Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Another Man, Another Chance (Claude Lelouch, 1977)


Claude Lelouch’s Another Man, Another Chance feels almost dizzyingly expansive in its opening stretches, switching between a low-key Western starring James Caan as David Williams, a veterinarian who starts a new life after his wife is murdered, and a drama set in a war-devastated Paris with Genevieve Bujold; when the Bujold character, Jeanne Leroy, and her photographer husband decide to emigrate to the US, the two strands gradually coalesce (some of the plot details are directly recycled from Lelouch's biggest success Un homme et une femme). The film contains some outstanding period feeling – I’ve seldom for instance seen the centrality to the community of the regular stagecoach route evoked so fully – and striking single takes, such as an early one showcasing Caan’s horseriding and roping skills; the muted colour pallet and low-key acting (with close-ups of the principals kept to an extreme minimum) all work well. But Lelouch also throws in a regular stream of oddities, from a disconnected prologue with Caan playing a descendant of his main character, through the soundtrack’s recurringly jarring use of the famous notes from Beethoven’s Fifth, to an ending so low-key that it almost feels as if they just ran out of celluloid. Still, overall, the film crafts a distinctive emotional space, basing the relationship between the two (as far as one can tell – there’s not much to go on) more in mutual logic (by that point for example, they’re both single parents) than passion; Bujold’s regular recurrence to her native language, and insistence on trying to teach it to her rapidly Americanizing daughter, suggests their relationship will be inherently defined in part by distance and loss (the final voice over tells us that she never achieved her dream of returning to Paris). Lelouch has remained true to his idiosyncratic instincts and their consequent mixed results: for instance, his late film The Best Years of a Life contains some unforgettable close observation of the aged Jean-Louis Trintignant and Anouk Aimee, within a slack overall scheme incorporating ill-judged fantasy inserts.

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