Thursday, February 12, 2009

La Nuit Fantastique

A handsome young student of philosophy moonlights in a flower market where too often he falls asleep and dreams of a graceful ghostly female always able to make out her shape but never able to catch sight of her face.

He confides to a friend that this dream girl is so alluring that he has fallen in love with her, so much so that he must break up with the girlfriend he has in real waking world.

Then one night, asleep again, his foot is accidentally kicked by a graceful ghostly woman. He finally catches sight of his dream girl's face and stops her with his plea "Now that you've shown me your face, please don't take it away again." She permits him to accompany her through an adventurous midnight Parisian landscape.

During the course of the night they evade magicians, suitors, mad men, thugs, and even Egyptian mummies. They seem to cover the entire city in a single night from nightclubs, magic shops, abandon buildings, sanitariums, moonlit rooftops, and even a late night soiree at the Louvre.

Convinced that he will lose his dream girl's visage with the dawn, the line between reality and what is merely dreamt becomes hazy for the young student. Convinced he is dreaming, he has thrown caution to the wind abandoning any inhibitions or sense of self-survival in service to his dream girl, thereby becoming the hero of this fantasy saving the damsel from both a loveless marriage arranged by a parental impostor and worse interment in a madhouse.

Jonathan Rosenbaum spoke before the film about how this film had a disturbing quality probably due to its being filmed in occupied France. Personally I think that is an over application of contextuality. Sure there are some troubling tense moments in the film, but they are the sort of moments any film that flirts with dementia even in a playful way would have captured. Still, his read on the film was fascinating, and I'm glad for having heard it.

I read online that the lead of the film, Fernand Gravey, actually served in the underground French Resistance during the making of this picture. Imagine, the lead male leading a double life during the war as his character inhabits heroism under the pretense of living in a dream doubled world.

If ever a viewing of this film crossed your path, do not pass it up.

I found the first 2 minutes of the film billed as the trailer. Enjoy!

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