Monday, September 7, 2009

Robinson Crusoe on Planet Beineix

(More archive-digging. This is from April.)

The Moon in the Gutter begins as a science fiction film. What planet are we on? At first it appears to be the Earth as seen from a UFO, but then we realize that it’s Planet Beineix, which, in the night sky, resembles the star Carax but is in reality countless light years away (roughly the same distance as between the Godard Galaxy and the lonely moon De Broca, which floats through space looking for a planet to orbit). It's part of the same solar system as the gas giant Besson and the small and harsh planetoid Noe, which has an atmosphere like that of Venus. Not too far away is that stony planet Clouzot, which refuses to orbit any star. Planet Beineix is orbited by a single large moon, Jeunet -- just warm enough to support a human population, but without enough air. Terraforming might be required.

Regardless of where he’s really from (and some say he's an astronaut that landed here from Earth), the sole inhabitant of this planet would rather be seen as an alien. He isn’t visiting our planet; we’re being shown his. The Moon in the Gutter is based on a David Goodis novel (what isn't?), but this is less a question of Beineix "adapting" the novel to his style than figuring out how it would happen in his head.

Beineix cares about the appearance of the image more than the image itself. The cinema du look (if we believe that such a thing ever existed to begin with) was always a little theatrical: it was about staging things for the camera more than capturing an image, closer to a photogram than a photograph. The importance of the “look” has the result of haphazard framing and editing—the “appearance” of an image surpasses the image itself. So I remember the lighting in a scene from a Beineix film but not whether there were close-ups or wide shots, whether the camera moved, whether it was one shot or many.

As verisimilitude values the appearance of authenticity over something actually authentic, Beineix prizes the appearance of artificiality over the idea of an artificial image itself. This is the basis of what's either Beineix's genius or his idiocy.

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