Thursday, 8 March 2012

Alexandra Stewart & Cathryn Harrison in Louis Malle's "Black Moon" [1975 France, W.Germany]

During the time when Nouvelle Vague was in full flow, there was a French director who wasn't formally part of it, and yet explored cinema in his own unique way. Louis Malle started in film as a cameraman, and his evolution didn't stop with becoming a director - even as a successful director, he was always experimenting with new ways of telling stories just as he was exploring human nature through cinema. His can reasonably be considered one of the most varied body of work in film. While I have yet to discover many of his earlier classics, from what I've seen, his filmography is replete with controversial subject matter, sometimes also p*ssing off various governments for one reason or another. But they're all (the films, I mean) beautiful works - melancholic, filled with an air of foreboding, and deeply personal. While Malle also made films in the US, I hope to mainly focus on his European works in this blog.

"Black Moon" was one of his later films that his conventional fans might even consider an anomaly. Here we see Malle exploring the fairytale-fantasy genre and mixing it with modern-day politics and nightmares. Not only that - a life-long Indophile, he recreates imagery inspired from Indian folklore and rural life, and fuses it with Nordic/Gaelic symbolism to take us on a trippy journey - this is Alice in Wonderland after waking up from a night of rave, all in Malle's subdued style of course..! :-)

Human supremacy over the world is supposedly coming to an end as there's a war of all wars going on - between men and women. We see the world literally returned back to nature as husband executes wife, and sister slashes brother. Pubescent Lily, poorly disguised as a man, is ducking and weaving through gunfire to reach safety. Her less-frequented path leads to a dead-end. And a portly little unicorn! And some naked little urchins chasing a big fat pig, and soon a villa (Loius Malle's own home) inhabited by a bedridden old lady listening to her wireless set and talking to her rat called Humphrey. She seems to be looked after by a brother-sister duo - Lily, and Lily (no its not typo). This is just the first fifteen minutes of the film, and a lot more's coming your way..!

The film is visually stunning, thanks to the chilled out direction, Bergman-regular Sven Nykvist's magnificent cinematography, and the exquisite lighting where some of the compositions are like classical paintings. Music is used sparingly, and to telling effect. There's plenty of humour too, as young Lily tries to make sense of what's going on around her. Some feel it is a surreal coming-of-age film, some think it is political statement, some think this is just plain lunacy. But whatever you think, this film is one fascinating experience that you'll never forget easily. Even after several years. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Box-set Link
Superb value for money - the box-set from which this compilation was made also includes some of his other late classics, and my favourite, "Au revoir les enfants". 


Compilation: Alexandra Stewart and Cathryn Harrison
Made from several blog-related scenes, it features a striking Alexandra Stewart (she also bore a child through Louis Malle) who plays Lily, the sister, and a charming fifteen year old Catherine Harrison (granddaughter of Rex Harrison) who plays young Lily the refugee. The rest of the cast includes veteran German stage actress Therese Giehse who plays the old lady - her last work and to whom the film's also dedicated to, and Warhol-regular Joe Dallesandro. The dialogues are in English which require no further explanation.

Alexandra Stewart and Cathryn Harrison in Black Moon


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