Because of its fusion of different time elements possibly an influence on Alain Resnais’s cinema in general and Last Year at Marienbad (1961) in particular, Jean Epstein’s piercing, haunting silent La glace à trois faces, from a story by future wartime collaborationist Paul Morand, provides a disturbing, moving portrait of an anonymous, wealthy young man whose existence is fractured by three different companions—perhaps consecutively, perhaps in tandem. Pearl, ridiculously adorned by huge ropes of pearls, is aristocratic; Athalia, a sculptor, bohemian; Lucie, a sweet working-class girl. “He” is something of a lipsticked dandy sporting penciled eyebrows and, in company, constantly throwing back his head in forced laughter; he spends much of his solitude in his nifty sports car. His disdain for both Pearl and Athalia is evident, and one may infer that this disdain at least in part accounts for their neurotic “love” for him. However, at one point, poignantly, real feeling floods his eyes when he is with Lucie; while he writes the other two nasty notes before taking off alone on a seaside holiday, his note to Lucie is kinder. Were his tears partly in contemplation of his ending their relationship? This makes sense to me: Although Lucie is introduced to us last, she may have come first in his life, and the foolishness of his “smart” rejection of her has blasted his heart in retrospect. He thus projects his self-contempt onto Pearl and Athalia. Lucie, after all, is the only warm one of the three, the one girl who we feel is really in love with him.
In one miraculous passage, a subjective camera records the protagonist’s winding attempt to drive out of a parking structure; it is fraught with desperation, a sense that he feels his life is at a dead-end. Perhaps it is his fate that he is trying to elude as he jumps the speed limit for one last ride; anticipating Hitchcock (The Birds, 1963), birds gather on high, with one swooping down to deliver him to his fate, and his diaphanous spirit stands in front of a three-sided mirror that is facing us, begging us to consider more carefully the choices that we make.
B(U)Y THE BOOK
MY BOOK, A Short Chronology of World Cinema, IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE FROM THE SANDS FILMS CINEMA CLUB IN LONDON. USING EITHER OF THE LINKS BELOW, ACCESS THE ADVERTISEMENT FOR THIS BOOK, FROM WHICH YOU CAN ORDER ONE OR MORE COPIES OF IT. THANKS.