Thursday, November 12, 2009

Andrzej Zulawski's L'amour braque (1985)

Sophie Marceau's Marie tells Francis Huster's Léo, "Here, with you. It's not like in the movies or in books, where everything is precise, thought-out, organized with a clear-cut goal. Everthing's chaos, chance, pain, disorder..." These playful lines from within Andrzej Zulawski's L'amour braque (1985) are an apt description of his film itself: a powerful and complex film, which Zulawski somewhat simply describes as a film about a man who becomes a catalyst for a sequence of bad events or situations which would not be nearly as bad without his inclusion. The narrative of L'amour braque is based upon Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, set in modern-day Paris.
L'amour braque begins with a playful and colorful bank robbery by thieves donning Disney masks and, later revealed, led by (appropriately named) Mickey (Tchéky Karyo). The heist is successful, and Mickey and his crew board a train. Aboard the train, Mickey meets Hungarian immigrant, Léo (Francis Huster) and feeling, perhaps, an outsider kinship, upon arrival in Paris, Mickey asks Léo to accompany him. With a handful of cash, Mickey wants to see Marie (Sophie Marceau), the woman he loves. At first glance, Léo falls in love with beautiful Marie. Mickey, his crew, Marie, and Léo go to a cafe in the late evening to dine, after having disrupted Marie's posh dinner party. A violent shootout happens at the cafe, tied to a gentleman named "The Venom." Mickey, Marie, and Léo survive, while for the remainder of the film, L'amour braque follows Léo and his relationship with both Marie and Mickey, as those two close in for an encounter with "The Venom."
While I've attempted to describe the initial scenes of L'amour braque, no plot synopsis could truly and adequately describe Zulawski's kinetic, chaotic, violent and bloody, fiercely sexual, highly emotional, densely-packed and richly-filled cinema. Zulawski's description of modern Paris, spoken much later in an interview after his film Szamanka (1996) gives some insight into the Paris canvas of L'amour braque and describes Léo's journey, perhaps incidentally:


It's an extremely conservative culture now here in France, and they "know" everything, they've "organized" the world, you know. In a museum you know exactly who is a "good" painter and who is not. They organize their world and they can't understand after this 250 years of organization they now have behind them, why the people in this country are so unhappy. Why are they so gloomy? Why is there so much hatred and just...plain sadness? If you stay in Paris for a week you become so...a heavy burden, I don't know what, falls on your shoulders and you feel...so responsible...for everything, and nothing works. It's idiotic, because things, more or less, like everywhere, it's a rich country and they have the problems they've invented, so... They want to control. People in front of a TV set want to control the TV set, they want to control you if you walk in the street, they yell if you do something wrong at the wheel of your car, they want to control. And having control they are very unhappy! Because this is the way to get unhappiness, to control. (taken from an interview with Zulawski by Daniel Bird and Stephen Thrower from Eyeball Issue No. 5, Spring 1998, edited by Thrower, published by FAB press.)Reluctant Léo follows his heart towards Marie throughout the film, as she follows, both literally and metaphorically, in the footsteps of her mother. Mickey shadows Marie towards her destination (with "The Venom"), while becoming a brother to Léo, sharing his love for Marie, although quite a different love from Léo. The journey within the film is beautifully and hauntingly rendered by Zulawski and cinematographer Jean-François Robin. Nearly every frame of L'amour braque appears an artistic composition; however, the edited film (by Marie-Sophie Dubus) appears organic and chaotic. Léo and Marie's first love scene in a blood-red hotel room goes beyond being visually jarring: it speaks to the emotions of the two lovers (in several ways). The scenes of violence are done playfully, as are most scenes of the film, yet they never fail to be intense and disturbing. The violent scenes often involve Mickey and his crew towards his final confrontation. I view Zulawski's cinema as a portrayal of outsiders, which perhaps why I'm attracted to it, and L'amour braque is an amazingly complex tale of outsiders. Huster and Karyo give affecting performances. However Marceau is amazingly affective, beautiful, and vulnerable as Marie (she was not yet twenty years old). Mondo Vision has released L'amour braque on DVD in two editions. I have the Premiere edition and it's loaded with specs here. Mondo Vision has also put out Zulawski's La femme publique (1984) and L’ Important C’est D’aimer (1975) in two editions each. These DVD releases are true labors of love. The audio and video is absolutely brilliantly rendered. I've only just gotten into the supplements. The recent interview with Marceau is fantastic, as she gives insights into her complex character, anecdotes of the production, and her thoughts on L'amour braque today. The video interview with Zulawski, filmed apparently during the post-production of L'amour braque, is also interesting: Andrzej Zulawski is a unique and interesting artist. I own all three of Mondo Vision's releases in their Premiere Editions and I will purchase and support this label with their subsequent releases. All of these releases are available for purchase at Amazon.

6 comments:

Ben said...

Thanks so much for drawing my attention to these new DVDs, (and for your info/insights on the film of course)!

Zulawski's "Possession" is one of my favourite films of all time; one of the best, and most genuinely horrifying, horror films ever made...

His other films have proved frustratingly hard to find, but having also now seen "The Devils" and "The Third Part of the Night" (which has been given a lovely & well distributed new DVD release, in the UK at least..), I'd say Zulawski deserves to be ranked alongside Herzog and Jodorowski in the unfuckable-with cinematic lunatics hall of fame.

Hans A. said...

Ben-- I couldn't agree more. I think Zulawski is a true iconoclast and unique artist. I hope you get the chance to see these DVDs from Mondo Vision. Absolutely essential purchases, imo. Thnx, again, for stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. I really appreciate it.

Mob said...

Thanks for the review, this sounds really interesting, though I might balk at the blind buy of such an expensive disc, the Amazon pricing was a little jaw-dropping!

I can only assume it's due to the smaller boutique DVD distributor?

Hans A. said...

Thnx, Mob, I really appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to leave a comment. Economic times aside, I agree the price of the Premiere edition is steep. Maybe the single-disc edition would be better? In any case, if you can, check out these Zulawski discs. His cinema is sublime.

Mr.LargePackage said...

Delicious review, Hans. Are you also an outsider? Stay golden, Ponyboy. And large and in charge.

dmk said...

Nice review.

It really is a superb film, and just one of twelve of the director's masterpieces.