Monday, November 23, 2015

MORE

More was originally shot and released in full view of the "come down" from the 1967 Summer of Love, not long after the convention-shattering Bonnie & Clyde and on the cusp of the counter-cultural celebration of Easy Rider; leading many to think of it (often without actually having watched it) how it was very much a film "of its time". Yet, it's staggering to see how Barbet Schroeder's debut feature was actually so critical of the scene it depicted - critical not in the judgmental sense of the word, since the director's later work has proved him to be no black-and-white moralist.

     Instead, More refuses to follow blindly the period's idealism, and prefers to recognise the traps and pitfalls of the psychotropic-fuelled hedonism de rigueur for those who were looking to voyage into their selves as new-fangled manifestations of an old-fashioned idea. Klaus Grünberg's newly-graduated German student Stefan is looking for the contemporary equivalent of the "grand tour" young men would take around the world before beginning their real life of contributing to society. Only this one leads him into the warmer pastures of the Mediterranean South - all the way to Ibiza via Paris, in the wake of Estelle (Mimsy Farmer), an American waif who turns out to be a femme fatale in disguise.

     The couple's apparent search for a way to coexist with traditional society without having to deal with seems to end at a remote seaside villa in Ibiza (ironically owned in real life by the director's mother), but it's a mirage lying in plain sight at the heart of the script written with regular Claude Chabrol collaborator Paul Gégauff. No wonder the intimations of a film noir in the blinding sun (made all the more blinding by DP Néstor Almendros' use of natural lighting) come fast and furious: Estelle is in cahoots with a mysterious German expat-cum-drug dealer (Heinz Engelmann), Stefan is only the latest in a line of patsies who fall head over heels for her.

     What's mostly "of its time" in More is the almost documentary portrait it makes of the a new generation looking for its own approach to the world, as well-meaning as it may be misguided; in so doing, it merely underlines just how much the idealism of young age is a cyclical response to a growingly cynical system, inseparable yins and yangs that keep each other in perpetual but unchanging balance. That it all comes down to petty drug deals, even if in the Ibiza sun instead of ill-lit urban back alleys, is just simple proof that even as a debutante Barbet Schroeder was not interested in doing a quick hipster cash-in.

MORE
France, Spain, 1969, 112 minutes
Starring Mimsy Farmer, Klaus Grünberg, Heinz Engelmann, Michel Chanderli, Henry Wolf, Louise Wink
Directed by Barbet Schroeder; screenplay by Paul Gégauff and Mr. Schroeder, with Mimsy Farmer, Eugene Archer and Paul Gardner; based on a story by Mr. Schroeder; cinematography Néstor Almendros; music by Pink Floyd; art directors Fran Lewis and Mr. Almendros; film editors Denise de Casabianca, Monique Giraudy and Madeleine Grimberg; produced by Mr. Schroeder, for Jet Films and Doric Films
Screened November 6th 2015, Lisbon

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