Cannes 2012 Review: You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!
The English translation of Vous N’avez Encore Rien Vu, director Alain Resnais contribution to the Cannes Film Festival competition, may be a bit too generous. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet! is given the apostrophe and the exclamation point, but a descriptor of the film it is not, likely because the more apt phrase, ‘You Won’t See Much of Anything,’ doesn’t get anyone’s toes a-tapping.
That is not to say that much anticipated film from France is boring or dull, but it is more prone for a stage, and not ripe for translation.
When a rich and famous French writer dies unexpectedly, he last wishes are esoteric, calling forth a dozen old friends with whom he worked over the years on his most famous work, Eurydice. His play, based on the Greek myth and adapted for France, complete with metro stations and cafes, is the prevailing bond between his guests who have assembled at one of his apparently many, many houses around the world.
The butler, more goofy than mysterious, hosts this meeting of the acting minds, explaining the deceased’s desires and playing for the group a farewell video of their friend. In it, he explains that prior to death, he received a copy of his play performed by a young troupe, and if his guests would ever be so kind as to review and judge, and deem the interpretation worthy of the writing.
Funnily enough (and right according to plan), as the play is performance by tape by this ambitious clan of youngsters, the actors in attendance fall into their former roles, acting in company with and in place of those on the screen. And so Mr. Resnais, slightly clever, has a show about a show, alongside another show.
The show within the show is one about love and trust, as young Eurydice and Orpheus chance meet, fall in love, and elope. Questions of trust immediately arise, as the past creeps back into the present, and death and mystery follow the couple wherever they go.
We have two Eurydice, two Orpheus, and various other characters performing in an empty room in a boring castle that occasionally transforms into an equally dull café, station, or hotel room. It is ultimately a stage show on the big screen.
The minimalist approach is intended, however, as the focus of the film is the writing, and the performance. Which leads the second problem, one that cannot be helped at all: when such a focus is on acting and dialogue, the power of both is tempered when translated to subtitles below the screen.
Still, the actors are superb: Mathieu Amalric is perhaps the most impressive, playing a seedy, mysterious cloaked gentleman privy to knowledge of love and life, and of death and beyond. Simple in size and scope, but intense in word, You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet! is surely different, but doesn’t warrant the exclamation mark it so proudly wields.