Both of these seemed more "interesting" than involving or entertaining or anything else at first; both certainly have distinct styles and points of view but I wasn't really caring about either one until sometime in; happily both ended up better than expected, and they were a good contrast, with the constantly moving Steadicam in the lonely forest in Leones
giving a radically different feel than the mostly fixed-camera urban world of Le pont de arts
1. Le pont des arts
- VERY GOOD
At first I didn't know what was being attempted here - is it a throwback to the New Wave - particularly Godard with just a touch of Rivette, in it's characters and style? Or is it a Bresson homage with it's deliberately flat acting style and the regular focus on objects, feet, hands? Or something else...? Eventually I got that it was sort of parodying French art-film clichés, in particular the regular philosophizing and talking almost exclusively about high-culture subjects that just about every character indulges in, but I didn't find it particularly funny - perhaps were I fluent in French and more knowledgeable about some of the subjects (apart from the music, which I was somewhat familiar with)? And I have mixed feelings about the very broad gay stereotyping of a couple of characters, one of them the tyrannical conductor (Denis Podalydès) who makes the life of Sarah (Natacha Régnier), a singer of Baroque music, miserable - I get that part of this is a parody of these types but it seemed to go into unpleasant territory. Thankfully this isn't a huge part of the film and again - I'm not sure of the intentions. Mostly this is the story of young people attempting to create lives of the mind and art and having mixed - sometimes tragic - results, and in the second half, after the suicide of one major character, it takes a turn both darker and more - spiritual, I guess? It had a very powerful emotional effect on me actually - I watched the first half last night, fell asleep and dreamed of someone I haven't seen in 23 years but still think about almost daily, and then I woke up and felt I was still in her world while viewing the second half of the film. It's not a particularly dreamlike or weird or surreal film, but it had that feeling to me as I finished it an hour ago, just waking up. There is a reason why I keep coming back to French cinema that focuses on art and artists and intellectuals even though sometimes - as in this case - the characters and situations and dialogue are terribly unrealistic and theatrical (at least to this guy who's never been to France nor met many French people). Somehow I feel like I'm a part of that world, which I've always wanted to be but never have had the ability nor willpower to really enter.
So the IMDb description tells us right off that all but one of the five young people (20-ish?) that we follow as they walk through a forest, towards something, away from something, not knowing exactly what they're doing are dead - there's been a car crash, which we only see the results of near the end of the film. And then the survivor walks into the ocean, and the others are on the verge of following her, the end. It's clear just from what other people have written here that it's NOT clear to many viewers what has happened or what the film's about even at the end - nothing is actually explained, only inferred. I do think that's something of a problem, because we don't really know much about the characters and their world, and we don't really have too much to go on, to help us understand what this death experience is to them. A couple of lines about religion - a character with a gun who shoots off a few rounds into a lake - but mostly it's just boring youthful dialogues about nothing. And endless long shots, mostly from behind the characters, as they wend their way through this wood on the edge of the world. And yet it grew on me, and the style and the minimalism of the plotting and characterizations weren't crippling, though they certainly inhibit a really strong response. But it's not quite like anything else I can remember, and that's worth something.
Nice couple of films; if I didn't like either nearly as much as the last two, I will say that both gave me something to think about, and that's always a good thing.