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Review: Triple Agent

3
Triple Agent

Eric Rohmer is a master of interior space; detractors may say he merely photographs lengthy dialogues, but this is disproved by his sublime visual sense, which—like Renoir’s theater films—capture extended moments of life within an always-apparent frame (moving pictures, quite literally). Certainly Rohmer seems most inspired by painting above all other arts; in his newest film Triple Agent the director uses Picasso’s Guernica to suggest the tumultuous world events slowly seeping their way into the bourgeois existence of his heroine Arsinoé (Katerina Didaskalu), herself a painter and wife to Fiodor (Serge Renko), a spy whose loyalties are always in question. Very much a companion piece to Rohmer’s prior feature The Lady and the Duke, Triple Agent is likewise a period film, detailing its pre-WWII timeframe primarily through newsreel footage, which acts as transition between Arsinoé and Fiodor’s rhythm-specific Rohmer dialogues. Few writer-directors capture the miracles of speech quite as well as Rohmer—there’s always a sense of a hovering spiritual presence in his work, of an omniscient observer forever to watch and never to intrude on the proceedings. This creates a very unique kind of suspense and tension—you can sense equal parts Hitchcock and Catholicism as the director’s anxiety-inducing influences—though it’s certainly an acquired taste. At times, Triple Agent is overcome by its historical era, a problem Rohmer avoided in The Lady and the Duke, perhaps because of that film’s very specific and superbly utilized digital-video aesthetic, which allowed its characters to exist in and interact with paintings of the French Revolutionary period. History played out along an aesthetic continuum in The Lady and the Duke (we absorbed it, becoming aware and mindful through the images), where Triple Agent is more a slave to its interludes (the connections between the newsreel-past and the Rohmer-present visuals are choppy at best). Nonetheless, Rohmer’s dialogues are in peak form, always building in their back-and-forth volleys to spine-tingling epiphanies. A true treasure of the cinema, it’s conceivable we won’t have Rohmer, now in his 80s, around for much longer and he seems to make note of this through Triple Agent’s darkly comic last line, spoken by two characters in chilling simultaneity: “Mort!” Monsieur Rohmer, we can only hope and pray otherwise.

Cast: Katerina Didaskalu, Serge Renko, Cyrielle Clair, Grigori Manukov, Dimitri Rafalsky, Nathalia Krougly, Amanda Langlet, Jeanne Rambur, Emmanuel Salinger Director: Eric Rohmer Screenwriter: Eric Rohmer Running Time: 115 min Rating: NR Year: 2004 Buy: Video

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