The Ghosts of Les Haute Solitudes

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Shot in black and white, entirely silent, and comprised mostly of close-ups, Les Haute Solitudes (1974) becomes an exercise in studying gestures; Dreyer’s close-ups of Renee Falconetti as Jeanne d’Arc elongated to an hour length film if you will. But perhaps the best reference point for understanding Les Haute Solitudes retrospectively is time. Andre Bazin compared cinema to the embalming of pharaohs, both acts preserving the dead, and this effect especially rings true here—the film’s two stars, Nico and Jean Seberg, both passed away tragically; Seberg would later commit suicide in 1979 and Nico would be stricken by a heart-attack in 1988. Through close-ups that draw immediate attention to their earthly bodies, it is almost as if their spirits are conjured and against the film’s dark backgrounds, rendering the images as a phantasmagoria.When either of the two appear in long-takes of close-ups, the film grain gives their respective faces an effect of being more real than real. Like saying a word repeatedly until its sound becomes completely alien. Their faces seem to shift in the grain and projected across a large-screen, their visages are overwhelmingly haunting.

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