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October 15, 2007

Allegro

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Christoffer Boe - 2005
Koch Lorber Region 1 DVD

"I liked movies so much that they became an obsession. I am still trying to kick the habit."
- Christoffer Boe

I have a preference for Alain Resnais' earlier films, which were more or less about memory, and were based on and influenced by the writings of Margarite Duras, Alain Robbe-Grillet and Jean Cayrol. Although there has been some discussion on the influence of Resnais' Je T'Aime, Je T'Aime on Michel Godry's Eternal Sunshine of the Eternal Mind, Christoffer Boe has also demonstrated that his own films take on the theme of memory as explored by Resnais. That Boe has expressed interest in French literature is a point I wish had been explored more deeply in a recent interview. Conciously or not, Allegro refers back to Resnais' Je T'Aime, Je T'Aime also by having the narrative hinge on Ulrich Thomsen's ability to declare his love to Helena Christensen.

Allegro is something of the reverse version of Boe's more widely seen Reconstruction. In the earlier film, Nikolaj Lie Kaas has memories of people, places and releationships that increasingly disappear as the film progresses. Ulrich Thomsen in Allegro is a concert pianist who has forgetten his past to the point where no only can he not recognize former friends, but is unaware when facing himself as a child. Additionally, Boe explores the idea of art not as personal expression but as a vehicle of escape for the artist from relationships.

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Part of the film takes place in a small section of Copenhagen called "The Zone", a supposedly closed off and impenetrable area that appears to be just another part of town but with an invisible screen that ripples when touched. Thomsen's journey to retrieve his memories takes him into The Zone, through a maze of streets, halls and doors that never remain constant. One scene, when Thomsen opens the door of a dark hallway to find himself in a forest made me think of the novels of Haruki Murakami, who also explores art and memory. This description by Matt Thompson in "The Guardian" could well fit Boe's narrative: It is more a case of "finding something." To generalize, Murakami's main character tends to be a man who is somewhat out of touch with his own feelings. Through his encounters with women, he discovers clues as to how his sense of self became unraveled. The man is a detective, but the crime has somehow happened within himself.

As humorless as Ulrich Thomsen is in Allegro, Boe is playful. There is a deadpan sense of humor regarding The Zone, with Thomsen finding himself in unlikely places. Part of the narrative is animated, with simple black and white drawings of the pianist as a young boy, with his piano and his box of memories. I am baffled that Allegro was not as well received theatrically as Reconstruction, especially as it more easy to understand and appreciate with a single viewing. Of course it is quite possible that like Resnais's past films, especially Je T'Aime, Je T'Aime, which were not appreciated at the time of their initial release, Allegro may well find its audience in the future.

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Posted by peter at October 15, 2007 08:17 AM