by Ryland Walker Knight
[The Resnais series playing at the PFA this November and December is part of a broader, traveling retrospective with a concurrent run in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center and a proposed stop at the newly renovated Museum of the Moving Image in early 2010.]
Some might call Stavinsky... a lavish lark. I called it a "goof" walking out. But its easy charisma, rubbed off Belmondo's debonair superstardom, does not devalue its interest in history (histories, stories) or, again, memory. Though there is no recovery here. The past doesn't loom for Sacha-Alex-Serge; he won't allow it. However, for that matter, he can't out run it. The ellipses matter at the end of the title: they indicate a path, or something unsaid. They can also signal a sigh, as most people floating around Belmondo do just that and shake their heads, calling him out as crazy—sick, Lonsdale's doctor insists—a supreme narcissist megalomaniac. Redundant, yes, but some people are—some people, as it happens, are a sickness no matter their charitable spirit or the love they inspire. This one, this man of a million names, this fake 'stache man with nothing but a grin, this sick sadness can't seem to figure it straight. Belmondo plays him like he believes him. Belmondo knows he's lying, or showing off for ill, but, like he tells that German actress, he's out to deliver happiness (not pleasure) to those around him as equally as he aims to tickle himself with each fancy before it leaves him, caught in an eddy while he floats on. —But what of that silent Trotsky hovering on the sidelines? What's his role? Red herring? Not quite. He's more like an idea, a sign of other quashed dreams. Trotsky inspires his circle but otherwise wrecks little havoc in centers that ripple out, causing a political ruckus, and, it seems, an atmosphere rife for toppling; this France careens, no doubt, towards The War a mess. Its history, as embodied by Boyer's Baron, cannot read the present for signs of the future, nor react with much beyond disbelief. Perhaps that's the price of class honor rolls and their imagined debts: such faith yields ruins, or graves. The Baron, after all, quotes Giraudoux's spectre at the close to signal his own end, to nod at an era he knew and defined now drowned by time.