Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Witnesses (André Téchiné, 2007)

****
France

The earnest-complacent AIDS drama hit its peak (in terms of circulation more than quality) during the early-to-mid 90s and gradually began losing exposure thereafter, so much so that it has been nearing extinction as of late (bad news to people with a social conscience, though good news to lovers of complex drama). In a sense André Téchiné is being decidedly démodé in daring to tackle the issue at this point in time - particularly in opting for an approach of historical documenting rather than hysterical pseudo-topicality - though a more graceful and articulate insight into the shock and panic of the abrupt outbreak of the disease in the 1980s doesn't exist on celluloid. With customary wisdom he peoples his picture with tangible, vibrant characters rather than shrill demographics. Through them you experience the paralysing terror of AIDS rather than just hear about it.
The fretting orchestral score by Fred Chichin and Philippe Sarde is quite openly derivative of Philip Glass' work and it works wonderfully well. In tandem with the shrewd, sensible cutting, setting up a brisk pace, it keeps you that much more involved in the proceedings, and builds on the story's urgent, forceful impact while maintaining its intimacy.

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