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France/Germany 2012
Directed by
Alain Resnais
115 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Elaine Brennan O'Dwyer
4 stars

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

Synopsis: When word spreads that playwright Antoine d’Anthac has diee, some of his close friends carry out his last wish: to reprise their acting roles in his much-loved play, “Eurydice”.

At the beginning of Alain Resnais’s latest feature, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, we see a montage of phone calls in which the butler of renowned French playwright, Antoine d’Anthaic (Denis Podalydès), issues the news of his employer’s untimely death.  One by one, calls are received by Antoine’s former collaborators, a group of actors who have at some time or another performed a role in his play, "Eurydice". The parts of these actors are performed by France’s acting elite: Mathieu Almaric, Anne Consigny, Lambert Wilson, Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azéma (Resnais’s real-life spouse)…the list goes on. The characters play themselves, or a version of themselves, in a wonderful ‘who’s who’ of modern French cinema. They are each asked to convene at their late friend’s secluded mansion; shocked and saddened by Antoine’s passing, they all agree to the visit.

As the cast assembles at Antoine’s house, it is difficult to ignore the artifice of the setting. From the actors’ arrival, there is a sense of theatricality, hinting at events to come. Upon the butler’s request, the group gathers to view a filmed performance of Eurydice by an amateur theatre troupe. The play tells the tragic love story of Eurydice and Orephée, two youthful artists who meet one night and fall madly in love, but their pasts quickly catch up with them and things begin to fall apart. It is a story brimming with lust, passion and betrayal.

As the mourners watch the play onscreen they appear to become spellbound by what they see. At first they playfully recite familiar lines along with the actors, but gradually they get carried away and take turns to play out entire scenes. The house takes on different shapes, constantly adjusting to the scenes being performed. A spotlight shines on our players as though they were on a theatre stage as reality and illusion mingle, drawing us into the dream-like world without boundaries. For the mourners the past has been revived. Through their acting, they have been brought to another place. The eerie original music by Mark Snow brings an uncanny sense of time standing still. For a moment, reality is forgotten and all that remains is surreality. Enveloped in turn by their characters, life becomes a play for these distinguished thespians.

The film’s entire cast, without exception, brings exquisite emotion to this quirky picture. Director Resnais who came to fame over 50 years ago with Hiroshima, Mon Amour, shows his commitment to evolving his craft. At 91 years of age, he continues to transgress formal cinematic boundaries and demonstrate stylistic and narrative innovation. In You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet, the audience can feel his authorial presence. Like d’Anthaic's butler  , a ‘Wizard of Oz’-type figure, Resnais can be sensed, manipulating the actors and the action being played out. The film proves to be both a breath-taking exercise in film-making and a master class in acting. Right down to its cathartic end, it is a joy to watch.




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