Wednesday, September 7, 2011

#571: Black Moon

(Louis Malle, 1975)

One of the difficult things about consuming so many movies in such a short span - particularly films that are often singular or at least unconventionally noteworthy - is that a movie like Black Moon doesn't seem quite as strange as it might in the context of normal, everyday moviegoing. One need not look further than Malle's own catalog to find a stranger movie, but if you were so inclined, there are plenty of Sweet Movies and Antichrists to go around.

The irony of this whole argument is that Black Moon isn't especially weird when you consider the large debt it pays to Alice in Wonderland. That story, so ingrained in our collective subconscious, seems perfectly normal for some reason. Yet something about this grown-up version that lacks red queens and talking rabbits (though what's wrong with a giant rat and talking unicorn?) makes it feel stranger. Certainly there are odd elements - the near absence of dialog (badly dubbed when it happens anyway), the lack of any real plot, and an abrupt freeze frame finale that had me checking my TV connection like the Sopranos finale. It just seems like those elements are so woven into the fabric of the film's technique that things stop feeling strange fairly quickly.

That's not to say Black Moon is a boring movie or a bad one - and it's certainly not a safe or conventional movie in any respect. I actually rather loved the film once I adjusted to its rhythms and almost playful insistence on defying expectation. And while those other films are equally strange (or more so), they are not actually similar to this film, and in this sense it is a unique entry in the collection, and sticks out as a fresh approach to cinema even among hundreds of other films.

One thing that was interesting about the creation of Black Moon was that it was apparently inspired by an actress suggesting to Malle that he make a movie entirely without dialog. This is an extremely hard thing to do - after all, even most silent films have dialog! So I don't mean to discount Malle's accomplishment when I say that even apart from the fact that people do speak in the film he kind of cheated by making a fantasy/stream-of-consciousness film rather than a movie set in the real world. Has this challenge ever been accomplished? Could it be? If so, how? If not, why?

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