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November 12, 2013

Starz Denver Film Festival 2013 - Morning Star

morning star poster 1.jpg

L'Etoile du Jour
Sophie Blondy - 2012
Eye On Films

One thing about film festivals is that those with the broadest selection of films will include titles that that are flying below even some of the most ardent cinephiles radars. It's not just that I was unaware of the existence of Morning Star, but that it's not every day that you get to see a French movie with Iggy Pop. Consider also that the other starring roles consist of Leos Carax regular Denis Lavant, force of nature Beatrice Dalle, and (WTF?) Tcheky Kayro. There is a shot of most of the cast members sitting around a fire. The camera pans across their faces. Not only does everyone look like life has beat them up, but that it has punched them in the face too many times.

The story is about a very small, traveling circus that has set their tent near a desolate beach. There is tension between former lovers, as well as distrust in the circus owner. At one performance, the gypsy singer scares the audience with a voice that alternates between Yma Sumac and a roaring lion. Later, the clowns gang up on the ringmaster-owner merging life with performance.

I'm not sure if Blondy's choices all work, but what makes the film of interest is when she breaks away from her narrative for purely visual choices. Some of the images get very abstract. There is a shot of two pairs of feet dancing in the sand, a close-up of tall grass bending to the wind, superimpositions and shots purposefully out of focus. I don't how much familiarity Sophie Blondy has of the films by Stan Brakhage, but there were glimpses of similar imagery.

Iggy has no dialogue. He just appears as some kind of apparition that only Lavant can see. His role is listed as "The Conscience". Sometimes, "The Conscience" appears as a reflection in a puddle of water or in a mirror. There's no explanation as to who he is, but Blondy and her cinematographer, Nathalie Durand, explore the textures of Iggy's long hair and weather-beaten face. Morning Star also needs to be seen for the joyous fantasy ending with Lavant and Iggy Pop on a motorcycle ride to Heaven.

There is also a musical connection with Iggy Pop's former musical collaborator, Steve Mackey and the current incarnation of the Stooges providing the music. Also as part of the eclectic mix are songs by Edith Piaf, Juliette Greco and Tom Waits.

Had the narrative elements been tweaked a bit, rather than being overly familiar, this might have been a better film. There are moments when the disparate elements of image and sound do work together, creating some momentary magic.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at November 12, 2013 07:57 AM