August 18, 2010

The Eccentricities of a Blonde Haired Girl

What are the eccentricities of this blonde haired girl? You'll spend 60 minutes of this fine film trying to find out what her eccentricities actually are, before you realise her real eccentricity is that she doesn't exist. This isn't some Lynchian nightmare in which a character actually doesn't exist- the blonde haired girl is there (see the picture above) but she lies behind a curtain, she gestures from a window, she does not actually exist. The film is about a man who wants to turn his life to pivot upon her existance. He is an accountant, commerce dislikes him because he is sentimental, but he seems to be able to hold down a job in his uncle's Lisbon shop. Across the road he spies the girl- we later learn she is called Luisa but her name is basically irrelevant- and he falls in love with her, her and her Chinese fan. He then proceeds to win her heart, surprisingly easily, but in order to marry he must find money. His uncle won't support him so he goes to Cape Verde to raise funds. I'll stop telling the story there- there is more to tell but you know everything you need to know until the final twist (the moment when you realise the girl until then has not existed).

The entire story is told by the main male character in a train to a woman. So we only see the girl through his eyes. She is sexy in a Bardot way, large lips, a come hither glance over a fan etc etc but we don't ever learn about what she likes or who she is. She isn't anyone and likes nothing save to be observed- that's what you'd infer from the accountant's tale. He on the other hand behaves like some medieval knight, he asks his uncle for her hand, he lives in penury and suffers for her, he idealises her favour, he can't even speak to her before proposing marriage. Its not the way that I imagine young Portugeese people behave today- and seems Quixotic (literally). This is a Quixote levelling his lance at lampposts and dancing through the night. All the way through the film his actions have a naive literalness which is charming and uncanny at the same time. He tells a prose tale in poetry to the woman on the train and there must be a suggestion, there was at the bottom of my mind, that he told her it to seduce her. The whole tale may be an invention- a game itself.

But if it is, it is not very appealing. This is the girl seen through the window, through curtains (a motif) if ever there was one for the inability of human minds to connect. If he sees nothing of her then equally he reveals nothing of himself. How is a girl to marry someone she doesn't know? He doesn't appear worried by that question. There are other baroque moments- a poem is read out about the dangers of connection at a private party, friends cause unhappiness- if they do then our hero is a survivor. The epicureanism of the poem though contrasts with the spirituality of the actor. One thinks here of spirituality as a means of inflicting suffering- Jean Louis employed it in My Night at Maud's and our accountant does so here too. When he and the girl are out together, he speaks for her, first and unabashed: given that he doesn't know what she likes he doesn't have to take it into account. She is an image in his head: this he says is love, pure and unadulterated by reality. If nothing else the film is a cutting argument for cohabitation as mature and moral before marriage.

The film is eccentric, no question about that, so is its lead character. But the girl- well she may have an eccentricity by the end, I'll leave you to judge. What is eccentric about her is that she isn't eccentric in the narrator's eyes: women who only stand in windows with fans don't exist. The fact that our Quixote cannot unravel the fact that she is strange because in his eyes that is what she does, doesn't get her and therefore doesn't understand that her anodyneness is eccentricity. The film undermines sexism but it also undermines any posture which assumes that human's aren't individuals, aren't eccentric. Upon the eccentricities of the blonde haired girl, our hero wrecks his family ambitions- that seems, far from unfinished or slight, an incredibly profound and important conclusion to an interesting film. Its a conclusion that, note to some modern film makers, only took 63 minutes to get across.


James Higham said...

she is called Luisa but her name is basically irrelevant- and he falls in love with her, her and her Chinese fan. He then proceeds to win her heart, surprisingly easily

Sounds as though she does exist here.

Gracchi said...

James in a weird way you are absolutely right- she doesn't exist or rather the hero isn't looking at her and when he does start looking at her, he doesn't like what he finds!