20 septembre 2005

L'oeil de l'autre (1977)

L'oeil de l'autre / The eye of the other (1977/Bernard Queysanne/France) +++

Opening sequence: A ship enters the harbor of Caen a city on the Seine river. Two men wearing shades and drenchcoats rush on the bank with a suitcase and get in a car that drives away at a steady pace. All throughout the credits we follow this car in the streets until it reaches the bank. The men walk in straigth to the protagonist's desk, then... nothing unusual. Without being overtly dramatized, this sequence obviously uses all the conventions to hint at the danger of a bank robbery. The audience is conditionned to be on guards and expect something fishy to happen even though the forged alert is defused. Even if nothing happened this time doesn't mean these crooks aren't up to something. And we are ready to experience the escalating trauma of this woman who is just like us.

Chantal Maillet is an anxious clerk at the bank, constantly under watch of surveillance cameras. Gradually aware of everybody staring at her she suspects the regular patrons, the director and even her close relatives. Any street passer by is a stalker and her disapproving husband is too comforting to be honest. It denotes his involvment in the global scheme meant to put her away. Trapped in self-consciousness, she builds up the existence of a conspiracy by giving a meaning to everything occuring in her life. She quits her job, lock herself at home all day long, then in her room. Her territory shrinks ineluctably, all sorts of hazard laying outside, waiting to do her harm, everything she knows is no longer secure. She tries to rationalize, call the police, hires a private investigator, but she can't trust no one as even her doctor is an enemy. This woman believes to be invested of a supreme mission to abort the evil plans of an anonymous gang of bank robbers, but nobody wants to give credit to her intelligence and she feels she's the only person in the world to know the truth, everyone else strives to suppress her witness.

The one-sided story puts us directly in the shoes of a woman sinking step by step into paranoia. Written for TV by Georges Perrec. The extras play multiple characters in different context to emphasize this feeling of persecution of an organised spy network tracking her every move. The subjective point of view of surveillance camera at the bank or at the mall, in black and white, zooms in on her face, like a voyeur taking pleasure in her demise. In a tight drama with a small cast the film depicts the wide scope of an idea taking over a person's sanity in every aspect of life, as the dysfunction controls the very nerve center of judgement ability. Like the opening sequence demonstrates, cinema conventions influence the audience's vulnerability to paranoia through clever manipulation.

(s) +++ (w) ++ (m) +++ (i) ++ (c) ++

2 commentaires:

girish a dit…

sorry, harry, off-topic but my greatest regret at TIFF was missing "battle in heaven".
i hope it appears someday on dvd.

HarryTuttle a dit…

No problem. I should have made an entry for Toronto.
You saw plenty of 2005 "must-see" films there. Surely this one can wait. And you did see Manderlay ;)
I'm glad you loved Lazarescu and Forsaken Land. Not to mention HHH, Haneke, Sokurov and Tscherkassky.
Waiting impatiently for your impressions on these and maybe even more on the ones I don't know yet.