Lenz returns to Paris to search for Madeleine it is no longer new. He meets Helena, and it is mad love. Between self-destruction, passion, jealousy, and wandering, in SPITE of THE NIGHT is not a film that tells the story but an experience as it is given to us to see and feel. Philippe Grandrieux continues his exploration of formal night, the body, impulses and emotions. A love film to death.

Although relatively unknown to the general public, Philippe Grandrieux is not at his first try. Videographer and filmmaker, Grandrieux like to explore different territories, either through its installations, fictions or documentaries. After several documentaries and experimental videos, he made a first fiction feature film, Dark, real ufo in the cinematic landscape, and that the singularity formally promised the rebirth of a “new life” (another title of the fiction of Grandrieux) to the cinema. Dark featured Marc Barbé into a serial killer helpless, and Elina Löwensohn (the favorite actress of Hal Hartley) victim of love. What troubled him above all in this film and that can also be found in his other fiction (and even in his documentaries) is how the director of questioning the image as the image and to create an ode to the senses, to the organic, the body crossed by the pleasure and torment. Because, yes, the cinema of Grandrieux is an organic, plant, strangely luminous. He films the forests of the wood, the bark, the earth as he films the body. It captures the light variable, indecisive, reflecting the color of the emotions. His films touch always the place where nait dizziness, loss, death and love. As if one wasn’t going without the other. As Philippe Grandrieux is a strong believer in the salvific love, the one who saves lands the most obscure, the most destructive leaves to speed up the road to the inexorable end.

Despite the night plunges us from the outset in a setting in weightlessness, where the characters hanging seem to float in the screen, surrounded by a halo of light. The voices whispered, whispered. Lenz enlace Lola, Louis enlace Lenz. Together they smoke crack and disappeared behind the billows of smoke and then out of our view. Slow fade to black. Lenz is in the subway. He looks at Helena asleep.

The camera follows the movements and faces in a framework where one also feels the weight of a body of Grandrieux holding the camera, a frame, fragmented, sensory, and sometimes blur, a framework that extends our gaze, forces us to see behind the darkness, behind the chairs and the faces broken. The cinema of Grandrieux ‘s experimental in the sense that it exalts the material, the body and the senses in the conjuring. The story occurs in the second plan, the characters mingle and clash in a ballet of hypnotic. Grandrieux fascinates in its report to the body which is not, as noted by the critic Raymond Bellour, without recalling that of Cassavetes (we of course think of Faces). It tames the body with his camera, approaches the most nearly to them, to their breaths as one. The image itself becomes the body.

Madeleine is the lost love of Lenz, the beautiful prostitute disappeared. Lena is the mistress of Louis but wants to possess Lenz, the better to annihilate them. Hélène lives with Paul, but his death-impulses and lead him into a network of sexual exploitation to the mores fatal. Lenz fleet between these women like on the screen in a wandering aerial and unreal. The characters intermingle and exist only in the moment, thereby avoiding any possibility of identification.

Here again we are in the organic, the present state of a character stripped of its history. The frustration in Grandrieux seems to be the inescapable passage to another possible, towards the light. The formal research takes over the narrative that remains, however, very written to better serve the place of the body in the image. Grandrieux does not give us to see a reality in a harsh light, but represents a new world between dream and nightmare made of shadows and lights, of fragments elusive that plunge us into a universe away from the usual codes. The issue is not one of good or evil but beautiful and well that of irrationality, the passions of the magnetic in which we can recognize in their essence (may be less in their form !).

The film has beautiful be forbidden under 16 years of age, he is no less of a sense of shame extreme beauty flagrant, far away from any obscenity. In SPITE of THE NIGHT is also a film that speaks to the collective memory, the books and pictures which we live and a place universal : that of abandonment, the same one who joined us each night in our dreams.

In a scene between Lenz and Vitali, the father of Lena at the origin of this network of sexual exploitation underground, we see the image of Vitali (Johan Leysen) overlap with those of fish with graceful movements. Vitali said to Lenz :

The fish express their nature fully, even in captivity. They are driven solely by the need of their instinct. They are absolutely there in every moment, deeply themselves, very real. (…) It is impossible for us, because we know we’re going to die”.

Philippe Grandrieux also the author of a beautiful portrait documentary about Masao Hadachi (It may be that beauty has strengthened our resolve) or the spellbinding White epilepsy does not leave unscathed. His films, we live, we contaminate and it is perhaps this last quote that best explains the attempt of Philippe Grandrieux, that of the rise of the dark on the true nature of beings, their instincts and their fears.

Anne-Laure Farges

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