Friday, August 22, 2008

Movies: La Vérité

While some films are completely unbelievable and therefore terrible, other films, like La Vérité, and completely unbelievable but somehow still brilliant. I would blame it on Bardot, but she's acted through some stinkers, so I know it's more than that (although she is delightfully charming in this one). In fact, this movie succeeds against all odds; it's set inside a courtroom during a trial, and the story is told via flashback, narrated by the judge, who reads from a kind of deposition of Dominique's social and sexual history. The court's goal is to discern whether or not she actually loved her lover when she killed him—whether it was a crime of passion motivated by his poor treatment of her, or whether it was premeditated murder, done in cold blood to punish her hated sister Annie (to whom he became engaged after ending his relationship with Dominique, and from whom she had stolen him in the first place).

The task with which writer/director Clouzot sets the court is of course absurd, and to watch the two attorneys vie over whether Dominique was, indeed, a slut, has its own unintended comic merits. But the brilliance of the film lies mostly in its depiction of the "outsider" bohemian set into which Dominque falls when she fights with Annie, moves out of their rented room, and finds herself homeless. Her male friends all double as casual lovers (something which doesn't seem to bother her much)—the darker reality behind their funny, proto-hipster outfits and haircuts is that, if she weren't putting out, she wouldn't have any place to stay (or perhaps that, if she weren't so beautiful, they wouldn't demand that she put out).

Of course, Bardot revels in the role of sex kitten, but her desperate affection for Gilbert, who claims to see her as more (but who arguably actually does not) belies beauty's affliction. Dominique is, in a way, addicted to the constant sexual attention of men (which is why, when one drives by on a new motorcycle, she leaves the wimpy Gilbert in the gutter, hopping on for a two minute ride from which she doesn't come home until the next morning, while Gilbert has been pacing in front of her door all night). At the same time, she knows that these attentions are fleeting, and without Gilbert's "true" love, she feels unstable. His love, though, is stultifying; he's not strong enough to keep her under control, and ultimately, he only wants her for the same thing every other man does.

And so whether or not the courtroom scenario is plausible is irrelevant; the film demonstrates genuine emotions and the relationships amongst a certain social set (the bohemians, that is; not the beauties) that will always struggle for the sake of struggle.

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