Time Regained

As much as I’d like the title of this post to actually be in reference to a blog update, whereby I’d allowed myself more time to watch these films than the allotted five years, alas it is in fact the title of a 1999 French film about the life of novelist Marcel Proust. The film is as thrilling as that sounds, and holds the position of the biography I’ve seen that, after having watched it, I know roughly the same amount about it’s subject as I did before watching, and all I knew beforehand was that at some point or other he’d written something.
Beginning with Proust (Marcello Mazzarella) on his death bed, dictating to an underling and going over old photographs with a magnifying glass, he then proceeds to remember his life, in whatever order he damn well pleases. Scenes are shown more than once, overlapping with similar yet different details, characters wander in and out freely, most with no introduction and some with several, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to tell what is real and what isn’t. How much is memory? Is this his version of events or what really happened? With such little concrete fact to go on, nothing is learnt because nothing can be trusted.
Just as the opening credits show a stream washing over pebbles, so to did the entirety of this film wash over me. I was bored within the first 20 minutes, having nothing to affix my attention to but the sumptuous visuals and interesting uses of lighting, colour, focus and mirrors. At times it takes a meander into Bunuel territory, with rooms of upturned top hats lined on the floor, aristocratic party goers momentarily becoming mannequins and revolving audiences at a musical performance. At one point a woman visibly grows younger, then older, within a scene.
If the film was designed to be impenetrable, as I think is the case, then congratulations should go to director Raoul Ruiz, for this film is alienating if you have no knowledge of it’s central character. If you’re watching to try and discover details of the writer’s life, then flee, run full pelt in the opposite direction and head to the library instead, for there will be no assistance here. When party guests (there’s a lot of soirees in this film) complain at being confused at meeting so many new people, I can truly empathise.
Whilst the film looks astounding, it’s essentially pointless.
Choose life 3/10

2 thoughts on “Time Regained

  1. Man, was I disappointed with this film. My biggest problem was the fact that the copy I had featured white subtitles…frequently on a white background. Me, not being a French speaker, was further lost by something that was, as you say, already pretty impenetrable. "Time Wasted" is a better title for this one.

  2. I got 20 minutes into the film and, having no clue what was going on, flipped over to your site and read your review to see if it would help. Fortunately I didn't suffer from the subtitle issues you had, but I can't say that knowing what the characters were saying helped me understand what was going on in the film. Time Wasted was the title of the review I posted on LoveFilm for this film!

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