|"Funny how? I mean, funny like a clown? I amuse you?"|
L to R: Fabio Testi, Romy Schneider, Jacques Dutronc
BAM Rose Cinema's current Andrzej Zulawski series has been a lesson in how much of a difference context makes in the experience of viewing movies (or experiencing any art or entertainment). If I casually watched any one of these films on its own, I would probably react less kindly than I've been inclined to, as ridiculous and arguably pretentious as they often are. Immersion in the director's unique style has done a lot to acclimate me to its initially off-putting aspects (as they say, if you put a frog in a pan on the stove and gradually expose it to Zulawski movies... something something).
But I'm also affected by extra-cinematic influences, as most people are, whether they admit it or not. The abundant, often breathless coverage of the series in the press and online (again, see Mubi's roundup of links), positioning him as an underappreciated genius auteur finally getting his due, makes me want to like them. All these other people are so excited - I want to be excited, too. And I am, up to a point, but then I shake my head vigorously and slap my face like a movie character staving off hallucination - notice I'm sounding more sober than I did when I wrote this entry in a post-screening buzz after L'Amour Braque (about which more later), not to mention a haze of late-night, mid-week exhaustion.
Take The Important Thing is to Love (1975), Zulawski's first of several French productions (he he wasn't terribly welcome in his native Poland as far as the authorities were concerned). If I'd stumbled across this deeply strange and inconsistent love story on TV, I'd have probably watched with a quizzically tilted head and squinted eyes for a half-hour or so, and then turned it off, briefly arching my eyebrow as I walked away. But in the event, I was primed to expect certain qualities and to tolerate and even embrace certain quirks, so I was able to get something out of it and even sometimes enjoy it. It's not my favorite Zulawski by a long shot, but it's an interesting beast.