This edition of Marguerite Duras's film NATHALIE GRANGER has been available in France for about a year; it was issued by Blaq Out in a Region 0 NTSC edition, and presumably this is the same package now being made available in the US. Duras, one of the major French writers of the 20th Century, wrote the script for the classic HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR in 1959; depressed by adaptations of her novels, such as THE SAILOR FROM GIBRALTAR (directed by Tony Richardson) and 10:30 PM SUMMER (directed by Jules Dassion), Duras decided to make her own movies; though her work was often difficult in the extreme, she became a prolific filmmaker in the 1970s, and NATHALIE GRANGER is one of her finest films.
This is a subtle, mysterious work, full of intimations of violence (as in the very first scene, where the schoolteacher talks about "that violence!" but when we see the girl, she is very quiet, almost docile), yet the surface of the film is unnervingly calm and placid. Two women (played by two of the most mesmerizing actresses, Jeanne Moreau and Lucia Bose) enact a number of domestic rituals (dredging the pool, etc.); reviewing the film when it showed at the New York Film Festival, Manny Farber and Pat Patterson noted that the two actresses moved through the film like becalmed majesties.
Made in 1972, this film is a precursor to the domestic epic of Chantal Akerman's JEANNE DIELMAN. The black-and-white cinematography of Ghislain Cloquet is full of subtle gradations and glimmerings, recalling the pearly magnificence of his work for Robert Bresson on AU HASARD, BALTHAZAR and MOUCHETTE. As with most of her novels, the method Duras uses in this film is one of indirection, allusion, and suggestiveness. Admittedly, it's not an easy film, and the literary methodology of Duras is not likely to appeal to action-oriented audiences, but for those who can adjust to Duras's rhythms, this film can prove to be a seductive experience, and nothing could be more seductive than Moreau and Bose, especially in the scene where they stare down the travelling salesman (played by a young Gerard Depardieu).
The disc of extras is quite helpful in providing clues as to the intentions of this mysterious movie, and makes this a very satisfying package for those interested in finding out more about Duras and her methods.
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