Le Milieu du monde (1974)

8 11 2008

My first encounter with Alain Tanner didn’t necessarily blow me away, but it did leave enough of an impression to still be interested in more of his films. It was especially nice to see such a gentle and laidback romance after watching Ken Loach’s energetic and dramatic Family Life. Tanner’s character treatment is almost the polar opposite, perhaps to the point that the film is too fragile and/or understanding for its own good. In a way, Tanner’s formally strict sensibility and his compassionate humanity bring to mind the great Yasujiro Ozu. Perhaps once I see more from Tanner, I’ll “get” him enough to appreciate his films on the same level as Ozu’s, but for now, I just see this as a nice film.

As I already mentioned, Tanner is very strict and straight-forward with his camera movements, which gives one the feeling that the filmmaker is very confident in his aesthetic. It’s the sort of minimalism that gives certain films a type of technical foundation. Tanner sticks to incredibly slow tracking and static shots that seem to be almost accidentally capturing moments shared between two people who seem to be blissfully in love. At the same time, it’s given an almost robotic pattern of making its small movements, which does threaten to spoil much of the film’s “life.”

Thankfully, the two leads, Olimpia Carlisi and Philippe Léotard, fit perfectly into Tanner’s very downplayed and simple cinematic universe. They do become tedious when their together since almost all of their encounters, at least in the first half-hour, are pretty close to being cliché French film café talk. Indeed, one of the biggest personal problems I have with this film is its slightly “talky” nature, which clashes heavily with the extremely slow camera movements. Still, it is very interesting to watch the relationship between Paul and Adriana unfold, if only because it does so in a very natural manner. Her role isn’t all that important, but it is nice to see Juliet Berto, a Rivette alum, make a few somewhat comedic appearances.

Unfortunately, Tanner’s visual style isn’t going to get him any praise, at least not from me. It’s a shame that most of the film sticks to a dull greenish/brown-ish pallete as there seems to be so many opportunities for fantastic images. Instead, the potential is lost within the film’s dull color scheme. In a way, the visuals do remind me of the films Angelopolous made in the 1980s, but much worse. The slow tracking shots certainly don’t hurt this comparison. Whatever the case, I think there is still something interesting in Angelopolous’ visual style, but I can’t say the same for Tanner. There are a few glimpses of beauty, most of which are showcased in these screenshots, but they are certainly not the film’s norm.

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2 responses

10 11 2008
Michael Kerpan

I think this Tanner film might be rather atypical for him — though each of the films I’ve seen by him has been fairly distinctive.. I thought this was often a very _good_ looking film — but it has been several years since I watched it.

12 01 2015

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