HE (2012) will play at Laura Mars Gallery, Berlin on Sunday 19th May 2013 LAURA MARS GRP Sorauer Str.3 10997 Berlin. Kindly organized and hosted by Mario Mentrup & Gundula Schmitz.
More info HERE & HERE
The Irish premiere of HE will play at The Guesthouse, Cork on November 4th 2012:
“HE, the latest work in the ongoing collaboration between Rouzbeh Rashidi and actor James Devereaux, is a troubling and mysterious portrait of a suicidal man. Rashidi juxtaposes the lead character’s apparently revealing monologues with scenes and images that layer the film with ambiguity. Its deliberate, hypnotic pace and boldly experimental structure result in an unusual and challenging view of its unsettling subject.
Driven by a tour-de-force performance by Devereaux, HE represents one of the most developed examples to date of Rashidi’s use of improvised performance. Combined with the director’s oneiric imagery and a specially recorded soundscape by Mick O’Shea and Emil Nerstrand, the resulting film is as haunting as it is uncompromising. Mainly shot during Rashidi’s residency at The Guesthouse last February, HE also makes striking use of its Cork locations.”
More info HERE
Screenings of HE in Sydney (22 September) and Texas (24 September):
Screening at the Armory Tunnels, the Newington Armory, Sydney Olympic Park, NSW 2127 Australia. Saturday September 22, 2012 at 10:00am as part of “The First and the Last Experimental International Film Festival”
Screening at the House of Rock, Art Center of Corpus Christi and Downtown Corpus Christi, Texas. Monday September 24, 2012 at 1:30pm as part of “South Texas Underground Film Festival
James Devereaux & Cillian Roche preparing for the final scene of “HE”. (Top)
They quietly and very calmly performed the scene. (Below)
HE has been selected to screen at the 2012 South Texas Underground Film Festival (STUFF2012), September 21st – 27th.
Screening at the House of Rock, Art Center of Corpus Christi and Downtown Corpus Christi, Texas. Monday September 24, 2012 at 1:30pm.
More info HERE & HERE
HE has been accepted for the main competition programme of ”The First and the Last Experimental International Film Festival 2012” Sydney, Austria. The film festival will be held between 21 to 23 of September 2012 in Sydeny.
Screening at the Armory Tunnels, the Newington Armory, Sydney Olympic Park, NSW 2127 Australia. Saturday September 22, 2012 at 10:00am.
flEXiff CATALOGUE 2012 ~ ONLINE NOW
More info HERE & HERE
HE (2012, Rouzbeh Rashidi, A+10)
Rouzbeh Rashidi never fails to amaze me with his films. His films always show me some creative ideas, which I rarely find in other films. HE is the 13th of his feature films that I have seen, and it also shows me something I haven’t found in other films, including his twelve feature films that I have seen.
Things I like very much in HE include:
1.How to tell a story about a suicidal man. Most films about a suicidal person tell what happens in the protagonists’ lives “visually”. But in HE, the story about the protagonist is told “orally” by the protagonist himself. So what do we “see” in this film? We see the protagonist talking, and we see scenes of the protagonist wandering in some dilapidated buildings, kicking things, searching for something, doing some senseless stuff, doing something in the kitchen, and pondering on drinking a suspicious glass of water. We also see a husband and a wife having a serious problem, because the husband has turned completely numb.
There are some films which tell their stories very powerfully by having the actors talk to us, for example, LUDWIG’S COOK (1973, Hans-Jürgen Syberberg), TEN TINY LOVE STORIES (2002, Rodrigo García), CLOSURE OF CATHARSIS (2011, Rouzbeh Rashidi). HE is also one of these. The protagonist of HE, played by James Devereaux, tells us about his thoughts and his life stories in a very interesting way. It is easy for us to visualize some scenes in our own minds according to the stories he tells. But HE is also much more than an oral tale, because HE also presents us some “ambiguous” scenes of the protagonist wandering in some empty buildings, and intercutting these scenes with the scenes of the protagonist talking. I say these scenes are “ambiguous” because I’m not sure what the real status of these scenes is. Does what happen in these scenes a dream? Or a representation of the mental state of the protagonist? Or things really happen in the life of the protagonist? I’m not sure.
What do we achieve by intercutting these ambiguous scenes with the scenes of the protagonist talking? I’m not sure I can describe it in words. Let me just say it creates some strange feelings, and I think it is something new or something I have rarely seen before.
Does this intercutting help the film delve deeper into the mind of a suicidal man? I’m not sure. And I’m not sure if it is the purpose of this experimental film or not.
However, this kind of “putting two things together to create something new” reminds me a little bit of BIPEDALITY (2010, Rouzbeh Rashidi). One of the most interesting things in BIPEDALITY is the intercutting between the scenes of the hero and the heroine talking to each other with the scenes of beautiful scenery. Nevertheless, there is a big difference between these two films. In BIPEDALITY, there seems to be no obvious connection at all between the talking scenes and the atmospheric scenes, while in HE, the talking scenes and the empty building scenes are linked by using the same actor.
2. I like the rapid editing (or intercutting) in several scenes in HE, though I’m not sure if the rapid editing works every time in this film. The rapid editing that I like very much is the one in the numb husband scene, the black cat scene, and the dialogue scene between the protagonist and his friend. However, I’m not sure if I like the rapid editing in the two monologue scenes or not.
I think it is interesting that the intercutting between the talking scenes and the empty building scenes becomes rapid from time to time. I don’t know what the meaning of this rapid intercutting is. Does it portray the disturbed mind of the protagonist? Anyway, I feel disturbed myself, and my eyes feel irritated a little bit to watch the rapid editing during the two monologues in this film. Am I fair to say something like this? Why do I complain about the rapid editing in HE, but not in THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012, Tony Gilroy)? I think there is much difference between the rapid editing in HE and in action films. The rapid editing in action films connects things, which happen in the same situation. The rapid editing in HE connects things, which happen in different dimensions—physical world vs mental world—or something like that. So the rapid editing in HE creates some very strange feelings, though I’m not sure if it is a pleasant one.
What I’m trying to say is that I wonder if the intercutting has to be as fast as that, or if the juxtaposition of the physical world with the mental world can also be achieved by the split screen, or by turning this film into a two-channel video installation instead. Anyway, if the rapid intercutting is meant to disturb the audience or to make the audience understand how disturbed the protagonist feels, I think it is successful.
But I really like the rapid intercutting in the second half of the film, especially in the numb husband scene. The rapid intercutting in the numb husband scene creates such a powerful feeling in me, and I’m not sure if it is because it can be explained easily or not. I mean I don’t see the “obvious reason” why the empty building scenes have to be intercut rapidly with the two monologue scenes, in which James Devereaux speaks very slowly. But in the numb husband scene, the empty building scenes, which are intercut into it, look like they come from a horror film, and there seems to be some obvious reasons why they have to be intercut rapidly into it. I mean the horror scene seems to suggest what happens in the mind of the husband, and the rapid rhythm of the intercutting corresponds very well with the shock of the wife. So I can say I love the rapid intercutting in this scene very much, though I’m not sure if it is because the rapid intercutting serves some obvious purposes or not.
As for the black cat scene, I love the rapid intercutting in this scene very much, though I don’t understand its meaning or its purpose at all. This rapid intercutting happens when the friend learns that the protagonist is contemplating a suicide. Then we see that the face of the friend on the left side of the screen is intercut very rapidly with the scene of a black cat on the right side of the screen. I don’t know what this intercutting means at all, but I think it is very funny, surreal, memorable, and powerful.
The rapid intercutting which follows in the dialogue scene doesn’t disturb me as much as in the two monologue scenes, and I’m not sure if it is because I have adapted myself to the rhythm of this intercutting or not. Anyway, the rapid intercutting near the end of the film is extremely powerful.
3.The performance by James Devereaux is great, especially in the first monologue scene. I like his eyes in that scene very much. His eyes in that scene have some undeniable power in them. I also think that “the performance” in this film is not the same kind of performance as in most narrative films. Performances in most narrative films require that the actors perform the characters convincingly or as realistically as possible. But in HE, I think it is more about “the powerful presence” of the actor than the “realistic portrayal of the character”. And Devereaux really creates a powerful “presence” in this film.
I also like the performance of the numb husband very much.
4.I also like the slow speech of Devereaux in this film. It is unintentionally reminds me of Deborah Kara Unger in TEN TINY LOVE STORIES, because both Devereaux and Unger don’t tell their stories fluently, but tell stories as if they are disturbed by the stories they tell. It is as if every word coming out of Devereaux’ mouth in this film has gone through a lot of emotions before it comes out. The emphasis on “how the actor speaks” in HE also unintentionally reminds me of CORNEILLE-BRECHT (2009, Jean-Marie Straub + Cornelia Geiser).
5.I also like the blurred quality and the colors of the empty building scenes during the first monologue very much. The blurred quality makes these scenes dreamlike. I also think the colors in these scenes are very beautiful, especially the scene in the green and purple room. The colors near the end of the film are very beautiful, too.
6.The scenes of the protagonist wandering in empty buildings unintentionally remind me of some apocalyptic films made by Teeranit Siangsanoh, such as THE LIGHT HOUSE (2011). I like this kind of scenes very much. It tells no story, but it is very atmospheric. It turns everyday scene (dilapidated buildings) into a highly imaginative fictional world.
7. As in many films made by Rashidi, the ambiguity is one of the most interesting things in HE. There are a few things I’m not sure about in this film. Most importantly, I wonder about the relationship between the numb husband and the protagonist. Are these two the same person?
8. One of the things that make me like the numb husband scene very much is because it is easy to identify with him. I mean the character portrayed by Devereaux is specific and full of details, while the numb husband lacks details, so one can identify oneself easily with the numb husband instead of the protagonist.
One of the things I think while watching HE is that there are thousands of reasons to commit suicide, and each suicidal man is different from one another. The protagonist of HE comes from a family which is too much addicted to television, while some suicidal men among the audience may come from families which are too religious and don’t allow their children to watch game shows on television, or something like that. So while I think HE is a great film about a suicidal man, I don’t think that every viewer with suicidal tendency can easily identify with the protagonist. Some viewers can, but others can’t, I guess. As for me, I can easily identify myself with the numb husband, because there are some instances in my life in which I just want to stop doing everything, talk to no one (except my teddy bears), and go to sleep. Because the film doesn’t give us any obvious reasons why the husband turns numb, so some viewers with different reasons to turn numb can easily identify with this character.
In conclusion, what I like very much in HE is that it presents a ”new and interesting” way of telling a story and presenting the mind of a suicidal man.
APPENDIX: My favorite films with suicide in them
1.THE DEVIL, PROBABLY (1977, Robert Bresson)
2.THE FIRE WITHIN (1963, Louis Malle)
3.GILLES’ WIFE (2004, Frédéric Fonteyne)
4.HE (2012, Rouzbeh Rashidi)
5.THE INGRATITUDE (2005, Setthawit Punpeng)
6.JERICHOW (2008, Christian Petzold)
7.LETTERS FROM THE SILENCE (2006, Prap Boonpan)
8.LITTLE LIFE (2009, Rungkarn Keawsuwan, animation)
9.NO PLACE TO GO (2000, Oskar Roehler, Germany)
10.THE SEVENTH CONTINENT (1989, Michael Haneke, Austria)
11.SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982, Alan J. Pakula)
12.SUICIDE PARADISE (2010, Vatanyu Ingkavivat)
13.SYLVIA (2003, Christine Jeffs)
14.TASTE OF CHERRY (1997, Abbas Kiarostami)
15.THE UNINVITED (2003, Lee Su-yeon, South Korea)
16.WHITE MISCHIEF (1987, Michael Radford) I like how the film presents the activities of Alice de Janzé (Sarah Miles) before she commits suicide very much. We see her singing happily. We see her waking up in the morning and saying something like, “This is such a beautiful morning.” And then she commits suicide. And it is based on a true story.
- Jit Phokaew is a Bangkok-based cinephile and writer of the blog Limitless Cinema.
Originally publish HERE
Graphic design by www.pouyaahmadi.com
Redolent of their improvised, ostensibly meandering yet finely structured collaboration ‘Closure of Catharsis‘, actor-director pair James Devereaux and Rouzbeh Rashidi’ s new feature ‘HE’ starts of with a man dressed like an astronaut sauntering through a corridor perhaps looking for something. This exemplary oneiric sequence is characteristic of the dreamlike imagery that abounds intermittently across its running time. With regards to plot and narrative structure the auteur is far more generous this time; we encounter the protagonist who is contemplating suicide, an act seemingly stemming out of some unexplained absurdity of his existence. This is a theme that has frequently been explored by several auteurs in albeit traditional ways, from Louis Malle’s bleak investigation into the desperation of clinical depression in ‘The Fire Within’ to Haneke’s virulent attack on bourgeois complacency in ‘The Seventh Continent’. While every Bresson film yields itself to readings of death and redemption, he made atleast three explicit films on suicide namely Mouchette, The Devil Probably and A Gentle Woman, each significantly in contrast with the next. What Mr. Rashidi however offers us here, is a look at suicidal consciousness at the level of dreams rejecting every banal device.
This has been the defining characteristic of their earlier venture. While large parts of ’Closure of Catharsis’ consisted of a tenuous improvised monologue by an actor with a mise-en-scene almost anti-Wellesian in its foreground background dynamics, the most gripping moments came when vacillating images from a seemingly discordant video diary- of a Jonas Mekas kind suffused through it. Those images form counterpoint to the sere monologue, which at times seems like an experiment in excess of the Cassavetesian or Rivettian nature. Like the introductory extended theatre improvisation that we encounter in Out1 (which I positively assert is extremely crucial to the entire film), the monologue inexorably sets up the crucial theme of the film, that being the subconscious mental-image. This study of the mental image in the case of a suicidal protagonist treads into territories that ordinary filmmakers can never encounter or create. The interspersing of the monologue, the duologue and the dream like imagery help form a distrait mise-en-scene where in the character struggles between self-revelation and disillusionment. I am reminded of Kracauer and his essay on photography, especially his emphasis on the relationship between the photographic image and the mental-image. Among the images, which a human being recollects, the ones that pervade across millions of potential snapshots that present themselves to the memory system, what qualifies those selected images to be representatives of the collective truths of certain periods? Surely it has to do with the truth, the essence that has been liberated through suppressed layers of consciousness or been forcefully shunned out of it. The memory image might fail to stand up to the technical precision of the photographic image, which is concerned, with the moment of the snapshot and the spatial coordinates presented to it but it sure is omniscient across the vast temporal continuum that lies in memory. This peremptory choice of memory cannot be obviated. Several of the images here convey the same omniscience that magically encapsulate the ‘history’of our protagonist (to borrow again from Kracauer). In one remarkable action-reaction sequence during the duologue, the camera captures the protagonist’s friend and the protagonist in his dream state alternately. This has consolidated the character with his mental-image, the present with the history. The chains of temporal context have been broken. These images might certainly seem out of order, just as very often our mental-images have sought emancipation from the social context that inhibited them from innocent clear synthesis. Once this immurement ends, only clarity remains and verity shines through.
Providing momentum to the plot so that the viewer is not disinterested unfortunately has since always been high on the filmmaker’s agenda. To achieve it lesser directors introduce plot twists, peripheral characters and irritating deus ex machinas, while certain conniving self proclaimed intellectuals resort to metaphysical contrivances that lack a trace of veracity. Rashidi achieves the same almost effortlessly through intelligent manipulation of sound and imagery. The titular character’s introductory monologue merely shows a noirish b/w face while we get glimpses of his condition. Later once the surreal imagery is incorporated regularly into the run time, the subsequent part of the monologue shows him in color but out of focus, a putative acceptance of the inherent disparity in seeing less despite seeing more. The background score works wonders when we encounter sharp bursts amid the somber attentuated ambience. Emotions and awareness are both heightened for the viewer, as they ought to be for the character himself. Every single gesture becomes monumental. Nothing is insignificant. Incoherent stills of a couple and the absence of communication both physical and verbal between them, provide ground to what the monologue conveys.
Another key purpose the inchoate imagery serves to achieve is to develop an abstract framework of the character involved. Something that full-blown specificity quite often falls short of accomplishing. The three aspects of the film (the monologue, duologue and dream imagery) give us fleeting insights into the life of the protagonist. This is very different from the bordering on legerdemain, post-modern brechtian V effect which godard and others strove to achieve. This abstraction is essential and it functions in a style completely in conflict with the post-modern approach. The unabashed distancing is replaced by an unabashed refusal to complete acquaintance. An Abstraction towards the mental image. This is the same abstraction that makes Ozu’s films universal and independent in essence from the stringent political situation of his country or Rohmer’s films escape the french sensibility that seem to engulf them. In the great Indian filmmaker G Aravindan’s masterpiece ‘Esthappan‘ we see the titular character lead a Christ-like life balancing between fact and fiction. The fiction is created by the inhabitants of the fisherman town while the fiction in ‘HE’ is predominantly created by the actor while he is absorbed in his monologue. Both tales might not seem satisfactory for the spoon-fed hard-boiled viewer but it is this breezy nature of the plot that helps the receptive viewer coil right to the essence of both characters. Esthappan is only seen as a free floating silhouette, yet is a fully developed mystical character and by eschewing particulars and embracing the mental-image HE manages to create a rich silhouette of an existential end, something hackneyed mainstream cinema can only achieve by obliterating itself.
- Richie Abraham is an Indian cinephile and occasional writer who lives and works in Gurgaon.
- Contact Richie Abraham on email@example.com
- Originally published HERE
I’ve been kind of looking forward to seeing HE because it’s the second feature length collaboration between two people I follow on twitter, director Rouzbeh Rashidi and the actor James Devereaux. I know I’ve reviewed films by the prolific and mercurial Rouzbeh Rashidi before on here (as I have Devereaux’s) but I’m beginning to get more of a handle on his creative signature now, I think (not that he’d neccessarily want a creative signature).
HE has a really strong opening… especially for people of my age and maybe just a little older. A man who may or may not be Devereaux, wearing some kind of white environment suit, is exploring an abandoned and run down office corridor in long shot with film colouring somewhat reminiscent of sepia tone. There is a grating, scratching sound causing tension on the audio track and visual cycling on the picture indicates that we might be watching a surveillance recording, as the man makes his way slowly, over the course of a few minutes, to the front of the shot, armed with his torch, carefully exploring the debris he finds on the way.
It’s a really, really strong opening and most of the films I’ve seen by Rashidi so far have a knack of opening with a really arresting sequence. This one, for me, had a very obvious early to late 70s Hollywood science-fiction vibe to it. The white environment suit giving the visuals a definitive and provocative sense of the sinister and unknown. The sound design is fantastically effective and reflects this sense of unease… coupled with this one long take of a shot, it contributes to a tonal pitch of almost fear and paranoia. Was really impressed with this opening again.
This is followed with a bit of a mood changer as Devereaux delivers a monologue in black and white, intercut with initially sepia footage of him exploring the odd contents of what looks like the same abandoned building (in terms of budgetary influences, I’m guessing it’s the same place anyway). In these sequences, however, the environment suit is not present… which puts this footage in another timeframe, if you want to stick with a conventional reading of a less than conventional film maker.
The actual monologue is very starkly shot but not to the point that any excessive tonal contrast pops out at you immediately. In this sequence the acting tour-de-force that is Devereaux, details his dissatisfaction with a recent lover, Mary, with whom he’s presumably broken up. Devereaux’s pacing is deliberately slow, like a man trying to find the words he wants to say… and having an inkling of how Rashidi does things, this may be a very accurate description because it might even all be improvised on the spot. Even so, this is not to suggest that Devereaux is making his character up as he goes along… more that he’s already in the character (to the extent that you can be to create that illusion for an audience), and that character is exploring his words with a sense of slow precision, because they are important to him.
As Devereaux continues what is the first in a series of extremely long, one take scenes and the first of two, quite lengthy, monologues… the shot starts cutting backwards and forwards between the footage of him exploring the building. Sometimes the two bits of footage are cut to a very fast rhythm of roughly a second as shot. Setting up an almost hypnotic sense of pacing, as the fast cuts set up a new mood in your brain. Things settle down a bit then and the cuts to and from the juxtaposed footage come slower as new layers are added to what are presumably memories… which is what the human brain will pick up from the language of cinema as the correct interpretation of the same person being cut against footage of himself (whether this is a correct interpretation or not). Rashedi knows this and exploits that basic self-taught human response to his own uses… I was very much expecting him to pull the rug from under me in this sequence to be honest.
After a while, the director/editor sets up another intense sequence of similar rhythmic cutting within the same monologue. So what we now have is a secondary layer of different rhythms creating a larger, slower rhythm which is being received directly into the mind as a fast series of rhythmic cuts… when what is actually happening at a deeper, and probably subconscious level for the majority of the audience, is that a larger and more serene rhythmic response is being set up… much like the way the music of Philip Glass can play out in the ear as speedy repeat phrases when they are actually piecing together a slower melody inside your head. So what we have is a very striking and initially grating visual ostinato making up a slower piece, which owes as much to Dennis Hopper’s similar cross-cutting effects in his directorial debut Easy Rider as it does to anything else.
The quality of the intercut footage starts to get more colourful and dreamlike in some places and then knocks back down to a state of distress in others. In this second tier of footage, Devereaux continues to wander a rundown building interior, randomly exploring and interacting (passively at first) with his immediate environment on a purely physical level. After a good long while he picks up a load of big Garrick Glen bottles of still water (product placement in a Rashidi movie?) and places them on a ramshackle table he finds. This is a red herring that something pivotal is about to happen because, after undoing the tops of each one and sniffing them in turn before putting the tops back on, he knocks them off the table with a walking stick he’s been carrying and carries on exploring his environment. As I write these words now and revisit the movie in my head… I suddenly realise I’ve got a very strong idea of what he is looking for, but to reveal that here would possibly spoil things a little for potential viewers.
Towards the end of this first monologue section, Devereaux’s HE reveals that he is recording his monologue to send to Mary, because he is going to kill himself. It’s an audio suicide note.
We then have a scene change with a more colourful and sharper picture, as we cut to what can only be Mary herself. She is talking with someone (possibly her latest lover) in a room as they both gaze out of large windows. We cannot hear the actual conversation they are having, however.
At first Mary is occupying the same basic space to the left of the screen that Devereaux was visually filling during his monologue… so this scene cuts very naturally into this segment before quickly cutting to a long shot of Mary and the other guy in profile… Mary still occupying the left of screen so this is already not nearly as jarring as the sequence with Devereaux in it… until the intercut footage of Devereaux wandering the building continues to be intercut into this sequence, enabling a more intense rhythm mixed with a more aggressive, almost musical sound design… we are now entering the realms of pure visual poetry, ladies and gentlemen, which makes Rashidi something akin to a direct descendant, mutant love child of the cinematic poetry of Andrei Tarkovsky cross pollinated with late 50s beat generation writing (somebody needs to give this guy a big budget and see if he can handle it without losing creative impetus… come on all you slap dash producers!).
We cut to a single shot of the guy which holds for a longer time, like the first shot in this section of the female lead and, yes, he’s occupying the opposite space within the frame of the shot to what she and Devereaux did. Is this sequence a mirror image of itself developed through the rhythm of the shots? Well yeah and that’s obviously the intent but it’s almost here as a visual bookend to bring us into a second monologue while still retaining continuity of the cross-cut footage, because as this shot sequence ends we cut to a new scene of Deveraux in a standard colour shot with a new monologue delivery… but intercut with more footage of Deveraux wandering the building, this time (at first) without any deterioration to the quality of the film stock… perhaps symbolic of less mental deterioration as this monologue seems a little faster and more confident… it being another recording, this time to the parents of the character.
The intercut footage grows more angry and destructive and is perhaps a visual echo of the anger that the central character feels to his parents. The content of these shots calms down for a while but the monologue drops out with aggressive audio phase shifting (or some such technique) in what seems like a key place, to deliberately restrict the viewer from being spoonfed certain information and to instead fire the potent imagination, I would imagine… before dropping back into the natural sound of the monologue. It could also, of course, be a way of cutting out material which didn’t, in the final analysis, gel with the tone of the piece… but if so it’s a valid and creative solution to that particular kind of problem and so not to be seen as an invalidation of a piece of work. I suspect half of what happens on a film set is accidental anyway (even with Hitchcock, but I’m not going to try to defend that statement here).
This monologue also becomes an aggressive diatribe against the evils of television and the lack of a role model in the character’s parents which is actually quite heartfelt and somewhat amusing (I can really identify with certain parts of this stuff and believe I’ve said similar about the evils of daytime television to various friends over the years).
We then have another break from the format after a while and various experimental techniques are applied to crosscut footage intertwining with contemplative shots of other characters. Devereaux continues his explorations and antics within the building, this time back in the environmental suit, while sound and atonal music dictates the intensity that these shots are informed by… or at least a retrofitted sense of the informed, if such a thing is possible (and of course it is in cinema).
A sequence intercut to this with the couple from earlier in bed with the guy not being in any way responsive to the world about him, even when aggressively shaken, is cut against a new and hard to digest rhythm.
This is followed by a sequence where Devereaux’s character discusses his impending suicide with a friend, which is a great sequence of two really masterful actors who seem to work pretty well together, juxtaposed against footage featuring a character played by director Maximilian Le Cain, who meets with Devereaux as he assists him by providing him with the means to take his suicide objective a step closer. Le Cain isn’t in it much but adds a little more intensity in his static performance. I once wrote of him in my blog review here that he seems like someone who would “be chasing me down a street brandishing a big board with a nail in it” but in these short scenes he seems somehow less physically aggressive… perhaps more like someone who would be “paying and organising subordinates” to be chasing me down a street brandishing a big board with a nail in it, instead. Either way he has an intensity in this that’s hard to ignore.
Devereaux and his friend explore the motivation and reasoning behind his decision to kill himself and it’s a very rational and almost calm conversation, one that perhaps contradicts the inherent struggle of Devereaux’s first monologue and naked aggression of his second. This gives a sense of depth to the character because it’s clear that he is not telling his friend everything… or at least that’s the way I interpreted it and I’m really not going to say anymore about the content of the film because I think this seemingly inherent but unhighlighted contradiction pretty much sums up Rashidi’s directorial style, which I touched upon somewhat in my review of his movie Bipedality.
That is to say…
In terms of visual aesthetic, this is very much a film which pits beautifully framed, static and crisp shots against more downgraded and less palatable textures and moving camera work. But no answers are provided and visual touchstones are deliberately (I believe) set up to create a “story space” to make up your own ways of reading and interpreting the text. Is the environment suit needed, for instance, because the building is radioactive and Devereaux’s character didn’t know and now he has cancer? Is that the reason why he’s decided to take this course and reexamine his life? Or is he a ghost from the future in a post apocalyptic time period. I don’t know and neither, do I think, am I supposed to.
Rashidi doesn’t tell stories, he sets them up and then leaves them absolutely to the audience’s own struggle to provide a shape to house the visual and aural ideas prevalent in his movies. He doesn’t leave it completely without structure and, as we have seen, there is plenty of structure and rhythm within the editing of his sequences… but he does provide a rough guide to an exploration of the narrative and not the key to a fixed narrative conclusion itself. This is the strength of this director’s films and, I suspect, one of the reasons why they have interest independent of their obvious visual beauty. I won’t say more on this because I don’t want to over think this guys working method but I will say that, while some audiences for this kind of, almost challenging but certainly not passively consumed, cinematic dish may find this kind of meal less palatable than others, I would have to say that I quite enjoyed HE and think it’s an another fine example of a director who is making really unique films which unfold on the director’s own terms and which don’t cowtow to commercial pressures. Seek this one out, if you can, if you are into watching a purer (I hesitate to say rawer given the obvious craftsmanship which goes into these kinds of films) and more demanding form of cinema.
For more information on Rashidi and Devereaux, go here and then follow the links: www.rashididevereauxcinema.tumblr.com
- Originally published HERE
HE, the latest work in the ongoing collaboration between Rouzbeh Rashidi and actor James Devereaux, is a troubling and mysterious portrait of a suicidal man. Rashidi juxtaposes the lead character’s apparently revealing monologues with scenes and images that layer the film with ambiguity. Its deliberate, hypnotic pace and boldly experimental structure result in an unusual and challenging view of its unsettling subject.