Nov 7, 2015

Les hautes solitudes

For the longest time, I absolutely could not fathom why a certain lover of mine appreciated the films of dope-addled French avant-garde filmmaker Philippe Garrel (Le Révélateur, La cicatrice intérieure aka The Inner Scar) even though she was a rare woman whose aesthetic sensibilities I could virtually always count on. Notably, this same lover had modeled for a series of photo shoots with a sleazy middle-aged scumbag that I did not particularly appreciate, as the person in the pictures did not seem like the same girl that I knew and loved. Indeed, her smiles and poses in these photos were unnervingly sincere to me as I could tell just by looking at her always entrancing eyes that she was not genuinely happy, but of course she was a girl that was quite good at wearing a figurative mask because she was a people-pleaser even though she did not really care about actually pleasing people. As a hardcore introvert with serious problems with anxiety as a result of certain traumas that she suffered during childhood, she mastered the art of being rather agreeable around people in the hope that she could completely avoid being triggered by unpleasant emotions. In fact, she was so highly sensitive to any form of anger, negativity, or hostility that I would sometimes unwittingly upset her if I was annoyed or mad about something that had absolutely nothing to do with her or her actions even though hurting her was the last thing on my mind since she was the only person that I truly loved and cared about yet she still had a hard time believing this because her reaction was innate and instinctive response to past traumas. Anyway, as a result of being with her and becoming accustomed to her sensitivities, I think I can finally understand why she had such a strong affection for Garrel’s meta-minimalistic cinematic works.  Quite unlike the sleazy photographer that took photos of my lover just so that he would have an excuse to ogle hot young babes while simultaneously monetarily profiting from it, Garrel had a singular talent for exposing the real essence, beauty, vulnerability, and sensitivity of the women that he directed, which is arguably the most apparent in his silent black-and-white feature Les hautes solitudes (1974) aka The High Solitudes starring tragic American actress Jean Seberg (Bonjour Tristesse, Lilith) in what would indubitably not only be the greatest, but also most revealing and poetic performance of her entire fairly uneven acting career. Forget gay arthouse auteur Mark Rappaport's kitschy and bitchy video art rant From the Journals of Jean Seberg (1995), Garrel's film might not feature any insightful historical facts or even dialogue, but you will learn more about the ill-fated screen heroine's damaged psyche and perpetual pathos by watching five minutes of the flick than by watching all of the American pseudo-biopic starring decidedly dorky Woody Allen graduate Mary Beth Hurt. Directed by an uncompromising auteur who demonstrated that he had the exact opposite approach to filmmaking to Hitchcock when he declared in an autumn 1970 interview in Afterimage #2 that, “making the film is the most interesting [part]. What comes after it’s made isn’t very interesting,” Garrel's sometimes devastating filmic love letter is an experiment in cinematic “collective psychosis” (or at least that is how Garrel described it) as an emotionally invasive and foreboding work that digs deep into the actress’ sad and forsaken soul and reveals her to be a hopelessly forlorn spirit that was ultimately on a path to complete self-obliteration. Indeed, certainly no one would be surprised to learn after watching her performance in Les hautes solitudes that Seberg perished under dubious circumstances that were officially ruled a suicide only five years after the film was released.  If cinema can be truly prophetic and take the form of a sort of quasi-Expressionistic suicide letter, Garrel's flick is indubitably one of the greatest and most poetic cinematic declarations of self-slaughter ever made.

 In many ways, Les hautes solitudes might be described as the ultimate Garrelian film as a totally plotless and stripped down piece of sometimes suffocatingly sullen and nearly always somber celluloid that it patently cinematically primitive to the point where it even makes Andy Warhol’s Chelsea Girls (1966) seem like Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) in terms of technical prowess innovation (incidentally, Garrel has compared his film to Chelsea Girls). Indeed, a completely silent work without title sequences or a musical score that was shot on bold black-and-white 16mm film stock, the film oftentimes feels like a series of avant-garde screen tests, so it should be no surprise that Garrel stating regarding his flick and lead actress Seberg’s imperative role in the making of it, “The idea was to make a film out of the outtakes of a film that never existed in the first place. So I conceived LES HAUTES SOLITUDES as outtakes, a very raw texture on her face. Her agent, her friends, everybody thought I wasn't serious in my endeavor. I arrived every day at Seberg's apartment with my camera and filmed her on the balcony, close to the window, for hours, with no role and no script. No-one thought that it was a real film, but she was very independent and didn't care about this. I consider LES HAUTES SOLITUDES as much a Seberg film as mine.” To Garrel’s credit, Seberg's performance is largely what makes the film worth watching, as one has the rather rare and wholly singular opportunity to pay witness to the strangely endearing tragedy of irreparably despoiled beauty as embodied by the forsaken blonde diva, who provides the greatest ‘performance’ of her career in an almost ghostly role where she does not even speak a single audible word, yet manages to make the viewer feel completely haunted in the end, like they have witnessed the slow and painful death of an angel that bled to death after having its wings torn off by. Arguably, the most curious and generally surprising aspect of Les hautes solitudes is that it was apparently at least partially inspired by Teutonic philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s penultimate book The Antichrist (1895) aka Der Antichrist which, at least upon a superficial glance, seems like describing Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977) as a modern adaptation of Uncle Adolf’s Mein Kampf (1925). Surely, the only superficial similarities I can see between Nietzsche’s classic anti-Christian polemic and Garrel’s film are the raw and visceral madness and mental derangement that they both permeate. Of course, I doubt that this ever crossed the mind of a fairly unkempt frog junky bohemian like Garrel, but there is no question that Seberg was a product and ultimately a victim of both the Nazarene spiritual sickness and Judaic decadence that Nietzsche decries in his classic iconoclastic book, thus one could argue that Les hautes solitudes is Nietzschean in a sort of accidentally subtextual fashion. Additionally, you will learn no less about Nietzsche's philosophies from Garrel's flick than you would by watching Liliana Cavani's botched biopic Al di là del bene e del male (1977) aka Beyond Good and Evil.

 If a spacey dope-addled French dandy managed to obtain a couple thousand dollars, a 16mm Bolex camera and a number of rolls of film, and a couple inordinately beauteous women and attempted to remake Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece Persona (1966) in the style of an early Werner Schroeter flick, it might begin to describe the aesthetic essence of Les hautes solitudes, which mainly revolves around the glaring metaphysical misery of Seberg and the much younger and happier Tina Aumont’s superficially empathetic but seemingly futile and somewhat questionable attempts to comfort and console the hapless lead while she is in one of her various melancholic states. While the two leads in Persona begin to become one in a sense, the two lovely looking ladies in Garrel’s film could not be more different in terms of both appearance and character, thus there is no real union between the two. Indeed, if Aumont’s enchanting smile, cutesy pulchritude, and somewhat mischievous demeanor was not there to balance out Seberg’s malignant melancholy and seemingly terminal Weltschmerz, the film would probably be too excruciating to bear in its entirety. Notably, according to Garrel’s own words, the film was largely Seberg’s instinctive vision and not the result of calculated art faggotry or pretense, or as the filmmaker stated himself in a 1975 interview, “When I met her, we talked about Godard straight away. I found it interesting to create a piece that escaped À bout de soufflé insofar as it was still very present in the filming. And, she was passionate about the Actor Studio [method acting]. She forced me to do scenes from the Actor Studio. She said to me, ‘Tomorrow, I will give you a plan, but I will only give you my plan if you act me something.’ So, I had to play a thief. I had to steal a thousand francs from her bag and then leave – running. We tried to do that and then after, I was truly scared, she followed me down the stairs… Effectively, I had returned to psychoses – and quite easily. She said to me that it was like that when they worked at the Actor Studio and that it was necessary to work in that way. And so, we tried to make the film like that, to make something that uses psychodrama, and that serves to really liberate something. As she is a star, at a very specific level, even I was under observation, with regards to her work. The work had perhaps been very useful to her, because she wrote me a letter; it seemed to say that we had created a positive and important piece of work. That said, she thought the film that was completely incomprehensible.” Of course, the incomprehensibility Garrel speaks of is Seberg’s mind, which is depicted in such a completely raw and stark-naked fashion in Les hautes solitudes that no Hollywood film could ever dream of rivaling it in terms of sheer pathos.  Of course, one must credit the unscrupulous exploiters and pimps of Tinseltown for helping to destroy Seberg's mind and soul in such an irreparable manner that she could pull off such an unsettlingly penetrating ‘performance.’

 Although she is only a marginal and seemingly random figure of the film that only appears at the very beginning, Teutonic diva Christa ‘Nico’ Päffgen (who was nicknamed after Greek auteur Nikos Papatakis by her German photographer friend Herbert Tobias) is featured in the opening scene of Les hautes solitudes lying on the ground while her eyes are moving in a strange and erratic fashion as if she is a tweaker that is coming down from a high.  Of course, Nico was Garrel's main diva during the 1970s and arguably the most imperative source of inspiration for him at the time, so her brief appearance in the film is, at least contextually speaking, both important and revealing, especially if you are familiar with La Cicatrice Intérieure.  When Jean Seberg eventually first appears, she is depicted having a sort of anxiety-ridden panic attack while lying in bed by herself in a long static scene that involves her crying hysterically and slamming her head against a pillow like an agitated child that is throwing a temper tantrum, though she eventually seems to find some peace and then falls asleep. This first scene more or less foreshadows virtually everything that will occur for the rest of the film, as Seberg is mostly portrayed in various states of internal misery, existential crisis, restlessness, and/or melancholy, with the occasional fleeting moment of happiness.  Notably, Seberg is oftentimes portrayed with a shadow covering about half her face in a fairly symmetrical fashion, as if to indicate she is a bipolar broad that has fallen into the darkness and is always on the verge of shifting back and forth between sanity and insanity, with her dark side always threatening to consume her ‘true self.’ Unfortunately, it seems that it is only a matter of time before Seberg's entire being succumbs to total despair. Somewhat curiously, it seems that anytime that Seberg seems happy, she is wearing either a hat or hood, as if having something covering her head gives her a certain sense of psychological security because it partly shields her from the world. Seberg’s only ostensible friend in the film is Tina Aumont, who seems to be dating a perpetually depressed dude portrayed by Laurent Terzief (of Gillo Pontecorvo’s Kapò (1960) and Luis Buñuel’s La voie lactée (1969) aka The Milky Way). While Seberg shows signs of depression and misery at least 80-85% of the time, Aumont is probably only upset about 15-20% of time and thus she naturally acts as a sort of security blanket to the protagonist, though one suspects the French Jewess might have ulterior motives as she certainly has a more sinister side. 

 While Aumont finds joy in simply talking to and caressing her beau Terzief in shadowy doorways, Seberg only seems to be truly in her element when she is doing somewhat bizarre things like taking showers while wearing tacky jewelry, as if doing such absurd things make her temporarily forget the cold hard reality of her nightmarish existence. Of course, Seberg tends to fall into her own sort of personal purgatory when she is all alone as is especially apparent in a scene where she sits on a floor in a fetal position while dressed in a nightgown. At one point in the film, Aumont walks in on Seberg at just the right moment and saves her while she is seemingly attempting to commit suicide by downing pills with alcohol. One of the ways that Aumont is able to console Seberg and put her in a temporary happy place is by combing her hair like a nuturing mother that is taking care of her daughter, as if it reminds the lead of a time in her life before she became plagued with mental illness. Indeed, Aumont might be almost eight years older than Seberg, but she is certainly the more mature and maternal person in their seemingly co-dependent relationship. There are more than a couple hints that Aumont might have unsavory intentions in regard to her friendship with mental cripple Seberg, as she sometimes makes an evil bitch smirk, especially when she is playing with a switchblade in a fairly fetishistic fashion. During one of Seberg's merrier moments, she is depicted sporting a large fancy fur-coat as if she is briefly reliving her most magical and glamorous years a famous movie star before she suffered the disgrace of becoming the white sugar-momma whore of the black panthers and unloved wife to various sleazy and abusive Israelite types of the physically grotesque sort. If one thing is for sure, Seberg seems about twenty times as mentally unhinged and melancholic in Les hautes solitudes than Carole Bouquet’s character does in Schroeter’s Tag der Idioten (1981) aka Day of the Idiots. Of course, this is amazing when one considers that Seberg only had the benefit of her mere facial expressions while much of Bouquet’s mental derangement is largely depicted via surrealism, Sapphic urophilia, and bizarre special effects, among other things that demonstrate that Schroeter had a profound affection for female misery and mental derangement. Certainly Garrel’s film provides ample evidence that Seberg might have made a great silent era actress, as she certainly says more with her eyes than words ever could. 

 Although a fairly insignificant figure of the film, Slavic frog pansy Terzief is depicted at one point staring at his reflection in a table as if he is embracing the void and is totally fed up with life to the point of wanting to end it all yet lacks the drive and testicular fortitude to do so. Aumont also does the same thing, but she does not look nearly as forlorn as Terzief, who one suspects might be a victim of the cunning dark-haired dame’s whimsical feminine wrath. As the film progress, Seberg and Aumont spend most of their bonding time smoking and talking to one another in a somewhat somber and even seemingly semi-apathetic fashion, as if there relationship has run its course and the two no longer find any value in one another. If anything is for sure, it is that all the characters in the film are haunted, though Seberg seems irreparably internally damaged while Aumont seems to just be going through a minor phase that probably has a lot to do with her dubious relationship with brooding beta-body Terzief. During the last couple of minutes of the film, Seberg is depicted smiling while wearing a goofy hat with a veil and flowers on it, though her happiness soon disintegrates while talking to some unseen person. In the end, the film fittingly concludes with Seberg sitting alone in the darkness where she goes from being physically violent to sobbing hysterically in only a matter of seconds.  Of course, in terms of both the film and in real-life, Seberg had no one else in the end aside from the personal pandemonium of her own psyche.  Not surprisingly, Seberg ultimately decided to risk it all by breaking through said pandemonium.

 Although it might come as a shock to some people, Seberg actually once directed an experimental film entitled Ballad for Billy the Kid (1974), but it seems impossible to find and it was extremely poorly received upon its less than auspicious premiere. Indeed, as Jonathan Rosenbaum, who personally met Seberg a handful of times, noted in his essay Riddles of a Sphinx: From the Journals of Jean Seberg, “The only other time I ever saw Seberg in the flesh was in late 1974, and then only from a distance. I was present at what may have been the world premiere of a short film she wrote, directed, and starred in, BALLAD FOR [BILLY] THE KID, at the London Film Festival […] It was a French hippie ‘underground’ effort that resembled many others of that period, and though it was embarrassingly bad, the derision of the audience seemed needlessly cruel and vindictive. I remember thinking how painful it must have been for Seberg.” While I would not be surprised if Ballad for Billy the Kid actually is total garbage of the hippie leftist sort, I think with Les hautes solitudes, which was incidentally released the same year as her short film, Seberg proved that she was an ‘auteur’ of sorts that did have something of artistic merit to express. After all, a burnt out heroin-addled bohemian like Garrel would probably not say something like, “I consider LES HAUTES SOLITUDES as much a Seberg film as mine,” if he did not truly mean it.  In other words, the film would be nothing without Seberg, who is the spirit of this virtual celluloid dirge. Certainly Garrel’s contribution to the film was largely passive at best, but it also epitomizes his particular and admittedly fairly preternatural brand of auteur filmmaking. Interestingly, Garrel once stated in an interview in regard his approach and artistic handicaps to directing the film, “…I took control of the camera, but I didn’t know how to operate it, so it was quite disastrous technically, but, at the same time, I liked it better because it allowed me more freedom. [...] Now, I see that to take control of the camera myself is something like having an iron arm. It is like an artificial limb. There is some horror in that. That is what Welles explains. I have not known a solution to it. Maybe one day we will use a radio-controlled camera that works alone.” 

 As someone that is somewhat familiar with Nietzsche’s The Antichrist, I have no clue how the book inspired Garrel’s film, yet the text certainly gives some insights in regard to Seberg’s spiritual affliction and internal misery as is potently expressed in the flick. An American Nordic beauty of Swedish, English, and German extraction that was brought up in a devoutly Lutheran household, Seberg was instilled with a deep sense of terribly naive Christian altruism at an early age that consumed her entire life and indubitably led to many of the extremely poor and self-destructive choices that she made during her fairly short life. Of course, Nietzsche felt that Christianity was an intrinsically corrosive Jewish spiritual virus (in the book, he describes the “Christian” as “that ultima ration of lying, is the Jew all over again—he is threefold the Jew…”) that was responsible for ‘taming’ and ultimately weakening the ‘blond beast’ (aka Aryan peoples) and Seberg certainly represented the worst qualities of racially deracinated Judeo-Christian decadence. Indeed, while Seberg both funded and fucked honky-hating Black Panther leaders because she felt she was doing the Lord’s work by helping the weak and meek, such self-debasing behavior is nothing short of a major Nietzschean sin as indicated by quotes from the book like, “The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it. What is more harmful than any vice?—Practical sympathy for the botched and the weak—Christianity.” Nietzsche also discusses in The Antichrist how the Hebrews are historical harbingers of decadent movements and trends who used said decadent movements and trends as a sort of spiritual weapon against their enemies, or as he states in the book, “Psychologically, the Jews are a people gifted with the very strongest vitality, so much so that when they found themselves facing impossible conditions of life they chose voluntarily, and with a profound talent for self-preservation, the side of all those instincts which make for decadence—not as if mastered by them, but as if detecting in them a power by which ‘the world’ could be defied. The Jews are the very opposite of decadents: they have simply been forced into appearing in that guise, and with a degree of skill approaching the non plus ultra of histrionic genius they have managed to put themselves at the head of all decadent movements […] decadence is no more than a means to an end. Men of this sort have a vital interest in making mankind sick, and in confusing the values of ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ ‘true’ and ‘false’ in a manner that is not only dangerous to life, but also slanders it.” Indeed, rich Jews like George Soros do not simply fund and support black, gay, feminist, and illegal immigrant groups out of the sheer goodness of their hearts, but because they use them as weaponized pawns to undermine the white majority, who unwittingly buy into this culturally and socially corrosive garbage due to the hopelessly naïve slave-morality that they learned from Christianity, with the weak white liberal atheist being nothing more than a lapsed Christian who buys into the same slave-morality mumbo jumbo that his ancestors worshiped. As a woman that made herself the concubine of black nationalists, married at least two Jews (included kosher commie screenwriter John Berry’s son), and regularly sought advice from a rabbi instead of the sort of Lutheran leaders that she was brought up with, Seberg is a great example of a white liberal useful idiot who succumbed to the two-headed golden calf of Jewish decadence and nihilist post-Christian altruism. 

 Indeed, not unlike super Shiksa Marilyn Monroe, Seberg probably would have never met such a grisly end had she not got involved with the Hebrews in Hollywood in the first place (notably, Seberg suffered her first major mental breakdown shortly after cheating on her first husband with an ugly French Jew named Romain Gary, who was almost the same age as her father and who she later married). When I watch Les hautes solitudes, I see a terribly forsaken female who could have anything she wanted but whose embracing of ‘liberal’ (translation: Cultural Marxist) degeneracy and, in turn, betrayal of her heritage and both physical and spiritual debasement at the hands of Tschandala untermensch trash, ultimately led to her complete and utter mental deterioration. Personally, in the context of Seberg’s strong ties to the racially hostile Hebraic tribe, I see frog Jewess Tina Aumont’s character in Garrel’s film as a sort of Salome-esque femme fatale that pretends to console the lead while really pushing her over the edge, hence the scenes in the flick where she is playing with a switchblade while she has a sinister smile on her face.  Naturally, there are few more effective things for destroying a woman's self-esteem than being in the presence of a much younger and more confidant beautiful woman and Aumont seems to be quite confidant about the fact in the film as she smiles while Seberg looks like she is on the verge of swallowing a couple bottles of pills.  Of course, it is only fitting that Les hautes solitudes has a fiercely forlorn aesthetic that falls somewhere between Expressionism and cinéma-vérité, as the film bleeds a sort modern realist horror that will probably not make much sense to viewers unless they have done their research on the lead’s tragic background as a tragically misguided woman whose downfall as a result of the faith-based pseudo-religion known as liberalism ultimately confirmed that Nietzsche was right in regard to the catastrophic effects of the Christian slave-morality, especially on a race of conquerors whose original pagan religion endorsed a master-morality that promoted honor, nobility, and strength, among various other imperative moral ingredients that are looked down on nowadays. While Seberg’s debut performance as the eponymous lead in Saint Joan (1957) directed by Otto Preminger (who was another ruthless Judaic that emotionally abused the actress) was largely panned by critics when the film was originally released, her performance in Les hautes solitudes is probably the closest she ever came to comparing to the majesty of Renée Falconetti in Carl Th. Dreyer’s silent masterpiece La passion de Jeanne d'Arc (1928) aka The Passion of Joan of Arc.  Although Garrel was such a weak man and toxic lover that he had a tendency to get his lovers, including Nico, addicted to heroin, his film demonstrates an inordinate empathy for members of the so-called fairer sex, especially those of the overtly mentally imbalanced sort. Indeed, while watching Les hautes solitudes, there is no doubt in the viewer's mind that the auteur loved and respected Seberg's vulnerability, which is quite a rare quality for a heterosexual man.

-Ty E

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