8 November 2021

Luc Moullet's Le Prestige de la mort (2007)

(In September of this year, 2021, the Cinémathèque française showed a number of films by the almost forgotten Luc Moullet, who at the age of eighty-four is still very much alive. When the daily paper Libération interviewed him, living on the fifth floor of a block of flats, he said he's horrified of lifts, and measures the state of a visitor's health by counting the minutes between their initial intercom ring and the time they arrive at his door. In another article in the same paper, Moullet says "I'm not a very normal person. I always live a little at the side of reality". (My translation, and I shall continue to include this paragraph in any further posts on Mouillet as they are not only an introduction to his work, but also (surely) strong indications of an Asperger element.))

Moullet's inspiration for this crazy, absurd film came from Cecil B. DeMille's The Whispering Chorus (1917). He plays himself as does his wife, Antonietta Moullet (née Pizzorno). He's a film maker who can't make a film adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Desperate Remedies – Hardy's first published novel, involving false identity – because of lack of money. Wandering around the Alps in Provence with Hardy's novel, Moullet stumbles upon a dead body and hits on what he thinks is a wonderful way of getting money for his film: if he swaps identities with the corpse, changing his own passport with the dead man's, when people think Luc Moullet is dead they'll rush to watch his films, television channels will show them and bring his widow a great deal of money.

Obviously this is in part a satire on the fact that most ageing cultural figures are only recognised after his death. But of course there's much more to it than that, as Moullet, when he is arrested by the police for the murder of himself, and whom his own wife will kill because she thinks he's the man whose identity he's assumed – will perhaps discover in his final seconds. Absurd indeed.

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