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Visage

Posted by martinteller on May 31, 2010

In a way, this is Tsai’s most accessible film since Rebels of the Neon God.  He’s cut way back on the ultra-miniminalist, absurdly long takes.  Very few scenes are of “people doing nothing”, and virtually every scene is a striking work of beauty, like pieces in a museum (the film was commissioned by, and partially shot in, the Louvre).  Even the themes of isolationism are toned down.  Characters frequently appear interacting together, even experiencing joy with each other!  So why has it had such a poor reception?  Well, even “mainstream Tsai” is a hard sell, and I must admit this is a very unfocused work.  On one level, it’s about the process of filmmaking, and the layers of artificiality.  We are never sure what exists in reality, in the movie-within-a-movie, in fantasy, or in the supernatural.  Reality and artificiality seem to constantly bleed into each other, creating different variations of the meta-universe.  It’s also a re-affirmation of Tsai’s adoration of Truffaut, again casting Jean-Pierre Leaud (as the actor “Antoine”), Fanny Ardant (as a producer) and Jeanne Moreau.  There’s also the appearance of a flipbook containing the final moments of 400 Blows (layers of artificiality again!).  And going even further, this may be the continuation of Tsai’s own “Antoine Doinel” series.  What Time Is It There is his 400 Blows, and The Skywalk Is Gone is his Antoine et Colette, and The Wayward Cloud is his Stolen Kisses.  I hadn’t considered it before, but it seems to me now that I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone is his Bed & Board.  Which makes Visage his Love on the Run, and whether intended or not, that makes sense.  There are numerous references to the previous films.  This review is getting too long to enumerate them all, but the death of the mother is a clear parallel to the death of the father in WTIIT.  Like all Tsai films, there’s a good deal of very sly, dry humor.  His preoccupation with water invading private spaces makes a hilarious, explosive appearance in the first five minutes.  I had to wonder if Tsai was poking fun at himself a bit here, it was so over-the-top (for him, that is).

I am rambling, and that’s appropriate for this movie, which is so packed and sprawling that it probably would confuse the hell out of anyone not already on the Tsai bandwagon.  I won’t pretend to understand all of it either, but I’m such a raging fanboy that I lapped it all up.  I think Tsai would have to do something radically different from his formula before he could let me down.  Rating: 10

IMDb
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