Our Stars / The Little God

| November 14, 2006

Our Stars raises one big question, yet leaves the viewer with many more, mostly about his intentions. Who owns the images of those we see on screen? The power of film lies with the viewer, who incorporates the visuals into a personal narrative based on experience, longing, loss. But that is filtered through the director, whose choice of how images are presented determines the viewer’s experience.
Initially a homage to silent era starlets, Lemaitre here wonders what their thoughts and feelings were, and what would our experience of them be had they been allowed to speak for themselves beyond their facial iconography. Who owns Lilian Gish, Louise Brooks? The face is a silent soundtrack, yet more if allowed greater freedom. He posits the question, then offers a solution:
With the cooperation of the audience, he will present a silent series of current avant-garde actresses, who in the future will be allowed to speak for themselves. Privacy will be ensured by the random insertion of their voices–their face and true voice will never be properly synched. This will allow a freedom of verbal expression, safely unattached to her true face. Visually, the film is a collage of faces of women who seem about to act or speak, and then are cut away from; mostly silent, there are English subtitles for the occasional French voice, then English subtitles strung out over the silence.
What is true here? The faces are manipulated by the director, distorted, colored, swirling. Did they themselves agree to not having their words on screen at the same time as their faces? Did they agree to be a part of the original collage? Collage itself lends to questions about ownership of the image. Is the audience cooperating in the liberation of the actress, or in the manipulation by the director?
Why are they “Our Stars”? Did not Gish and Brooks and Pickford “belong” to us as well? Does the actress, the artist, surrender ownership of themselves in any damaging way, to the audience?
Would our stars merely be revealing themselves to the director, who can then use their inner self as he pleases on screen in the same way he uses their faces?
Whatever the level of investment you care to make in Our Stars, it confronts you with questions that will keep you muttering whether your next stop after viewing is the bar, the bed or the bank. Too few movies these provoke this much thought, and one 22 minutes long at that.
The Little God is a surreal children’s story, told entirely in words on the screen. The story itself is about the ultimate silliness and futility of trying to name anything, since all is one, or could be, with the exercise of one’s power to name. The irony that such wisdom is being imparted solely through words, a sort of Buddhist tease that even pointing out possibilities is to become trapped in them.

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