This one is probably the most elusive of all the Claire Denis films I’ve watched so far. I feel a sense of trepidation even writing about it because I’m not at all sure that I really understood what was going on in the film despite being really engrossed while watching it. Like all her other films, this movie is gorgeous from the very first frame. The film starts off in some isolated town on the Franco-Swiss border and is full of these vast empty landscapes and just features beautiful dogs and horses and stuff. Just beautiful. It spans three very different and beautiful locations moving from this town to a city in Korea to a Tahitian island, all photographed exquisitely by Agnes Godard.
What makes this film so difficult to describe is that even though the film does have a loose story and narrative, this is conveyed in such an elliptical manner that it is extremely difficult to follow. I found myself never quite sure of exactly where I am in terms of the story and yet, I wasn’t ever bored or distracted. Something about the music, the setting and the editing (which I don’t always notice but did in this film) is hypnotic (it vaguely reminded me of how I felt while watching Syndromes and a Century). I just love the way Denis tends to sneak in these moments that seem like they might be important to the plot. For instance, early on in the film, there is a rather violent scene that comes so unexpectedly and happens so quickly that I was caught completely unawares and even after rewinding the scene twice, I wasn’t sure exactly what it was I had just witnessed. All of this could’ve been bothersome and frustrating but soon after, I stopped trying so hard to constantly decipher plot and understand relationships between the characters. I sort of let myself be guided by the broad story and just gave myself up to the journey that Michel Subor’s character is on.
This is definitely a challenging film to watch in a lot of ways. Several characters come into the film fleetingly without proper introduction and then go away. There are hints as to their place in the story but nothing is ever really confirmed. Secondly, the film also seems to blur the distinction between dream and reality. But these are exactly the things I loved about the film too! I feel like every time I watch the film, I could potentially interpret it somewhat differently. And really, when it comes down to it, the interpretation doesn’t matter to me at all. Just the mood that the film creates and just the mesmerizing nature of it is just so awesome that all this stuff about the plot being there or not being there and being fractured or whatever becomes irrelevant somehow.
The movie features a lot of actors from Denis’s earlier films which is great because I really like all of them. Plus, I don’t know what it is but there’s something incredibly sexy about Michel Subor – even when he’s playing a character who seems to have led a largely selfish and isolated life (or maybe especially then).
Anyway, I need to watch this again soon and so should you.