Conte de Printemps

Friday, April 08, 2005

conte de printemps

May I kiss you?

Spent today, fatigued and weary, in a state of cerebral brown out. Luckily, right to the rescue were two very lovely films: Conte de Printemps (A Spring Tale) and Perceval le Gallois (Percival the Welshman), both by Eric Rohmer.

Given the night I had, and that we are in the full throes of spring, I had many strange and ironic moments watching the Conte de Printemps. It is a tale, in Rohmer's tradition, of the relationships people have with each other. Filled with suppressed desire, and a delicate touch with dialogue, what is running like a charged electric current underneath the characters is never so much verbalised as kept balanced on a high-tension line. This is exactly the kind of film I love, where so much of what people think of each other is diverted in waves of language and gesture.

I loved the two female leads in this film. The older woman, pictured above, the philosophy professor who talks her way out of the responsibility of talking at a party... she's the intellect as the dominant force over action. Then, there is the younger girl, the red head, capricious, joyous, spontaneous, diabolical. Machiavellic in appearance, and action, but without intention. Immovable object meets unstoppable force.



Second up to bat is Rohmer's other film, Percival, the Welsh, a classic bildungsroman. I have to confess that the language, written in some medieval french, contains words that left me baffled... I muddled my way through this film. Luckily, the film is largely visual, and what you need to understand can be understood from the face-making gestures, weepy chorus girls, and spear through knight's eye.

Percival, in this film, is a rather foolish and naive boy whose mother, after losing her husband and two eldest sons to the Quests of the Round Table, hides her last son away in the forest. Percival, having grown up in greater ignorance of knights, girls, and, well, almost everything, meets 5 knights in the forest. He believes they are gods, and thus desiring to be likewise, decides to be knight. So begins his quest, which leads him to violently kiss girls, stare bright-eyed off camera, spout off heroic epithets, watch the Holy Grail go by while chewing on some roast boar, and generally have a rip-roaring time. Not exactly a noble knight, and a touch idiotic, though always carrying a very nice back-up band, these minstrel type fellows who sing proclamatory choruses to tell in-between actions.

I really like the film, in absolute and total... Obviously, the most striking thing is that it is filmed entirely on a set, a round set, with painted castle backdrops and strange metallic trees...not so far from Dogville, but barrels more fun...