Camille Claudel 1915 Screen 23 articles

Camille Claudel 1915


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  • Rather than underscore Claudel’s helplessness and anguish, Dumont’s casting of real sufferers brings out his lead’s worst tics. In her scenes with other Montdevergues patients, Binoche... cannot resist emoting “big”—whether in a gesture as seemingly small as a nostril flair or a too-long glower, or an action as outsize as gleefully shouting Mlle Lucas’s garbled cry of “Hallelujah.” [Binoche] seems to be operating on the fear that she will be upstaged by her novice costars.

  • Binoche imbues Camille with a hardened defiance, but that only suggests Camille’s anti-patriarchal form, it never truly exhibits it, and it seals the film off from its intended critiques. This makes for an exercise in hollow miserablism, aesthetically and structurally embodying that which it seeks to critique.

  • Juliette Binoche, as Claudel, is occasionally touching, but as soon as interest flares, the movie suffocates it via endless takes of her suffering through daily chores. The result is neither austere nor contemplative, just punishing and inert, an excruciating slog whose entire length can’t show as much injustice as director Mark Robson and producer Val Lewton did in one shot of their 1946 movie on the same theme, “Bedlam.”

  • There is an uncomfortable movement in the cinema, in which intellectual filmmakers have distanced their ideas from their form, or, rather, have reduced both to a bland palette of redundancy. I look at their films, among others, and no longer recognize the presence of a human being, but instead an authoritarian morality posing as empathetic with the plight of man, becoming synonymous with the very mechanics of the suffering it portrays.

  • Binoche's face, as we know, can tell a million stories in a simple and brief rearrangement of her facial muscles. It's this incredible skill, a quiet gut-wrenching facial theater, that sustains the film with its series of long takes seeped either in complete silence or in uninterrupted soliloquies—which sometimes feel televisual, though in a European manner.

  • Typically, Dumont’s movies build to impulsive acts—crimes, moments of forgiveness—that are steeped in mystery and symbolism; his worldview is a kind of secular mysticism where the paradoxical stands in for the divine. Camille Claudel, however, is a story of clear-cut wrongdoing and oppression, complicated only by its protagonist’s mental illness. As Paul Claudel, Jean-Luc Vincent projects robotic self-righteousness, as though his religious convictions had completely replaced his feelings.

  • During this final act, there’s a tidy master shot of Paul alongside a Catholic peer... The iconic quality of the image is contrasted by the loud buzzing of a fly just offscreen. This is the kind of beguiling tension that is largely missing from Camille Claudel 1915. With its rigid, organized framing and cool denial of anything one might call pleasure, Dumont’s filmmaking starts to feel like a product of the same strict society his film purports to reject.

  • Claudel is a well-manicured curio designed to showcase not only Binoche’s star turn, but also a not especially illuminating position-paper in French intellectual history... Camille Claudel 1915 “complicates” its title character by recourse to one of the hoariest clichés of the humanist art cinema: the idea that the simpleminded are purer of heart than the worldly and, in this Catholic context, perhaps closer to God as well.

  • Even if Claudel is truly paranoid and schizophrenic, Dumont keeps her humanity close and casts her as one of the most reasonable and caring characters in the film. The film continually asks what is true madness?, offering few answers; rather, Dumont forces the audience to grapple with the question instead of providing his own answers.

  • When compared to the opening scene of Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise: Love in which a group of children with Down’s Syndrome are shown riding bumper cars, Dumont’s approach becomes all the more laudable. Seidl lets himself off easy by implying that if the viewer laughs, then it’s due to his or her own moral failings. In Camille Claudel 1915, no such subterfuge is necessary, as there isn’t ever the slightest trace of ridicule, abjection or even cheap compassion, but only pure and inexorable humanity.

  • Dumont’s commitment to tone and aesthetics is remorseless — this was an injustice, and you will suffer accordingly for 94 minutes. But it’s not just suffering for suffering’s sake. In our present Huxleyan existence of digital devices, it’s just as easy to block out or avoid such a gruelling experience entirely, but it’s worth looking into the abyss that was one woman’s life.

  • Whereas Nuytten’s film was a floridly melodramatic (if watchable) showcase for Isabelle Adjani at her most passionate, this later history of Claudel, which stars Juliette Binoche, is spare, harsh and minimalistic, as one would expect from Bruno Dumont.

  • There’s a savage duality in so many of Dumont’s characters and cultural collusions from previous films but here there’s caring and compassion, at least until the film shifts to her brother Paul (Jean-Luc Vincent) and the insufferable piety that commits service to God at the expense of those on earth.

  • ...It's important to find new forms and keep pushing the medium forward (and things are looking up on that front!), but I still Pavlovlianly respond to technically impeccable long shots of Binoche walking in natural light and well-recorded sound in interiors that doesn't sound distractingly punched-up... Dumont's almost certainly not done with his doggedly muddy, ugly, rape-y countryside dramas, but it's nice when he steps outside of that box.

  • The shot with which Dumont concludes the film, a close-up of Binoche against an immutable stone wall, was for me one of the enduring images from this year’s festival, but the film’s major point of interest comes in the clash of acting styles enlisted by Dumont, who juggles the consummate professionalism of Binoche with the use of genuine mentally disabled people in more marginal roles...

  • Pale, drawn, haggard yet somehow more beautiful than ever in a merciless series of extreme closeups, Binoche is riveting as the titular sculptress glimpsed here in the midst of the forced mental asylum stay that frittered away her genius and final decades.

  • There are at least three beautiful things in Bruno Dumont’s depressing new film. First, there are cinematographer Guillaume Deffontaines’s precise visual compositions. Stark and minimalist, at times they resemble classical Dutch painting... Third, and most important, is Dumont’s use of light as metaphor for the radiance of Camille Claudel’s heart and soul.

  • This is the first time Dumont has worked with a seasoned actor like Binoche, and her presence makes for an always-intriguing contrast with the otherwise nonprofessional performers, many of whom are actual asylum inmates. Exploitative as this may seem in theory, it works beautifully onscreen, mostly because of Binoche’s radiantly complicated humanity.

  • Binoche bulldozes through the melee in character, but of course the texture of the film falls between horrific realism and freak-show exploitation, a tension that can either double-down on the naturalistic impact of Claudel's plight or make you speculate queasily about life on the set between takes. Or both. In all cases, it's far more radical than Bruno Nuytten's celebrated 1988 version, and one of the year's thorniest releases.

  • In this raw, sparse setting, with its windswept landscape populated by patients whose grimacing faces share the same depth as Claudel's best portrait busts, Binoche is superb. Quiet and calculating one minute, unhinged and sobbing the next, she expresses brilliantly the maddening frustration of a falsely incarcerated genius.

  • Watching Binoche’s every flicker of confusion, anger, remorse, and hope, we are made privy to a succession of emotions that transcend time and place. This is more a film about acting—both the historical necessity of women to constantly play roles for audiences real and perceived, and about our experience of watching a major contemporary screen actor inhabit a character forced to play those roles—than about linear historical events.

  • [Binoche] gives a monumental performance here, not least because it’s so contained. The moments of protest and anguish are all the more moving and painful because the Camille we mostly see is an observer, with impassive, barely changing features—gazing calmly ahead, or turning to the camera with an implacable, borderline-haughty look... Camille Claudel 1915 is a film of stark, sober rewards, and possibly Dumont’s finest.

  • ...The film is contemplative, perfectly composed, and Binoche acts her heart out though I'm actually tempted to give Skandie points to Alexandra Lucas, a Down's Syndrome lady playing (I assume) herself, just for her radiant expression. Some things go beyond acting.

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