Emmanuel Mouret

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#76 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Dec 27, 2020 2:32 am

Les choses qu’on dit, les choses qu’on fait

It’s a coincidence (or fate?!) seeing this film following a revisit of Eyes Wide Shut, which jarringly sobers us to the reality that our senses of control are false, feelings are dynamic, and we can never predict where ours and others’ fidelities will shift to tomorrow, what we or others will realize we need or want in the next chapter, peeling back onion layers of revelations with cognitive and emotional tools. This film stretches Mouret’s core themes to their limits, in what I think is his headiest film, to spin a web of chronicles about the schemas we adopt to cope with sensations like love and rejection, confidence and inadequacy, that are impenetrable from any psychological skills. It’s also his most self-reflexive film, a multi-faceted narrative about how our own collected stories are what make life worth living. A character at the start declares that he wants to write modern stories about “feeling”, something Mouret has spent his career doing, identifying how we attempt to make the abstract tangible and grow as a result of these experiences. It’s so wonderful that these characters have their stories, just as it is that we have our own, but it’s a gift that Mouret can create art to share these with us, to help us make sense of our own narratives. This social process- directly, or incredibly via cinematic consumption- is what life, and art, is all about.

This is also Mouret’s most ‘Woody Allen’ film (complete with a nod to Crimes and Misdemeanors with its bifurcated accounts, where one story involves editing a film- which posits philosophies that directly challenge the characters’ emotional reactions onscreen in hilarious contrasts), imbuing Allen’s ethereal romanticism with Desplechin-y convoluted layers of narrative drowned in philosophical and psychological paradoxes. The film is like a series of shorts a la Tout le monde a raison spliced together, yielding sexual and romantic dynamics, spiritual awakenings bursting bubbles of obsessive anxieties by finding beauty as truth in the mundane, skepticism on how to approach the social world as overwhelming, but communicated in a fleeting, exuberant manner that treats life as sublime even when it hurts.

This presentation is only manageable from the protection of an objective lens to frame the story, and Mouret finds more of his typical humor examining the belief systems that keep us at a distance socially and romantically, born from insecurities that cause us to overthink and self-destruct against the grain of our desires (the dissection of a ‘sigh’ between partners is a blast here, Mouret doubling down on his observations for how our fragile selves evaluate behavior ironically in intimacies with those we can’t read). Of course actual honest communication is seen as a heavenly gift when one breaks from their own introverted perspective. It's classic Mouret, making a romantic comedy sourced in the space of individualism- our inescapable neurotic pits of angst and subjective perspective as truths, trying to bridge outside of ourselves to another but gravitated to doing so on our terms, naturally rooted in the limited scope of our capabilities.
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The explanation of the "doorbell ring" incident, for example, hilariously and tragically conveys how chance and rigidities, be they superstitious constructed internal logic or fear-based protective stances, can together formulate our fates. The idea of a dating app based completely on chance is funny because it eliminates that controlling, self-imposing element but also suggests these traits as irresistible.

Mouret imbues another favorite theme in the question of 'fate'- of posturing at the concept of fate to explain what is too perfect for this world. On several occasions Mouret manages to actualize this “feeling” framed in gorgeous shots, my favorite being Jenna Thiam as Sandra emerging into the barely lit darkness, thirsty for a glass of water at the same time Maxime is- the surrogate view from his position freezes time like these moments seem to do in real life, bringing forth a sign of the spiritual in the form of flesh, inexplicable but present and attainable. Of course, this meditative liberating moment then transitions into an overthinking mechanical lovemaking session where Maxime removes himself from the present to obsessively engage sexually the way his friend told him to!
This transition seems to emulate Mouret’s entire thesis of life: the ping-pong between the neurotic and the attentive; the dichotomous readings of love and life as playgrounds or serious endeavors. These conversations the characters have, that we have with ourselves, demand we take these feelings both seriously and let go playfully, that we can hold two contradictory reactions together but often not at once- a cyclical adjustment where we accept each view at different points of time. The continuous wavering between trusting your feelings blindly and overanalyzing them anxiously is perhaps a fate for many of us in the western world, but I always sense that Mouret finds it an existential blessing to have this ongoing challenge with no finite end.

Per usual, the characters are all well-meaning, good people who are genuinely trying to do right even if they’re caught up in themselves and not wholly conscious to how fear clouds their perspectives and defines their personal truths. The desire to control out of fear, to use reason and willpower to fight transcendental connection, is relatable but never mean-spirited. We take risks when playing social roles without being able to foresee the consequences, and in the most recycled thematic Mouret segment, a role-playing story sparks authentic feeling from inauthentic pretending.
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There’s a great scene where, after sharing their respective love affair stories with one another, the central non-couple go sightseeing, silently glancing at physical, concrete art- something palpable but enigmatic at once- giving each person an individualized experience that we cannot know the details of but can feel the energy from our vantage points. They are deeply unnerved, sensing the sexual tension in silence, but each character is also having a unique relationship in this moment, imbedded within their connective one of fusing energies. This seems to be as good a metaphor for what Mouret believes in as any- and of course their own love affair causes each to break their respective rules professed earlier in the film!

For the all the comedy there are some stories rooted in deep tragedy, ones where we become resigned to isolate ourselves by choice or by force, with the optimistic resilience that we can find warmth in the possibilities outside of our narcissisms: anti-possession, unconditional self-love and forgiveness, choice to love on our own terms. Best of all, this revelation from Louise is also inspired by art- ironically from the same philosophical documentary from earlier, that contrasted feelings in the opposite direction toward dysregulation from a character unwilling to abandon her terms of endearment, but now inspires someone to 'let go' and find poise in generous love, that gives to the self by giving to others (I love the line, “what you think it selfless isn’t all that selfless”).
This is one of many threads Mouret weaves into his film to translate growth: what was once an unbearable ethos triggering reluctance is now acceptable and encouraging movement in the direction of self-actualization. Again, I think of the two characters looking at the sculptures and feeling different things together and apart. So in the spirit of the film, I probably saw this movie differently than others, and I look forward to other readings to make for a fuller life.
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I love how the end mirrors the story from the first half, putting Maxime back in the same exact position as he was before - but will this one have a happier ending? There isn’t one right path, but several, as François says. Sometimes you just need to follow one with confidence (and get lucky with reciprocity!) but of course the characters make choices and Daphné winds up mirroring Louise’s revelation in the final scene, loving by omission. A happy ending of sorts, but perhaps the happiest one possible, given that the characters picked their paths. Mouret seems to be suggesting that looking back isn't good to do too often, but from time to time is unstoppable, is part of what makes us human, and makes us grateful for the life we chose and for the secrets we all have as individualized passions within, which are not to be ashamed of but cherished. Or maybe the meaning is found in the oscillations between distress and acceptance, suffering and grace, and the necessity of both the ying and the yang to feel whole and engender serenity.

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domino harvey
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#77 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jan 21, 2021 6:45 pm

There is now a version with the correct aspect ratio available on back channels, with synced subs

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soundchaser
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#78 Post by soundchaser » Thu Jan 21, 2021 6:48 pm

...and with added PAL speedup!

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domino harvey
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#79 Post by domino harvey » Thu Jan 21, 2021 6:51 pm

I mean, so do like half of the films we have from him on back channels...

Also, this film just won the top Lumiere prize in France (kind of their Golden Globes to the Cesars' Oscars)!

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#80 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Jan 21, 2021 7:01 pm

It's been swimming around in my mind for the last month so it'll be nice to revisit in the correct AR, though I wasn't bothered by the initial copy after the first few minutes. I think this will be the film to put Mouret "on the map" so to speak (and it seems to be already gaining momentum in the public spheres). The Woody Allen comparisons, down to how he edits and shoots the film, will start rolling in if they haven't already- and if this one isn't picked up for U.S. distribution we may as well throw in the towel of hope

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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#81 Post by Glowingwabbit » Tue Jan 26, 2021 12:02 pm

I haven't checked it yet myself but it looks like a version with the correct AR and without the PAL speed-up is now circulating on back channels

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domino harvey
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#82 Post by domino harvey » Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:16 pm

Mouret’s film just swept up at the Cesar awards, with thirteen nominations!

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#83 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:38 pm

That's great to hear, though not surprising considering the film's widespread appeal- I bet it'll win some key ones too. Hopefully this'll gain traction and become eligible for the Oscars international film category next awards season (after it gets its inevitable U.S. release). I have a feeling this is just the beginning of a long snowball effect.

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domino harvey
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#84 Post by domino harvey » Wed Feb 10, 2021 11:58 pm

With that number I believe it is now tied as the most nominated film in the history of the award

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soundchaser
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#85 Post by soundchaser » Thu Feb 11, 2021 12:03 am

I hope that when Mouret’s a big-time Oscar winner he doesn’t forget this little thread that could.

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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#86 Post by soundchaser » Thu Feb 11, 2021 2:20 am

Ok, so poked a little bit by the news, I decided to finally watch Les choses qu’on dit, Les choses qu’on fait tonight, and it is just brilliant. Possibly my favorite Mouret. I’m not sure I can sum things up as eloquently as TWBB did above, but here are a few surface-level observations immediately after viewing:

The structure is incredible — I love how Mouret eases us into the bifurcated narrative
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only to then add *additional* angles to the story that complicate our understanding of both affairs as well as the frame around them. It’s a similar trick to the one he pulled off in Shall We Kiss?, except here it launches the film into the fucking stratosphere. It also cements to me that this is a film in many ways about filmmaking — to play off of TWBB’s idea that “ our own collected stories are what make life worth living” — and I think the documentary (edited by someone in love with the person directing it) returning in ways I doubt anyone would foresee is key to understanding that our stories are important in part because of *how* we tell them, and who hears/sees them.
Very jumbled thoughts that will probably be swimming around for a while, but one thing I am certain of: Laurent Desmet deserves every award for cinematography possible here. The lighting is just beyond words.

(Also the American title is terrible, but I’ve come to expect that with Mouret’s films. Shame!)

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#87 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Feb 11, 2021 2:31 am

Great thoughts, soundchaser! The narrative structure really is special, which is why I'll be surprised if Mouret doesn't win the original screenplay Cesar (this is the kind of script that the Oscars might also reward with a nom if/when the time comes), reminding me of Woody Allen by way of Borges, or more recently Llinás. He directs the hell out of it, but it's the writing that I predict will be the catalyst to open the world's eyes to Mouret's genius, and then hopefully trigger an evaluation of his work which has been strong in the writing department for a long time now

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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#88 Post by soundchaser » Thu Feb 11, 2021 2:44 am

The writing deserves all sorts of praise, although I’m hard-pressed to see Oscars voters really getting it in a way that will lead to anything other than a token Foreign Language nod. (If the Letterboxd reviews are anything to go by, that is.) It does feel very special, though, and I agree that it should, in a just world, be the film to finally sell Mouret to audiences outside of France.

(And to anyone intrigued by my new avatar, well, there’s a whole two-hour film of scenes this gorgeous waiting for you.)

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therewillbeblus
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#89 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Feb 11, 2021 2:57 am

soundchaser wrote:
Thu Feb 11, 2021 2:44 am
(And to anyone intrigued by my new avatar, well, there’s a whole two-hour film of scenes this gorgeous waiting for you.)
If I'm not mistaken that's from my favorite scene in the film!
therewillbeblus wrote:
Sun Dec 27, 2020 2:32 am
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Jenna Thiam as Sandra emerging into the barely lit darkness, thirsty for a glass of water at the same time Maxime is- the surrogate view from his position freezes time like these moments seem to do in real life, bringing forth a sign of the spiritual in the form of flesh, inexplicable but present and attainable.
although I find myself coming back most to
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the subplot of the ex-wife 'hiring' the stranger to play-act as her new beau, told from his POV, which emphasizes Mouret's keen eye into all the opportunities for connection and affection in this world that exist in our peripheries.
Truly a film that effortlessly spotlights the infinite treasure of spiritual experiences in the corporeal mundanity of everyday life

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soundchaser
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#90 Post by soundchaser » Thu Feb 11, 2021 3:00 am

That’s the one! And yes, the second moment you single out is where the film totally knocked me for a loop. Who else would conceive a scene like that, much less tell it from that perspective?

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tenia
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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#91 Post by tenia » Thu Feb 11, 2021 6:55 am

domino harvey wrote:With that number I believe it is now tied as the most nominated film in the history of the award
Which is a huge part due to the current situation and the lack of other serious contenders. Not saying the movie doesn't deserve lots of noms though, but some of the Cesars noms this year seem to be more concentrated because of this rather than the movies themselves.

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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#92 Post by therewillbeblus » Wed Feb 17, 2021 2:52 am

Rewatched Les choses qu’on dit, Les choses qu’on fait tonight in the correct AR and found myself struck by two things:

1. The many faces of neuroticism and its polar consequences.
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The documentary talks about how the power of forgiveness usurps death, and the filmmaker cries at the screening of Flowers of St. Francis suggesting an ideal of freedom in selflessness. This concept is attempted to be put into practice by many if not all of the characters, but they all default to meticulous obsession. The ex-wife is a great example of a character who tries so hard to be selfless that she ironically creates an elaborate game with profound effort in order to do so, a paradoxical process in self-obsessing to achieve self-sacrifice. Of course this winds up serving characters well too- as Francois only is able to work up the courage to act on gut instinct in asking out Daphne through attending to his compulsive, anxious, preoccupied thoughts and feelings; yet Maxime and Sandra miss their opportunity at a romance by each hyperfocusing on the amount of doorbell rings from the same neurotic impulse. Stéphane says of the dinner that "by being somebody else I could finally be myself"- reinforcing how the endeavor of trying hard to be present allows a strain of liberation; and then you have Maxime unable to feel that liberation when he finally has sex with Sandra. It's typical Mouret to not shame anyone, nor provide a clear formula for solving life, but the beauty of these infinite contradictions is that they're everywhere and a part of all of our stories.
I do think that Mouret sees love as a higher power that offers us a spiritual reprieve from our anxieties, but its a force that wrestles with that sober psychology inescapably and endlessly.

2. The Cesar acting noms continue to puzzle me (well, not the leads), as Sandra Thiam is easily the best performer in this film, with Guillaume Gouix a close second (the way he carries himself in posture around the house during their first fight is a hysterical physical perf), yet neither were nominated at the Cesars over other performers. Thiam especially gets the best part and does so much with her role, it's a shame she wasn't recognized.

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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#93 Post by domino harvey » Wed Feb 24, 2021 3:40 pm

I am less effusive than soundchaser and TWBB, but Les choses qu'on dit, les choses qu'on fait is indeed another winner from Mouret, to the surprise of no one. I was amused at how it starts out as a self-conscious realization of every "Rohmer" label a lazy critic has attached to Mouret since the beginning before veering off into an intriguing study in materializing that research that found you can make a stranger fall in love with you by sharing deeply personal stories. And given the throughline I see running through Mouret's work, it will probably be an additional non-surprise that in the last act Émilie Dequenne walks away with the film in her full-throated embodiment of Mouret's self-driven actualizations. The reveal and recontextualization in her scenes is quite moving, as is Mouret's use of the classical Hollywood motif of the teary farewell kiss at the train station (a realization of the old Hollywood movies Niels Schneider is constantly shown watching with Jenna Thiam?)-- though here we have a somber and not unhappy but not exactly storybook ending for all involved.

As much as I'd love to see Mouret Mania sweep the states, y'all, we'll be lucky if this even makes it here to rent on Amazon Prime-- I don't think enough here is different from any other Mouret to get a distro interested, and there are plenty of Cesar faves that were more marketable and still never found their way here

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Re: Emmanuel Mouret

#94 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Feb 24, 2021 5:46 pm

Maybe there will be a Hong Sang-soo turn of events and in a decade the dam will break and we'll get a deluge of all of the films at once!

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