Alain Resnais' next-to-last film was the one that first suggested, in its own structure and construction, that the French director was presenting a sort of "artistic testament", in the process launching observers into wondering whether he was saying goodbye in his own inimitable you. As we now know, You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet was not Mr. Resnais' final film - there was still the more light-hearted and less mournful, though equally melancholy, Life of Riley to come, but that plays more like a "coda" to this more mysterious and intriguing work.
For You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet, Mr. Resnais uses the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as reworked by playwright Jean Anouilh to speak of art as the universal translation of human experience, as a connecting tissue that makes sense of life and death. Upon learning that the renowned stage director Antoine d'Anthac (Denis Podalydès) has died, a number of actors who worked with him in different productions of his reading of Mr. Anouilh's Eurydice are called to his final residence to hear his will and carry out his final desires: to watch the filmed rehearsals of a new production of the play, to decide whether it still makes sense to stage it once more. (For that purpose, the director asked Bruno Podalydès to create and direct a separate production of the play, whose footage was then interwoven into the film).
The stately manor they're assembled in thus becomes, at the same time, a rehearsal room and a haunted house, peopled by the ghost of the late Antoine, addressing them from a video message shot in that very same great hall, but also by the different incarnations of the love story between Orpheus and Eurydice: as played on-screen by the young actors from the Compagnie de la Colombe (Vimala Pons and Sylvain Dieuaide), and as remembered in the hall by the actors who played it in different productions (Sabine Azéma and Pierre Arditi, and Anne Consigny and Lambert Wilson). In one of Mr. Resnais' loveliest meta-twists in the entire film, the ensemble cast (mainly composed of regulars in his revolving company of actors) effectively play themselves, or versions of themselves under their real names; and find themselves actually performing the dialogue and the stage directions in the hall as the filmed rehearsal is being screened - as if they were inhabited by the ineffable spirit of the characters being transported from screen to stage and vice-versa.
Everything is thus constantly shifting through three different levels, three different interpretations of the same dialogue, with the manor itself undergoing visual transformations depending on who Mr. Resnais is focussing on at the moment, as the doubling effect and constant mise en abîme present entirely different ways of getting at the same emotion. You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet thus becomes a stunning master-class both in acting and in narrative presentation, with the trickster director at his best, though one that is dampened by the somewhat perfunctory, more functional than inspired bookends for the plot; there is a sense (as indeed there was as well in Life of Riley) that Mr. Resnais was more interested in the film's core device of different performance levels than in how to get there, cutting to the chase in a way that is slightly more arid than in some of his most recent films. And yet, for all that, this is definitive proof (if any more were needed) that Alain Resnais kept his fascination and playfulness right up until the end, and that he will be all the more sorely missed.
VOUS N'AVEZ ENCORE RIEN VU
France, Germany 2012
Cast Denis Podalydès, Andrzej Seweryn, Mathieu Amalric, Pierre Arditi, Sabine Azéma, Jean-Noël Brouté, Anne Consigny, Anny Duperey, Hippolyte Girardot, Gérard Lartigau, Michel Piccoli, Michel Robin, Jean-Chrétien Sibertin-Blanc, Michel Vuillermoz, Lambert Wilson, Vimala Pons, Sylvain Dieuaide, Fulvia Collongues, Vincent Chatraix, Jean-Christophe Folly, Vladimir Consigny, Laurent Ménoret, Lyn Thibault, Gabriel Dufay
Director Alain Resnais; filmed rehearsal directed by Bruno Podalydès; screenwriters Laurent Herbiet and Alex Reval; based on the stage plays Eurydice and Cher Antoine ou l'amour raté by Jean Anouilh; cinematographer Éric Gautier (colour, widescreen); filmed rehearsal cinematographers Fabienne Octobre, Juliette Laterier and Claire Delatre (colour); composer Mark Snow; designer Jacques Saulnier; costumes Jackie Budin; filmed rehearsal costumes Rachel Quarmby-Spadaccini; editor Hervé de Luze; producer Jean-Louis Livi; production companies F Comme Film, Studio Canal, France 2 Cinéma, Alamode Film Distribution and Christmas In July
Screened October 1st 2014, Ideal, Lisbon (distributor press screening)