Monday, June 13, 2011

as i had imagined

your face distracted me exactly as i had imagined,
the same languor of your lips,
the beautiful fragility of your fingers,
that mascara
which only looks good on your eyes,
a certain heat on your cheeks
that some would consider sexiness,
and the blissfully, carelessly undone hair,
that shaded all and revealed all,
exactly as I had imagined,
before we met
in crazed times, those times of craze,
even being in your shadow that aroused jealousy,
exactly as I had imagined,
blue smoke like never before,
the blue smoke that rose from your
lips into the depth less depths of being,
like the first blue smoke, the true blue
of being, like the first blue after the first fire,
exactly as I had imagined,
the vacuousness confused for sultriness,
the certain heat in your cheeks,
the magnitude of your gaze,
but mostly your colour, that mascara,
the shade beside your shade,
the fragility of your fingers,
as the blue rose from
your lips,
the smouldering cigarette in your hand,
exactly as i had imagined,
in the crazed hour of departing,
when even one look is too many and one too less,
as one leaves and departs for ever,
shattering one's heart,
in the clear crystal of that blue
that colour on your eyes,
that heat on your cheeks,
the magnitude of your seeing,
exactly as I had imagined,
the blue smoke rising from your cigarette,
as one departs,
in the crazed heat of that crazed hour,
hostage for ever
to the handsome velvet of your skin.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Winter Light

Bergman's Winter Light functions as a drama, both as a story and as a piece of cinema. The camera is central to this 'movie', for while the dimensions of the story are important, I personally feel that the camera work in this drama functions as a mirror that reveals and withdraws from the characters the important aspects of their experiences, which is the director's main attempt. It is customary Bergman territory, a northern land, a few people, bareness and coldness of the landscape. However, central to it is the camera, that not only focuses on the main characters but does so in an unhesitant and unflinching gaze, which to the viewer's dismay, hides more than revealing. There are a few scenes, especially Ingrid Thulin's monologue, where in one single shot, the camera looks at her and she looks at us, in a scene that is enormous in its intensity, for the scene would not have the same concentrated intensity had the camera been otherwise. The drama, since it focuses on what is deemed as God's silence, God's silence towards the world, it is in the space where that silence exists that the camera acts via and on the characters.

It is not possible for this drama to seize us without the claustrophobic quality of how the camera works, for it follows the faces of the main dramatis personae, as if following the faces into the minds of these people, for the minds of the people is where the doubts are, where the silence that affects them lingers, where it festers. If the pastor of this small church, which opens the first act, has doubts regarding God's existence, and if his worshippers too suffer with the same woes, then all is lost. In essence, here the worshipper leading the flocks are all blind, surrounded as they are by this curtain of doubt. If God does not speak to an individual, personally, or if God's silence is perceived as a condition wherein one cannot function metaphysically, then this malaise is not new but an old one, the oldest one. Where worship functions is in the form of a supplication, in the form of a physical supplication, for without a physical supplication, even in the most cerebral religions, God remains distant.

It is also true that in this drama, Bergman shows the emptiness of mere rituals and critiques the rituals that dominate or by force dictate the development of a certain kind of spirituality. And by giving a rawness to the emotions of his characters, by giving them a past that is troubling and unhelpful, a certain atmosphere of doubt is created. The fisherman who doubts shoots himself, the pastor's lover who doubts bends down in the end with doubts, the pastor without faith leads the church service in the end. And Christ too had doubts we are reminded, on the cross he felt forsaken, what are we to make of that, a worshiper asks? In the end nothing is resolved, the unbelieving belief goes on, must go on. Perhaps knowing to have to live in God's silence is a gift, the ultimate test of a believer.

The austerity of the landscape, the winter setting, the closeness of the camera are signals achievements of this drama. The gaze is on the actors, as if by penetrating into their eyes, not only will their doubts come out, but also their confessions, their solitary silences, their hesitations and perhaps some resolution.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

that indeterminate hour

A group of stragglers and bums had gathered outside the ramparts of an old fort in ruins. Beyond, one could see the lights of the city, but here, at an indeterminate hour, between dusk and night, several other people joined this group, and lit a fire. He sat near the fire, on the soil of this land, from where Arabic calligraphy was still visible on the broken and fallen columns of this old fort; he was thinking of what the verses might mean, in that chaste Arabic, he thought at that delicate hour between dusk and night. He felt close to the patron saint of stragglers and those who light illegal fires near derelict forts, in this land of many patron saints. The night was on the cusp of dusk, at a very dangerous hour he heard this crowd whisper. And then all of a sudden, she walked across the dusty field and sat next to him, her long brown hair hiding a part of her face, and the sky dazzled with crimson rays, and far on the horizon small clouds fled away from each other, and the hour that was already indeterminate became heavy with melancholy. And he wasn't sure whose heart beats he could hear then, his or hers.

From the group huddled around the fire, a woman rose and began singing a song, as she sang to the rhythm of a flute and a drum, and she sang of a book of separations, and how her lover never came, and she sang of long hair and how her lover never wrote to her, and though the song rose from her lips it passed through his heart, he felt. The singer's hair was black and long, and she sang of long hair and separations, and she lamented that her lover never wrote to her and never came to her, so how was she to spend her nights, she asked. She sang that her eyes were always wet and that she seldom slept, and evenings brought her pain and her bed was lonely and that her lover never wrote and never came to her. The singer with long black hair sang and danced as if possessed, and the sky was black and now past that indeterminate hour, and a dark melancholy hung in the air, as she sang , who will tell her lover that she waits for him and who will transcribe her tale on paper, she asked, as the fire raged in the middle of this strange group of people, as the singer finished her song and she sat down next to the fire, to some applause and some cheers.

The night had passed that indeterminate hour of delicate mystery and he felt as if all the fresh dew that had fallen on the earth near the singer's feet had stopped in his eyes. He looked at the girl with long brown hair sitting next to him, and her eyes were like clear flames in a desert, the singer's song had passed through her heart too, he thought. She was writing with her nails on the earth near her, on soil fresh with dew she wrote and crossed, she wrote and crossed, and he wasn't sure whose heart beats he could hear then, his or hers. This hour was full of surmise, he thought, as such hours always are, and this disparate group of stragglers felt a common destiny at that hour, hour heavy with melancholy and fresh dew. He looked at the girl sitting next to her, and the hour of reckoning seemed bright as a flame, her long brown hair seemed like his destiny, and her finger tips were soiled now and the singer's song had passed through his heart and her heart too. Who was to transcribe his tale on paper, he thought, and who would record her indifference he thought, and her eyes were bright like flames and the hour was filled with surmise and she never came to him and never wrote and the nights were long he thought and who would tell her that he was waiting for her and he seldom slept and the dew was still fresh and the singer had finished her song and the singer's song had passed through his heart and he he wasn't sure whose heart beats he could hear then, his or hers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Luis Bunuel's Susana is generally regarded as one of his lesser movies though I would go on to say here that he only made great movies. However, it is true that Susana is not so well known, though it has all the trademarks of the great director and perhaps raises more questions than one might think otherwise. Susana was made during the master's Mexican phase and is shot in black and White. It has some surreal tricks but on the whole it has a more straight forward narrative than one would expect in a Bunuel movie. Susana is a movie wherein Bunuel subverts the Gothic genre but also makes the movie as a kind of a morality tale. However, even on a not so close viewing, it is obvious that the director is not content in just narrating a tale but in laughing at a few widely held "male" conventions, and also certain aspects of Mexican and Catholic constructs.

Susana is shown being restrained and then thrown into a cell in a reformatory wherein this young woman soon realizes that for company she has rats and scorpions. It seems clear that Susana had escaped and has been apprehended. She is being punished. Susana, terrified, prays to God and cries his help and soon flies out of a iron window in the wall, after a cross shaped light throws a reflection on the floor. Outside, it is a virtual deluge and soon she takes refuge at a hacienda, wherein a kindly looking family give her bed and food and kindness. Susana is however not welcome to the elderly maid who sees in the rain and in Susana's appearance a bad omen, a devilish act.

Susana is blonde and beautiful and it is soon clear that she is about to create havoc in this household as all the three men, the master, his young son and ranch hand all fall for her. Susana's goes in a well planned manner to seduce all three, creating friction in the household. However, the ranch hand gets to know that she is an escapee from the nearby reformatory and blackmails her into loving her. Susana uses one against the other and eventually her identity gets revealed and she is dragged, virtually back to the reformatory. We never really get to know why she had in the first place been incarcerated there and what her crimes are though it does seem that she might somehow be mentally unbalanced.

Bunuels' concerns are not mundane however. In this story gets woven the male machismo that seems to be the male prerogative and how all of Susana's actions are attributed to the devil, she herself being devil incarnate. The spectre of a temptress somehow excludes the possibility of a male allowing himself in being seduced, for the male character somehow cannot innately resist temptation. Bunuel, I think, plays on the Adam and Eve story of Adam's gullibility, absolving him of all blame can be quite tempting. In this case, Bunuel clearly also brings in certain elements of Mexican Catholic narratives to show the viewer how background political and social realities allow the exploitation of women and how strong willed female characters, which usually Bunuel shows, are seen as a sign of unrest and rebellion against the established order of men, church and piety.

Susana has some key note Bunuel trademarks of leg shots though in this case, Susana uses her bosom to unveil these hypocrisies. As regards narration, the surreal trademark shots are less in evidence though the drama hinges within a household and almost reads like a detective tale. Susana is essential viewing for Bunuel devotees.

Thursday, March 17, 2011



he saw the most beautiful flowers laid out on the wet green grass, flowers in their most riotous colour, splattered with colour, as if all the colours of this world had taken refuge in them. he saw the flowers but could not name them. he wanted to touch them, smell their scent and drown in their profuse colour and when he was about to touch them, he was wrenched away by a force that he could not see and all that he heard was cries and sounds that surrounded him, sounds and noises that came from some invisible place. and it was then that he realized that all would be lost soon, as he felt an invisible force making him climb a rope that he saw hanging from the most benevolent sky, as his hands bruised against the rope that was drawing him higher and higher, whisking him away from the colours he had seen, illegal and illicit as he thought, till he could think no more.

Saturday, March 12, 2011



you did not read the pages that fluttered away, pages with words or something like that, you relied on conjecture and hearsay, you thought that language and spoken words were enough, you did not understand the difficulty of loving in two languages, did you? you thought that at sunset the sky looks the most beautiful, the sun wears colours that have ripened and saturated finally and given to the sky what it loses at dawn, you ignored the blue of noon, the fierce heat of certain southern afternoons, when appleyards are sleepy and farmhands and their young lovers have kissed and wept, you ignored all that, didn't you? you heard the music and you knew all the songs but you still thought that music was elsewhere, else why would you forget the tunes you heard outside cheap public houses when insomniacs drift out and the moon slips in? you thought that unheard melodies were the sweetest, else why would you drift away like certain clouds do from certain other clouds, leaving gaps and spaces that are bigger than the sky at times, you ignored certain forlorn spaces, even though they had music, didn't you? you said that nights are laments and days are dirges and that poetry is water for the soul and that bull fighting is the most melancholic invention ever and you bled when the fighters bled, didn't you? you said that you felt cold in arthouse cinemas and art galleries were a load of rubbish and that real art was on the streets and after midnight along the seafront on cold northern nights along tacky hotels when a lone towel swings in its loneliness on the clothes-rail, you remember? you said walking with one hand in the other was your idea of resistance and rebellion and that philosophy was cheap and even poetry was tacky compared to the loneliness of a lost cat, you shouted and whistled and your white teeth shone and you said this is the world and this is the life and this moment alone is real, didn't you? you said only poor students on drugs with cheap clothes live the high life, they mix music with saliva and their kisses are the best, the most satisfying and the most fulfilling, they touch the core inside or something like that, you remember? you said one should stand with the back naked against a window wet with rain and then make love after midnight with all the burning and the yearning and the with all the anger and the rage one feels, didn't you? you said poetry is in the skin and that the waters of true poetry rise with the moons and the dunes of the skin, you laughed that brandy laugh and everything finished, the days and the nights and the skin and the moons and the aches and everything, you remember? but you didn't write and record what you thought and felt, even though the pages and sheets were always there, bare and empty, as they are now, bare and empty, as they flutter now aimlessly, tired and wasted, you didn't, you didn't.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Le Ceremonie

In Chabrol's Le Ceremonie, class consciousness pervades not only the unconscious but all visible relations. Henceforth, from the first frame, the viewers objectivity is constantly under pressure. Class distinctions pervade and invade us everywhere and possibly everyone is a victim of somebody else. That there is something amiss in all this is not a new wonder. When the domestic servant played by Bonnaire and her mentor played with menace by Huppert engage in a private war against their oppressors, hell will break loose. We must not however be trapped into thinking where our loyalties must lie. Chabrol achieves mastery in depicting the states of people's mind and warped personalities that are distinct from their class sensibilities. It is true that Sophie's employers are complacently smug but it is also true that occasionally they are kind. They are rich is a fact but that they are also alive is another fact; in deciding what is not right or passing judgement, the duo of Sophie and her mentor are acting for themselves, not on behalf of some members of their class.

Chabrol gives us a lot of clues about their flawed and dangerous personalities. In essence, the duo are lonely in their respective ways but their solidarity for each other has pathological consequences. They don't really know each other but assume so, their friendship or bonhomie is born out of darkness and need. This kinship or solidarity runs along class divides but I think, it also cements along a line that brings their fractured pasts together, and allows events to develop. I do not believe that Sophie is pushed towards the Huppert woman, who is already many steps ahead. Sophie has already crossed many frontiers in her mind. The employing rich family remain true to their own sensibilities and taste ; contrast Don Giovanni with rude mannerisms and what they see on their TV. That the ending is sinister and dark is not because there is a class war but because Sophie's person is going towards that denouement anyway.

The cultivation of style is seen by the two women as directly linked to money; whether aesthetic sensibilities are inborn or arise from cultural and educational capital is indeed the most important point here. Sophie's war is born out of a warped understanding of such things. Her vindictive nature sublimates in violence. However, the employing family and their arrogance is a reflection of their "entitlement status", and it exists amongst all classes and those who write poetry or even visit art galleries. However, this entitlement does not predispose or should not allow them to be victims of violence, for this entitlement is all that some people know. Nice clothes, beautiful houses and charming taste is ultimately all part of a social privilege that some have and either inherit or acquire from a background capital.Those who don't have it are not neccessarily those who cannot acquire it.

In Le Ceremonie, the actors playing the rich family are brilliant in their respective ways but Huppert brings malignant menace and considerable nuance to her role. Bonnaire plays the role out of her skin. Her performance is easily the best. This is such a great movie that one viewing alone leads to myriad reflections. And its aesthetic is so chilling and so Chabrolesque that one frame on, and we know mayhem is afoot.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Intentions of Murder

Sadako, the plump young and portly lower class suburban wife has certain certainties in her life that she expects but beyond these, there isn't much. Hell breaks loose when a stranger breaks into her house while she is alone. Initially, it seems that he is looking for money which he steals but Sadako resists him when she wakes. He tries to flee and threatens her with death, he has a knife. He then savagely attacks Sadako and ties her on the floor. However, seeing her naked thighs unleashes him and he rapes her. Later, Sadako decides to kill herself and while thinking these thoughts feels hungry and nibbles on left overs. An attempt to throw herself on the rail track behind her house is half hearted.

In Sadako, the quintessential unprivileged woman decides to stay quiet. Sadako is the common law wife of a quiet librarian, who has a mistress too. He is seen sporting Eros and Civilization in his library. Later at home, he treats Sadako as a kept woman. The train track is just behind the house, it is an important motif in this movie. Sadako's son is not registered as her son, need we know any further?

In Intentions of Murder, Imamura shows both how the kept woman or a woman can be continuously subdued and subjugated. That she is raped and develops some feelings for her tormentor is quite beside the point. The state of mind which induces a person to develop sympathies for one's subjugator is indeed a complex and interesting psychological state. However, in Sadako's case, her feelings are not born of some vague romantic longing, for how often does a woman fall in love with someone who rapes her? Her escape with her rapist to Tokyo must be seen as her fight against the many betrayals that she has suffered at every step of her life, witnessed by the numerous flashbacks and reveries we see her falling into. We can make a case of Sadako as a victim of not only her circumstances but as a psychological sufferer, and her escape and trysts with the pathetic man who has raped her is her flight not to Tokyo but to those inner regions of the mind that we know nothing about, especially hers. That she leaves her hopeless life but also her son behind is a proof of how sordid her life is, better escape with this aggressor, this obvious evil man than live with her husband whose systematic violence towards her is a given part of her life. At one point in the movie, even her son calls Sadako a fatso!

Towards the end of this movie, which ends on a positive note, Sadako has gained freedom from her rapist, her husband's mistress is dead whilst spying on her ( her mission to prove to him that Sadako is unfaithful, to him who has a mistress) she has filed a case to gain legal status as a mother, and her husband, convinced that Sadako did go to Tokyo with a man, agrees in a meek manner for the status quo to remain. But the status quo has changed. Sadako has from her trauma gained a strength, and is convinced of her inner charms even if outwardly she looks unattractive. But that is neither here nor there.

Intentions of Murder is easily one of the best movies I have ever seen. Imamura is relentlessly nihilistic in corroding every perceptible value that lower bourgeoisie life uses to cover its slime and grime. It is a movie that attacks rather than shows; it is not a brave movie but a movie that subjugates the viewer in its pincer hold. The train journeys to and from Tokyo are magnificient in depicting the ennui and desperation of Sadako's life. Nothing fills you with more dread than not knowing what Sadako might do, what her rapist might not. If Sadako enjoys her rape and later shows how lusty she could be, it reflects the grime of her life, the not so genteel veil that she wears during the day. Her husband usually forces himself on her and that must not be ever considered as a paean to male victory and aggression. The flashbacks are an imporatnt part of this movie's clear and not so clear symbolism.Imamura fills more menace into this movie than you will feel in a hundred others. I am a slave to this movie, now and perhaps forever.

Monday, March 07, 2011


There’s a secret sickness called Lisa. Like all sicknesses it’s miserable and it comes on at night. In the weave of a mysterious language whose words signify without exception that the foreigner “isn’t well.” And somehow I would like her to know that the foreigner is “having a hard time,” “in strange lands,” “without much chance of writing epic poetry,” “without much chance of anything.” The sickness takes me to strange and frozen bathrooms where the plumbing works according to an unexpected mechanism. Bathrooms, dreams, long hair flying out the window to the sea. The sickness is a wake. (The author appears shirtless, in black glasses, posing with a dog and a backpack in the summer somewhere.) “The summer somewhere,” sentences lacking in tranquillity, though the image they refract is motionless, like a coffin in the lens of a still camera. The writer is a dirty man, with his shirtsleeves rolled up and his short hair wet with sweat, hauling barrels of garbage. He’s also a waiter who watches himself filming as he walks along a deserted beach, on his way back to the hotel . . . “The wind whips grains of sand” . . . “Without much chance” . . . The sickness is to sit at the base of the lighthouse staring into nothing. The lighthouse is black, the sea is black, the writer’s jacket is also black.

Roberto Bolano, from Antwerp

Friday, March 04, 2011



He loved her but he also loved the haze that surrounded her. Naturally, he was quick to accept the distance between them, anything otherwise would be foolish. However, his philosophy was based on discourse than action, and he was content to spy at her from a distance, knowing that his rivulets were changing into rapids into torrents, if only her eyes could see. But for once, he threw his caution away and decided to lay out a Persian night for her, Omar Khayyam, silken rug, moonlight and nargile. His head buzzed. The nearest tall building seemed like a piece of art. He would tell her that love begins with an obsession and ends in longing. He would tell her that he has chaste desire for her, mixed with promise and memory. He would tell her that her haze drives him crazy. He would refrain from undoing her long brown hair, he would keep his heart at arm's length from himself. He planned to lie on the silken rug near her feet, tasting moonlight mixed with soft pain. He would not touch any rusty wires.


She stood with her back against the wall, her naked toes drawing circles on his rug. He imagined he heard music as her anklets drowned the traffic outside. True philosophy must leave discourse and end in action, she said. Her fingertips came together as she said that, the air around them singed and burned. Her lip stick dazzled. She told him that love begins with longing and should end in an obsession. Her moonlight pricked. She undid her long brown hair and tied it in knots. She was seldom effusive, and she was not effusive then. Her fingers spoke. Unspoken words were falling like marbles on a polished wooden floor, darting everywhere at random. She looked at length at him and then turned away. His ache restored. Life needs the perspective of distance, she smiled. Her white feet were driving him crazy. Her haze took charge. Desire, what brute she thought. He could hear her hear his beating heart.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

She didn't Come

She didn’t come. I said: And she won’t…so
let me rearrange the evening with what suits my failure
and her absence:
I put out the flame of her candles,
I turned on the electric lights,
drank her wine then broke the glass
and switched the music: from the swift violins
to Persian songs.
I said: She won’t come. So I loosened my elegant
necktie (to relax more) and put on
my blue pajama. I could walk barefoot
if I want. And sit cross-legged, sagging
on her sofa, to forget her
and forget all the things of absence.
Then I put back in the drawers what I had prepared
for our party. I opened the windows and pulled back the curtains.
I stood in front of the night, my body holding no secret
other than what I waited for and lost…
and I mocked my obsession with purifying the air for her
(I had sprayed rose and lemon water).
She won’t come…I will move the orchid
from the right to the left to punish her forgetfulness…
I will cover up the mirror with a coat, I don’t want to see
her radiant image…and add to my regret.
I said: Forget what you have chosen for her
of ancient love lines, she doesn’t even deserve
a plagiarized poem…
Then I forgot her, ate my quick meal standing,
and read a chapter in a school book
about our distant planets,
and wrote, to overlook her harm, a poem,
this poem.

Mahmoud Darwish, Tr. Fady Joudah

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The Unbearable Sensuality of Chabrol's Cinema

Claude Chabrol's cinema is rightly regarded as the cinema of ambiguity, to which I add that his cinema is also the cinema of style. And his muse, Stephane Audran, who was also his wife, starred in a few of his movies, called the Helene Cycle, is the goddess of style. Chabrol demands, and this is clear after you watch one of his movies, that one pays close attention to what we see, for a lot goes on in a Chabrol movie. Seemingly about serial murders as in Le Boucher or about a wife's infidelity, what Chabrol does is to peel away the surface and reveal the hypocrisies underneath. In a sense, unveiling bourgeois hypocrisy using the detective genre is achieved with mastery and class by the great film maker. Personally, I have always felt that great literature and great movies can achieve great results using the detective method and crime to allow the development and perhaps realisation of bigger themes.

As I mentioned earlier, we must watch his movies with intense attention, which is sometimes not possible. The bigger picture is in small details and it is possible that such details can be discerned on multiple viewings only. As soon as a Chabrol movie begins, we are immediately surrounded and assaulted in all of our senses by the most sensual of images and by a soundtrack that not only causes us to see but feel the atmosphere. Chabrol cinema, I am compelled to say, is the cinema of senses, a sexy cinema. The most mundane detail and the most trivial event is filmed with great aesthetic charm, conveying the feeling sometimes that style is more important than substance. Any unpleasant thing to be done must be got over with quickly, it seems. Consider the murder in Le Biches, where Frederique is stabbed by Why. It is done in a charming manner, as if Frederique is willing to be murdered, as if excessive force and excess of blood would revolt the sensibilities of the murdered and the murderer.

Sometimes watching his movies becomes unbearable. To a great extent, this must relate to the relation his characters have with their surroundings and the surroundings to the viewer. There is a mathematical precision to the images, so that every single move has not just been carefully rehearsed but that each move has a philosophy behind it. The unbearable sensuality is actually quite intellectual. By that I mean that the imagery has a purpose and is not just random. What is described as a thriller in relation to his movies or as suspense is a very intellectual one indeed. By suspense, if the actor doesn't know and we know is not the same as if both don't know. And anyway, the concerns of his thrill are far more ramified than any wife sleeping behind her husband's back.

I want to specifically, at this stage of my Chabrol acquaintanceship, mention the Helene Cycle. Played by Stephane Audren with Helene as her character's name in a few of these movies, she not only symbolises this extremely unbearable sensuality, she takes it a few steps further so that this charm that she radiates, this erotic and sensuous mystery that she creates, takes her and situates her in a place where she becomes remote and simultaneously extremely mystifying. The Helene cycle cannot be imagined without Audran. Her looks apart, she comes across as very accomplished and intelligent as an actor who is able to project the persona of her character on to her and vice versa. In Le Boucher, when the head mistress walks with Popaul to her school, cigarette dangling from her lips, in a wonderful one take six minute shot, she appears as if she is walking on a Paris street or on a catwalk. She is able to endow the most mundane character with the most electrifying charm.

I was very impressed with Le Femme Infidele, for what is a husband supposed to do when his wife is having an affair? Ordinarily, all sorts of usual things happen but here, the bourgeois crust is left untouched as the husband confronts his wife's lover at his home and then accidentally kills him. Such things are however not whispered at home and life must inevitably move on till other conclusions are reached. In Le Boucher, when an ex-army man starts killing women in a quaint village, the teacher to whom he has started an attachment with, and who refuses that, after suspecting this man refuses to tell the police about her suspicions till the end, which is dramatic.

In Les Biches, there is a menage a trois, and a very subtle reconfiguration of relationships. There is the emphasis on class distinctions and hypocrisy and how people can be used in relationships but there is also the seething geometry of imagery to which I will return again. Stylistically, Le Biches is beuatiful. The opening shot, when against the backdrop of the Seine, Audran steps into our sights, haughty and beautiful, chillingly so and later on at St Tropez, with Why and her chorus of jokers, which acts as a commentary on the action within it. I must admit that of the four Helene movies, I didn't like it the most, for sometimes the actions and movements seemed very artificial and jilted. It is possible to see this trait as a projection of the relational dialogue within the movie but on the whole, it did seeming jar at times. Why becomes Frederique after she has loved her and as both love the same person.

La Rupture follows the travails of a mother's battle to keep possession of her son against the dirty and slimy tricks of her father-in-law who employs an equally detestable character to defame her so that the court can decide against the child's custody. Audran plays a mother in torment but does it really well. Our sympathies are with her and the man hired to defame her is very slimy indeed. In the end, he gets what he deserves but the end is very psychedelic indeed. An image of a balloon peddler is chillingly unforgettable. This movie has a chorus too in the form of tarot playing ladies in the boarding house where Audran resides and their role assumes some significance in the end.

Coming back to the point of unbearability. I think while watching these movies, what strikes is the distance Audran has from the surroundings. She is mesmerizingly seductive in her own way and aloof in that seductive charm, as if what is going on around her has nothing to do with her, as if everything is a game. She is a study in detachment. It is this alienation, this estrangement from the surroundings that make the movies unbearable, for want of a better description. The rising tension rises from her, for she is never histrionic, never over-dramatic. This enhances the drama, the sinister drama of the movies more. In a way, Audran is more credible than a Hitchcockian character for the latter is usually in some kind of an inner existential or melancholic crisis. Audran's crises are far more subtle, based on instinctual relationships with others, her surroundings, and her own crazily mystifying beauty, which is a mix of seduction and intellectual beauty. The Helene Cycle is a great contribution to cinema by Chabrol, whose reputation is now more art house than it was during his life time.