Nathalie Granger (Marguerite Duras / France, 1972):

Old Acquaintance as tableau vivant. The fairy-tale’s gingerbread manse is played by Marguerite Duras’s checkerboard-tiled cottage, Lucia Bosé and Jeanne Moreau slog around in it, a pair of spent sorceresses. The tone is one of post-traumatic numbness, abstracted as an afternoon spent washing and drying dishes, burning leaves in the backyard, pondering a pond’s dirty water, trading fragmented pensées. A child (Valerie Mascolo) is said to be ill-tempered and unhappy, "sometimes she wants to kill everybody... She wants to be an orphan, a Portuguese maid." Somewhere outside of the frame lurk murderers and coppers, the radio tells the tale: "The woods are quiet now. There is a deep mist. The young killers seem to sleep from exhaustion." As if from another planet, in drops an awkward washing-machine peddler (Gérard Depardieu), whose small storm of nervous activity plays like an audition before the two head-shaking, lugubrious divas. ("You’re no salesman." "But I have a license...") An uncanny bit of chamber music, hands on a keyboard not quite matching the tinkling on the soundtrack; a hard, scrubbed image, decorated with mirrors, dolls and cats; a triad of associations at the service of unspoken (unspeakable?) dilemmas. Ambling in and out of this acerbic, severely eloquent feminine psyche, Depardieu’s mystified outsider and Durasian homme tremblant can only offer a shaggy monologue about life’s many jobs with a gag about transitory happiness ("it lasted fifteen days"). What Duras takes from Secret Ceremony Losey returns in La Truite, Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman is a full study. Cinematography by Ghislain Cloquet. With Luce Garcia-Ville, Nathalie Bourgeois, and Dionys Mascolo. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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