Neil Young’s Film Lounge – No Rest For The Brave



Pas de repos pour les braves : France (Fr/Austria) 2003 : Alain GUIRAUDIE : 107 mins

One aspect of experimental cinema that most people forget is that the vast majority of experiments – in art as in science – are almost total failures. Such negative outcomes can be as informative for the people carrying out the experiment as their successes, of course, but it often isn’t a good idea to inflict the misfires on the wider world. No Rest for the Brave is a case in point.

An experiment in non-linear, dreamlike narrative, it takes place in what looks like a humdrum corner of present-day rural France, but is in fact a fanciful terrain of an individual or collective subconscious: the settlements have cute names like Glasgaud, Buenauzeres, Riaux de Janerrot. There are developments which, in another context, might be capable of being organised into something approaching a conventional plot but this clearly isn’t what Guiraudie has in mind at all.

Igor (Thomas Blanchard) and Basile (Thomas Suire) talk in a caf about a dream Basile has just had, in which he encountered an enigmatic, seemingly omnipotent figure named Faftao-Laoupo. The result of this dream is that Basile now thinks that, if he goes to sleep again, he will never wake up. A while later, Igor goes to Basiles village to pay a visit, but his friend is nowhere to be seen. Shortly after, Igor learns that there’s been a massacre in the same village, and the clues point to Basile as the culprit. He meets a local journalist (Laurent Soffiati), but before they can carry out any investigation, they’re shot (dead?) by a rifle-toting Basile. At this point the film undergoes a radical storytelling convolution similar to the famous volte-face in David Lynchs Mulholland Dr. Basile, now known as Hector, gets involved in a gangland war that pits ruthless crooks against the semi-heroic figure of Johnny Got who looks awfully like the journalist apparently killed earlier on. Further weirdness ensues.

Guiraudies hour-long earlier works, though much praised (especially Ce vieux reve qui bouge), were deemed commercially unreleasable because of their unconventional length. No Rest For the Brave is equally unlikely to obtain arthouse distribution, because it seems deliberately intended to infuriate all but the most indulgent highbrow cineaste. As Lynch has shown on more than one occasion, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with non-linear narrative as such but in Guiraudies hands it becomes something of an instrument of slow torture: the soporific pacing means that, just as the characters seem to drift in and out of a dream-state, many in the audience will be following suit.

There are a couple of memorable moments: in a crowded bar, two characters attempts to converse are stymied by their fellow patrons hubbub until a request to keep the noise down! has a hilariously instantaneous and drastic effect. And some welcome energy is provided by the appearance of a bald punk guitarist, but he runs out of the movie almost as soon as he’s run in.

On the whole, however, No Rest for the Brave offers a Gallic brand of whimsically stilted, pretentious surrealism last seen on the festival circuit in Jean-Charles Fitoussis The Days I Dont Exist which also proved too esoteric for wider distribution. But while both pictures move at an escargot pace, at least Fitoussi came up with a brilliant core conceit to keep his audience at least moderately engaged and stimulated. Theres much less food for thought on offer here multiple viewings might well yield all kinds of profundities, but the film is simply too hard going to make even a single sitting very tempting.

18th November, 2003
(seen 30th October : National Film Theatre, London London Film Festival)

click here for a full list of films covered at the 2003 London Film Festival

by Neil Young