16 octobre 2007

NYFF: The Man From London


Following the brief comments made by David Bordwell, I'd like to note some of the stylistic approaches that Tarr experiments with in The Man From London.

In Tarr's previous 3 films, the camera mostly has a viewpoint of it's own. It moves with often unmotivated zeal around its subjects, or trails them as they move. The duration of Tarr's shots heightens this sense of the camera's independent point of view, pulling us out of traditional methods of story-reception. Tarr's camera never hides behind montage to approximate psychological reality; instead, he approximates psychological reality through the act of seeing, and through this process identifies our consciousness as a viewer with the autonomous travels of his camera.

The Man From London finds Tarr's camera (literally) drifting closer to the realm of the subjective. While still autonomous, it resembles the viewpoints of his characters with a greater fidelity and frequency. There's also a greater commitment on Tarr's part to representing the mechanisms of observation, which also brings us closer to the subjective realm in that we approach information from the perspectives of the film's characters. [Here I point you to Bordwell's beautiful description of the first shot of the film, and his thoughts on the continuity of composition over Tarr's last 4 films.]

In spite of this more frequent near-subjectivity, moments of this film strengthen Tarr's use of the camera as a limited objective narrator. When Maloin walks to a hut late in the film, the camera follows him on the approach. After a lengthy traveling shot, the camera pauses as Maloin goes inside, leaving the viewer outside with no (literal or figurative) window inside the hut. The camera's trailing of Maloin seems to play by the rules of Tarr's previous work; by halting before the 'climax' to this journey, Tarr withholds information to amplify the narrative strategies (and mood) of the Noir genre he's drawing on.

Overall, though, I agree with Danny that Man From London is a minor film by a master filmmaker. At times the style felt too deliberate, as if Tarr were trying to make a "Bela Tarr film." On a formal level, his shifts in camera dynamics were not matched by the story, and elements of the film felt like self-pastiche (one comic dancing scene in particular reads as an artless ripoff of a beautiful scene from Sátántangó). Tarr may have stepped into a zone of self-conscious auteurism, but I've seen other great filmmakers fall into that trap and emerge with a better understanding of their own work. The visually stunning Man From London is by no means a failure, but from a titan such as Tarr it does come as a disappointment. I hope that Bela Tarr will soon return to the natural filmmaking grace so evident in his previous recent work.

4 commentaires:

Jacob a dit…

I kind of hope Tarr makes a new kind of movie next time around. I mean, look at how much his earlier features contrast stylistically with his later ones - and a few in between that are really different. I think he's taken these black-and-white longueurs really far, hasn't he? But then he is old and probably less likely to change anything.

dave a dit…

Jacob -
If Tarr finds himself interested in a new formal approach, then it might yield interesting results, but I think there's more to be said for his current style as well. Maybe a change of pace film would be good for his eventual return to this style... I'd like to see him make a sex farce with long-but-not-extremely-long takes, intense color design and faster camera movement, set amongst the urban bourgeoisie. Not sure what the odds of that are, though.

Jacob a dit…

I'd like to see him make a sex farce with long-but-not-extremely-long takes, intense color design and faster camera movement, set amongst the urban bourgeoisie.

Looks like the kind of stuff that makes up a lot stuff we see in theaters these days, whether commercial or artsy-fartsy.

There'd be no way for him to tackle that unless he would be able to cast some rather homely individuals living in decrepit shacks. And there better be an alcoholic dance followed by a blacker-than-black depressing finale where every character realizes they'll be forever f----ed.

But still.

dave a dit…

Jacob -
THAT is precisely why I think he's the filmmaker for the job.

To clarify, I was thinking of 2-minute-long shot/scenes; intense, mid-60's Godardian primary colors; static framings (or even slow moves) with whip pans when a character enters the room; and a critique of the system of privelidge and indefinite adolescence that's taking over the Western world. [It was an off the cuff comment at the time, but now I'm starting to take it seriously...]