Monday 13 August 2012

Broken wings: "The Bird"

The Bird - like the Kristin Scott Thomas-starrer I've Loved You So Long from a few summers back - is one of those "what's her problem?" dramas that invites us to spend a good hour or so watching an enigmatic actress playing a character with issues we can only guess at, for the most part. Here, it's willowy Paltrow du Paris Sandrine Kiberlain as Anne, a woman in her late thirties living in sleepless seclusion somewhere in Bordeaux, where she's plagued each night by noises - perhaps those of the titular creature - coming from the walls and rafters of her poky granny flat. Anne has a job preparing food in the kitchens of an undisclosed institution, where she repeatedly turns down the advances of a lovestruck chef; from the way writer-director Yves Caumon shoots her sobbing at The Life of Oharu - surely a nod to Godard in Vivre Sa Vie, shooting Anna Karina crying at the sight of Falconetti's performance in The Passion of Joan of Arc - we sense his heroine is likewise feeling persecuted and emotionally vulnerable, self-evidently so when she throws herself at the burly, hobo-ish cinema patron sitting a few seats down from her. 

At which point, we might clench, anticipating another Breillat-ish study of a woman debasing herself in a desperate quest for affection - except that her shambling non-seducer is every bit as bemused by Anne's sudden forwardness as we are, and their encounter doesn't go anywhere, anyway. Soon we're back in the heroine's flat, where the fluttering in the walls continues, and Anne ends up taking a sledgehammer to her immediate vicinity, like an elegant variation on Gene Hackman's Harry Caul in The Conversation. You find yourself clinging to these allusions and references, since Caumon persists with his oblique strategies: there's a particularly gnomic conversation with the world's tiniest plumber, and even when we see Anne being prodded and poked by a doctor, we're not made privy to any immediate diagnosis. In doing so, the pleasures of The Bird - which include one lovely tracking shot through the French countryside cued by Anne's visit to her ex-husband, and an extended opportunity to watch Kiberlain, a naturally sympathetic performer and a fine advert for freckles, at work - come to be negated by the lingering background aggravation of knowing we're not going to get the full picture until late in the day. Patient-critic confidentiality means I cannot discuss what, exactly, is wrong with the heroine; all I can disclose is that the bird Anne eventually comes to liberate - attentive, wide-eyed, reliably hitting its marks - has a fleetness of foot and wing going for it, in a way the metaphor it's been cast to give life to really doesn't.

The Bird opens in selected cinemas from Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment