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Cannes 2009: Costa Brief (“Ne change rien,” Costa)

Considering all his talk about work, the value of it as well as its humility, and especially how making movies is work too—good work, by ardent workers–it is hard to believe that Pedro Costa hasn’t made a movie about work until Ne change rienOù gît votre sourire enfoui?, his documentary on the making of Straub-Huillet's Sicilia!, is about process, romance, and contestation—all elements of work, but this film is quite different.  Spawned from short documentaries he made with French actress Jeanne Balibar about her singing career, Ne change rien is a feature length dedication to Balibar’s alternative work (alternative to acting)—training, rehearsing, and performing music.  Trading Sympathy for the Devil’s tracking shot studies of musical syncopation on film for Costa’s black and white digital shots of concrete zombie stoicism, Ne change rein sees nothing as straightforward as the glory of work, but instead mines the shadows for the poetry of bodies, voices, and faces trying again and again to produce sound—the right sound, and for it to be something transporting.

John Alton’s pools of light are in Costa’s claustrophobic film like a dawn Balibar is straining towards, being pulled by her wispy body and drawn face in languorous slow motion out of the dark of the studio, of the concert hall, out of this black chamber film of sound and vision that reverberates in closed spaces and does not escape—they are simply re-worked until perfected (if indeed this music can be perfected).  In close-up like Dietrich under Sternberg’s lights, and in long shot like Christine Gordon in Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie, Balibar’s efforts as a chanteuse, coaxed as they are by a vocal coach and a fellow musician in the studio, are a fragile thing, as unsure as the shadows and equally in danger of slipping into obscurity.

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