Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
France, 1975. Sunchild Productions, Les Films Armorial. Screenplay by Marguerite Duras. Cinematography by Bruno Nuytten. Produced by Simon Damiani, André Valio-Cavaglione. Music by Carlos D’Alessio. Film Editing by Solange Leprince.
Probably the best known of Marguerite Duras’ directorial efforts, this photographically pristine film will frustrate all but the most daring of viewers. Set in a colonial 1930s India (but shot at the Château Rothschild in Paris), it mainly figures around Delphine Seyrig as a diplomat’s wife who takes on a series of lovers, relationships which reflect the changes being suffered by the crumbling empire of which they are a part. Not that the film plays out quite so clearly, as no dialogue is spoken on screen, instead playing out in voice over while the actors take part in a series of lengthy, elegantly created tableaux.
Not a particularly rewarding prospect, and Duras, who was usually a master of intellectual eroticism, doesn’t heighten the overwrought conceit with any curiosity or humour. What she does provide, however, are a series of ravishing images that really are a wonder to behold, the controlled perfection of each shot is the film’s greatest asset, perhaps its only one, and this has been returned to its impeccable beauty by a recent restoration supervised by the film’s cinematographer (and later a director in his own right), Bruno Nuytten.
Toronto International Film Festival: 1976