Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A Francophile friend is gradually discovering French movies, and the main thing that gets her are the American titles. Audrey Tatou movies, in particular, give her the pip. A la folie... pas du tout means "Madly ... And Not at All," not He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Le Battement d'ailes du papillon means "the beating of the butterfly's wings": why in the world call it Happenstance?

Of course, mere literalism doesn't always do the trick when you're going from one culture to another. I told her, wrongly, that Bertrand Blier's wild 1974 road movie Las Valseuses translates as "The Testicles." Actually, it means The Waltzers. Anyway, Going Places is a better title.

All of which served to suddenly make me wish I had the DVD of Going Places, because I think I'd watch it immediately. Twenty or so years ago, there were a spate of great films at the Nickleodeon that I just gobbled up, one after the next, and they were all made in the 1970s, which I think may have been some international period of balls-to-the-walls experimentation and greatness for film internationally, and not just in America.

There was, of course, Going Places, but also Dusan Makavejev's WR: Mysteries of the Organism, and there was a five-week showing of Fassbinder's 15-hour Berlin Alexanderplatz (three hours every Sunday). Godard's migraine-inducing Weekend. Movies that pushed envelopes that are no longer pushed. Grunting. Sexual. Sweaty. Movies aren't as interested in sex anymore; now it's all about violence. After watching Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller's dull Sin City, it seems the key question facing directors today is whether there is some new and exciting and interesting way to show carnage. Is there an angle that hasn't been used? A vital organ that hasn't been sliced in half? It's the kind of thing I would call depressing if I was melodramatic, or if I was much given to wallowing in an imaginary past, which I'm generally not. You just don't sense in movies the same kind of liberation you did in the past. i'm not sure you still can.

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