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Watercolor Nitpickeries

Ah, bonjour, mon petit chapeau! Bon appétit! Noblesse oblige sans-culotte, eh? Hoh hoh hohhh! And ceci n'est pas une pipe! Oui? Vous may have noticed that I am feeling très French today! This is because I have just finished watching a 1983 film called La Belle Captive. Predictably, it is about a belle who also happens to be captive. Actually, I think it's about a captive who is belle, but I like belle better as the noun. Don't you? I don't actually speak French, though. Could you tell? I bet you couldn't!

Somewhere in France, sometime in the past, a dark-eyed man named Walter (Daniel Mesguich) is empty. "I was useless. I was waiting... I had nothing to lose... I was wasting my time. I was wasting my time." In a nightclub, he meets La Belle Captive. "Puff, puff, puff!" goes the fog machine. "Bwaaaaaaaaaah! Bweeeeeeeeeeeew!" bleats the muted trumpet. "Sh, sh, sh," whispers the soft-focus lens. They dance. They kiss. She is gone.

Meanwhile, Walter's boss, the sexy Sara Zeitgeist (Cyrielle Claire), speeds sexily through the night on her motorcycle. She wants Walter to deliver a letter right away—but easy there, La Belle WildHogz! He's got a surrealist dreamscape to wander, vampires to avoid, and a Belle Sluttique to find. Mon dieu.

"The soul breaking up. The high tide. Shoes on the sand. An easel. Red curtains. An urgent message for a dead person." This is the kind of movie that wishes desperately it were a poem. It begs you to parse it. And once in a while it says something lovely, like "Did I dream about her arms and legs hugging me like moving algae?" or "I finally saw a little bar that looked lost as well." At those times, I almost felt like thinking about it. Oh wait, psych!

Watching La Belle Captive gave me a headache eerily similar to the headaches I remember from my least favorite class in college: literary theory. Then I found out that it was written and directed by one Alain Robbe-Grillet, French structuralist homie of Maurice Blanchot, French structuralist brain-torturer of me.

I never took to the wan, watercolor nitpickeries of these Frenchmen (give me a chewy old Greek any day)—I don't like paradox and double negation and the imperceptible subtleties of the death of language and writing 15 fucking pages on "literature begins at the moment when literature becomes a question." Clearly this is over my head. Or under my level of wanting to take a nap. Or both.

I did, as a matter of fact, take a fortifying nap during the last half hour of La Belle Captive, awakening just in time to learn that the angel of death has a beautiful and caring face. And rides a motorcycle. And was La Belle WildHogz all along! And if you care about this DVD, then you've probably already seen La Belle Captive, and you already hate me anyway for pooping on your favorite movie, so that thing I said about La Belle WildHogz being the angel of death probably isn't "le spoileur terrible," as they say. Right? No? Oh, I ruined it for you? Sacre bleu.

editor@thestranger.com

 

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