Monday, February 22, 2016

My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days (1989)

Given his notoriety for histrionics, hyperactive characters and at times delving into the realm of the fantastique, its probably easy for those unfamiliar with the films of Andrzej Zulawski to simply dismiss Zulawski as a hyperbolic fantasist out of touch with reality when in fact the opposite is true. Zulawski was one of the most “human” filmmakers in the sense that the exaggerations on display in his films stripped away all pretense when it comes to human emotions, presenting them in their most exposed and raw form. Perhaps better than any other filmmaker, Zulawski understood both sites of the coin when it came to love being something than can invoke extreme reactions in individuals from the most beautiful of highs but also the most debilitating lows which leads to the behavior seen in many of Zulawski’s films. While Possession (1981) may be Zulawski’s most celebrated treatment of the anxieties relationships can cause, the idea of overwhelming emotions was a constant in Zulawski’s work going all the way back to his debut film The Third Part of the Night (1971) and the theme weighs heavily on films like L'important c'est d'aimer (1975), L’amour braque (1985) and Fidelity (2000). The exquisitely titled My Nights Are More Beautiful Than You Days is yet another one of Zulawski’s treatments on love and pain and one of his most poignant and in typical Zulawski fashion, emotionally draining films.

After finalizing a revolutionary computer language program, Lucas (Jacques Dutronc) a brilliant inventor is dealt a heavy blow by being diagnosed with a rare brain disease that will gradually erase Lucas’s memory and his ability to speak. Soon after, Lucas by chance meets Blanche (Sophie Marceau), a psychic medium in a traveling show. Although awkward at first, the two form a connection and Lucas follows Blanche to her next performance. Lucas reserves a lavish suite at a nearby seaside hotel where Blanche retreats to as a means of escape from her demanding entourage, including her husband and mother, and the two begin a fierce romance, bonded by past traumas, language and inevitable madness.

When compared to the likes of Diabel (1972), L’amour braque or Szamanka (1996), My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days (Mes nuits sont plus belles que vos jours) is certainly one of Zulawski’s more “calm” efforts while at the same time still being an exhausting whirlwind of emotions that’s equally bewildering as it is beguiling. For the central romance, Zulawski strikes a perfect balance between sweetness and melancholy, with the scenes of Lucas and Blanche being tender and loving yet always shrouded by the dark cloud of inevitability, be it Lucas’s impending insanity or Blanche’s constantly being haunted by traumatic memories. Zulawski takes Lucas’s condition and the concept of madness in a fascinating direction by essentially having Lucas go mad on his own terms, willingly beating his illness to the punch. This leaves a good portion of the film, particularly the final third, open to interpretation as to whether or not what is being seen is reality or Lucas’s shattered version of reality, either by his own doing or his diseases. The madness angle also allows Zulawski’s surrealist tendencies to come to the forefront which includes the likes of a dwarf hotel porter who may or may not be a ghost and a man in a giant blue rabbit costume. Being a Zulawski film, there’s also the cast of loony side characters, mostly Blanche’s gang of hangers-on who’s antics give way to several hilarious moments and Blanche’s stage show is rather bizarre in itself with her audience interactions also being quite humorous.

While being interviewed for Eyeball, Zulawski expounded upon the importance of language and his having Lucas desperately cling to his loosening grasp of language by engaging in bizarre wordplay, either by himself or with Blanche, spouting nonsense at random and at times even speaking in rhyme, stating “With Mes nuits and Dutronic, I did it because I was really shocked by the fact that most of the films that are meant to be intelligent that I see are blah-blah films. Nothing happens, they talk. So I wanted to push this up to an absurd point, in which even the talk dissolves into a nightmare… of nonreason, whatever… and of cinema, of real cinema. Because for cinema, language or literature is only a go-between. Between the money and the screen.” Its also worth mentioning that My Nights was Zulawski’s second film to feature Sophie Marceau who made her Zulawski debut with L’amour braque and following My Nights would go on to feature in La note bleue (1991) and Fidelity. “I understand. Love means pain, lots of pain” says Marceau in one of the films most affecting moments. Its Zulawski’s understanding of that very concept and his ability to explore it in an entirely singular manner along with infusing it with moments of quirkiness and occasional off-center humor make My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days a film more poignant and cathartic than most.

"Whisper everybody can - go and shriek!" R.I.P. Andrzej Zulawski (1940-2016)

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