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You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet by Alain Resnais

January 30, 2013

Feature film number eighteen for Alain Resnais and once again you ain’t seen nothin’ yet: there is an old story about Paganini, one night the legendary violinist was playing in Turin, the King of Piedmont was in the audience and he liked a piece so much that he sent a request to the artist to repeat it, the reply the King received said “Paganini non ripete” – Resnais is a virtuoso filmmaker and he never repeats himself, but what is it that we have not seen yet?

The movie opens with a very peculiar scene – or maybe it’s not a scene and it’s the still the credits, aren’t the credits a part of the film? – we see Wilson, Azema, Arditi, Almaric, Piccoli and the rest of the illustrious French cast while each one of them gets a telephone call – a roll call – from Marcellin (Andrzej Seweryn) the secretary of a famous playwright – Antoine d’Anthac (Denis Podalydès). D’Anthac is dead and Marcellin is calling to summon actors and actresses to the chateau for the reading of the testament. We see each actor – just look at the above picture of Anne Consigny – from a side shot, the actors are placed – alternately – on the right and left side of the screen, we perceive their faces as they are reflected by an out of focus mirror, we hear them called with their real names but, but what do we see in the mirror? a blurred echo of the actor’s face, at each repetition of the phone call with a different actor/actress there is a slight change, sometimes the blurred image is replaced by – merges with? – the next actor who gets the phone call.

Vous n’avez encore rien vu is a film about many things and one of them is acting. What is acting? At their arrival to the chateau of their departed friend actors and actresses discover that there is a surprise in store for them: a posthumous video of d’Anthac invites them to watch the screening of a new mise en scène of his play Eurydice – a piece all of them have played many times along the years. The home-theater system starts playing – the actual piece results from the fusion of two works by Jean Anouilh – and after a moment where the camera goes from the screened play to the players/spectators to investigate their reactions, suddenly the hidden soul of the actors takes life – the blurred image comes to life – and all of them start acting their old roles alongside what it’s going on on the screen of the home-theater system. At first they just get up from their seats to play their lines, but slowly the power of imagination creates one more film inside the film and we get new magical settings: a railway station or an hotel room.

The story is a re-working of the classic myth of Eurydice and Orpheus, exploring the meaning of a classic is another theme of the film: d’Anthac before dying wonders if his play has still something to say, if it’s worth to be represented on stage again. Resnais winks at classic cinema too, borrowing an intertitle from Murnau’s Nosferatu to introduce the arrival of the players to the chateau, while the title is an adaptation of a line from The Jazz Singer “You ain’t heard nothing’ yet” – Resnais has experimented with sound in his films, but there is no doubt that just like Murnau he believes in the power of the cinematic image. Passion and mortality, the different ways different persons – and different generations – think of them, the cycle of life endlessly repeating itself, always the same, always new: On connait la chanson (Same Old Song) but when it’s a good song, every new voice makes us hear it (pardon, see it) as it was the first time.

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