While an interview of Serbian-born Stanislav Stanojević that is included on the DVD of his French film Le journal d’un suicidé suggests he is a maddening bore, his film is anything but that; it is charming, absorbing, beguiling, intriguingly elusive. It also alternates between color and black and (mostly) white.
On a Mediterranean cruise a travel guide tries to get a stranger, an interpreter, to talk to him and show him her eyes, which she keeps hidden behind sunglasses. Without removing the shades, she does unbend a bit, asking the guide to tell her a story. He does start telling stories, which perhaps are more like snatches of dreams, but one at least, a story within a story, coalesces into a plotted thing. It involves an anarchist plot against a politician and his family; the aim is both homicidal and suicidal. The mission succeeds except for two survivors, who are therefore mystically linked: the politician’s young daughter and one of the anarchists, whose leap to her death does no better than getting both of her legs broken. This young woman is incarcerated; her jailer, who is haunted by his wartime past and is also suicidally inclined, is sleepless. We viewers seem to be gathering shards of a single shattered identity. Challengingly though somehow convincingly, Stanojević describes this film as a comedy.
Delphine Seyrig, wandering beyond Marienbad (Sacha Pitoëff, who plays the jailer, was also in Alain Resnais’s phenomenal 1961 film), plays the interpreter. We are all quite familiar with her eyes. Yet so caught up are we in Stanojević’s mesmerizing mystery that our hearts miss a beat when Stanojević keeps the interpreter’s eyes hidden even as she quickly takes off her sunglasses with one hand and puts on another pair with the other.
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