Monday, August 22, 2011

#570: Zazie dans le métro

(Louis Malle, 1960)

If all you've seen from Louis Malle is Au Revoir Les Enfants and My Dinner With Andre - fuck, what am I saying?

If all you've seen are other movies, Zazis dans le métro is going to blow your mind. Vaguely focused on a girl's misadventures in Paris during a madcap afternoon, Malle takes this opportunity to throw the kitchen sink at the viewer - bending, jumping, and speeding up time while tossing every possible in-camera effect you can think of at every scenario. The film's anarchic spirit is reminiscent of much better films (Last Year at Marienbad, made a year later) and almost infinitely worse ones (Crank 2: High Voltage) in that it takes its genre to its respective endgame extreme. I spent the running times of all three of these films with my mouth opened, unsure of what exactly I was witnessing.

Perhaps the most technically shocking (and iconic before it was iconic) is Zazie's sped up chase. I couldn't find 100% confirmation of this on the internet, but I don't think I need it to say with near certainty that Richard Lester was paying close attention to this scene when making A Hard Day's Night - it's one of those invigorating referential finds that pop up every now and then in the collection. But even without this influence, the sequence is just so... INSANE that it is difficult to reach a solid conclusion as to what you are watching. And then: this is the same man who made Elevator to the Gallows and The Lovers, the latter of which was just two years before. It's an early career move reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson's more recent foray into comedy, but even Punch-Drunk Love has strong thematic and technical connections to his previous work. Perhaps the better comparison here would be to Godard's A Woman Is a Woman (also made the following year), another comedy that flirts with cinematic destruction due to its creator's early-career whims. Both filmmakers were relatively young and coming off international sensations in The Lovers and a little movie called Breathless, and both were still flailing around for direction towards their mid-career peaks. Indicative of their respective voices, however, Godard's work is more focused on the act of creating cinema - the nuts and bolts that go into the finished product - while Malle has created a film that is meant to be seamless. It wouldn't surprise me to find out Zazie dans le métro was created so Malle could go to a theater and watch his audience's reaction - something tells me it would have been endlessly entertaining for him.

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