Elles (1997)

“Elles” (1997)

IMDb

performance and rhythm

I don’t know how much in this film was self-aware and how much was going on on the back of the director. Of other experiences i’ve had with this filmmaker’s work, i never saw anything that might make me believe i’d see anything as clever as what we have in this film. However, this film is a good experience, a piece which was cleverly allowed to breath to the rhythm of the female performances.

The casting of the 5 leading female characters is the first great thing about this. All of them are more or less attached to a certain cultural (european) background, and in the world of film, each one became linked to a certain type of character. That is used in the writing of this film, and i would say each role was written bearing in mind specifically each of the ladies we see here. For each role there might be 1 or 2 other acceptable actress options, but no more.

The second good thing is how acting types are allowed to play freely. Each woman dominates her scene, and bends the other (male) characters to her own breath, to her own acting rhythm and style, as much as Maura’s character bends Joaquim d’Almeida to her lifestyle. The story plays accordingly, since all these women are, or fight for being, masters of their own life. So there’s a folding of women trying to live free lives into women’s different acting styles, allowed to run wild. This i think was not intentional, but it certainly works.

Another great thing, that proves my last paragraph, are the scenes in which several of these women interact and, remarkably, the one in which the 5 of them, and only them, act together in Maura’s home, and actually make a film together! I appreciated the self-reference of the thing. These scenes, specially this at Maura’s house, are great because it’s in the Lumet or Altman tradition of capturing the breath of each actress’s performance. They are allowed to breath and each performance is thrown at each other, so the richness of the scene is in how we compare them.

I’d say the general mood intended for the film was fully based on Almodóvar’s film world, thus the Carmen Maura connection. This would be, i think, intentional, and the director looked for it. But he messed that up, and it’s good he did, because if he’d insisted to hard on that, he might have wiped out the other great eventually non intentional stuff. But the writing is great, self-aware and fully supportive to the actresses. That’s why we have two writing devices that enfold the acting nature of this film:-one of the characters is herself a performer, so she is acting an actor. Her performances are vital points for two dramatic developments in the film (her daughter watching her have sex on stage, and her jealousy towards her friend). -Carmen Maura films her friends, making confessions to the camera. So they are ostensibly framed, and placed speaking to the camera, and thus to us. Great devices.

Lisbon is just a postcard here.

My opinion: 4/5, you should watch this

This comment on IMDb

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