Sat. Oct 1st, 2022

Claire Denis’ trailer High life

For space cinema fans, two major releases have long been scheduled for spring 2019 that have nothing to do with that great Apollo anniversary: ​​the Brad Pitt-led, James Gray (Lost City Z)-directed Advertisement Astra continues to aim for May; and the Robert Pattinson starring, Claire Denis-made High life arrives this week.

Before I’ve even seen a trailer for the first one, I now know that the one thing these two movies probably have in common is an alien setting.

At the most basic level, High life revolves around the story of Monte (Pattinson), the last man on the nondescript spaceship No.7. Soon, the film reveals that he hasn’t always been alone – originally, Monte was one of nine inmates released in exchange for accepting an interstellar mission. “We were scum, garbage, garbage that didn’t fit into the system until someone came up with the bright idea of ​​recycling us to serve science,” as Monte’s narration puts it. Why and how these humans ended up as hauntingly beautiful floating space debris makes up most of High life‘s minimalist plot, as well as the question of what led Monte to avoid such a fate and continue to postpone it. Violence, mental challenges, and some off-the-books drugs and research complicate everything.

But as those who recognize famed French author Claire Denis would expect, plot at best never really rises above a secondary priority. Fans of sci-fi movies looking for a tense drama or an intricate allegory filled with clear messages and answers, better boot A new hope for the 100th time in anticipation of Brad Pitt. Instead, Denis’ first foray into science fiction and English-language space film will likely surprise anyone who engages in Film Twitter™ with its ambiguity and artistry. But unlike the 2001-like experience it can sound a certain way, High life will just as easily lose certain segments of its audience with its plethora of extremes and apparent disinterest in the story.

No one can hear you in space ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Where she can, Denis intentionally sees with High life where previous space movies zigzagged. Although she has clearly put a lot of thought into the genre and its scientific basis – Denis namechecks 2001 and solaris in the film’s press material, and she worked with the European Space Agency and astrophysicist Aurélien Barrau to familiarize herself with everything from black holes and the Big Bang to string theory and wormholes — the director deliberately avoiding much of that detail.

While, for example, the world of High life is unmistakably constructed with care and has a certain blue-collar chic that is more Expectation than SpaceX, Denis tried to avoid the thinness so often associated with sci-fi or NASA glory. This isn’t “Kens and Barbies floating in spaceships that look like children’s toys,” Denis says in her press notes. Spaceship No. 7 looks like a functional shoebox when it floats through space, and the interior might as well be a prison.

High Life’s action follows the same aesthetic, with little to no effects. The space cadets of this movie just walk. Anything thrown from the ship just falls off a ledge into the void of space. Views of the outer galaxy can certainly be striking, but they are minimalistic, and sometimes it’s (intentionally) hard to decipher whether we’re looking at space or inside the human body. More than one very first man-y (lo-fi, practical, stunning in its own right) exploratory pod sequence, closest to a “set” is a tantalizingly shot extended romp in the ship’s solo sex dungeon (which, yes, had become something to shout out to on Twitter even before High life left the festival circuit). Action often unfolds in unshakable, graphic, disturbing, frowning detail, all stemming from one human being displaying kindness or aggression toward another.

†[With] weightlessness — it’s not necessary because the spaceship is accelerating almost the speed of light,” says Denis. “Terrestrial gravity — gravity in every sense of the word — regenerates itself, because gravity is the effect of acceleration. If I had to film actors hanging from cables against a green screen, I would never have made this film.”

While those contrarian choices work wonderfully, things get muddier with the story itself. Little stories in galaxies far, far away can work amazingly, as can subvert more traditional movie choices (High life is just the latest in Denis’s nonlinear legacy). But Denis sometimes provokes the public to frustration by dispensing that kind of information in only the smallest doses.

evil vixen dr. Dibs (Juliette Binoche) manages everything on the ship and has a diabolical study to conduct with extreme personal investments. That is separate from what we learn is that the stated mission company and governments have offered the crew of spaceship No.7 in exchange for pseudo release. But none of those macro plots gain sustained forward momentum or extended, obvious contemplation. Instead, the most captivating story to High life seems to be Monte’s psychological journey from accepting this mission, through coming to grips with its reality, to finally deciding what actions to take or not to take to move forward.

“I’m interested in the variety of human life – how people live,” Denis says in the press releases, and he seems to confirm this idea. “I am most interested in individuals and how they respond to challenges or difficulties, or simply to each other. Cinema should be human and part of people’s lives; it should focus on ordinary existences in extraordinary situations and places. That is what really motivates me.”

As someone who is not as versed in Denis’s work as film critics who can casually check 2001’s name Problems every daymaybe having the context of her entire filmography would be a lot of High lifeare riddles. High life could especially talk about the challenge of being human in the face of insurmountable forces – black holes in the movie, things like climate change in real life. Or maybe Denis has a U.S-feeling in your mind that you will never really be able to run away from your past. After all, Monte, now definitely a different individual from the incarcerated juvenile delinquent, still remains condemned to an existence separate from humanity. In any case, this film clearly something to say about sexuality, sex, reproduction and the body of men and women.

With every thread you try to unravel, Denis stays just at the opaque end of decipherable. For some, that’s an attraction; dislike for others. For sci-fi diehards reading about a major movie star in a new space movie, it’s definitely a little different than you might expect.

High life opens this weekend in New York and Los Angeles before going nationwide on April 19

List image by High Life / Claire Denis / Fons PR

By akfire1

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