Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland, Aug. 8, 1996. (Also in Toronto fest.) Running time: 76 MIN.
France’s master of minimalism, Alain Cavalier, will surprise even his disciples with “The Encounter,” a Hi-8 video diary masquerading as an art movie. Almost entirely composed of closeups, and overlaid with running thoughts on the wonder and beauty of the world, this chunk of Gallic metaphysics won’t get much farther than the most recherche corners of fests entranced by the helmer’s rep.
The film, Cavalier’s first in three years, is the product of a career that started with regular features in the ’60s and progressively became more pared down thereafter. This one, however, is likely to stretch the patience even of admirers of his last two pics, the pristine “Therese” (1986) and “Libera Me” ( 1993).
Peg was Cavalier’s meeting with a woman and his desire to record their first year together, a project that slowly took shape as an intimate, personal diary. Mostly shot in an apartment, the film records bits of bodies; objects like watches and books; animal life like an injured bird, a snail and a cat; and views out the window. The helmer and woman are glimpsed only briefly, and the voiceover thoughts (almost all divorced from daily events, apart from reflections on the Paris metro bombing) come to no real conclusions.
Blowup to 35mm is good in the circumstances, and the images do start to exert a fascination of their own after a while, with a strain of comedy sometimes emerging from the unyielding visual style.