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Patrice Chéreau's New Film at the Mostra

Also on Ionarts:

The Chéreau Ring Cycle — Das Rheingold (September 7, 2005)

Boulez Comes Down from the Green Hill for Good (September 5, 2005)

The Chéreau Ring Cycle - The Making of... (September 2, 2005)
It's time for the Mostra, the film festival that is part of La Biennale di Venezia, and I have been reading a lot of articles about it, without commenting on it here. However, I did think you might enjoy hearing about one particular film presented at Venice this year: Gabrielle, with Isabelle Huppert and Pascal Greggory, directed by none other than Patrice Chéreau, whose career has encompassed directing and writing film, as well as directing plays and operas. By comparison to the narrative breadth of Wagner's Ring, which is how he became known to opera fans through his daring centennial production of the opera at Bayreuth, this is a narrow-focus film about a married couple, based on Joseph Conrad's short story The Return. Marie-Noëlle Tranchant published a very brief interview (Chéreau au coeur des ténèbres de l'amour, September 5) in Le Figaro. Here's a brief excerpt (my translation):
There is something Scandinavian in the dramatic intensity of this matrimonial No Exit. It makes you think of Strindberg or Bergman...

That's not what I was after. I follow my own path, that takes me toward introspection and strong emotions. I found in Conrad's novels something immediately filmable, in the very organization of the narrative, the suspense. Most of all, he shows a remarkable knowledge of the human heart.

How does your work differ from the story?

My co-screenwriter, Anne-Louise Trividic, and I especially developed the character of the woman, who exists in the short story only by a few sentences that she utters. But everything she says is surprising and enigmatic, and that's what made me want to make this film. When he confesses his love to her, she replies, "I could not have guessed that." In other words, "If I had known that you loved me, I would not have returned." She knows much more than he does about the absence of love. She has reflected on the question, admits the fact that nothing was happening, and if she comes back, it is because she is ready to build something out of this sense of mourning.
I am hoping to be able to see it soon. (It will be shown next week at the Toronto International Film Festival, too, but I can't make it there.) The interviewer also asked Chéreau about his use of quote stills, à la silent film, which are interjected into violent scenes. Chéreau said the violent scenes are shot in black and white "to avoid voyeuristic effects," which is a good way to describe the fetishistic treatment of violence in some films. He added that seeing the written word "Stay!" is stronger than hearing it actually cried out. Italian composer Fabio Vacchi composed the music for Gabrielle, most of it actually composed before the film, which Chéreau describes as "magnificent, somewhat Hitchcockian," which is high praise, indeed.

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