Released by Park Circus Films
In Cinemas: Friday June 1st 2012
To call Bertrand Tavernier’s film ahead of its time is probably the understatement to end all. This is the ultimate Hare and Tortoise film, forgotten since it was made in 1980, watching as other films bluster and fall by the wayside only to stroll over the finish line with a gorgeously cinematic, scathing indictment of modern society.
This film is one of a tradition of real Science Fiction films, films that fictionalise a projected future that may rise from scientific advancements and it’s got caution running through each frame. It reminded me of Alphaville and more recently The Adjustment Bureau, films that take ideas about where society is, or where it’s headed but that uses its contemporary geography to make the ideas, the fear, more tangible. This is real science fiction and the use of Glasgow to convey meaning, tone and atmosphere is sensational.
The film is bursting with ideas, that seep out of every detail. Romy Schneider’s central character says ‘everything is of interest, nothing matters’ but in the frame, everything matters. The composition, the production design. Everything is important to decoding the ideas being presented.
Harvey Keitel plays a TV director who has a camera implanted in his brain and eyes, so he records everything he sees and he is going to record Romy Schneider’s author character dying. All for the pleasure of a public that has forgotten what death feels like, and for a calm, despotic producer played by Harry Dean Stanton.
The performances are scintillating and they clearly loved working with a sublime screenplay. So technically it’s a wonderful piece of work, but it’s in the ideas, and how prescient they are, that the film is so powerful.
In a modern society consumed by voyeurism and gossip, on cruelty and on the need to feel superior, connected, part of, the same as celebrities and those we construct into celebrities the film hits like a shotgun blast to the chest.
We no longer live in the same time the film was made. It was pre Diana, pre 9/11, pre Jade Goody. But watching this film makes time collapse on itself.
It is a brilliant treatise on media manipulation and public complicity.
The most terrifying part of the whole thing, is that it doesn’t feel macabre, it feels possible. It doesn’t feel fictional, it feels natural. This feels like an archaeological find, a historical document with important lessons for here, for now, and for next.