The Son of Joseph
Directed by Eugène Green
A young man who lives with his mother and has never known his father, heads off to look for him. He finds a cynical and Machiavellian man who works as a publisher in Paris. After he attempts to kill him, he finds filial love thanks to his uncle.
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★★★½ review by Filipe Furtado on Letterboxd
Archeology of emotions. Things that seen lost and remote that Green can just locate. A religious parable that risks choking on mannered beauty, as Green always do, so it can finally reach a place of satisfying freedom and acceptance. At best, when he allows some fear and pain to creep in to better open space for its sense of discovering. Filled with well-imagined detail and Green always finds a way to make his very specific direction of actors pay off in unexpected ways.
★★★★½ review by Alireza on Letterboxd
minimal shots, weird dialogue.
really ''good'' characters.(you know what i mean if you see the movie).
one of the best of 2016
put a huge smile on my face
★★★½ review by Michael Sicinski on Letterboxd
If it ain't Baroque...
Although the primary focus of Eugène Green's newest film is an ostensibly fatherless boy, Vincent (Victor Ezenfis), and his quest to locate the source of his mysterious paternity, there is a secondary set of themes involving the demimonde of high-powered French publishing. (In this sphere, Vincent's biological father Oscar, played by Mathieu Amalric, is a prominent fiction editor.) Amidst the book launch parties and public readings, we meet Violette (Maria de Medeiros), a literary critic.
She fawns over Oscar and behaves like something of a flibbertigibbet, channeling the haughty journalist figures Katherine Hepburn once played but with half the gravitas and none of the facts. ("I scribble reviews in the Literary Lift. You read it, no doubt?") At one party Violette coos, "I just spoke to Nathalie Sarraute," to which Oscar deadpans, "she's dead."
We can compare this to Vincent's trip to the Louvre with Joseph (Fabrizio Rongione), Oscar's brother and the petty thief who will become Vincent's surrogate father. Even as they walk through this palace of "dead" painting, they are inspired by it in real time, and Green takes care to linger on individual canvases by Georges de la Tour and Philippe de Champagne, in whole and in part. This echoes the large Caravaggio poster that Vincent has on his wall, and tells us something about Green's attitude toward art in general.
Green's division between Joseph and Vincent on the one hand, and Oscar and Violette on the other, could hardly be clearer. Art is either to be loved and learned from, or to be traded, commodified, and gossiped about. As for Vincent's mother Marie (Natacha Régnier, who is particularly great in this), she almost exemplifies this kind of movement, from someone who was once taken in by the lure of style and success (Oscar); once burned by that superficiality, shut down; and then, with Vincent's help, is now opening up to something more genuine (Joseph).
We know from previous Green films, such as La Sapienza and The Living World, that Green favors the Baroque to other periods, particularly the contemporary. This may seem backwards-looking, but one could argue (as Deleuze has) that the Baroque offers plenty of untapped potential. Since it is typically a mode that is positioned between dramatic movement and medium-specified stasis, in some ways it prefigures the invention of cinema in 1895.
It's possible that Green's loveingly stilted Bressonianism is another way in which he pays homage to the paradox of the Baroque, since the characters who are of most concern here (Vincent, Joseph, Marie) are the least dynamic, most poised between cinematic movement and frozen time of statuary. By the end, they are "liberated," crossing the screen and roaming down the beach. But arguably, having achieved the status of Holy Family, they are outside of human time altogether. So perhaps in Green's odd Baroque universe, movement is for those who transcend. The rest of us are stuck in the rat race of the profane.
★★★★ review by aleph null on Letterboxd
sobbed so much at how genuinely sweet & lovely & gentle this ended up being. sharp, absurd, and very very smart, and absolutely none of that steers this towards nihilism or cruel cosmic irony. take notes, everyone.
you who build these altars now
to sacrifice these children,
you must not do it anymore.
a scheme is not a vision
and you never have been tempted
by a demon or a god.
you who stand above them now,
your hatchets blunt and bloody,
you were not there before,
when i lay upon a mountain
and my father's hand was trembling
with the beauty of the word.
when it all comes down to dust
i will kill you if i must,
i will help you if i can.
when it all comes down to dust
i will help you if i must,
i will kill you if i can.
★★★½ review by Pedro Lovallo on Letterboxd
Quando vemos, no belo O Mundo Vivente (2003), personagens se referindo ao cachorro do protagonista como um leão, nada podemos fazer senão aceitar a condição proposta. Decerto causa algum estranhamento no espectador, que incapaz de modificar algo na diegese, de mãos atadas perante tal situação, acaba por aos poucos sucumbir ao poder da palavra, esta a lógica que rege a obra de Eugène Green. A palavra é poderosa a ponto de poder transformar não física, mas metafisicamente, o ser. O cachorro é leão, ponto.
Seu novo filme, O Filho de Joseph, pode parecer aos não iniciados em sua obra (e abro parênteses para dizer que não sou especialista, sequer tendo assistido toda sua filmografia) ou mesmo ao público médio apenas uma comédia que se desdobra por soluções fáceis e situações convenientes. Mas justamente esses caminhos duvidosos do roteiro são os grandes protagonistas aqui, pois se baseiam em sua maioria no poder conferido à palavra, a divindade do universo de Green. É a palavra, mesmo uma mentira, que possibilita a entrada do protagonista em um evento privado, por exemplo; é a palavra que, em maior ou menor grau, define o destino de cada um.
É justamente esse patamar sacro da palavra o responsável pela artificialidade, teatralidade e mesmo neutralidade - por mais contraditória que a união desses termos pareça - das atuações nos filmes de Green (e pela própria forma de filmar do cineasta). A palavra é importante a ponto de exigir uma condição específica de seu emissor, de forma a reproduzí-la da forma mais pura possível, potencializando o que representa. E quando digo que a palavra é divina, é algo literal. Quando Deus ordena que Abraão sacrifique seu filho, o que há a fazer senão aceitar? O que deve ser questionado nunca é a divindade da palavra em si, mas sim a de seu emissor, afinal.
Assistido no Festival do Rio 2016.
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