Pierre Arditi, and Sabine Azéma), unable to control themselves, begin to play along with the filmed actors, reciting their old scenes. The variations in their ages and acting styles creates a stunning example of just what both Anouilh—who Resnais admitted highly influenced him as a young man—and the director are trying to express.

     For the most elderly actors, we quite literally see the ravages of the past upon their faces and  they recite, with a strong sense of sorrowful nostalgia upon their tongues; the middle-age actors are somewhat more assertive, but they too, we perceive, are now questioning their own choices; while the young stage actors, beautiful to behold, almost declaim their loves and desires.
      By alternating these performances, sometimes even using a split screen, and once creating a kind of triangular presentation of texts, Resnais achieves a prism of emotional meaning, that brilliantly explores the very ideas expressed in Anouilh’s 1941, wartime drama.
      I am not so sure I am so fond of Anouilh’s meeting of the two lovers after her death. And  Resnais own ending, wherein d’Anthac (acted by Bruno Podalydès) enters the spellbound room, having, apparently not really died, but simply having been determined to bring all of his beloved actors together again. It seems too much like a gimmick, even if it’s a slightly comical insider joke, since the fiction character is actually the real director of the stage performance. But these are minor complaints about Resnais otherwise magical tale of artifice and reality, time loss and time regained. If nothing else, Resnais still proves, in this penultimate work, that he is a master of the medium. 
     And the acting is brilliant. How many times does an audience get to see three versions of a play in one telling? Maybe you truly “ain’t seen nothing’” quite like it. Certainly the story of Orphée and Eurydice will never seem the same after seeing this and Cocteau’s earlier film.

Los Angeles, April 25, 2017

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