Monday, June 29, 2009

Vendredi..ou un autre jour (Friday or Another Day)

Seven years after the Cannes surprise of Le Nain rouge, Le Moine produced his unexpected follow-up, a free adaptation of Maurice Tournier’s novel Vendredi ou le limbe de Pacifique, a retelling of Robinson Crusoe. Philippe de Nahon, toast of the Comédie française, finds himself the sole survivor of a 1770 shipwreck, washed up on an island played by La Réunion. After some wandering about and gathering of oddments from the wreck, it is not long before his Vendredi turns up. The film proceeds through a series of vignettes, few of which are traditional scenes of exploration and adaptation in the new habitat, or instruction of the ignorant savage; the two companions live comfortably enough with one another in mutual tolerance, neither especially keen to create a deeper bond, but conducting various practical pursuits together and for the most part adhering to the traditional master-slave relationship (an exception being their exuberant tanning of a goatskin with fresh urine). Flashbacks to Nahon’s early childhood have no great resonance until the heaving breasts of his mother (Schygulla, all too brief) reappear at the end in the unexpected form of a bordello ship. By this time, however, he has become a new man, free from worldliness and pride, and slips quietly away from the carousing. The conclusion manages to be touching without ever having allowed us close to the central characters, and a post-credits moment promises a comforting continuity. The atmosphere is hotly seductive, thanks to an unobtrusive camera, bleached by the sun or burnt with spots of filtered colour, but the two men remain as blurred as their figures seen through the heat haze, and 21 years pass without our really noticing. Le Moine’s method is consciously observational rather than investigative, largely avoiding direct examination of man’s reaction and adaptation to such extreme isolation, with the result that he strands himself on an ontological desert island even more remote than that of his protagonist.

d/p/sc Yvan le Moine ph Danny Elsen ed Matyas Veress pd Philippe Graff m George Van Dam cast Philippe Nahon, Alain Moreida, Ornella Muti, Hanna Schygulla
(2005, Belg, 102m)
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