Cannes 2012: Day 6 - 'You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet' + 'Barbara'

Day six brings perhaps the final film from French legend Alain Resnais, whose You Ain’t See Nothin’ Yet has a shot at the big prize. Meanwhile New German Cinema movement director Christian Petzold returns with Barbara.

Fifty years is a long time to wait for anything, let alone a prize from a festival located in a country who’s cinema you’ve helped define. But that’s where 90-year-old Alain Resnais finds himself in 2012, at the Cannes Film Festival, 53 years after his debut feature, Hiroshima mon amour, won a special prize at the fest. In a neat connection, Emmanuelle Riva, who I’m guessing takes home the Best Actress prize this year for AMOUR, starred in Resnais’ debut. His 18th (and potentially final) feature, the appropriately titled You Ain’t See Nothin’ Yet, marks his latest attempt at snatching the Palm d’Or, an award he’s arguably had coming to him for the entirety of his career, since his days unintentionally spearheading the nouvelle vague (Hiroshima, one of the movement’s key texts, was notoriously left out of Competition because of it’s subject matter). If he does win, however, it thankfully won’t only be a result of longevity and outcries of being “overdue". The charming, slyly brave You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet finds Resnais’ aesthetic prowess in fine form, continuing a run of twilight-era films nearly as radical as what he was doing with the form in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Loosely based on the play Eurydice by Jean Anouilh, You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet utilizes as it’s framing device a perfect film geek hook, gathering a handful of classic and contemporary French actors -- including Mathieu Amalric, Michel Piccoli, Andrzej Seweryn, and Resnais regulars Sabine Azéma and Pierre Arditi, among others -- to perform the play in the home of a deceased playwright, who’s staged the production many times over the years and who’s final troupe they watch and riff off in real time as they view the performance via television monitors. It's a simple, stage-bound premise, one that Resnais has perfected over the years with, among others, his 1986 masterpiece, Mélo, and two straight-forward musicals, Same Old Song and Not on the Lips. You Ain’t Seen Nothin‘ Yet falls nicely into that same lineage, and while those unfamiliar with the play (or this style of Resnais film) could be left scratching their heads, Resnais‘ boldly theatrical presentation and playfully aestheticized staging alone provides ample rewards. If this is indeed Resnais' swan song, he’s gone out with a pronounced verve most young filmmakers will never approach, and as a tribute to actors -- and in particular, his actors -- You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet strikes an appropriately gracious note.


It hasn’t quite grown to the stature or wielded the influence of the French New Wave, but the New German Cinema movement of the present day is quietly leaving its mark. Three of the movement’s key players, Dominik Graf, Christoph Hochhäusler, and Christian Petzold, came together last year to cinematically outline the ideological intent of the project with the three part Dreileben series, which found each director staging a separate but interrelated feature that together weaved a tale of crime, wounded friendship, and youthful passion against the backdrop of the Thuringian Forest. Each director has previous works that helped spawn the ideas behind what’s come to be known as the New Berlin movement, but as of now, only Petzold has begun making significant inroads to A-list auteur status (Jerichow became a small critical cause in 2008, while his Dreileben entry, Beats Being Dead, is widely considered the strongest of the trilogy). He’s not there yet, but with Barbara, his latest and possibly best film yet, Petzold has taken the aesthetic and narrative fundamentals of the New German enterprise and pared them down to it’s key elements.

In fact, Barbara -- the film and, as it turns out, the character of the same name -- is so unaffected and at times so elliptical in it’s disclosure that the film can feel like an intangible, unknowable enigma. Petzlod’s plot reveals itself in short, undramatic strokes, of the sort that necessitates a second viewing if one hopes to parse it’s intricacies. Centering on the stolid, stern-faced title character (Nina Hoss) who works as a doctor outside of Berlin in the German Democratic Republic circa 1980, Barbara takes the plight of it’s lead and spins it as allegory as much as realism. Barbara’s been excommunicated from the capital for attempting to leave the country for the West, where her boyfriend is in the process of planning her escape. She seemingly has little investment in anything beyond, curiously, her work, where her boss is fascinated by this conundrum of a woman who takes an increased interest in saving the future of a young drifter named Stella. On the page, the plot reads as rather vast. In execution, Petzold elides detail, excises action, and minimizes dialogue, relying more on his actors’ gestures and inflections to gather tension. As a result, Barbara consistently maneuvers it’s way just out of reach, standing tantalizingly outside of genre or drama, while Petzold continues to prove he has the skill and confidence to pull it all off.

Ken Loach’s record 11th entry into the Cannes Competition, The Angel’s Share, also screened this Monday evening, but a need for a proper meal and a little activity outside the Palais has probably left it as the one Competition film I won’t have the time to see (for those actually watching the schedule, I plan on catching Reality, Beyond the Hills, and The Hunt, on the final day of the fest, when all Competition titles screen once more). From what I gather, though, Loach once again has little business in the main strand of the fest, begging the question of just what spell the man has cast over the selection committee over the years. Tomorrow: Andrew Dominik’s long-awaited follow-up to The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Killing Them Softly, and Leo Carax’s even longer awaited return to feature filmmaking, Holy Motors.





The Top 20 Punk Protest Songs for July 4th

As punk music history verifies, American citizenry are not all shiny, happy people. These 20 songs reflect the other side of patriotism -- free speech brandished by the brave and uncouth.


90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

‘The Avengers’ Offer a Lesson for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.