Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
Time will tell if Andrzej Żuławski has pulled off the same benevolent magic trick as Raúl Ruiz and left his fans one more movie after his passing. Stranger things have happened, and no one welcomed the strange like Żuławski. For now we have only "Cosmos," based loosely on a novel by Witold Gombrowicz, a culmination of the rabble rouser's nearly 50-year career. As usual, it's almost too much cinema for its 103 minutes. Confined to a few locations and shaking with ecstasy, possibility and the torment of being alive, "Cosmos" is like absinthe distilled secretly in a prison cell. The world may be angry, confusing, loud and lopsided when drinking it, but when the bottle is empty all you'll want is more. Reality has never been this fun, even if it's frequently this random and hopeless. Better to take the oblong fantasy.
Jonathan Genet, who has the haunting, gaunt electricity of Pierre Clementi, plays Witold, a student trying to fervently type his masterpiece in every spare second he finds. He and his friend Fuchs (Johan Libéreau) have retreated to a bizarre country inn for a little peace and quiet only to find neither. The owner is Madame Woytis (Sabine Azéma, whose font of shocking red hair is always a relief to see), who is prone to fits of absolute stillness whenever excitement gets the better of her, usually after a screaming fit or a bout of somnambulant wood chopping. The other occupants of the inn are Woytis' lover Léon (Jean François Balmer), who salts his worts and jumbles his words, Catherette the maid (Clémentine Pons), whose cleft lip entrances all who gaze upon it, Woytis' gorgeous daughter Lena (Victória Guerra) and her equally gorgeous paramour (Andy Gillet).
At once everything is wrong. A bird hangs from a small noose in the garden outside the inn. Bugs crawl over every morsel of food. Every time Witold catches sight of Lena he looses his composure in the most percussive fashion possible. Fuchs disappears for short stretches of time and comes back with increasingly flamboyant signs of injury. No one gets along, but they can't get quit of each other. There seems to be something keeping them in each other's orbit. The confluence of symbols (an axe, lips, hanged animals, a ladder) seem to hint that these disparate figures must destroy some part of their connection to one another in order to escape the prison of their imperfections. Witold's existence becomes a merry-go-round and he can't decide if he wants off.
A merry-go-round might be the best way to describe the experience of watching the whole of Żuławski's cinema. His camera certainly does plenty of spinning and twirling. A merry-go-round operated by a cackling, drunken carny who thinks kids could stand the scare. So you go round and round and so much cinema gets into your eyes and open mouth you think you might throw up. Do you want to get off? This kind of exhilaration could never be recreated by a responsible entertainer. You're implicated in the madness as surely as he is.