Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Andrzej Zulawski's Fidelity at BAM

Fidelity is Andrzej Zulawski’s most recent film to date and was made in 2000. It is a paradoxical film, teetering between conventional and trademark unorthodox Zulawski, and is evocative of elements in The Blue Note, My Nights Are More Beautiful Than Your Days, and That Most Important Thing: Love.

Sophie Marceau plays Cielia, a photographer. She has a chance encounter with Cleve (Pascal Greggory) who quickly becomes her husband. Cielia has just started working as an abstract art photographer for a seedy newspaper that is trying to add some class to its media empire. Like Nadine's choice to appear in an exploitation film in That Most Important Thing: Love and Ethel's decision to perform dance routines for a pathetic photographer in La femme publique, Cielia takes the photo assignment out of necessity. The job pays for the cost of care and treatment of Celia's dying mother. Following her mother's death, the ghostly forms of Celia's deceased parents materialize somberly in various moments throughout the film.

Zulawski directs Fidelity with a swooning and tender lightness. The performances and camera movements are alive, though understated. In place of kinetic frenzy, Zulawski teases out the energy in peace. Sophie Marceau gives a dynamic and sincere performance, in spite of brief scenes when the story falters or becomes disjointed. Zulawski juxtaposes graceful camera work with adrenalin-fueled action scenes while Cielia experiences a bizarre underworld with a younger love interest, Nemo (Guilaume Canet). Andrzej Korzynski’s beautiful and minimal piano melodies correspond with the delicate emotions seen and felt onscreen. A highly effective synthesizer sequence tranquilizes with sustained tones. On the other hand, pseudo industrial-metal music during the action sequences is comical and oddly dissonant.

The arc of Fidelity instantly brings to mind Nadine’s struggle in That Most Important Thing: Love. Like so many Zulawski protagonists, Cielia strives for individual freedom and expression while imposing limits by adhering to social and personal codes of loyalty, honesty, and honor. She experiences a painful dilemma in that she loves her husband though has conflicted emotions towards him and desires another man.

BAM screened an outstandingly clean print on Sunday March 18th that heightened my appreciation for the film as I had only seen the work on DVD up until that point. The performances, photography, and music all struck me as more powerful this time around though I still think that Fidelity has some clear flaws and pales in comparison to Zulawski's most accomplished films.