"Thirty-six characters in search of a story," or: Sonata for Sarajevo ("whore of the Occident"). Except for "slight symphonic variations," Europe in the Nineties offers the same chaos as the Thirties, Camus’s granddaughter (Madeleine Assas) illustrates Juan Goytisolo’s barbed comment by leading some youngsters into Bosnia for a production of Musset’s On ne badine pas avec l’Amour. The Europe of the Sixties (of Les Carabiniers and Week-End, specifically) is also detectable, though the roads and quotations are now bathed in twilight blues, Sherazade is a Muslim maid (Ghalia Lacroix) along for the ride. The travelers wash their laundry in the river and dodge mortar shells, they’re captured and made to dig their own graves, the stripped heroines are pushed against the wall and readied for violation: "Oh, what we take up the ass." Elsewhere, a sagging filmmaker (Vicky Messica) holds auditions for his new project, The Fatal Bolero, and complains that his windy beachfront setting doesn’t have enough water. Art can't hold back the world’s horrors in Jean-Luc Godard’s grave and quizzical fugue, it can only ward off nihilism with its fusion of sensation, humor, and grace. Poetic tetchiness sets the tone: Messica’s opus achieves "a saturation of glorious signs bathing in the light of their absent explanation," yet is no match for Terminator 4 at the Parisian box-office. Marivaux, Fernando Pessoa, John Ford, Hugo. (And earlier: "Cinema replaces our gaze with a world in harmony with our desires... Something essential is renounced.") Godard’s gags, demonstrative and subtle, include a close-up of Assas rolling her eyes at Descartes’ most famous dictum, the script-girl’s Mona Lisaesque sang-froid while transcribing porno chatter from a recorder, and the assistant director’s open-mouthed double-take as he notices the peruke-wearing Mozart himself at the piano. Pages are turned as the real spectacle begins, the exhausted auteur sits outside, smokes and listens (42nd Street, French Cancan). With Berangère Allaux, Frédéric Pierrot, Harry Cleven, Michel Francini, Sylvie Herbert, Cécile Reigher, and Dan Thorens.
--- Fernando F. Croce