Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rosalyne et les lions

I missed Isabelle Pasco’s birthday last Saturday - what a good excuse it would have been to post a review of one of her films. Never mind - here goes anyway: apart from Prospero's Books, she’s not appeared in a lot that’s traveled far from France, but in Roselyne et les lions she’s brave and strong and beautiful as a lioness, you might say. She meets a lion-tamer and takes a lesson; so does a nice young man who drives her around on his moped while they fall in love. They travel with the circus and an eccentric supporting cast. They hone their art. Success, and increased dedication, drive the lovers to make hard choices. It’s all very French.

The film was made by Jean-Jacques Beineix, the biggest noise in French cinema ‘81 with his appealingly self-conscious debut Diva. He threw away the advantage with a squalid and bloated, Querelle-esque follow-up La Lune dans le caniveau (The Moon In The Gutter) (1983), starring Depardieu and Nastassja Kinski and decried by all but not without interest. He bounced back, however, with the international hit 37°2 le matin (Betty Blue) (1986), which has always been better than its status as teen boys’ fave would lead one to suppose. It looked like he'd hit his stride and although Roselyne et les lions is a smaller affair, it is also perfectly fluid and focused.

It’s also more interiorised, intended by Beineix as a metaphor for the long act of creation that culminates in a completed work, the performance born of experience, hard work and chance. And the point to which it all works, the climactic display, is terrific, all swirling dry ice, prowling lion-vision and Pasco in a sparkling bikini. It is almost like a pop video - the movies of Beineix and contemporaries (Luc Besson for one) were branded the cinéma du look - but it is to his credit that his finale comes off as more spectacular and more resonant than that. And it is to Pasco’s credit too that she convinces as someone slowly withdrawing from the world gradually to come alive only in the company of her lions.

The film is interiorised because its concentration is on the act of lion-taming, and Roselyne’s immersion in the long hours of practice leading up to the climactic show. The French take their circuses (and performing arts in general) pretty seriously as venues for artistic suffering and inevitable tragedy, most recently, for me anyway, in the overwrought Bye Bye Blackbird (2005). Fortunately there is none of that film’s mooning about here; the lion-taming is fascinating and the circus is always a good milieu for a movie. Plus the animals are splendid, and you’ll find yourself summon all the cats in the neighbourhood with a commanding “Venez!”

d/p Jean-Jacques Beineix sc Jean-Jacques Beineix, Jacques Forgeas ph Jean-Françcois ed Anick Bally, Marie Castro, Danielle Fillios pd Carlos Conti m Reinhardt Wagner cast Isabelle Pasco, Gérard Sandoz, Gabriel Monnet, Philippe Clévenot, Günter Meisner, Carlos Pavlidis
(1989, Fr, 137m)
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Blogger Diana. said...


June 6, 2009 at 7:36 AM  

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