Salamandre, La (1971)

“The girl’s name is Rosemonde.”

Synopsis:
Two writer friends (Jean-Luc Bideau and Jacques Denis) research a contested news story concerning an enigmatic young woman (Bulle Ogier) who may have deliberately shot her uncle.

Genres:

Review:
Alain Tanner’s second feature film provocatively explores the nature of truth in storytelling, and the ways in which personal involvement inevitably skews our perception. While not as pointed as his debut film — Charles, Dead or Alive (1969) — or as openly humorous as his later, more accessible ensemble film (Jonah, Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000), La Salamandre remains a classic entry in Tanner’s unusual oeuvre, and is worth watching at least once.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Bulle Ogier as the seductive, sullen Rosemonde
  • An unromanticized look at the boredom and limited prospects of working-class life
  • A clever satire on the writing process and “truth” in reporting

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

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One Response to “Salamandre, La (1971)”

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Apparently I’m not much of a Tanner fan. I looked back at what I said about his other films (the ones I’ve seen) – and I guess I don’t have much of a feel for what he does.

    In the case of this particular film… I rather liked the premise as it unveiled itself (two male characters working on a ‘true story’ writing project that will result in a collaborative truth combined from different angles) – and, for awhile, as the film progressed along those lines, I started to feel confident that *that* was where the storyline would stay.

    But the film, in its latter half, goes to a different and more challenging place (which is fine… except that I was somewhat bored by the way the challenge plays out). In constructing their portrait of Ogier, the two men realize that – whether capturing their ‘subject’ via facts or fantasy – their project will fail because Ogier (as Denis observes) is not unlike a salamander (whose nature is to be deceptive in how it appears).

    The two men do eventually get where they ultimately want to be with their subject but – it seems to me – at the cost of the film’s viewers, as well as Tanner’s film itself. The film seems to want to make a statement about the impossibility of capturing the truth about another human being – but I daresay the process becomes much easier and rather more reliable if the person you’re documenting isn’t crazy to begin with.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call this film pretentious. There’s a marked intelligence here and the film may work for some on the level of a ‘brain-tease’. But its uneven tone and indifferent approach to clarity can make for a frustrating watch.

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