Friday, May 15, 2009

The Verdict

More from L'exercice a été profitable, Monsieur:
26 March 1988 - Yesterday, between evening and night, in front of the TV. I quickly abandon 8 1/2 even though I've never seen it but which exasperates me and find myself following until the end a movie that I objectively find badly made, badly told, bad everything: The Verdict by Sydney Lumet. Television schizophrenia: not only we watch what is not good (not well made), but we see it even better than at the cinema (editing for example), and yet we can prefer to see a badly made movie to a well made one. Or rather: the concepts of "well made" and "badly made" are not relevant on television. Either the movie has such a strength that it imposes itself, or we are in the relativity of a world of images, of a bath of imaginary, where everything is interesting. It depends on the mood of the moment. Yesterday, I preferred to watch Mason and especially Newman "compose" with age, with everything. Lumet is the archetypal filmmaker who films from the point of view of no one, hence an abstract effectiveness, so abstract that it is reduced to the nonsensical script. He speeds up where there's no reason for it. One beautiful moment. Newman has finally found the nurse who "knows" what happened. She takes care of children in Chelsea. She has the beautiful face of a union saint. She is in the playground, Newman who arrives from Boston is approaching clumsily. Close-up on the Boston-New York ticket which sticks out from his pocket. And there, a small cinema trick from the old Lumet, a little bit of true speed: reverse shot on Newman who is no longer showing off: "Will you help me?" She will help him, not because the script requires it, but because we have been put in her place (by the mise en scène) and her in ours and because the desire for her to help him has been inscribed into the movie. Old things but which exists, for goodness sake!


The example from Lumet's film, a few days ago ("Will you help me?") sums it up. It's unrefined but it is enough. The shot of Newman - of a Newman who asks for help and asks it twice: to the other character (off) and to me who - for a second - have been able to put myself in the film in the place of this character absent from the image. And he will get help twice: in the script and from me (at this moment, I accept to go along with the film, and therefore to make it work).
pp. 26-27, 33, POL, 1993, my translation

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