Ne Change Rien: Jeanne Balibar Sings in the Dark

11/03/2010 2:10 PM |

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Starting today and continuing through next week, Pedro Costa’s Ne Change Rien plays at Anthology Film Archives—increasingly the fate of critically well-liked films which fail to secure distribution at the New York Film Festival, where the film played last fall, and when Nicolas Rapold wrote this review:

Intoxicating, or murky, Pedro Costa’s Ne Change Rien shows Jeanne Balibar the singer in action—in woodcut-severe chiaroscuro that’s like one long virtuoso riff on Don’t Look Back’s spotlight long-shot. Better known as an actress (Duchess of Langeais), Balibar whispers and bellows and Dietrichizes here in recording studios (worrying phrases for the right rhythm and cadence) and in performance with a band (the longest rendition: “Johnny Guitar“). The darkness that prevails—often voiding three quarters of the screen—goes beyond nightclub ambience and toward benevolently drugged abstraction: the gibbous-waning slivers of Balibar’s facial contours, or a cat’s head in sudden sprawling close-up.

Technically, the pools of dark allow Costa (Colossal Youth) one major advance over many music documentaries: since shots overlap so much visually, the frame changes of cuts are less noticeable, and so the singer and her sonic textures feel like a continuous presence instead of something chopped up and served. But the long views on the band performances become astringent with no sense of the room or audience; the studio sessions benefit from a game guitarist’s vibe (as Balibar burbles over a Curtis Mayfield temp sample). A well-lit staged presentation of Offenbach is also shown—but here that means, somewhat obstinately, that only the pianist is shown, in profile. Working on the Offenbach with a voice teacher—only ever heard as an off-screen martinet—Balibar amusingly loses her cool (“Oh, putain!”), outside the climate-control muzziness of the studio.

Costa takes the title from one of the most worked-over songs, which can be found on Balibar’s 2003 and 2006 albums (as can the intra-festival hit “Torture”). (The movie itself expands upon a 2005 short.) On balance, Ne Change Rien stands up well among attempts by major directors to exert their force of style in renderings of fellow artists at work.

One Comment

  • I saw this today. I left before the end. If you want to see a very well shot documentary about some totally talentless musicians (the phrase ‘vanity project’ come to mind), see this. I like ‘Colossal Youth’ and ‘Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie’, the latter mainly because the subject was interesting in itself (Straub and Huillet’s working relationship). This, on the other hand, could only be considered for its merits (visual, formal, etc etc) if one was tone deaf, had absolutely no appreciation for music (‘popular’ or otherwise), and had no idea how ridiculous people who are famous for other reasons look when they start bands. And are really bad at it! OK, this isn’t movie criticism, but if these things would bother you… well, maybe it’s interesting to experience some sort of unexpected alienation between form an content, or something…. yeah right.
    they must think they sound like nick cave or something.