Match Point

Image: João Nitsche
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By AIRTON PASCHOA*

Commentary on the film by Woody Allen

Good times when art promised happiness! Not that I lived them, hello! but I learned about paradise by reading old books. Today, when happiness lives next door at the mall and art is everywhere, the reaction is infernal: there are those who have fun and go on a spree; there are those who distrust and turn their backs; there are those who do melodrama and pull the hair; there are even those who feel all this and, bald of a doubt, prefer to watch a movie. The misfortune is when even there in the dark there is no more peace! Never? Never again, Allen's old raven news seems to herald.

the story of Match Point[1] It's simple: an Irish tennis instructor falls in love with a beautiful British family (Hewett) and is invited to participate in the dream life that these good people lead (and goods). The boy (Chris Wilton) becomes friends with his son (Tom), whom he teaches at the club, marries his sister (Chloe) and his father-in-law (Alec) arranges a good job for his son-in-law in one of his companies. Everything would go very well if the favored and disgraced don't meet Nola Rice, the fiancée of the boss's son, a poor American who flees the former colony and wants to be an actress in the former metropolis.

Fulminated by passion, they live a fervent idyll until the law of gravity (and pregnancy) begins to inoculate the old poison. The young man, now a trained businessman, sees no way out but to interrupt his ailments with a hunting rifle. To avoid scandals, he also kills Nola's neighbor, steals her jewelry, including the wedding ring from the dead woman's finger, and turns her apartment upside down, simulating an assault by some crazy person in the neighborhood, who, when running away, would have accepted it. the caipora girl. The plan turns out to be perfect, with the police and newspapers falling for it, and the film ends with a happy end unusual. The woman, Chloe, after so much fertilizer, finally has the much-desired son (Terence Eliot Wilton) and toast to the luck of the clan's new offspring.

The snorted paraphrase, if not the film, does justice to what could have been... if it weren't for the bestiality of the murders. A dose of poison, let's face it, the immaculate dagger of renunciation, or a certain elongated asphyxiation of hands and lips, in the style of an amorous Othello, might even lead us to testify in favor of the young man. But not. And crime remains the only fact that shines in this splendid film like a rose window of blood.

Not that there aren't more facts. But this is where the drama begins. Drama?

The foreground of the film expressly states a thesis (in the voice over of the protagonist, we later learn, a former professional tennis player and now looking for a job as a tennis instructor): our life depends on luck. The tennis ball, when touching the net and rising indecisively for milliseconds, can fall on the other side, and we are winners, or on this side, and we are defeated. As in the next shot, the net is replaced by a barred club fence, in the shape of a net, and the character is on the other side, within the exclusive club's domains, the montage indicates that we are facing a winner.[2] For those who like clear things, great. This is a thesis film and we are going to watch your proof.

Over time, a dinner for four (Chris, Chloe, Nola and Tom) washed down with caviar and unforgettable wine, Chris goes into more detail about the sophistry: life, ours, every day, of each one, in the middle of an administered world, depends luck, the source of all life on the planet, according to modern biology. In order to test it, the film offers suitable experiment conditions. An ideal bourgeois family, so cultured, so liberal, so natural, to the point of not impeding human coexistence with class differences, thus becomes able to welcome an intelligent and industrious poor. The resistance of the mother (Eleanor), moved by the gin and tonic, is practically negligible, and in any case it is within the standard deviation of any scientific experiment, without compromising the result.

The fact is that, once the thesis has been stated, and following the first scenes, we become truly enchanted. We don't know whether he was more enchanted by the young Irishman's charming modesty or by the noble family's charming naturalness. We only wake up from utopian sleep (I almost miss "stupid"!) when Chris, at the country house, goes downstairs and meets Nola for the first time, in the ping-pong room. What the hell happened? where's the good boy? The man took a bath and became another? guessing even the nationality, the humble extraction of the girl?! The assault on the fortress (?) evokes other characters, already seen on the big screen, characters in total control of themselves and the situation, drawing out incisive, insinuating phrases...

The transformation is such, finally, and so unexpected, that it takes us a while to realize the gender change. The melodrama that erupts with the appearance of the “woman in white” even forces us to review our opening spell. The dialogue held with Chloe by the pool, in the immediately preceding sequence, so charmingly natural, would it not actually be the foreshadowing of the naturalistic drama reserved for the couple? So the conversation, so banal, wouldn't it actually be as shallow as the pool at the bottom?

Thesis film, melodrama, naturalistic drama… The game of genres is set up and we, the spectators, will be in the line of fire. As in a good melodrama, there is no lack of clichés (poor and fragile heroine, loaded with family dramas, thinking of diluting them with alcohol and waiting for protective love; ardent love in the rain and on a natural bed; clothes torn on the bed by the blows of desire; blind and domineering passion, just like Chris in Nola's room, blindfolded by his own tie and dominated from behind by the skillful lover) nor the cheering crowd, which, in the same way conformed and dissatisfied with the administration of life, always ends up cheering for the passion and even crime, trembling with the murderer as he tries to load his shotgun before shooting down Mrs. Eastby, or disappointed, when Chris, seeing Nola in the gallery going down the escalator, finds, as she walks around her with her heart in her mouth— the woman is a friend! As for the naturalistic drama that Chris drags out with Chloe after the wedding, full of sterile dialogues, there's not even a lack of the natural drama of the woman's infertility.

The game of both genres, almost like ping-pong, also finds its match point. Shortly before, the romantic idyll was already beginning to give way to naturalistic contamination, with Nola demanding a decision and Chris fleeing... At the same time, and almost imperceptibly, the two rivals seem to switch wardrobes; From ugly and ugly Chloe takes on the outfit of a girl in her class, while Nola fatally embitters, airs and costumes that are more homely, less fatal.

At a certain point, for example, a certain ironic montage shows, simultaneously with the passage of time, the passage from the romantic to the naturalist drama: in the middle of winter, the fire of passion, fed with flammable oil on the back of the lover, ensues the cooling of the ardor in in the middle of spring, or first summer, when at the country house the group of three couples (Chloe and Chris, Tom and his wife and another duo friend) is already talking about a trip to the Greek islands. The final point, however, in favor of the growing naturalism, is not long in coming: the lover becomes pregnant and, disgrace! wants the child. From then on, the most rastaque naturalism, inflamed with tail-throats, is gestating in its midst yet another genre. Chris plans and executes the bestial crime.

So far, our daily tragedy. But there's more. Late at night, and probably exhausted by another business, Chris wakes up on top of the computer. When he threatens to take it, he knocks over the glass of Puligny-Montrachet, gets up, goes to the kitchen and wipes his face on the paper towel, to see if he wakes up. That's when Nola's banshee approaches; the mistress, pale to death, calls him back; Chris turns and talks about the difficulty of squeezing the trigger; then "collateral damage", the ghost of Mrs Eastby, equally pale, protesting her innocence; as for the son, equally innocent, the protagonist, on the verge of a sob, quotes Sophocles: not having been born can be the greatest gift.

Evidently, there is no naturalism that resists visages, and, under theatrical lighting, the scene gains the… tragedy of the lack of meaning, as Chris deplores. If there were the same punishment, as Nola prophesies, so many clues left by the lover, then not everything would be lost; a “small sign of justice”, a “minimum of hope for the possibility of meaning”.

The presence (sic) of specters, elevated themes, tense dialogues, does not prevent the unfolding of the tragic, and in an unusual direction. The arrival of the police on the scene brings a noise duo, Detective Banner and his ironic friend, a real killjoy. It is, however, curiously, instead of mistakes, a comedy of successes. Detective Banner, inspired by a divinatory dream, clarifies all the criminal's steps, bit by bit, to the ring that Chris would have thrown into the river and been found by the heroin addict, killed in a reckoning and then unable to defend himself from the police English. How to invoke, however, before the jury, the work of so conscious unconscious? What world!

Yes, what world is this? Comedy, tragedy, naturalist drama, melodrama, thesis film… but wait! thesis film — false! Yes, because the ring, luckily for our executive, falls on this side… How to understand this? Hidden Designs of Chance?! Even worse: a thesis film — false could it not also cast suspicion on other genres? Can comedy be a hit comedy? Superior comedy? Can such a noble movable tragedy be? Where, pardon the paradox, is the minimum of greatness? Modern tragedy?

Even melodrama, in fact, sometimes slips into naturalism. Let's remember Chris and Nola's love under the rain. Had it been an exclusively melodramatic shot, the scene would certainly have been cut earlier, who knows right after the kiss or at the exact moment they fall into the wheat field. But not. The camera, indiscreet, continues to spy on them, beginning to annoy the viewer with the increasingly less romantic movements of the lovers. And the naturalistic fall is such that the couple left sneezing a little longer... On the other hand, doesn't "naturalism" itself, through a kind of natural curse to art, end up flowing into "symbolism"?

In the last argument with Nola, doesn't Chris appear mirrored next to her? The specular image indicates that it is a question of the lover's illusion, but also, inverted, indicates the other side of the girl, who tried like him to join the good family. Doesn't the young couple's roof itself, a kind of dome suspended over the magnificent city, not symbolically and sardonically translate Chloe's idle talk at breakfast? The distance between the crystal tower and the new planet or China (both certainly located at the same distance), more than astronomical, turns out to be – social.

Perhaps the film, with its succession and mixture of genres, aspires to the “opera”, a kind of total work embracing all styles of representation. Its soundtrack, almost exclusively composed of arias, dialogues all the time with the scenes, anticipating them (when, for example, Chris goes downstairs after taking a shower, enters the beautiful library and soon after bumps into Nola at ping-pong, sequence of “rough robbery” preceded by the aria d'the troubadour, by Verdi, “Mal reggendoall' aspro assault”), underlining them (when in the family box, watching La Traviata, by Verdi, the coup-de-cupid strikes Chloe with the beautiful “Um difelice, eterea”), or mocking them (when Chris, before giving a statement to the police, and throwing them into the river, gets rid of the jewels and of the ring, under the aria “O figli, o figli miei”, from Macbeth, also by Verdi).

Other times they serve almost as leitmotiv: “Mia piccirella”, from Salvator Rosa, by our Carlos Gomes, accompanies Chris and Chloe, while the sweet “Mi par d'udir ancora”, byThe Pearl Fishermen, by Bizet, pursues the other couple, Chris and Nola. When Chris is considering putting an end to the situation, on stage, symptomatically, “Arresta” is heard from the William Tell, by Rossini. The long sequence of murders is commanded by the “Desdemonarea”, d'Othello, by Verdi, when the enraged Moor, in a duet with Iago, culminates in demanding “blood! blood! blood!”, which is promptly answered by the executive. All this involved, in the opening and in the end, by the melancholy atmosphere of “Una furtiva lagrima”, d'The Elixir of Love, by Donizetti, which also opens two other sequences, as if giving voice to Chris' desolation (when he goes out to find his wife in the gallery, and also finds Nola, and when he decides to commit the crime at night by the bedside).

Opera then? Well, each one can think what they want when composing their work, and may God always keep them like that, firm and strong, in the image and likeness of the Creator. Machado could, when writing his famous chapter IX, “The opera”, think that he was composing an Italian melodrama with his Dom Casmurro, which, by the way, our filmmaker had read… Disproportions and intentions aside, our left-wing American Jew-New Yorker may even find that there is in fact a social place in the former metropolis just like the one in which the hewett family,[3] or that he, too, is composing an immortal opera, or even a modern tragedy.

And here, if you allow me the sensitive reader, who knows how these things of love and death move us, I open a parenthesis as one who opens the heart. These class associations always made me suspicious. It worked out for Chris not only because he was lucky, but because he also prepared and studied administration and grew personally and adapted so well to his new life that I doubt that in a few years some member of the clan or club will remind him of his origin. equivocal. Afterwards, anyway, he loved the girl. And if it wasn't that Shakespearean lust, it was a sober, modest, natural feeling, more in keeping with the fraternity of life that inspired such a naturally superior family.

It was my simple thought when I suddenly caught that angelic Moor at the scene of the crime, as if from the stairs of heaven descending. How good it would be—oh, to dam up like the milk of human goodness! if Miss Nola would marry such a dark urbane! Old-fashioned urban, in an etymological-historical sense, of course. In addition to being tall, handsome and sensual, who is so kind today to the point, not of interfering with Chris's life, but of taking a keen interest in the neighborhood, unable to hear the blast of a shotgun, busy walking with you, who will say then wanting to know about a elderly neighbor like Mrs. Eastby if she didn't want something from the shop, or even wanting to know from the “princess” if she had found the cd player she was looking for so much? Of course, he could be unemployed, flattering a virtual clientele in search of a gig, he could betray some idle tongue between his teeth... but who knows, maybe he didn't work at night? Even hard life has its charms. And if there wasn't enough for three, as Chloe asked and could, why not two little heirs, Moorish and Moorish, or even one, why not, or one? With this precocious and healthy socialization provided by public day care centers, the time of the drama of the only child is gone. Not to mention that they could improve their lives... Anyway, here's a class association that always seemed natural to me.

Well, naturalism of the heart aside, let's go back to the movie, after wiping my face on the paper towel, see if I wake up. You may think that these representations have been haunting me, but the fact is, with so many appearances and disappearances, they had the gift of suspending my belief. And such disbelief had to reach the limit: who is Chris? A simple upstart — how simple can that be, of course? The film plays with this possibility.

After all, the boy is interested in opera and impresses his future brother-in-law; he reads a literary guide to Crime and Punishment and impresses the future father-in-law; is interested in visiting a certain exhibition at Saatchi and impresses the future wife; sends thank you flowers from the opera and impresses everyone. At the same time, and playing in the opposite field, he makes his debut as a charmingly modest young man, pours out his heart with a friend, in doubt about love, even rehearsing the damn difference between “lust” and “love”, and threatens to do it even with his own woman. Not to mention that it shakes, cries, explodes... humanly? when committing the crimes. Who is the guy? Is it all that, and more, like the rest of us? I think, then dismiss?

The Gherkin, the “cucumber (erotic)” and other similar phallic connotations, the extremely modern tower (postmodern?[4]) inside which Chris' office is filmed in City Londoner, perhaps it will help us a little to understand him, a guy who was once seen as a pure reflection in a mirror, and, once paralyzed by his cell phone (giving up on telling Nola that he was no longer going to travel to the Greek islands), as a pure shadow blue, just like the painting opposite, without face or upholstery, pure contour, almost like another work acquired by the woman for the gallery in the assembly phase.

But the decisive approach is with Gherkhin, without a doubt, and this is done in two crucial moments. In the first of them, between the dinner sequence, in which he learns that Chloe asked her father to employ him “in one of his companies”, and the sequence in which she appears already showing up at work, inside the building, — the plan of tower, along with its narrative function, fulfills another, metaphorical one. Seen from the bottom up, in counter-diving, the character's social climb is depicted, and a literally vertiginous climb (when he confesses to his wife, upon reaching the top of his career, to the large window on the roof of his dreams, that he has vertigo from heights).

In the second moment, with Chris on the cell phone in the street setting the time when Nola would find his, we see him again, now, however — side by side with the protagonist, as if on an equal footing, both on the same horizontal plane, figuring the already consolidated social position of the lucky executive.

The identity thus constructed between Chris and Gherkin, thanks to phallic and social affinities, also suggests another, more invisible, and terrible one. Delirium aside, the tower resembles a beautiful and colorful ogive planted in the heart of City, just like our character — explosive, like any warhead.[5]

If the protagonist, handsome and bold and explosive, can be seen as a little gherkin, kind of postmodern, then isn't the film, beautiful and bold and explosive, kind of postmodern too? Within such an artistic world, evidently, and with its acute (chronic?) awareness of representation, the many cultural references, full of ironies and metalinguistic reflections, fit like a glove.

So at Crime and Punishment, from Dostoevsky, correspond to crimes without punishment; so the opera La Traviata, by Verdi, who nominates, by default, another “lost one”, in the scene in which Chris takes her place in the family box, — translates into up-to-date terms the life of the aspiring actress, constrained perhaps to certain concessions (because, in addition to coquetry, may not be boutade when he says that no man has ever asked for his money back), having an abortion at the behest of a boyfriend, being “reasonable” when the fiancé breaks off the engagement. In the same way, the mention of Strindberg, whose book looked for Chris in the country house before running in the rain after Nola, can insinuate not only the beginning of the character's “hell”, on the verge of unleashing the war of the sexes, but also summarize the same journey as the Swedish playwright, from naturalism to symbolism, so to speak, he also himself to the film, when the “settings” begin to “symbolize”.

The meeting with Nola in the gallery, after looking for her so much, brings in the background a large painting inscribed with the expression “find day”. Wasn't that day of ordeal so intense that Chris begged for her phone? And what about the rooster in the frame behind Chris, when he talks to his wife at breakfast, and this right after the scene in which he sleeps with Nola, — in an ironic montage suggesting that he doesn't sleep with one and wake up with another the "chicken"? As if that weren't enough, Chris, just as he thinks about telling Chloe everything, reappears next to the bump on the wall and in a similar position, with his little leg raised (on the ledge, ledge? of the large glass window). In addition to the similar position, the beige of the coat assimilates the beige that surrounds the bird in the frame… Frames aside, and just to remind you, what about Chloe and Chris's crystal dome? Is there a more “symbolic” “scenario” of socially astronomical distance?[6]

Along the same lines, doesn't the game of representations, born of this generic citationism, drink a little from a postmodern source? Not to mention our certain displeasure, caught up in the modernist past of the past, of seeing incorporated but the this life the art we loved so much, with brushstrokes mixing with pedestrian platitudes, women chiacchierating — oh blasphemous! fertility issues, adoption, relationship… What a world! We all feel that, I don't even say the ex-celestial word, God forbid! and that made our ubiquitous Che so famous, but that even the smallest idea, or the smallest memory of any other world, became a haunting, if not a spectacle, joining us in line at the cinema, with me, with you, with Chloe, Tom, Chris, to watch the motorcycle diaries, by Walter Salles, or taking to the streets in the form of graffiti, like those by Banksi…[7] which, however interesting and/or poetic and/or critical, give the miserable impression of being so admirably integrated into managed life that even occasional nonconformity can comfort us. - What world! It's life as it is, or art as it is, I don't know! But postmodern…? There are two hairs (I don't know now, with the spelling reform, whether from the “egg” or the “opposites”). But what has, has.

The first reason is that the game of genres, in an attempt to replicate life, which is already so mixed up with representations of life, can continue in the naturalist field. In this case, to be true to itself, naturalism would need to imitate modern or spectacular life with such art that it could be confused with being itself (sic) post-modern. In other words, the game of genres, as a narrative strategy, structurally translates the aesthetically saturated universe it deals with.

The second hair, as we have seen, is the turnaround operated by the fake-thesis film, — an aesthetic alert so strident that it put all genres under suspicion, that is to say, it put the whole film under suspicion.[8] Such suspicion, by the way, already constituted its original mark, since could the naturalist thesis, pardon the paradox, of the determinism of luck be tested in a less natural or more artificial laboratory? It is as if the experience suffered from the beginning, a kind of original sin, from the central ambiguity of Culture, which can either make us more natural, and thus take us back to the delicious opening scenes of the film (viewed from a positive angle), or distance us infinitely more of Nature (or of what could become humanized nature), thus referring us to the role of culture in the society of the spectacle… cardboard?

But the film is not fake, as it may want to advance a little hastily. It would be... didn't have your match point the game of genres. Otherwise, let's see: to what genre should we assign the capital sequence of executions? Operatic? Tragic? Comic? Melodramatic? Naturalist? Yes, without a doubt, all of that, since it brings together all the styles of acting that are triggered, and — none of that, cryptically. At the same time that it condenses it, it manages to annihilate, with equal fury, what it had just built. Virulence, revolting, hateful, unnatural in its bestiality, in its detailing — anti-aesthetic, then reveals itself aesthetically necessary, in a single movement crowning and slaughtering, with its formidable weight, the created world itself.

It is this violence of unrivaled ferocity, and seemingly unnatural in such an exquisite world, that makes it implode... and persist. Long calculated, time-consumingly embedded in the film's architecture, the sequence hovers like a kind of rose window of Macbethian blood seeping through every pore of the film. And what she says, in inhuman decibels, almost inaudible, given the height, is the obvious, within earshot: she killed herself to preserve the social position she had conquered; he killed himself for exclusively material reasons. Materialistic, then, is the film — period. The rest is movies.

*Airton Paschoa is a writer, author, among other books, of see ships (Nankin, 2007)

Published under the title Match Point and the game of genres (or the cardboard of the arts?),na Rebeca n.º 1, jan/jun 2012 (virtual magazine of the Brazilian Society of Cinema and Audiovisual Studies — Socine), and disgraced, forever and ever, with cretinous “revision” and in an outdated version, in USP Magazine No. 84, Dec/Jan/Feb/2009/2010.

Notes


[1] Written and directed by Woody Allen, the film is from 2005 and was shot in London, England.

[2] It would be tempting to say, after all, that the plan, of the winner behind the bars, also indicates where he should end his days... But I resist the temptation.

[3] We were frankly disappointed to learn that Eleanor cooked in the family manor. let's hope it's hobby, it's rare. As for going to the supermarket, running the plebeian risk of accepting v(Ery) i(insignificant) P(son) non grata and even having to invite her to an intimate soirée… even considering it an aristocratic persuasion.

[4] Designed by Norman Foster and inaugurated in 2004, the tower perhaps does not admit the post-modern adjective. Seen from here, however, from Pompeia, a neighborhood with a factory appearance, a ruin from a past that promised strength, the qualifier, who knows, might not be entirely out of place.

[5] A more positive or less criminal version of the explosive character, we can see her inThe Barbarian Invasions, from 2003, written and directed by Denys Arcand. Son of the tragic left-wing buffoon, and under the pretext of granting his father a dignified death, the “prince of barbarians” opens his wallet and with the resourcefulness of warlords (operating now on the stock exchange) goes out buying god and the world, hospital, union, university, and whatever else was needed. Malicious, left-wing melodrama winks at us: barbarian invasions come from within, from the very bowels of the system.

[6] There are more free games, or purely plastic ones. case of the musical The Woman in White the one who goes to watch Chris with the woman (in black) right after he murders the other “woman in white” (then in red, pardon the dark humor), whose color Nola was all dressed in when Chris first saw her in ping pong room. entertainment or a? Theme music henceforth, background music, in short, when memory, always labile and adept at accommodating consciences, will do its job? Or else should we understand the sequence as arguing the thesis, with presenting a certain reverse of Luck, a certain ineffable affinity between beings… Sinister synesthesia? Macabre correspondence laughing at the character's thesis? I feel like Chris… deploring the lack of meaning!

[7] Just before Chris throws the jewelry and the ring into the river, the camera captures, at the foot of the bridge, a girl in black and white releasing a red gas balloon in the shape of a heart. I owe the discovery of the graffiti artist to the young journalism student Leonardo Vinícius Jorge, whom I thank and in whose words “his drawings, spread across the walls of London, pose social, political or behavioral questions, whether in a humorous way or with some shocking image. (…) on a wall, we see a child playing while being watched by a security camera. In another graffiti, a policeman searches a little girl. Behaviors are also put in check with the painting of two guards kissing. But his art goes beyond England: on the wall that Israel is building to separate itself from Palestine, Banksy drew holes in the wall, revealing what 'is on the other side'. Images of white doves wearing bulletproof vests and children trying to cross the blockade by flying balloons are also present on the barrier. The artist also practices urban interventions: in Disneyland, he managed to place, next to a toy, an inflatable doll simulating a prisoner in Guantánamo; in one exhibition, an elephant all painted in pink brought to life the English saying 'there is an elephant in the room' (which means there is an ignored problem). During the exhibition, flyers reminded participants how many people do not have access to clean water, how many die of hunger each year, how many are below the poverty line... " (www.cursinhodapoli.org.br, Vox No. 9, May/2008).

[8] The film é the game of genres. There is no kind of deep genre and other genres in it... not even the so-called cinematographic naturalism, typical of classic Hollywood narrative. And without him, without this well-played game, I wouldn't survive.

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