Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Odile Schmitt in "Les Années Lumière" [1981 Switzerland, France]

It can be difficult to pigeon-hole Alain Tanner - he is one of the few pan-European directors who likes to defy cultural, linguistic, and geographical boundaries when it comes to cinema, and here's another example - his contemplative drama "Les Années Lumière" [Eng. Title: Light Years Away] may have been a Swiss-French production, but the English language film was shot entirely in Ireland, with a predominantly British cast, by adapting aspects from a well-known Greek myth (Daedalus and Icarus).

Young Jonas (Mick Ford), a drifter at heart who likes to be free 'like a bird', first meets Yoshka Poliakeff (Trevor Howard) while working in a pub. But when he's fired for not turning up for work on time, Jonas goes in search of Yoshka's garage up in the country. But Yoshka wouldn't take him under his wings that easily. Forced to sleep outside and toil to earn his meals, Jonas will find the going tough, and is forced to battle with his own self to understand a purpose in life. The eccentric Yoshka will eventually become his perfect tutor and master, to help him see beyond the obvious - Yoshka after all had been preparing all these years to fly away "beyond galaxies, light years away", by meticulously observing and bonding with birds of prey. He had constructed the perfect wings for his task, and this Daedalus is going to do it all alone, for himself - it is his own personal journey. And Jonas too will learn a thing or two about life from the guru before his departure...

Set in a desolate landscape, the austere and allegorical film bears witness to the coming-of-age of a clueless young drifter. It is simple in its structure and doesn't try to say anything more than it needs to. Alain Tanner followed this up with an equally contemplative but more accomplished Dans la Ville Blanche, but despite its rough edges and at times incoherent edits, "Light Years Away" stands out on its own as an imaginative interpretation of an interesting tale. The haunting dogma-style cinematography would have pleased Lars von Trier, and far from being dreary, the film is brought alive by the humour and warmth of the characters. Oscar-nominated Trevor Howard is in his element as the enigmatic Yoshka - witty and engaging - it is through him that we develop an interest in Jonas' personal journey. This may be an obscure little gem, but precious nevertheless, and Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]


The Nudity: Mick Ford and Odile Schmitt
The nude scenes happen much later in the film, when Jonas (Mick Ford) visits the city to complete some necessary paperwork for his will. He meets an exotic dancer at a club (Odile Schmitt) where they strike up a relationship. Well - of sorts...

Odile Schmitt and Mick Ford in Les années lumière


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