Sunday, September 11, 2016
Une Visite au Louvre
Straub and Huillet's 43 minutes Une Visiste au Louvre is also on You-tube in a posting that has subtitles if you access your closed-caption (CC) button. This film is shot in beautiful color and was released in 2004. The movie is almost entirely images of paintings hanging on the wall -- generally, we see the painting, its frame, and the wall where it is suspended. These pictures of paintings are the subject of a rapturous, poetic commentary that I take to be words spoken by Danielle Huillet. Sometimes, a man interjects a question or a comment -- but this is very rare. (I take the man to Jean-Marie Straub). The film starts with a documentary-style image, as bland as possible of the Louvre and the Seine with traffic and a bus pulling through the palace's gates. Then, we see the Victory of Samothrace used as bludgeon against the Italian "primitives" -- painters like Giotto. (The speaking woman tells us that she's too old to trek through Italy to see those paintings in situ; she makes the same remark about traveling to Venice to see Tintoretto's murals.) We see a big painting by Veronese, the wedding at Cana -- the narrator extravagantly praise the picture's vibrancy, its underpainted design, and its truthfulness to life. (David and Ingres are briefly shown and denounced -- line drawings that have been colored, she says, and not real paintings.) The film seems designed to illustrate three progressions modeled on how Flaubert's realism originated in Balzac's romanticism -- Veronese to Tintoretto, Delacroix to Courbet, and, then, Courbet to Cezanne. We are never shown any paintings by Cezanne -- instead, the narrator simply exclaims "Cezanne! Cezanne!" as the film concludes by cutting to a ravishing shot of unearthly beauty, a forest vivid with ferns where water is spurting and flowing -- this is shown in an austere but splendid 360 degree pan. At one other point, the film's shots of pictures are interrupted by an image of trees along the Seine moving in the wind. The film's commentary is resolutely materialistic -- the pictures are praised for their veracity, their colors, their fidelity to life. The narrator is highly opinionated: she doesn't like the "hang" of Courbet's huge "Burial at Ornan" and suggests that if the Louvre can't get something like this right, then, perhaps, it should be burned down. At one point, the narrator provides a detailed exposition as to the alleged decay of a Delacroix image of crusaders -- the picture is fading away, the woman's voice tells us, even as we look at it because of the cheap and foul materials used by the Romantics to make their paintings. This is a film for those interested in Straub-Huillet -- it is interesting but strangely inconsequential.