Sunday, April 27, 2014

Last fumblings and betrayals

It is fitting that the softly abrasive voice of François Mauriac both begins and ends this surprisingly sepulchral tele-movie about Proust that, while made in 1962, might have been strung from a series of daguerreotype plates.


Most alive -- and therefore most precious -- are those moments when Proust's one time housekeeper, Céleste Albaret, breaks down, although even here there is a willing naivety in her hagiography -- a willing naivety that is most obvious in her memoir of Proust where, like the village admirers of eighteenth and nineteenth century fasting girls, she appears too easily convinced that, despite his late night trips to the Ritz, her employer subsisted in his last years on little more than café au lait. And yet in this film there is true pain in her account of the last fumblings and betrayals over the dying writer's thighs, and it is in this pain, I think, that we can sense the remnants of a vulnerable, sometimes petulant but also astonishingly determined and sensitive person that, by the screening of the numerous death bed sketches at the end of the film -- where the thick black of Proust's Jesus-like hair and beard only draws attention to the immaculate white of the sheets -- can no longer be felt.

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