Saturday, October 13, 2018

...If You Want It

Films: La Guerre est Finie (The War is Over)
Format: DVD from Elmhurst Public Library through OCLC WorldCat on The New Portable.

The experiment with OCLC WorldCat continues to turn up movies that I haven’t otherwise been able to get. At this point, my list of unwatched Oscar films falls into three categories: films from last year, films I haven’t wanted to watch yet, and films I can’t find. Until about a week ago, La Guerre est Finie fit into that third category. Now that I have it, it might be more at home in the second box. This isn’t an easy film for a number of reasons. It’s very slow. It’s also directed by Alain Resnais. Resnais made Night and Fog, one of the most brutal and ugly films about the Holocaust in existence. It’s a one-and-done film, the sort of thing that everyone should see once. He also made Last Year at Marienbad, a film so loathsomely moronic that it turned this blog from being rated PG-13 to being rated R.

Diego Mora (Yves Montand) has dedicated much of his life to fighting against Francoist Spain. Now, years after the original revolution, he is still acting as a communist revolutionary despite the implicit death sentence these activities carry with them. Diego actually lives in Paris, but makes his way back into Spain regularly using the passport of another man. After this many years, though, he is no longer as convinced of his position as he was. He is tired of always fighting and tired of always being on the run. More seriously, he is concerned that the new underground is more extremist and is using unfavorable tactics.

In fact, when he is stopped crossing back into France, he finally encounters Nadine Sallanches (Genevieve Bujold), the daughter of the man whose passport he is using. He learns that she is involved with an extremist group that is planning a violent action in Spain. He disagrees with the tactic and also discovers that the movement is sending him to Barcelona, potentially into serious danger and possibly in an effort to get rid of him. He plans to go, while his longtime paramour Marianne (Ingrid Thulin) attempts to warn him before he is arrested.

Here’s the thing—with a plot like that, La Guerre est Finie should be incredibly interesting and exciting, filled with intrigue and spyish skullduggery. And it’s really, really not. It’s incredibly slow. The bulk of the movie seems to be little more than just Diego trying to figure out what he should do.

An additional problem is that I have a great deal of trouble caring very much about what is happening. Certainly, some of that is on me. If I knew more about the Spanish Civil War, I might have a firmer opinion of the people involved in this movie. On the other hand, I’m not sure that that’s going to help me a great deal. Honestly, which side do you support in that conflict? The side that has a history of being an oppressive regime that murders anyone who disagrees with it or the side that has a history of being an oppressive regime that murders anyone who disagrees with it?

In truth, this is probably a better movie than I want to credit it with being. I tend to like Yves Montand, and I have nothing against Genevieve Bujold or Ingrid Thulin. I am generally suspicious of Alain Resnais, though, and that might be the reason I’m having trouble endorsing this completely.

I suppose the biggest piece of evidence that there’s not a lot here despite the two-hour running time is that I’m literally out of things to say about it here.

Why to watch La Guerre est Finie: Do you have enough depressing war-ish movies in your life?
Why not to watch: Alain Resnais is hit-or-miss.

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