Alain Tanner – Jonas et Lila, à demain (1999)

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Jonas et Lila: A Demain
by Paul Kalina March 2000 Senses of Cinema

So far at least, new millennium events appear to have produced little of lasting value, apart from early retirement packages for those well placed in the IT sector.

But there has been one legacy cinephiles are likely to relish. With great foresight, Swiss director Alain Tanner commemorated the new millennium and the 25th birthday of his fictional character Jonas, born of course during Tanner’s 1976 film Jonas qui aura 25 en l’an 2000 (Jonas Who Will Be 25 In The Year 2000), with a follow-up film, Jonas et Lila: A Demain (1999). Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Messidor (1979)

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Two Swiss girls around twenty, one a history student and the other a store clerk, meet while hitch-hiking. Out of a whim and with nothing better to do, they decide to go on hitch-hiking together around Switzerland as long as they feel like it. After a couple of days, their money is spent in restaurants and cheap hotels, so they continue their tour by sleeping in cattle sheds and asking for money and accommodation from people. An unexpected discovery, a gun found in a car’s glove compartment, gradually turns their methods somewhat more dramatic. Written by Markku Kuoppamäki (IMDB). Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Les hommes du port (1995)

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After 40 years Alain Tanner again travels to the port of Genoa, where he worked for a shipping company as a 22-year-old. On the back of his own memories he depicts the rough world of the dockworkers, another of those trades that has undergone fundamental changes as a result of recessions, modernisation and liberalisation. “The visual impression of the harbour and the city has changed very little, but what goes on there nowadays is completely different. The city is still as beautiful and alien and somewhat sad as before. But the port is dying, like so many other major ports. In Genoa, as elsewhere in Italy, the economic, social and political climate is highly explosive. But you also feel that things are in flow and the country is on the verge of some far-reaching changes. (…) In this film I wanted to explore my own memories of Genoa, uncover its present and guess at its future. Genoa, this beautiful, this sad, this alien town has become for me a metaphor for society in change.” Continue reading

Myriam Mézières & Alain Tanner – Fleurs de sang AKA Flowers of Blood (2002)

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Again, it is a portrait of a woman and it gives us another glimpse of an exceptional figure. Mézières comes across as an outstanding actress, offering her body and her sufferings with a rare and profoundly moving abandon. Although the action of the film unfolds over five years, charting the development of a painful relationship between a mother and her daughter, the basic principle is to draw it all together rather than follow a psychological chronology. The relationship is apprehended as a single entity: the cracks are evident, but there is not too much emphasis on the process of disintegration. The story divides into two distinct time periods, first with mother and daughter together in the same bohemian setting, then separated by society, each facing her own choices and wanderings. However, the purpose of this time division is not so much to answer the predictable question “What will become of them?” in preparation of a pointless debate on “How can a girl live without her mother?” (and vice versa), as to show the metamorphosis of a single body, a dual mother-daughter identity, which is treated in the film less as a social couple going through ups and downs than as a single female figure with two faces. The beauty of the film lies in this constant blending of the two personalities, an on-going role-play in mother/daughter boundaries resulting in a disturbing tension between incestuous bond and transfer of identity. Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Dans la ville blanche aka In the White City (1983)

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“Dans la ville blanche” was a turning-point in Tanner’s career as a director. Bringing him renewed public acclaim, it’s most striking aspects are silence, stark poetry and sombre melancholy.
It also marked a change in his aesthetic approach. Although escape and the desire for solitude had always been key Tannerian themes, they had previously been developed on a left-wing foundation and characterised by conversation and playful fantasy, a paradise of puns and facetious remarks in which his characters were at home. There is nothing of the kind in this film.
The Swiss director must have been inspired by his younger days in the merchant navy in imagining this portrait of a sailor (sublimely acted by Bruno Ganz) who abandons everything to merge body and soul into Lisbon. At the beginning of the film, Ganz remarks to a barmaid that the clock in her bar is not indicating the right time. She replies: “The clock is right. It’s the world that is wrong.”
An ode to Lisbon and the pursuit of freedom, the film won a César award for Best French Language Film in 1984.
Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Le Journal de Lady M (1993)

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She’s a beautiful gifted performer, but her work is not the sort that invites popular acclaim. Despite the fact that she is unlikely to become famous, she enjoys her life as a performer who lives just outside the mainstream. Awaiting her backstage one evening is a Spanish painter who has seen her show and wants to make her acquaintance. They walk around Paris getting to know one another, and then the painter returns to Spain. Something about the man has moved Lady M to passion: she flies to meet him in Barcelona and he shows her his beloved Catalonia. This time, however, their relationship is as much about passionate lovemaking as it is about compatibility. So smitten is Lady M with her new man that when she discovers that the painter has a black wife and child, she is only a little bit taken aback and she invites his whole family to join her in Paris. Surprisingly, they do, and the number of people sharing their love and sexual appetites changes from two to three. [imdb] Continue reading