Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Andrzej Zulawski's My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days (1989)
I crawled through the portal, through a stapled, snail-mail, xeroxed catalog, which I found listed in the back few pages of an old copy of Gorezone, that led me into the cinema of Andrzej Zulawski with a film entitled Possession (1981). The portal was small: I based the selection of purchasing a VHS copy of the film on 1)it was in English; 2)its source was Japan; and 3)Dario Argento was a fan of the film. The cosmetic criteria employed by me was ridiculous, but I don't even think that I was fifteen at the time. I don't think, also, that I was quite ready for Possession or for the mind behind its creation, Andrzej Zulawski, but for the nearly twenty subsequent years, I continued crawling through that portal, going deeper into the mind of its creator, searching for his films. Thankfully, quite a few of Zulawski's films are available on DVD in English-friendly editions, today; however, I still find Zulawski as enigmatic and challenging as the first time I saw the opening frames of Possession. His cinema is one of violent and poetic beauty, often with a view that the world and its conventions are absurd; or rather, the world and its conventions turn its characters against it and each rebels often losing his or her own sense of self. I took a recent look at Zulawski's My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days (1989).Lucas (Jacques Dutronc) creates a new computer language, with the prospect of becoming amazingly wealthy because of its creation. However, believing death looms over him after a trip to his doctor, Lucas abandons everything. Sitting in a cafe, he plays word games with beautiful, young Blanche (Sophie Marceau), and the two speculate on the identity of a passing couple (are they lovers? drunks?). Lucas pulls the sunglasses from her eyes and gazes, revealing a profound sadness and depth behind her eyes. Immediately enamored and attracted, Lucas wants to steal Blanche away, but her large entourage keeps her at bay. Blanche must leave Paris to perform in a coastal town casino, as a reluctant flamboyant clairvoyant. Lucas follows her, and the two embark on a spiritual journey together while also falling in love. Blanche is capable of seeing inside of people's hearts, often seeing both their virtues and their vices. In addition, she also feels from each an amazing amount of emotion and Marceau conveys quite a bit of it during My Nights. Her ridiculous entourage, composed of a would-be lover, her possessive older husband, and her indulgent mother, love the spectacle of Blanche performing and its cash potential. Blanche, however, is weary of the pain that she's enduring, while her hangers-on reap the benefits. She's also haunted by a violent childhood memory, presumably of her mother and father in a small apartment, which appears at the start of any of Blanche's visions. Lucas is also haunted by a childhood memory of his parents and over the course of My Nights and with extreme difficulty, he attempts to keep that memory and his painful feelings about it at bay. As the two are making love, in one of the film's most poignant and beautiful scenes, Blanche is able to look into Lucas's soul. She sees the pain hidden inside of him, which Lucas is so desperately attempting to control and failing miserably; and Lucas utters two words with a profound brevity, "words and body." Zulawski takes the most simple themes and grounds each in a profound reality. As a simple and deceptive motif, Lucas's creation of a new computer language becomes his raison d'etre: although he is able to create a new language, Lucas is unable to control his own nor is he able to create a way to fashion his reality beyond language. In a painful yet comedic sequence, Lucas rents the "Imperial" suite at the posh hotel, and in anticipation of Blanche's arrival, Lucas attempts to conform the surroundings to his ideas of suitability. As he goes about the room, speaking aloud the discursive thoughts in his mind, Lucas makes a complete wreck of the room. In a brilliant image, Zulawski shows Dutronc wrapped in sheets and a towel as the "king" of his new surroundings: Often speeches and conversations with Lucas fly into games which usually lead into painful subjects:Lucas, the one with the power of creation of language, has no control, and the real power to gain, by the film's end, is to surrender: Blanche, as a clairvoyant or "seer," allows Lucas to surrender to his feelings and let go of control. In Marceau's most powerful scene and also most vulnerable, Blanche breaks down from all the emotion in the room; however, the most powerful emotion comes from Lucas. Blanche also realizes during this scene that she does not have to bear the burden of others' feelings and actions. The control that others believe that she has or forces her to use, she abandons. The painful memories within each are capable of being let go, and Lucas and Blanche are able to full unite.More than likely, I've misread the film, but with certainty, I will revisit again and again. I am also confident in saying that Andrzej Zulawski is one of the last true and real iconoclasts in cinema. His films are always confrontational and often brilliant. My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days awaits any viewer, night or day.