Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Du cote d'Orouet (Jacques Rozier, 1971)

In outline, Jacques Rozier’s Du cote d’Orouet might sound very much like a Rohmer movie – three young women on summer vacation on the French coast, passing time doing nothing in particular (they’re in a rather desolate, under-populated spot), with a couple of guys eventually blended into the mix. But these aren’t Rohmer-type women – no one ever makes a literary reference (or barely reads a book) or engages in verbal philosophizing or self-examination. They’re there to have fun, captured delightfully in sequences where they crack themselves up by finding goofy ways to say “Orouet” or engage in other private jokes, or stuff their faces with eclairs. But the equation of vacation time at the beach/coast with ensuing fun doesn’t take care of itself, and waves of melancholy or emptiness might flow as easily as spiritual refreshment. At two and a half hours, the movie takes its time, sometimes just wryly observing, pretending to be a more straightforward project than it is, leaving much unsaid and unshown (there’s very little overt sexuality in the film, for one thing). But it becomes gradually clear that Rozier is musing on the annual vacation as an institution, and by extension on the nature of work and our relationship to it – by implication, the movie is more about the toll of the eleven months spent at work than about the month spent away from it. It implicitly asks: when one’s economic viability depends on subjugation to mind-numbing repetition and triviality, how can we expect to overcome that conditioning by following preconceived, mechanized notions of having a break from it? It’s only at the end though that we can sense this percolating in the mind of one of the women, and sense the existential crisis that could flow from that, if the machine of her life were to yield to it.

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