La Pointe Courte (1955)
Not rated, but it is pretty innocent for a part of the French New Wave. The only thing that I can count as a wildly uncomfortable bit was the drowning of kittens. Despite the fact that this is a visual moment, most of the work is done by the foley, which is pretty upsetting. I think that there's some conversation about infidelity as well. Still, not rated is not rated.
DIRECTOR: Agnes Varda
Apparently, I've seen this movie before. Oops. That's not my finest moment. I watched the whole movie and then, BAM, I see that La Pointe Courte is on the other Agnes Varda set I have. A natural mistake to be sure. We all own multiple Agnes Varda box sets and sometimes we forget which Agnes Varda box set has which Agnes Varda movie. *sigh*
I love early Varda so much that it makes me overly critical of late Varda. That's an unhealthy relationship to have, first of all. But how much can I really love it if I've forgotten that I've watched this movie. Now, I'm going to keep mining this ore because it gets to the crux of my argument about La Pointe Courte. La Pointe Courte is good. It's very good. I'll even go as far as to say that it's great even if it isn't the most fun movie I've ever seen. (It's way more fun than a lot of French New Wave stuff, but it still is French New Wave. Okay, French New Wave is fun too, but it's not Bullet Train fun, okay?) But as good as La Pointe Courte is, it really is almost the epitome of the French New Wave, especially from a first time director. (It's a work of genius, especially considering that it comes from a first time director.) It has artsy shots. It's mellow. No one really gets up in arms about things they are saying, despite the fact that they are saying potentially incendiary things. You know the parody of French cinema. That parody has to come from somewhere and La Pointe Courte has a lot of those hallmarks. It sounds like I'm saying it's a bad thing. It really isn't. But I have to acknowledge that culture has borrowed a lot from movies like La Pointe Courte.
I hate that I wrote that La Pointe Courte isn't fun. "Fun" is too all-encompassing of a word. It has a myriad of contextual definitions. It's not like La Pointe Courte is bleak. There are bleak elements to it. I mean, one of the main stories is about the potential dissolving of a marriage. Another is about how the government interferes too much with humble day-to-day existance of the working man. But at the end of the day, it's almost a celebration of the small working town. Yeah, it prods its subjects with sticks and makes them dance for the camera. But ultimately, it is a rallying cry for the small fishing village. It's the positive form of Death of a Salesman, championing the working man and all of his foibles. While all of this low grade misery is around them, the takeaway is that places like La Pointe Courte is full of the celebrated working man. Sure, they'll never get what they want out of life. It will always be a bit of a struggle. But because expectations are managed and that people kind of seem to love life, warts and all, there's something beautiful about it.
But for some reason, and I hope to parce that out now, this movie screamed mortality to me. I couldn't stop thinking about death, considering that this movie seems to fundamentally be about life. (Split infinitive, thank you.) I think I know why I went to death with this movie and it has very little to do with the movie itself. I've been listening to a lot of Pete Holmes talking about Transcendental Meditation. I'm not going to get into that. But one of the key concepts is the notion of a mantra. It doesn't matter what it is. The idea of the mantra is that it takes up a part of your brain that tries too hard and allows the rest of the thoughts to flow freely. He compares it to the thought process of saying a rosary, which is both interesting and terrifying. But there is something so somber about La Pointe Courte that it made me almost get meditative. With that in mind, I watched this movie through the lens that my meditative mind had ascribed to it, the lens of death. I'm going to use the couple as my primary focus because I think that their story is the most fleshed out narrative in the whole piece.
A couple goes to this quaint fishing village. With the title being La Pointe Courte, Varda rightly keeps all of the action of the piece inside this village. The microcosm serves all of the actions and the characters. As part of that, it reminds me both of the limited freedom of life. You can do anything you want, as long as it is within the walls of your life. I think it's Lui and Elli, so I apologize if I have the wrong characters. Lui is from here, and he finds it to be heaven. It's my wife and Cincinnati. I only kind of get it. But Elli only views the limitations of this village. Lui seems adorably small, molded by the conventions of this town. Elli wants to be anywhere but here. Because the movie is French, her protestation is more in her words than her emotions. But like how, as we become older, we grow more comfortable with the notion of death, Elli sees this life as one of opportunity. Yeah, there aren't a billion things to do in La Pointe Courte. But the people do what they do and they do it well. It's an appreciation of simplicity. As she sees the value of a simple life / a simple death, she also is reminded of the beauty of Lui's simplicity. He may not be a jetsetter, but he is a good man. Perhaps a good and simple life is all that is needed.
I will say, I don't see her in reality making the change that she does. Her entire character arc is almost what I like from cinema, but it doesn't seem real. Varda is smart for saying that this argument is going to happen again. It's just that she seems so committed to leaving that I don't see her turning like that, especially from the lack of something. Okay they have water-jousting. That's something.
But the movie is great as a form of mediation. Everything I say sounds like an insult, but it really isn't. Varda's somberness causes me to accentuate my relationship between audience and avatar. Those quiet moments are inviting to infuse the self and that's what makes it good. Some say boring; I say peaceful.
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.