Saturday, 9 November 2013



I'm not an idiot. I'm not against arty movies, difficult movies, movies where you have to work a bit to get the sense of them. I'm not against movies that don't adhere to the rules and formulae of the most simplistic Hollywood thicko fodder, that try and do something slightly different, slightly individual. Not everything has to be Police Academy 5. But.... sometimes you can go too far into incoherent arty meaninglessness.

Deux Fois is an experimental black-and-white French non-narrative art movie made in Spain in 1968, running just over an hour. It consists of some 32 almost entirely unconnected shots and sequences, some of which are duplicates (alternative takes rather than simple repeats) and in most of which absolutely nothing happens. There is almost no music, there is almost no editing. Instead the film is a series of odd, random, pointless vignettes: a woman stands in a doorway while a man stands on her left, then moves round to her right for a bit, then back to her left. The same woman ("director" Jackie Raynal) enters a pharmacy to buy soap but is unsure which brand to buy, the sweeter smell or the prettier wrapper; this scene is performed three times. A long static shot through a window while someone apparently practises the flute off screen, a 1,980-degree pan from a traffic island, a child sits on a train throwing a newspaper out of a window. In probably the film's most baffling sequence, Raynal stands half-naked in the corner of the room while music plays (someone doing an impression of a moose with its tits caught in the mangle, with rhythm guitar accompaniment), before urinating on the floor.

What does it all mean? Well, bugger all, frankly. It's conceptual avant-garde experimental underground art, it's not actually supposed to symbolise anything beyond what you think it means, which is a lazy get-out clause for any old tat: the onus is on you to explain it, and you're an uncultured, uncivilised idiot if you can't. What does the film suggest about dreams, the imagination, sex, feminism, society, relationships, gender, cinema, mirrors, society, art, politics or the price of fish? Nothing. If all interpretations are equally valid, then there's no shame in rejecting it as a bucketload of old arse rather than some kind of Great And Profound Statement about Humanity And Stuff. A binbag on a stick isn't Art just because the artist says so, it just means the artist isn't working terribly hard for his grant money.

Deux Fois certainly doesn't work as any kind of an entertainment, and it's not hugely surprising that it's mostly out of commercial circulation (the whole thing has been uploaded onto YouTube). Whether it works as some kind of "wow, man" head trip is another matter: it didn't for me, but if you buy into the kind of weirdo arthouse twaddle that starts with an unbroken, unmoving shot of Raynal eating her dinner before addressing the camera/audience with a list of the things we're going to see, then go for it. Me, I thought it was bunk.


No comments: