Barocco (André Téchiné / France, 1976):

The arcane symbolism (reptiles, viscous ponds, elevators) serves André Téchiné's bravura technique in this neo-noir panorama, which suggests a Gallic version of Chinatown-Parallax View-Night Moves American paranoia but is in reality closer to an update of Robbe-Grillet's L'Immortelle. The formalist element is introduced with a tracking shot that frames the washed-up pugilist (Gerard Depardieu) between the ropes of the ring (Godard would take up the boxing jibes in Détective), the oneiric element is cemented as the hero is shot through the café window under a flurry of artificial snow. It's election time, the prizefighter and his gal (Isabelle Adjani) find themselves with a satchel of money and ominous parties on their trail after a murky "electoral trick"; Jean-Claude Brialy is the political bigwig giving his blessing to torture by sauna, Marie-France Pisier plies her trade at a Red Light District-style display, which comes equipped with crib and bawling baby. "You believe in resurrection?" The protagonist's role is taken over by the hired killer (Depardieu, now with shoe polish on his hair) who offed him, as befits this wacky anagram of Vertigo -- the switcheroo has the hitman gazing at his mirror reflection while his victim's coffin is lowered into the ground. Téchiné's somnambulism suggests characters suspended between realities just as the nation seems suspended between underground political forces, moving as if underwater as a nightclub band plays "On Se Voit Se Voir." Coppola's mid-period stylization is anticipated at various junctures, there's a pinch of Lynch in the joke, told to Adjani, about a man who dies twice, on earth of hunger and in Heaven of indigestion. ("Desire is a strange thing, no?") Despair and romanticism are the dueling poles, fused in a climax where confetti-strewn artifice is exalted by the craning camera as the rumbling of the approaching storm is heard. With Julien Guiomar, and Hélène Surgère.

--- Fernando F. Croce

Back to Reviews
Back Home