Tuesday, September 08, 2015

ARIA - "Abaris ou les Boréades" segment (1987) -
Robert Altman


Altman's contribution to this compilation film of opera-inspired shorts trains the camera solely on the audience for the duration of a 1700's Rameau performance, an interesting if one-note experiment livened by the fact that the crowd is comprised entirely of lunatic asylum inmates. We watch the show play out on their disturbed faces as the camera swirls about the theatre. And that's about it.

Like most anthology flicks (Paris, Je Taime, etc.) Aria is a hit or miss affair depending on who's doing the directing. It's more hits than misses. Directors Nic Roeg, Franc Roddam and Ken Russell turning in visually sumptuous shorts. Julian Temple turning in a painfully obvious (though still amusing) segment with Buck Henry and Beverly D'Angelo. Surprisingly, my favorite of the bunch was Jean-Luc Godard's, a director whose generally pretentious, insufferable output post-'70s I've avoided like the plague. This one has a sense of humor. His "Armide" is set entirely in a Parisian gym in which two women who look like beautiful, porcelain refugees from an Antonioni movie attempt to seduce a bunch of disinterested beefcake bodybuilders who look like ex-pats from Pain and Gain. A perfect marriage of conceptualism and carnality. Jean-Luc meets Michael Bay.

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