(2003) [second viewing]
(Ay, here be spoilers, mateys.)
Okay, so I shortchanged this film the first time around
. There's more here than I gave it credit for -- for starters, I completely overlooked the film's representation of emotion vs. logic, with Cassel representing the former and Dupontel the latter. In that context, it makes perfect sense that Dupontel rather than Cassel would be the one to wield that fire extinguisher; after all, he'd have the presence of mind to look around for some manner of weapon in case the need should arise. The following scenes, with Dupontel gradually revealed as more and more ineffectual in everyday life, thus seem to ring with a dark irony -- the man who can intellectualize everything and, in fact, objects to Cassel's quest is also the only one who can keep enough intellect about him to commit the revenge killing that Cassel so desperately wants. Also, this time around the "Time destroys all things" concept didn't seem as facile as I'd thought it initially -- rather, it seemed more like a thesis statement, a concise way of summing up the film's preoccupation with entropy. If time is indeed irreversible, and entropy states that over time everything breaks down and all matter tends towards chaos, what hope do we have? So there we have a reason for the film's backwards structure, possibly -- what's past is prologue, true, but it's also maybe something to hold onto in times of trouble in order to keep hope alive and believe that one day things will be better again. (A reading like that may also explain the presence of Phillipe Nahon's butcher from I Stand Alone
showing up in the first scene -- that previous film ended with the butcher's one moment of happiness. Here, he recalls that moment as both a way of revealing how he got here and as a way to forget his current unhappiness.) Even beyond this, though, it's just simply such a well-constructed film, with ironies and mirrorings galore (the dual pregnancies of Bellucci and her friend in the party scene -- "I have some news to tell you" -- escaped me the first time). The progression of Monica Bellucci's character, in particular, is interesting -- her first scene has her shown more or less as an object, since we know nothing about her, while the last scene begins with her proclaiming that she is not an object and she makes her own choices. It's a small touch, but it shows someone was thinking. I still harbor some reservations (like about how the time thing would probably come across better if the film didn't more or less take place in real time), but this is much better than I believed.
Grade: B+ (upgraded from B-)