Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Another weekend in front of the tele

Hey, someone's gotta do it. A month or three ago Eric Rohmer's Early Works lobbed into the letterbox. Yay! Having savoured the Comedies & Proverbs eight film collection I was keen to dig deeper.

There are three main films in the set, including The Sign of Lion (Le Signe du Lion), his 1962 debut feature. It's the story, somewhat hackneyed, of an obnoxious American in Paris who believes he is about to come into a large amount of money. But the twist comes when, having racked up debts and outstayed his welcome everyone, no money appears. In fact, his fortunes take a dive and he is soon homeless. You can see some the familiar tropes beneath the leathery exterior: probing moral questions of behaviour; Paris streets as the natural stage for the drama; apparently aimless search for connection, for purpose. 

At one level the film invites the question, what would you do faced with a sudden change of fortune? What does it mean to be a part of society? How easily can we slip between the cracks?

Probably not a great date movie and it's not hard to see why Le Signe du Lion failed to find an audience at the time. The main character, Pierre, doesn't engage our sympathies, so one watches in an appropriately detached manner...Pierre is a failed music student, a dilattante whose violin playing is akin to badly played Bartok. But his fall from uncertain grace is believable and well, there is always Paris. Most of it takes place in the St Germain, the Latin and along the Seine. So plenty of architectural eye-candy. But their is a sense of earnestness that is a bit ponderous. That earnestness soon gave way to mere seriousness. So I look forward to more of the early years.

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