The artist’s muse takes centre stage in Never Ever
by Gonzalo Suárez
- VENICE 2016: French director Benoît Jacquot returns to Venice with his latest full-length feature, adapted for the big screen from a novella by Don DeLillo by its own star, Julia Roy
Never Ever [+see also:
film profile], the latest film from prolific French director Benoît Jacquot, premièred out of competition today in Venice, and in just a few days audiences across the pond will be able to catch it at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film marks Jacquot’s return to the Venice Biennale two years after making a play for the Golden Lion with Three Hearts [+see also:
interview: Benoît Jacquot
Never Ever is an adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novella The Body Artist, with a screenplay written by Julia Roy at the behest of the director himself. Alongside Mathieu Amalric, the Franco-Austrian actress also stars in this story of a love affair between two artists. Rey is a film director; Laura is a theatre actress. Two events, a screening of one of his films (which he attends with his pet actress and lover Isabella [Jeanne Balibar] on his arm) and an act which she carries out alone at the very same moment and in the very same building, a few storeys up, cause their destinies to become irrevocably intertwined. This will be the first night that Laura spends in the house of the man who “stole her audience.” The crescendo of their new life together, between the rough grey and brown walls of this tucked-away house by the sea, will peak in marriage, despite the substantial age difference between them. One day, however, Rey is killed in a motorcycle accident and Laura, who has until now devoted herself to the role of muse, finds herself alone in a space steeped in absence and the mysteries that have always surrounded Rey.
In the second half of the film, portraying Laura’s grief, Benoît Jacquot sets up a role play between the living woman, the dead man and their ghosts, making good use of the conventions of genre cinema to maintain the tension as this strange tenant finds herself in a haunted house: the noise and untidiness in the bedroom of the downstairs flat, the secrets of Rey’s now-empty office, the wind, the ravens, the computer image of traffic used as a sleeping aid ... All the while, the camera’s calculated movements, the suspenseful score and the dance between forward and reverse shots blur the boundaries between the identities of these spectral characters. Nonetheless, the passing minutes don’t seem to bring any real advances in the plot; the audience is left with the feeling that the promises of the film’s mysterious ambience have not quite been fulfilled; and Jacquot’s stylistic fancy and legerdemain simply serve as an underpinning to the commendable cinematic performance of Julia Roy. You could do worse.
(Translated from Spanish)