Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A great question has been answered

Which is, do French made for TV movies suck as much as U.S. ones? The answer is Yes.

Just watched "My Life and Times with Antonin Artaud", IMDB title 106810. It's bathetic and pathetic, a black and white film shot mostly in an underexposed format that makes it mostly black with hints of lighter colors, telling the tedious and unconvincing story of a poet who procures opium for Artaud after his release from the asylum, is a faux bohemian, and who writes down everything that Artaud says during their meetings. Maybe it's the insistent blues harmonica soundtrack, which might in France sound edgy but in the U.S., where blues music is a part of life, sounds funny, in that it promotes derisive laughter over something that sounds completely forced and imitative. The whole movie is denatured, with Artaud both appearing as nicer than he likely was and less brilliant than he was, coming off as a nice middle aged man who liked opium and who suffered from quaint delusions. The real, visceral, poetry that he wrote is missing in action.

However, my sense of what the intended audience for the film was is the same group that in the U.S. watch HBO made for TV movies, that are similarly fashionable and faux edgy in their subject matter, and spectacularly bad. Only HBO or similar channels could make a film about Stalin, starring Robert Duvall, and make the story into something bland, with Stalin himself appearing as a weak, colorless character in a bland and often pointless movie. But it's about Stalin, the biggest baddee name besides Hitler, so HBO is edgy and cool for making it, right? French TV, then, can suffer from this same sort of sickness.

Much better is the accompanying DVD: The Life and Times of Artaud the Momo. Unlike the preceding movie this one is a documentary featuring interviews with the people who got Artaud out of the asylum and who knew him during this later time. More of Artaud, the Artaud who you can find in his books and poetry, comes out in these interviews. The people aren't trying to seem tough or to puff themselves up, they're very matter of fact about the whole thing.

If you get the opportunity to rent the two DVD set, my advice would be to watch the documentary first and then watch what you want to of the other one.

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