Morel’s Invention (1974)

*. The source novella, by Adolfo Bioy Casares, was apparently also the inspiration for Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad. Make of that what you will. I can’t do too much with it, aside from noting how Anna Karina, muse of Jean Luc-Godard, looks like a flapper (Morel’s “group portrait” is dated 1929), and that Louise Brooks was supposedly the model for Faustine and Delphine Seyrig’s “A” in Last Year at Marienbad. So these screen-muse figures all sort of blur into one.
*. This is significant because Morel’s Invention is a love story, or I think more properly an obsession story. The fugitive (Giulio Brogi) — and I think he is a fugitive, rather than a castaway, as credited — is yet another star-struck fan, falling in love with someone who is essentially a movie star, to the point where he wants to enter the film and be a part of it. It’s The Purple Rose of Malta.
*. Unfortunately, director Emidio Greco (directing his first feature) doesn’t capture this obsession. There’s really nothing going on between the fugitive and Faustine, which probably makes a lot of the movie hard to understand for anyone not familiar with the book. Unless we’re made to feel his obsession then nothing makes any sense.

*. This is too bad, as there are a lot of different avenues the movie could have explored. The question of whether it is all a dream (the fugitive is first awoken by the music of the newly-arrived visitors). The looping time scheme, which has the visitors constantly re-enacting the same week, and the different perspectives this gives the fugitive (and us) into their lives. The way the early visitors don’t know they’re dead (as actors don’t know they’re in a movie), which allows for incongruities like the dancing in the rain (reminiscent of the rain falling inside the house at the end of Tarkovsky’s Solaris).
*. There’s almost no speech, aside from Morel’s lecture on his experiment, and little by way of score aside from source or diegetic music. This might have been interesting too, as the visitors hail from the silent era. But again it’s a road we never go down.
*. I like the museum itself, and it’s dusty air of Art Deco luxury. Luxury always has a touch of the alien about it, and that’s something we do get to feel here.
*. Casares’s novel is no doubt hard to adapt, but it really deserves better. The ending here in particular struck me as limp and enigmatic, flubbing the idea of the fugitive dying into art and becoming the image he has come to adore. That’s a form of suicide our own age is very much in love with, as we imagine uploading consciousness to the cloud. Morel’s machine is now a server, and he wouldn’t need to go to all that trouble to build a museum. With CGI effects and all the rest, we’ve already taken reality out of our SF movies. Now all we have to do is take it out of our reality.

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