Saturday, March 5, 2011
"The faces have changed. They've floated away. The faces were gone a long time ago. But they were definitely there, if only for a few minutes. Nog too has lined up, his face smashed up against the window. But it doesn't work with him. He rushes up too fast, throws himself down, forgets himself and then, when you least expect it, he's gone. I don't know what to do about him. I've obviously goofed. But I'm stuck. ...."
(p. 120, nog by Rudolph Wurlitzer . 1968, Two Dollar Radio Movement.)
nog : my recent reading of this 1968 existentialist riff on detachment and the mystery of "Self" informed my recent revisit of JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME. The novel, like the film, came out in 1968. Both are counter culturally rich yet primarily centered in a first person interior journey (though both play out as physical journeys as well: nog through space, JE T'AIME, JE T'AIME through time) into the destruction and confusion of memory, invention and the SELF. Resnais ' film is even more straight forwardly melancholic, focusing on romance and an individual recollection and subsequent decimation of it.
Watching JE T'AIME JE T'AIME, I feel both involved and purposefully separate, journeying through time with Claude, but also stuck against the window, going nowhere fast. Aligned with our protagonist, we both journey and remain trapped, falling against the window, mired in pace as if wearing the webbed footgear he has for his scuba dive; stuck in a Past that increasingly is infecting and becoming our Present; keeping us all from any hope of a Future.
There's a framing device in Resnais' sci fi treatment of romantic loss and introspection.
Both at the end and beginning of our journey we are given: Scientists, clear exposition, and a trajectory for our protagonist, the lovelorn and recently suicide failing Claude Ridder (Claude Rich.) In between, chronology collides against itself. Moments of romance may have meant to begin at the beginning, but the very act of journeying in the past and trying to make sense of it seems to cause multiplied beginnings, stymied discoveries, disorder and confusion. As the film progresses and Claude's self directed search accelerates, the very romance and figure of his attachment seems to implode and erase before our very eyes.
Bearing witness to the past is a different idea then trying to relive and explore a beginning or an end to a romantic attachment. Just as in nog, the search for meaning begins internally with the subject, but then radiates outward, causality and order becoming less attached to logic. Claude interrogates himself for culpability. At first, Je T'Aime, je t'aime seems like a beautiful love story that ran it's course. As the film progresses, time and storyline grow in complexity. It appears Claude is exploring his responsbility in a greater crime--the suicide or possible murder of his love interest, Catrine (Olga Georges-Picot.) Or was the actual crime (or death) merely that the relationship ended?
Is there much of a difference ? Claude's suicide, real or imagined..is he not already dead during the course of this film?
The framing adds a sense of logic to a film that folds back on itself endlessly, perfect in its dubiousness as real or imagined.
Claude's entire exploration into the affair plays more like a poetic dream then a real sci fi journey. Seeming to last 91 minutes, as in actual dreams, it lasts only one minute but feels distended, haunting, cathartic and unclear. Logic and action is motivated by fear, guilt, attachment, and perhaps even love.
This is one half of a love story revisited. A ghost story, a dream, a journey back in time. The potential readings are endless and yet are all the same: Claude is doomed from the start, but of course we have not even heard from Catrine.
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