Review: Roaring 20’s
- By way of a single sequence shot which travels the summertime streets of Paris, Elisabeth Vogler delivers a successful conceptual film which holds up a composite mirror to a multifarious society
"It’s like a game that you set up bit by bit – Just like in real life, you’re the one who invites the camera into your world". Unveiled in a world premiere within the Tribeca Film Festival’s International Narrative competition, Roaring 20’s [+see also:
film profile] by Elisabeth Vogler (a pseudonym borrowed from Liv Ullmann’s character in the Bergman film Persona and a name which the French director claims as a collective identity) never conceals its playful narrative style or its desire to make new connections and try its hand at an alternative approach (where, much like in a chess game, anyone can find themselves face to face with an international master), which sees the “small things talked about as if they were huge", with a view to weaving some sort of ceremonial blanket which can envelop the many types of human beings inhabiting a sizeable capital like Paris.
Bring these many ambitious ingredients together in a single sequence shot (whizzing from rue de Rivoli to the Louvre pyramid, from the quays of the Seine to the Pont-Neuf bridge, from Chatelet metro station to that of République, from the Saint-Martin Canal and onwards to Belleville, before finishing at altitude in Buttes-Chaumont Park) and whisk the audience away on a journey in the wake of 23 characters who cross paths and take turns in the spotlight, either alone or forming a duo to chat about this and that, each of them wrapped up in their own individuality and caught up in the moment, and you end up with a rather fascinating, city-based road movie that’s both metaphysical and personal, realist and symbolic.
It’s a concept film which definitely thinks quite highly of itself, and which claims to represent the mosaic of modern and innovative youth inhabiting Paris ("I prefer focusing my energy on creating new myths rather than wasting my time trying to destroy the old ones"), but ultimately it comes out on top, because the movie’s charm goes far beyond its remarkable achievements as a technical tour de force. Indeed, Vogler offers the audience an authentic taste of Paris: day-to-day wellbeing or illbeing is discussed, alongside hypnosis, art, racism, relationships, poverty, things called into question, changes in direction, adolescence, marriage, and much, much more… We see people walking along the quays, jumping on the metro (with its crazy homeless population), on bikes, on scooters, people running, crying, hugging, singing, loving and, above all, chatting. It’s summertime and the "light dances across our thoughts, caressing walls and reflections".
Banking on the fact that neutrality is a far richer and more sincere reality than an uncovered face ("there’s me and the world, I’m projected into it, I’m an accelerator but, at the same time, I’m nothing"), Elisabeth Vogler does a brilliant job of directing this puzzle which is guided by a single thread and which turns out to be something of a daytime, Parisian version (though unfolding in an entirely different narrative style) of the immersion into night-time Berlin characterising Sebastian Schipper’s Victoria [+see also:
interview: Sebastian Schipper
film profile]. The French filmmaker willingly lays all his cards and his arcane knowledge on the table, and whilst this might annoy certain viewers, his ostentatious nerve ultimately results in a highly convincing, fresh feature which is alive with a raft of shared emotions. As for Elisabeth Vogler being the film prophet he claims to be, only time will tell if this is the case…
(Translated from French)
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