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.