LA BANDE DE QUATRE
DIRECTOR: JACQUES RIVETTE
COUNTRY: France 1988
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Caroline Champetier
MUSIC: Claudio Monteverdi
CAST: Laurence Cote, Fejria Deliba, Bernadette Giraud, Bulle Ogier, Nathalie Richard, Benoit Regent, Ines de Medeiros
SUPER FEATURES: The filming style and the direction is excellent.
The great thing is getting a chance to see this film maker's work. The sad thing is that seeing his work means that one has to put up with people complaining about another director who does not care about his reputation as a commercial film maker, and only does what he pleases and wishes to see and learn about.
As one gentleman in the bathroom said, "the french don't make movies, they make talkies ..." I never felt that "talkies" were a condition that made a film bad, but it is by American and Hollywood standards, where the "action" content tends to take down the quality of the words and their meanings, into quick ditties and idiotic lines for the masses, in lieu of CONTENT. Unfortunately for American audiences, Jacques Rivette is totally CONTENT.
La Bande des Quatre, is not so much a "film" per se, as it is a real advanced acting exercise, for any actors in training and learning. The advanced side of acting is very explosive, and tends to tap into one's personal life, something that serious acting teachers, do not think should be mixed with life itself, as it tends to confuse people, rather than help. And in this story, most of the ladies are affected and they tend to copy their experience first, and create another idea for the staging, second. We do the same thing in life, don't we ... we take the easy way, rather
than think through to something else.
And during the 2 and three quarter hours, of what is a slow film, a story is created, since the girls mostly are friends and live in the same house, regarding one of their mates who is involved in what appears to be a rather serious affair that is hitting the French news casts. This adds to the ladies' ability to inter act on stage, but the teacher Constance (Bulle Ogier) makes sure that the girls do it right, rather than fall into their everyday mentality, which is not what acting in theatre is about at all.
This fine line, is difficult for anyone, audiences specially, as it is a subtlety that is rarely seen, more often than not misunderstood, and vilified by most commercial pundits. It forces a director to maintain the focus on the actor and person, and this is something that audiences are not ready for, and never have been ... PATIENCE. It is too easy to criticize something special, and specific, which 99.9% of film is not about. The other percent, are the ones that create the new styles, invent new things that push the envelopes in the creative form of the arts, and in this case, film. Mike Leigh, with "Naked" and "Secrets & Lies" does a similar thing, although he ties it to a story a lot more. Rivette's style is a bit of the film noir style, and the story may even take second place here, and not be important, compared to what is really happening, another tough thing for film watchers and their seriousness, to accept and follow up on.
Much of the subtleties in this film are lost in the translations. Horrible sub-title goofs, eat away at the fabric of the sensitivity of what Constance is discussing in a rehearsal scene, and this is tough on the film. The points come off jaded, and pushy, rather than serious and meaningful, which as an acting and directing major, I can tell you, is MOST important, in helping direct a person into a spot where they are creative and free, with the association with their character. Still, a lot of it makes it through, and the girls, one by one, are seen improving their delivery of
the lines into a more cohesive set of moments, in their rehearsing whichever work they are doing. Underlying much of this was the actor's ability to stay with their lines, and know them ( memorize them ), which is something that Constance hammers on the actresses. We do not often do our homework in life.
Other than that, the film has some unusual touches, many of which I believe tend to detract from the real meat of the product. Various scenes of the city from various places, mostly the moving metro train, seem to indicate that life moves on, a slight lesson to the actresses in this film, but a rather un-needed point to make. I tend to think that this diminishes the quality of the film, but perhaps at the time, one may have felt the need to justify one's movements, so that an audience can see what one is doing. I do not believe this is necessary, and later, in LA BELLE
NOISEUSSE, Rivette did not compromise one inch of film at all to make his opus. In this respect, La Bande des Quatre, displays a nice foretelling of this director's ability and body of work.
Magnificent film, with Bulle Ogier's style of acting really neat and well defined, and often showing the girls how one can really deliver a line. Calm, cool and collected is the word, in the face of "action, lights, camera", something which the acting students are trying to learn.
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