28 June 2010
I do love Truffaut, and I do love Leaud, and I do love Antoine Doinel... and I'm glad I can now say I've seen the entire Doinel series once each (Joseph tonight shared the short Antoine and Colette with me, as well as this one), but Love on the Run feels less like a movie of its own than that episode where the power goes out and the Seaver family sits around by flashlight fondly remembering the zany adventures they've had over the years. In other words, yes, arthouse film giant François Truffaut made a feature-film clip-show.
The way Joseph tells it is, the woman who played Colette pressured Truffaut to wrap the series up with some kind of closure, and she co-wrote it for/with him. The result is a bizarrely Colette-heavy story of coincidences and easy resolutions that barely coheres into any kind of single story. To its credit, Leaud is great, Coutard's cinematography is understadedly beautiful as always, and the women for the most part are just as brilliant (especially his ex-wife and Sabine the redhead he [spoiler!] begins and ends the movie with). But the excessive dependence on flashing back to entire scenes from each and every Doinel film (The 400 Blows, Antoine and Colette, Stolen Kisses and Bed and Board) begins as a clever framing device, quickly becomes a kind of hindrance and nuisance, and eventually devolves into such a baldfaced crutch for the paper-thin narrative that I started wondering what the ratio of new footage to old was. I'm guessing about 1:1.
On the one hand, it's nice and deserved to give the character his send-off with so much nostalgia and recollection, but on the other it's too bad we just had a series of mini-stories contrived solely as delivery systems for previously shot, previously edited, previously viewed moments from the preceding four films. It feels artificial, something I find ironic since Truffaut has always loosely represented the naturalistic, character-driven narrative end of the French New Wave spectrum (with Godard the obvious choice to stand at the other pole). Leaud's such an easy charmer, and his chemistry especially with Sabine (pop star Dorothee? apparently) was so good that from the first scene on I wanted more with them and less with the rest of it. This should have just been another story, one more full entry in which he finally decides to stop running and commit to someone. In fact, much of the late dialogue between them about what love means and what a relationship really is -- and how Doinel in particular had heretofore behaved both with Sabine and with every girl ever -- hit a little close to home. I've been giving some private thought lately to what "commitment" really means (in terms of the old chestnut "you have a fear of commitment, don't you?") and how it's not a time-commitment I've avoided but an investment-commitment. I've never had trouble accepting long-termness in a relationship, but I don't often give myself to a person as completely as I should, and that's hardly fair. Looking back, I've stumble into realizing that I'm a partner with someone, and felt very comfortable with the idea, but where I should be saying, "hey I love you so why aren't I giving more of myself to you?", I am instead saying, "hey I love you and I don't love anyone else and I'm comfortable not looking for anyone else to replace you, isn't that enough?" ANYWAY, new perspective on years-old personal troubles aside, there was some legitimate lesson-learnin' for Antoine to go through here, but he did it so easily and without much more than a couple of impulsive actions and their limited, sometimes misconstrued consequences to go through. All as bracketing devices to remember the shit we've already seen him go through. It could have and should have been its own story, and that would have been a well-earned piece of closure.
As it is, it barely feels like a film at all, and leaves me considering Bed and Board the last complete Doinel film. Love on the Run is just a brief reprise, a best-of. But it's not bad, if you accept it as that.