Baroque in conception and Bressonian in execution, Eugène Green’s films reconcile contradictions between word and deed, body and spirit, and life and death by virtue of a precisely realized transcendentalism. Le Monde Vivant (2003) creates a Medieval fairy tale out of language — words alone deem labradors lions and denim-clad young men knights. They also allow two such quest-seekers to win the love of fair maidens and refuse death’s finality. When Green drops the precious humor (try not to roll your eyes at the mention of a “Lacanian witch”) and concentrates his minimalist aesthetic on moments of sublime beauty, Le Monde truly spins. The more thematically layered Le Pont des Arts (2004) has parallel relationships doomed by artistic and academic demands, and Green expounds upon his language-determined universe with appropriate dramatic heft (lovers’ quarrels, screaming maestros, suicides) while again allowing the impossible to flourish. Making their premiere theatrical runs, both films represent a heady — and sometimes painfully stuffy — mission undertaken by the American-born Francophile and French émigré director. Neither succeeds as greatly as Green’s debut, Toutes les Nuits (to be screened concurrently), but the cinematic heights they occasionally ascend are worth the effort.
Opens January 20 at Anthology Films