Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Stolen Kisses (1968)

I've started two other posts this week month (and then I went on vacation) but was not getting anywhere with them. So I am moving on to this one in the hope that I can convey something of what I would like to say about it.

While I try to be something of a universal student of the cinema, most of the movies that I really get excited about come from two main strains of the form's history, the first being the Life Magazine-evoking, code-era Hollywood films from the 1930s to the 60s, and the other being European movies from the 30 or so years following World War II, a period I have seen referred to in France at least as Les Trentes Glorieuses. As this appellation suggests, in both the United States and Europe these cinematic eras coincide with periods in the national history which certain people, mainly of the petit bourgeois, or now perhaps formerly petit bourgeois classes, would like to recover, as it was a comparatively heady time for their kind, and it is true that the lifestyle depicted in films of this type are appealing to people are not adapting well socially and culturally, and perhaps professionally, to the twenty-first century, not that I would know anything about that. Surprisingly these kinds of movies, the European ones in particular, do not come up in my program as often as might be expected. So it had been a while since anything like Stolen Kisses/Baisers Voles had come my way, and it was exactly what I needed during this dark winter of being forty-six, which I remember having been revealed in some study as the least happy age of all life, for men anyway. Though I have seen quite a few Truffaut movies, even having once attended a series on him that they showed at my college, and have studied the history of film, especially in this era, pretty widely, I was somehow not familiar with the existence of this one and had thus spent no long years in anticipation of its someday coming up in my system. This doubtless worked in its favor, as I seem to find an especial delight in these kinds of artistic surprises in my advancing age. I watched it through twice and on both occasions was reluctant to have it come to an end, so painful is it to be thrust out of the world of Paris in 1968, civic unrest and all, which world is never coming back, at least in our lifetimes. So I was very strongly affected by this movie for several days. I don't think I have been so thoroughly affected by any movie since maybe The Third Man, and that was six or seven years ago. Artistically of course the movie is highly satisfying, romantic, wistful (Woody Allen appears to have mined this extensively with regard to certain effects which he regularly incorporates into his own films), expertly constructed, interest never lags. Almost all of the reviews I have found, both professional and amateur/online, give it respect and a high rating, but I haven't recognized in any of them an emotional kinship in their perception/response to it. I don't think I have it in me at this time to convey what that is in my case either, but it has to do with the sense I have of certain things that have been lost, either by me personally or in the course of day to day life, that this movie happens to have recalled to me.

Stolen Kisses, while not an overtly masculine movie by contemporary standards, is a decidedly, or I guess a French male version of, a romantic comedy. The protaganist is constantly going to prostitutes, has a rendevous with his boss's wife and so on, but the last 15-20 minutes or so are as beautiful and romantic as any movie I have seen a long time. The old French, even the bourgeois, had such wonderful and dynamic sex lives, at least in the movies. Antoine has a rather random date in the middle of the film that he relates "didn't start out too well", but the night ended with the walls shaking anyway, which to me would nullify any idea that there could have been a weak start. The guy he relates this story to then follows with a rejoinder about the time he screwed his cousin "right on the attic floor" during the reception after a family funeral. The bourgeois dreamboat Christine character and her family are perfect. Everybody knows someone who kind of looks and acts like her, yet the type is rare compared to the demand that exists for it, and difficult to get to know as well as one would like, usually.

A nice montage to the two stars of the movie featuring the sentimental but affecting Charles Trenet tune that is the theme of Baisers Voles. The footage includes scenes from, I presume, the sequel of this movie (Bed and Board--1970, and the 4th of the Doinel movies going back of course to The Four Hundred Blows), in which Antoine and Christine are married. There was a 5th film in the series that came out in 1979 in which the pair are divorced (which if anything emphasizes the fleetingness of the happy ending of Stolen Kisses and makes it even more poignant) but I don't think any images from that later episode made it in here. (7/26/16--putting in labels, making corrections on this post. I was evidently drunk or 9/10ths asleep when I originally wrote this last paragraph).

On a completely different note, I followed this by seeing a movie from 1989 called Santa Sangre, by the iconoclastic cult Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky. I did not really enjoy this movie, which is packed with graphic violence and other in your face grotesqueness, and I was relieved when it was over, but I have to admit I found it fascinating artistically. Even now I am holding on to the 3 and 1/2 hour long bonus features disc a month after seeing the movie because I am not sure that I don't want to go through all of the material before giving it up. Jodorowsky is one of these colorful interviews who does not make any concessions to middle class niceties ("I love violence!" "I hate women!" "Life is violence!"). The movie exists in a sort of world of pure art and artistic personality and expression that draws on Fellini and French pantomime as well as Latin American fantastical influences that I find hard to turn away from, since it is an attitude that is so antithetical to the kind of life and mindset, with its obsession with politics and money, that I have gradually allowed myself to become subsumed into with little hope of shedding the chains of. But for all that the movie has interesting aspects to it and is successful as a kind of art-experiment in various (points?) (But) I don't know, I didn't like it. It doesn't come together in any way that I found meaningful.

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