Monday, 18 January 2010

see how they fall (w&d audiard, w. le henry)

Audiard seems like something of a johnny-come-lately, with the success of The Beat that my Heart Skipped putting him on the map, a success cemented by his yet-to-be-released-in-the-UK, A Prophet. Of course there's rarely such a thing in cinema, no-one hands you a million squid and says, get on with it, unless you're already in the know. True to form, Audiard has been around the block a few times. However, his earlier films, whilst possessing a remarkable cinematic lucidity, (and ludicity, if such a word exists), were never overly feted, and it's difficult to connect the johnny-come-lately with the struggling auteur. So much so that when I was told in a Jaipur hotel room that Audiard was also the director of A Self-Made Hero, I couldn't quite believe it, just as Mr W couldn't quite believe after seeing See How They Fall that this was by the same director as The Beat That... There may be something heartening in this; the knowledge that early invisibility can lead to universal acclaim later in life, the fairy tale that talent will out.

In keeping with this theme, I'd forgotten that I'd seen See How They Fall, back in some kind of day, presumably when it first came out. As a result the NFT offered me that most curious of cinematic experiences, which could be called 'seeing a ghost', when everything you're seeing really has been seen before, but the original viewing is so dim and distant that its memory only exists as odd traces or intuitions, which lurk on the screen, interfering with the present. Hence, the calibrated pairing of Kassovitz and Trintignant; the lugubrious charm of Jean Yanne; and the delirious noir-ish genius of the screenplay didn't have the freshness they might have done. See How They Fall is in some ways a muddy film, full of loose ends, some of which get pulled, drawing the viewer in, an ambitious film which seems chaotic but is in fact as taut as a narrative drum. It's a film made to be seen more than once, and such is its lack of obviousness, that I found myself both trying to work out what was likely to happen next, and simultaneously trying to work out what I remembered as happening next. Only for the film to come up with something I neither expected nor remembered.

Audiard has retained a kind of intensity to his film-making. There's something feverish screaming beneath the surface, hints of violence, suggestions of love, everything draped in a white cloth waiting to be removed, like a body in a murder scene. In his first film it's there in the Trintignant's stick which helps him walk but is also a repeated weapon; in the creeping madness of Yanne, revealed through his impassioned assaults on an electronic keyboard; in the shape of the voiceovers, one by Yanne, the other by an unnamed woman - who is she? All of these are tricks which snare the audience, which keep you hooked even when you haven't got a clue what's going on or where it's heading. They're the mark of a film-maker who knew what they were doing, (even to the point of making it appear as though they didn't), part of which involves forging a distinctive style which can be picked and unpicked over the years in the films which are to follow.

1 comment:

Bryan Elsley said...

do you review
the bar snacks at the BFI,
or just the films they show?