Claire Denis and Gregor Jordan

They discuss Friday Night and Buffalo Soldiers, respectively.

NOT ONE BUT two directors were in town recently to flog their respective movies, and they couldn't have been more differentcrotchety, chain-smoking Gallic candor contrasted with open-faced Down Under affability. First up was Claire Denis, whose one-night-stand flick Friday Night (see review, p. 93) would seem a part of the recent French wave of similar shag-fests, along with Catherine Breillat's movie Romance and Catherine Millet's memoir, The Sexual Life of Catherine M. Denis did not like this comparison at all, as she made clear in a low, raspy voice that barely registered on my tape deck. "I don't understand the question you ask, first when you bring up Catherine Breillat's Romance and Catherine Millet's bookwhat did you mean by that? Those are dealing with what is pornography. Sex existed before Catherine Millet's book. Our sexuality is not the same. For me, sexuality and sexit's not the same." So is the film's heroine's anonymous fling a final act of freedom before settling down? Denis wasn't having any of that, either. "Freedom is such a big word. I would never use a word like that. [Laure is] a woman who decided to move to her boyfriend's. It has nothing to do with freedom." Of Laure's extended packing, she adds, "It's a heartbreaking moment . . . these boxes, the view from the window, all these little details." All that's being lost, in other words. For her heroine, Denis continued, there's something vaguely oppressive about the future prospect of stable monogamy: "You're not sure you won't regret [it]; it's not really freedom." Jean's getting in Laure's car introduces a new optionbut let's not call it the F-word. "She has a choice, in a way. But the choice is smallit's a few hours. She's completely disconnected with the city, because of the big [transit] strike. Something unexpected happens. You share a moment. Not even a love affair." "It has to do with time, ultimately," Denis concluded. "A brief encounter can last a lifetime." THERE'S AN ELEMENT of time, too, to Buffalo Soldiers (see review, p. 93), according to director Gregor Jordan. More than a dozen years removed from the Cold War, some satiric distance has opened up a sad chapter in America's military history. "The film is set in a specific time and a specific period," he explained. "The Army, after the Vietnam conscription era, had a hard time finding recruits. Only 40 percent of recruits had high-school diplomas. And there was this large criminal component, where misdemeanor offenders could choose the Army over jail. Throughout the '70s and '80s, the Armyjust to fill its recruitment quotahad to really lower its standards." As a result, our huge military bases in Europe were like piggy banks ripe for the breaking. "It's kind of a recipe for disaster. The U.S. Army of today is very different." Jordan referenced both The Dirty Dozen and Kelly's Heroes in describing GIs with dirty faces who might be redeemed in a more conventional war movie. Of these "very aggressive, violent, well-trained men," he noted, "Without that enemy to focus on, they channel it toward one another. It's like when you get a whole bunch of footballers together in a bar. Mayhem ensues." Yet, he agreed, unlike most other Cold War soldiers, Joaquin Phoenix's criminal character actually has a sense of mission: "If there's no war on, some of them are going to create their own"even if that means black-marketing, stealing, and killing. "I haven't read that book Jarhead," said Jordon of Anthony Swofford's Persian Gulf War I best seller, "but I'm sure there are still things that go on right now. "Like M*A*S*H . . . I don't think Buffalo Soldiers is necessarily critical of the military; it's just showing another side to it that people don't normally see." bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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