…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Isabelle Adjani

HMWYBS: Reactions to Adele H.


I’m only writing on this space for Nathaniel R.’s Best Shot series (we’re still waiting on Possessed :S) because my water birth-like paragraphs about the shots from Francois Truffaut‘s The Story of Adele H. that interest me are too long for tumblr. Truffaut thought that Adele’s story as fitting to tell in a 95 minute feature. However she is only and arguably unjustly seen as a footnote in her father Victor Hugo’s life and only having a stub page in Wikipedia. Anyway….

Third runner-up, because of what iMDb’s mothboy88 thinks:

When Adele (Isabelle Adjani) writes “Victor Hugo” in the dust on the mirror, and then wipes it off, it’s almost exactly the same as when Hanzo writes “Bill” on the window, and The Bride wipes it off with her sleeve.

Although I can’t remember which Kill Bill he or she is talking about. Part 1?

Second runner-up: I’m probably not the only Canadian who reads Nathaniel but I’m probably the loudest. If I was patriotic I’d dedicate this whole post to Canadian representations in this movie, since it’s mostly set in Halifax. I was also a bit irritated at how half of the characters didn’t know who Hugo was, or that this movie made Halifax look like a city for less than the 50,000 of its population during the film’s time period of 1863. Or that it wasn’t filmed in that city until iMDB’s pbellema reminded me that Old Halifax blew up in World War I, the same war that put the news of her death in the fringes. I also realized that beginning the story with a map reminds me of Casablanca but this movie is obviously more depressing.

Runner up: Because it’s my space I would like to talk about my broken heart. And fittingly, downward spirals are one of Truffaut’s favourite arcs. There are many instances where I withdraw my investment on such stories from him and other directors, as much as I appreciate the execution and the acting in those movies’ final moments. Regardless of what I think about these kind of movies, my tendencies to over-read images sees this shot as a heterosexual masculine aversion from ‘ridiculous’ women, or the world, gender dominated or otherwise, rejecting her. It’s also a majestic moment in an otherwise intimate movie, although it makes me feel like an asshole that my runner-up shot shows Adjani’s back instead of her beautiful face.

Best: If the earlier shot shows the movie’s world, this shot explains its format. This is not your average epistolary movie, as she recites her letters instead of being heard through voice-overs. What captivated me visually is how it’s dark and grimy like a Delacroix painting (this movie loves the colour brown). The scene where this shot belongs to also puts many things into context, how she has to cut paper from a roll like she would for bread. How she would talk about how her father owes her money which, even to me who belongs to the ‘entitled generation’ sounds unthinkable. How her beloved Albert’s position would be jeopardized and how single-minded love like hers might and should have only existed in her lifetime.


Hysteria: Roman Polanski’s The Tenant


Simple misunderstandings can ruin already precarious relationships between coworkers or neighbours. Roman Polanski has made a movie about that called The Tenant. He plays the titular tenant, a Polish immigrant named Trelkolvsky who lives in the same building as Shelley Winters‘ concierge character and some senior citizens. They, by the way, want to uphold the quietness of their building by keeping families out and not reporting to the police during robberies. It’s also the kind of building that has old plumbing but the landlord Monsieur Zy (Melvyn Douglas) audaciously asks for 5000 francs a month. And they think that he’s a playboy because he had one party in his apartment with his very coarse coworkers.

The apartment’s original tenant is Simone Schoul, who has left the apartment furnished. Even the walls have their own identity as she has apparently left some of her teeth behind a wooden wardrobe. The movie shows this urban condition when people live, sit and meet the same people others have. We inhabit spaces with histories like hearsay but that littleness doesn’t make it insignificant. We think of ourselves as ‘individual’ but individuality, after all is only marked by how we differ from the other and it is more difficult to assert our identities when the other multiply around us, surrounds us and makes us claustrophobic.

At the same time Polanski is weary of asserting individualism as he presents a coworker/best friend character as the Trelkovsky’s foil. The latter is a man who would be rude when his neighbours complain about him. Trelkovsky doesn’t want to become that person but he gets lumped with his best friend because of ageist prejudices and other reasons. But that’s the same way that first or bad impressions last in others’ and in our own eyes.

I wasn’t sure about Polanski’s performance while watching the movie but I’m starting to like it more and more. He hugs and almost juggles the trash he has produced with his first and only party, taking it down the stairs. He becomes the frazzled man with his screech-y voice eventually snapping at people equally for the smallest reasons and it’s funnier watching that anger coming out from a man with a childlike face. The movie feels sleepy after the forty-five minute mark, going into a cycle of Trelkovsky meeting his girlfriend Stella (Isabelle Adjani), the neighbours complaining and him moping. All of that while waiting for him to come out in drag which…