January 25, 2013

Films within films

In Godard’s A Married Woman (1964), Robert (Bernard Noel) meets Charlotte (Macha Meril) at an airport cinema and they watch Night and Fog. Outside the cinema there is a poster of Hitchcock but Godard shows us Night and Fog. We see what they see. The subtitled narration: “Even a perfect landscape, even a prairie with crows flying above, with harvests and hay fires, even a road with passing cars, peasants, couples, even a vacation village with a fair and a steeple, can lead very simply to a concentration camp.” In Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Brody writes, “For Godard, the lovers’ adulterous embrace in a dark theatre suggests the banality of evil.” In My Week with Marilyn (2011), directed by Simon Curtis, young and naive Colin (Eddie Redmayne) is in a cinema alone, grinning in a crowd, watching footage of one of the two women who play Marilyn in the movie – Michelle Williams, not the second, her body double – re-enacting footage from There’s No Business Like Show Business and, later, from The Prince and the Showgirl, the film she has shot in the interim, with Colin as gofer. Like Godard’s Contempt, My Week with Marilyn is a film in which a studio screening room is a key setting and an imported star is an expensive problem. But the meta-Marilyn film tells you nothing about the movie business other than that it contains bullies and prima donnas. Shallow and frictionless, it’s more the banality of entertainment.