Saturday, March 24, 2007

Themroc

A terrifying opening shot; a soundtrack that in the Florence Gould Hall of the Alliance Française reverberated powerfully--a stream of nonsense and grunts and howls and material destruction. Themroc (Claude Faraldo, 1973) is an intense experience to say the least. The film's conceit is a really simple and literal one: a dystopic fantasy wherein figures of power and authority (capitalists, management, the police) don't speak the same language as regular people, the laborers, who in turn simply revert to a primordial state of being--stemming from Michel Piccoli (or perhaps from another, viciously-visaged growling individual we see in about three shots), but spreading through the sphere of the social space, the back alley not unlike the big working-living square that unites the proletarian heroes of Le Crime de M. Lange. A lot of this mythopoeticism veers toward patriarchal mumbo jumbo (Piccoli's sister, Beatrice Romand, is basically around to serve as a bare-breasted cipher, a total dependent, and a sometime-object of Piccoli's sexual advances, not unlike other female characters in the film, as Daniel Kasman has already pointed out), but at least, in terms of its gender politics, the film doesn't present itself as anything other than a "Me Tarzan - You Jane" fantasy as seen from a third person pov. (And there is a bit of a counter-example of a woman being the head of her own revolutionary family...) So if you can live with that representation of power dynamics as presented as something liberatory (not necessarily utopian mind you), then you can more peacefully groove on the liberatory potential of the social breakdown which is front-and-center here. After being fired from his job, Piccoli steals materials from a construction site and walls up the living room to his apartment, blocking out his elderly mother and his sister, and builds his own "door," the one that faces out to the social sphere, the back alleys of the neighborhood, through which the contagions of prelinguistic revolution can spread.

Themroc fits into a certain wave of "breakdown" films that seemed to be common in, at least, European New Waves' later sections (it has elements to remind one of Week End and other Godards, Daisies, Makavejev, the Panic Movement in Spain, the Actionists). I'm leaving a lot of discussion about the film's interesting points unsaid, maybe because I want to see it again, to look at it closely before I say too much more about the connections between sounds and images, between bodies, between this specter of the real world and the real world. It's worth seeing if you get a chance, there is a lot to take from the film ...

3 comments:

phyrephox said...

I'm glad someone else saw this almost unclassifiable film, which I hadn't heard of (nor its director). Kudos to FIAF for mixing it up with more recognized films in their series. You connect the film to several other movements at the time which I am unfortunately woefully ignorant of, would you say it is still fairly unique amongst them?

Personally, I found the film at its most compelling in its first third, with the amazing credit sequence (as you noted, and with that bizarre man who is unseen in the rest of the film), and its energetic, almost angry (and fairly Resnais-ian) editing of Piccoli's first (though analogous to "all and every") trip to work we see. The last third got a little repetative, but the inclusion of cannibalism (and not just any, but of the police!) was inspired. Also, did you think that Piccoli's proud, pleasurable yelling, by the time he fashioned the cave out of his apartment, was him yelling his own name? The sound was a bit hard to decipher, but I got the feeling that both he and the housewife were "exclaiming" they own names. Themroc!

Zach Campbell said...

Daniel, sorry to comment so late--I don't know if the film is made any more or less unique by putting it in the same general thrust of, say, Makavejev or Godard's 1966-68 period. I guess I'd say that the film doesn't seem any less singular an experience in light of what (little) I've seen that can compare from the late 1960s/early 1970s European critical-destructive-sexual-primitivist impulse in cinema.

I didn't get the feeling that the people were exlaiming their names, but I can see that ...

tentas said...

great movie
one and only!