Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Great Art Needs Suffering

The Public Woman (1984) - Zulawski
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Ethel (Valerie Kaprisky) does a nude modeling for money. But when she goes in for an audition for a film adaptation production of Dostoesky's Possessed, and catches the eye of Kessling (Francis Huster), the charismatic director/star of the project, everything changes. But soon Kessling realizes that Ethel is not much of an actress. She lacks life experience to portray everything that he wants in the role. His megalomaniacal demands from his cast and crew don't help either. Their tumultuous onset/off set romance also suffers. While being laid off from the project, Ethel starts romancing with a poor Czech immigrant, Milan (Lambert Wilson), whose actress wife might have been murdered by Kessling in some insidious political maneuvering. Milan gets manipulated to kill an archbishop (in order to save his wife) and being pursued by the secret whatever. So in real life, Ethel starts playing the role of Milan's wife.

As usual, Zulawski creates another manic, emotionally charged, over the top melodrama where he pushes his heroine to the brink of insanity. Baby faced Kaprisky bares it all as an actress whose 'acting' bleeds in to reality and vice versa. Huster's amazing as the mad genius and Lambert Wilson's intensity betrays his wispy, melancholic features. The film's energetic, 'revolution is in the air' mood is created by Sacha Vierny's fast moving, virtuosic cinematography.

Zulawski seems to suggest that truly great art (and therefore life) needs suffering. All the hell Ethel goes through, she becomes a better actress at the end. There is no succinct distinction between art and life in his films. We all have roles to play on this stage we call life. It's messy, tragic and full of intrigue. The Public Woman is another dense, heady film. I can't help but admire Zulawski's bravura filmmaking.