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The Girl (2000)
Director: Sande Zeig

A torrid affair between two women, a struggling artist and a flame-haired blues singer, upsets a man who has a thing for the girl.

The Girl (2000)

Room in Paris

I guess I should describe what the filmmaker described as her goals. She wanted to make a noir love story and to ‘abstract‘ it, making it pure, and therefore effective.

This isn’t noir as I understand it, but that does not matter in this equation. She can call things whatever she wants, I suppose. But there seems to be a lack of understanding about what works, about the craft of abstraction.

Noir is a specific abstraction technique, an integrated set of narrative techniques that connects at a more basic level than genre (I think). The common notion of ‘abstract‘ is simplification, removed from reality, but every story is an abstraction, and every theatrical and cinematic convention a way of manipulating abstracted representations.

Jarmusch and the Andersons make things that work because they understand this process that instead of simplifying, increases depth through clarity. The ‘abstraction‘ here is just a matter of plainness, and it doesn’t work. But quite apart from what the filmmaker thought she was doing, it could have worked, because there is the device of the artist.

The girl of the title is a performing artist, wanting to be in a movie. She uses sex to advance her ‘career‘ and what we see is her captured by an abusive man. The relationship IS effectively abstracted by reducing the men to one man, surrounding by similar looking guys all of whom are silent. The sex, the control are all offscreen and imagined. She sings in his night club, sings of love.

She is approached by a woman — a painter — who becomes obsessed with her. We see the relationship between the two. The girl consumes her pleasure casually, without an awareness of how to grasp love. The artist has a real partner who she deeply loves, and into whose arms she returns every night. But that is deep and true, while the obsession is hot and dangerous. The artist struggles to turn the experience into art; we have many indications that the quest for this artistic depth is what is driving her life of obsession in with the artist‘s skin and the attendant dangers. In this sense, it is less abstract than ‘La belle noiseuse,‘ or even ‘Maze.‘ Or even for that matter ‘Nightwatching,‘ ‘Pearl Earring‘ or ‘Stealing Beauty.‘

But our filmmaker gives us no narrative friction to allow us to follow this course. And so instead of abstraction, we get dimness.

Posted in 2012

Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.


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