Marguerite Duras's "La Musica," which she adapted from her own short two-character play, is about a husband and wife who meet three years after their formal separation, when they return to the provincial town where the...展开y once lived to pick up their divorce decree.
In the film's longest sequence, which I suspect is pretty much the total of the play, He (Robert Hossein) and She (Delphine Seyrig) come together in the lobby of their hotel, at first acting like anxious, rueful ghosts. They circle each other in carefully choreographed movements; alternately each literally frames the other by his own person and by his mirror image. (Miss Duras loves to see things in and through glass—mirrors, windshields, windows). The revelations, though obliquely made, are quite specific. She was unfaithful. He once planned to murder her, She, unknown to him, once tried to commit suicide.
With the revelations comes the ironic realization that, although each is committed to someone else, they've just fallen in love. The most that they can hope for themselves is that they'll possibly meet again, sometime in the future, by accident. In some peculiar, cockeyed way, this seems to be a bridge beyond death, a lot more austere but no less romantic, in the context, than the faith that was to reunite Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne in the clouds over Hollywood in "A Guy Named Joe."
Because Miss Duras writes so elliptically, there is no special sense that she has padded her original play until the confrontation in the hotel lobby. At that point, however, one realizes that all that has gone before has been rather superior but ultimately superfluous vamping, including the introduction of a character not in the play, a young American girl (Julie Dassin), who appears to be simply the reflection of one of the husband's long-ago infidelities talked about in the play.
"La Musica" is intellectually chic moviemaking of the sort that is quite entertaining while it is going on but practically ceases to exist, even as a memory, when it's over. Hossein and Miss Seyrig read their lines with style and look marvelously unhappy, she, especially, in blond bob that evokes the 1930's and the image of Lilyan Tashman.
The New York Film Festival, which showed "La Musica" last night at Philharmonic Hall, is presenting Miss Duras, in her role as a film director, in a reversed-time sequence. Having shown "Destroy, She Said," the French novelist-playwright's second directorial effort last year, the festival this year selected her first film "La Musica," made in 1966 and co-directed with Paul Seban, who had earlier collaborated with her on a series of television productions.