[Originally published in Movietone News 44, July 1975]
The first splotch of color in Claude Lelouch’s And Now My Love occurs somewhere around the end of World War Two. It is not simply a matter of suddenly switching to color stock and letting the cameras roll; instead, the scene is calculated as an eye-catching gesture that begins by looking at a military parade out in a street and then pulling back into a room where two of the characters are making love—a room with a remarkably blue wall and some very conscious lighting effects that nudge us towards an awareness of the scene’s stylized appearance. It’s perhaps the most subtle instance of life and movie intermingling in the film, and it’s so nice because it uses the medium of filmmaking to illustrate the transparent regions of style and artificiality wherein movies must become about themselves as well as about the various and sundry people and events that go to make up the story we’re watching. As for the more explicitly self-inspecting aspects of movies-in-movies, and of And Now My Love—well, cameras staring at cameras seem to hold some fascination for even the most casually infected cinemagoer.
While the tour-de-force sweep of Lelouch’s movie doesn’t perk me into any sort of epic awe at one man’s grasp on the cinematic universe, his more playful moments of Pirandellian trippiness are fun: when Simon Duroc and his friend Charles are shooting a scene in their movie which involves their thinly veiled fictional counterparts filming a porno flick Duroc and Charles once made, it really becomes a matter of counting the cameras—the one we’re looking through included—as a simple tracking shot becomes a mirrorlike recession of parallel movements involving about four different levels of movie reality. More generally, Lelouch’s camera floats and tracks and gyrates freely about in a lot of lonnnng takes that course through showy setups and out-of-the-way locations that exist on screen for a shot or two and aren’t heard from again. As gestures of offhanded extravagance, like the WW1 scene in the trenches that exists solely to let us see the man with the movie camera go up in smoke at the end of the take, such indulgences are consistent with Lelouch’s main idea of—shall I say it?—a love story in which the lovers don’t meet until the end, in which the build-up is the thing in a world of soft-pedaled Lelouchean fatefulness.
While And Now My Love is indeed a movie about a movie, it isn’t Lelouch’s Day for Night, although it may well be his O Lucky Man minus Lindsay Anderson’s sometimes fantasyland setting of cultural and psychic initiation. Still, one gets the feeling that Lelouch might have liked (and maybe does like) The 400 Blows simply because both he and Truffaut seem interested in pasts remembered and romanticized and because Simon Duroc, street punk turned director, is something of a latterday Antoine Doinel, a Truffautian alter ego shadowed by a cinematic tradition he inadvertently falls into while processing mug shots in a prison darkroom. From there, he rises to fame along with his mentor, one Charlie-Focus, an old-guard, no-nonsense type who would rather make lucrative commercials and soap operas than meaningful movies, and who falls asleep in the middle of Cahiers du cinéma articles that seem to make even less sense that Duroc’s resolutions to express his personal vision on film. “Personal” shouldn’t necessarily have to carry with it the extra baggage of openly expressed gobs of life philosophy the way And Now My Love does, but that’s the way Lelouch makes films and, heck, one need not feel too guilty about enjoying the niceties of a movie sure to please the legions of Lelouch fans who walk into a theatre expecting love, pretty photography, and the comfortably foregone conclusions of rose-scented destiny.
AND NOW MY LOVE
Direction: Claude Lelouch. Screenplay: Claude Lelouch, Pierre Uytterhoeven. Cinematography: Jean Collomb. Editing: Georges Clotz. Music: Francis Lai.
The players: Marthe Keller, André Dussollier, Charles Denner, Carla Gravina, Gabriele Tinti, Charles Girard, Gilbert Bécaud.
Copyright © 1975 Rick Hermann