Stavisky… feels like a transition film for Alain Resnais. It comes several years after his somewhat experimental sci-fi film Je t’aime je t’aime, which itself was preceded by many of his known 50s and 60s masterpieces, and comes just before a group of 80s films, the few of which I know (My American Uncle and Life is a Bed of Roses) are less structurally experimental than his other work.
Stavisky… definitely plays with time as the film flashes back and forward along the line of con man Stavisky/Alex/Sacha’s (Jean-Paul Belmondo) life, but it’s such a straight-ahead narrative for the most part that it feels weird to be a Resnais film given what comes before it.
Still, Belmondo is strong, and there are flourishes of what shot the director onto the international map.
Check out this CLIP.
The reaction shots of Belmondo really play up the inner turmoil, but also precede the images that tell give us what’s happening in his mind. That montage at the end, beginning at 0:55 where the music also swells feels like the Resnais I’m more familiar with. I love the whiteness of the first three images, and then the cut point right as the hand is extended to camera, as though – in a similar way to Je t’aime je t’aime – Stavisky is just being ripped through his memories, hardly able to stay in one for long enough to complete it.
HERE‘s another clip that I quite liked in Stavisky…
Stavisky and crew spot a woman that he fondly remembers from a theater audition long ago (sorry for the lack of subtitles). She reminds me a bit of the personification of the woman that Bernstein fondly recalls in Citizen Kane:
Anyway, the moment I really like is the transition from 0:59 to 1:00. We cut from that close-up to the wide-shot, and you just know that the camera is going to start moving. It’s a neat temporal ellipsis and is so filled with melancholy as the camera (and Stavisky) move further away from some missed opportunity/love.
The other part that I found really interesting comes at 1:13. It’s a nice little reveal: it’s not actually Stavisky’s POV! Perhaps it’s a little aside into another character’s psyche. Or Stavisky remembering it as his being “faithful” to his wife by not being the one looking. Regardless, it’s a neat little surprise.
Here’s an image I like from the film, though it’s a little vague as a still. It’s pretty arty, I supposed, but Resnais uses it as a nice bit of pacing – it’s the reflection in Stavisky’s car as the woods whirl by. I like the distortion not from the lens, but from the curved surface. Something about it seems to express the nostalgic feel that the film evokes when at its best: