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Providence

Posted by martinteller on May 4, 2008

An old man, an author of some modest success, is dying of cancer.  As he struggles against the pain, he conjures up (either in his imagination or in his nightmares) vicious little scenarios concerning his son and daughter-in-law, and narrates them.  It’s another Resnais take on memory and imagination, but more flawed than Last Year at Marienbad.  Part of the blame falls on the writer, David Mercer.  Since all the dialogue springs from the mind of an author, I can understand why everyone would talk in the same over-literate fashion.  But it’s really quite off-putting.  It just sounds pompous as hell, and I groaned through a lot of it.  Compounding the issue is the fact that we have a Frenchman directing his only English-language film.  I guess Resnais couldn’t know how bad his actors sounded, and the tone is never right.  Everything is too wry and self-satisfied, especially Gielgud’s narration.  Moments where the characters slip into vulgarities (about erections, underwear stains, and so forth) sound hollow and forced.  But things turn around considerably in the final act, which I won’t reveal, but it puts all the previous events in a different light.  As much as I disliked the first 80-90 minutes, the ending honestly made it worthwhile.  An original and provocative (and even moving) work, though one that is difficult to enjoy.  Rating: 7

IMDb
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