by Greg Muskewitz
The ubiquitous sensation of nonplussing the viewer is like a spell cast whereby the approach to discern the top-notch qualities seems to make the film more indefinable, more impalpable.The h-story the title refers to is none other than Alain Resnais’ own spell-caster, the Nouvelle Vague classic Hiroshima, Mon Amour. If you haven’t seen that film, and expect to understand this one (though “understand” may not be the best choice to describe one’s comprehension), that’s strike one. If you’re looking for a point, that’s strike two. This film, presented in a semi-documentary format, has a cast and crew attempting to remake the Resnais film. Writer/director Nobuhiro Suwa is writer/director Nobuhiro Suwa. Béatrice Dalle is Béatrice Dalle, playing the part that belonged to Emmanuelle Riva. Hiroaki Umano plays himself in the part of Eiji Okada. Think of Olivier Assayas’ Irma Vep, where a has-been French filmmaker is trying to remake Louis Feuillade’s Les Vampires with Hong Kong action star Maggie Cheung as herself. The differentiation comes at the point that you take away the humor of Vep and play it as a tragedy. The scenes are mixed up to project several different viewpoints and observations over the shoot of the film. Moreover, especially when watching the re-enactment of particular scenes, it is technically manipulated to maybe start without sound, progress and then add sound, and before the end of the scene, once again cut the sound out. H-Story isn’t about the content in the way it is about feeling, texture, sensation, or often, the unique glimpse into the creative and emotional workings of the artist, additionally coping with their own inner conflicts related mainly to the material. As the shoot unsuccessful plugs along, other predicaments are illustrated — the difficulty between the French-speaking actress and the Japanese-speaking writer/director, the deterioration and ramfeezled aggravation of multitudinous takes (“It’s impossible to feel the way they felt forty years ago”). The production is taken apart piece by piece, from the discouraging interrogations about the director’s motivations, Dalle disappearing for days, misperceptions, etc. Suwa, as the director of H-Story — not the remake — reveals a strong eye and sense for detail, exhibited in scenes such as having his actors rehearse a shot down to the measurement of a gesture, and then cutting away to the original to show how precise the two are. He is punctilious, specific, but the inclusiveness of pitch in the textual tone doesn’t become dull. The ambition Suwa deliberately pursues, the complexity of the fractured narrative, the emotional exhaustions and replications thereof, and the resulting brilliance are coterminous to the original and effective nature of Resnais’ accomplishment.
With Kou Machida, Caroline Champetier, Michiko Yoshitake and Motoko Suhama.[Masterpiece.]
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originally posted: 10/11/02 16:16:56