Made for TV: Smaller Than Life
The other evening Jan and I take our place in her home entertainment center, that is, sitting on the floor, our back against her bed, once I’d slipped the DVD to the player’s slot. And on comes Les Uns Et Les Autres, Claude Lelouche. I look forward to introducing great film classics to Jan: she’s known movies longer than I, she’s a little older, but her experience wasn’t thick in foreign film, hard to get film. We’ve made giant strides together but still haven’t come close to covering the field: we haven’t yet shared Les Quatre Cents Coups, A Bout de Souffle … just to mention French New Wave. But we had seen Lelouche’s A Man and a Woman. But as we sat the other evening, it was late, she was tired, I wasn’t fussing about any of that: I was anxious to get started: seeing a film together that neither of us knew coming into it: we were near peers this time: neither wholly ignorant, both mostly ignorant.
James Caan … oh boy.
Les Uns Et Les Autres
We watched. Ah: a fair size cast plays generations of similar characters. We’ve got familites of musicians and dancers, in France, in Russia, in America … For a couple of decades now I’ve loved Piers Anthony’s Geodyssey novels: he maps human history through a cast of a dozen characters with similar names and characteristics over the last million or so years: Og chips flint in Africa, Ogman makes flintlocks in the American Revolution (I make up the details, mine too are symbolic, not factual).
I liked a couple of the cast members: Nicole Garcia … Caan fizzled for me. Évelyne Bouix reminded me of Anouk Aimée in A Man and a Woman (now I know that she married Lelouche, bore him a child): and she’s a little bit Edith Piaf too, something essentially Gallic about her: nice.
I’d said to Jan we can watch a half hour of it, then pause, or an hour … Up to you. After an hour I was ready to suspend, she opted to keep watching.
What neither of us knew is that it would go on, and on, and on …
I recommend a movie to Jan, rent it: she doesn’t not feel obligated to watch much of it if she’s not enjoying it: she’s bailed out of a number of important, or successful (with others), or great movies: Pulp Fiction … But here she was suffering it better than I! I finally, after two coming up on three hours with more to go, begged to pull the plug.
You stare at the Sudoku puzzle: this box doesn’t solve, neither does that box: suddenly you notice a detail off over there, deduce one empty box, then another, and the whole bulk of the problem resolves into easy focus. You can’t fit this piece of the puzzle no matter what, then if falls off the table, flutters to the ground, and you see that you had it upside down, backwards, weren’t seeing the color or line right: but now the whole problem resolves … My daughter in law explains: Les Uns Et Les Autres, aka: Bolero, was made for TV! From the beginning it was intended to spread out over hours and weeks and months! It wasn’t a movie theater movie, never had been!
Something else I learned just now: Lelouche didn’t like college, he got a camera, shot stuff, sold the footage … shot car racing! No wonder his A Man and a Woman is so effective! He had a huge experiential leg up on the stupid passive students.