Resnais - 2013 08 08 - You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet


France 2012
Directed by Alain Resnais
Running time: 115 minutes
Format: DCP

What is the essence of cinematic pleasure? Can it be unwoven from story and convention? Can it be extracted into a tincture of light and pathos? It’s been said that YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET, directed by the 91 year old French auteur, Alain Resnais, is a movie for cinephiles. But I will go one step further. It’s a movie that, by extracting and layering the cinema’s most essential pleasures, will give birth to cinephiles. Most of them, as is today’s custom, will see it on Blu-Ray. Or stream it. Our pre-cinephile will sit alone, in a small room, eyes fixated on an oddly blue monitor. What for us will be a screening-within-a-screening, will for her be a screening-within-a-streaming.

In tonight’s movie, Jean Anouilh’s play, Euridyce, emerges from a series of distinct planes of fantasy. Each plane is bound to a separate impressionistic domain terminating in a final plane, which resides in our mind. Beyond the fourth wall. Often those planes are covered in nothing. Not the true green (oukontic) nothing of the re-presented green screen (cf. Léos Carax’ 2012 film, HOLY MOTORS), but the impenetrable black and composited (meontic) nothing of stage curtains and blackouts. It begins with what might seem like shoddy, epic-genre effects. A cottony, incarnadine horizon drifts over a mountainscape. The exhaust of a fog machine roils, clearly divorced from its mountainous backdrop. Is this a cheap superhero movie? Or maybe it’s a martial arts picture? There’s a dragon! An exotic orchestra swells. Our pre-cinephile sees the emblazonry of Greek Myth and Oriental Tale. No, this is a serious movie by a serious auteur. And though her stream is playing, the curtains have not yet lifted. She’s at Xanadu’s preshow! A romantic movie palace of yesteryear. Suspension of disbelief wasn’t the price of admission then. It was belief that built those walls. She’ll behold Resnais’ troupe of measured faces. Faces are, after all, the cinema’s most inexhaustible source of pleasure. Style comes and goes. It reflects the contemporary thinking on how we might best, for a time, capture the ambiguity of reality. But faces have history and eyes project as much as they inspect. Laugh lines and worry lines tell the unspeakable, ancient stories. When she encounters Resnais’ imperial players gathering to mourn the death of a friend, she’ll have to do more fantasizing than we are required to in this theatre house, which plays host to our alliance. A shining silver monolith orchestrates Resnais’ players. An overheard gasp/sniffle/giggle doesn’t distract, it ignites. A collective fantasy resounds through the hall. She must imagine herself in that audience. It’s one she’s visited too rarely and too vicariously. And for the first time, she will articulate something she knew long ago. Before the work of art, she is not a passive observer. She is an actor. A set-designer. A coréalisatrice. Suddenly THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (Allen, 1985) seems like Italian neorealism. And for the now cinephile, nothing is just “what it is,” anymore.

08 August 2013