Alain Tanner – La Salamandre (1971)

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A journalist recruits a novelist friend to help him rustle up a quick TV script based on a news item in a local paper about a man who accused his niece of shooting and wounding him. She claimed the gun went off while he was cleaning it; eventually dropped for lack of evidence, the case was never resolved. The novelist (Denis) sets out to create the script from imagination, while the journalist (Bideau) goes after the facts. But dedicated to a celebration of instinctive revolt, the film is less concerned with what happened than with the girl herself; and Bulle Ogier conveys volumes in the part as the film counterpoints her view of society with its varying view of her. There is, for instance, a scene where she has a job as sales-girl in a shoe shop, and without warning begins to caress the legs the customers present to her: it’s a gesture that’s at once funny, profoundly erotic, incongruous, and deeply shocking, and one that places both Rosemonde and the world she finds herself living in. A rare treat, infused with a rich and unforced vein of quiet humour. Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Les Années lumière AKA Light Years Away (1981)

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In the year 2000, Jonas is 25 years old and lives in Ireland. Disillusioned with his life as a pub barman, he decides to give up everything and live with a mysterious old man, Yoshka, at a run down garage in the middle of no-where. At first, the old man taunts Jonas, giving him useless tasks to do, such as attending a derelict petrol pump. This drives the young man to distraction and he tries to kill himself. Impressed by his young disciple, Yoshka finally decides to share with him his fantastic secret… Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Le Milieu du monde AKA The Middle of the World (1974)

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Summary
Paul, a high-flying engineer, is proud to have been born in a Swiss town the locals refer to as the Centre of the World. He is running for a local election when he meets Adriana, a young Italian waitress in a café. Although he is married, Paul starts to have a passionate love affair with Adriana, and is soon prepared to give up everything for her. However, the young waitress realises that it is not she that Paul loves but a self-made fantasy… Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Charles mort ou vif AKA Charles, Dead or Alive (1969)

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Charles, Dead or Alive, Alain Tanner’s first feature film, which won the Grand Prix at the Locarno Festival in 1969, is the kind of manifesto that, with other films, put Switzerland on the world cinema map at the end of the 1960s.

That the critics baptized the wave which emerged at this time as the “new Swiss cinema” simply reflects the fact that the “old” Swiss cinema was unknown to the cinema-going public. Today, the appeal and energy of this first film remain undiminished, magnified by the exceptional stature and presence of François Simon and the sublimely uncluttered camera work of Renato Berta. Tanner drew his subject matter from what he saw of the events of May ’68 in Paris, which he covered for Swiss television. Unimpressed by the ideological pronouncements of the young demonstrators (Tanner was nearly 40 and mistrustful of the siren songs of militancy), he was more struck by the elderly people marching alongside them. Continue reading

Alain Tanner – La vallée fantôme (1987)

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An ageing writer Paul is determined to make a film but he cannot decide on the subject or location. Instead, he chooses to concentrate his efforts on finding the actress who will star in the film, believing that she will define the lead character and content of the film. He recruits a young man, Jean, to try to find an Italian actress, Dara, whom he has lost sight of. Jean finds Dara in a small Italian town, serving in a modest restaurant, but she refuses to return to acting… Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Une flamme dans mon coeur AKA A Flame in My Heart (1987)

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The terrifyingly destructive power of a woman’s sexual obsession provides the compelling subject for this psychological study of a woman’s descent into madness from French filmmaker Alain Tanner. It is the tale of Parisian actress Mercedes who is first seen attempting to break up with the obsessive Arab Johnny, who stalks her until she meets handsome newspaper writer Pierre on the subway and goes with him for an afternoon fling. Before the sweat even dries, she finds herself hopelessly in love with him. Pierre is flattered and encourages her desperate devotion, but soon after their affair begins, he is called off on a business trip leaving the suddenly distraught Mercedes alone with her demons. Though preparing for a new play, she is unable to concentrate and barely able to function without Pierre. She quits the production, locks herself in Pierre’s apartment and quietly begins falling apart until he returns. Continue reading

Alain Tanner – Jonas qui aura 25 ans en l’an 2000 AKA Jonah Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 (1976)

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Description: “The third collaboration between the Swiss director Tanner and the English writer John Berger follows a group of young people in Geneva who are searching for new directions in their lives after the failure of the revolutionary hopes of the 1960s. A former labor activist takes a job as a gardener and handyman with some free-spirited farmers, setting up a school in a greenhouse for the neighborhood kids, while his wife continues to work in a factory. A disillusioned radical turns to gambling, while having interesting conversations with his girlfriend, an adventurous student of Tantrism. A history teacher uses radical methods in the classroom to foster socialist ideas in his students. He hooks up with a grocery store cashier who undercharges poor people and steals food from the store to help her aging friend, a veteran of the Resistance. Continue reading