In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_americanfable-poster_web

American Fable

American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.

Thumb_get_out

Get Out

We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Sundance Archives

Reviews

Les Creatures

  |  

Agnes Varda's "Les Creatures" is a complex and nearly hypnotic study of the way fact is made into fiction. It seems to operate on many levels, but in fact it operates on only one, illustrating how fantasy, reality and style are simultaneously kept suspended in the mind of a creative writer.

Advertisement

The writer is played by Michel Piccoli (that marvelously sinister star of Bunuel's "Diary of a Chambermaid"). He lives with his wife, a mute, in an isolated village where they become the center of gossip. But all the time he is transmuting the residents of the village into characters in a novel he is writing. The novel is about a man who manufactures small disks; when one of them is slipped into a person's pocket, he becomes a robot subject to the commands of the manufacturer.

As the writer thinks about this gadget and wanders through the town observing his neighbors, Varda occasionally cuts to a red-tinted screen that shows hypothetical scenes of the villagers as robots. These fantasies are related to the writer's feelings toward his wife (the lovely Catherine Deneuve). She became mute after an auto accident for psychological reasons, apparently, and not physical ones. Now she is pregnant; the writer's ideas about creation and control mirror his attitude toward her.

Halfway into the movie, the writer imagines that one of his neighbors who lives in a tower, has a secret room filled with electronic gear that can control people's actions. The man challenges the writer to a chess game in which the pawns will be the villagers. Complicated rules are set up, and they begin to play.

Advertisement

The way they manipulate lives (rejecting some possibilities, experimenting with others) resembles the way human experience was treated in "Last Year at Marienbad."

But Varda is more concrete in her symbolism; actual people are manipulated on the chessboard, and buttons are pushed to guide their actions. This fantasy is played against a background of Piccoli's relationship with his pregnant wife, who fittingly enough has a baby at the end of the film (just as he gives birth to his completed story).

But "Les Creatures" is not quite as pat as I've made it sound; in fact, it's involved enough that sometimes we can't find the line between the story and the fantasies. That is perhaps what Miss Varda wants to realize: that our past is factual, but our future is flexible, and that as people living in time we are constantly creating our lives, just as a novelist creates his story.

Advertisement

Popular Blog Posts

Oscar's History of Pickiness

At the ripe age of 89, Oscar can still be a notoriously picky fellow when it comes to what constitutes a contender fo...

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

Netflix's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" an Unfunny Parody of Sadness

A review of Netflix's new series, Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events," which premieres January 13.

If We Picked the Winners 2017

The RogerEbert.com staff picks for the Oscars.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus