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First viewing this morning.  I appreciate Denis' shot composition and use of setting - and Levant's closing dance! - but could Darren, M Leary, or anyone else help me understand why they deem it spiritually significant?  (I only named those two because I see Beau Travail is on each of their Top 10 of All Time lists.)

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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It looks like Darren preserved a conversation we had about this film, toward the middle at that link. It was really prepping for that conversation that helped me understand the spiritual undertones in Denis' work. Overall, I would have a hard time describing anything Denis does as "spiritual," particularly as we defined it for this list. And it is not quite transcendent either, in formal terms - excepting the end of Beau travail, which I read as a sort of ascension scene effectively transforming our perception of the entire film into a complex human experience of will, conflict, desire, and how all these things are embodied in particular ways. 

There is something meditative about the film. It is elemental and literary. It feels like a parable, in the true sense of the word, such that the meaning of the parable is only encountered once we climb inside of it and submit to its narrative logic. 

Darren can speak to all this far more eloquently and critically than I. But Denis captures the human body in such a way that we can't help but feel its spiritual/psychological potential on the screen. There are moments in Denis that are electric with all the mysteries of adult relationships and our social configurations, which she conjures through the most perfectly calibrated edits and framing devices. 

I guess there is something apocalyptic about any film that makes me feel what it is like to live in human skin and under the material constraints of human existence.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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> And it is not quite transcendent either, in formal terms - excepting the end of Beau travail, which I read as a sort of ascension scene effectively transforming our perception of the entire film into a complex human experience of will, conflict, desire, and how all these things are embodied in particular ways. 

That's a beautiful way of putting it. You might already know this, Andrew, but Beau Travail is an adaptation of Melville's Billy Budd, which is a fairly straight-ahead Christian allegory. Denis keeps the narrative structure more or less intact, with the innocent and perfect soldier being betrayed by his jealous superior, but as Mike suggests, Denis is more interested in Galoup (Denis Lavant) than Sentain (Gregoire Colin). The final dance came up the first time I met Denis. I like her take on it:

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But we never rehearsed the dance scene at the end of Beau Travail. I told him it’s the dance between life and death. It was written like that in the script, and he said, “What do you mean by ‘the dance between life and death’?” So, I let him hear that great disco music [laughs], and he said, “This is it.” So, we didn’t need to rehearse. I would be there, and I would let it go. He said, “You don’t want us to fix some of it?” I thought it was better to keep the energy inside, because if we started fixing some stuff then we would have made many takes. And we made one take. But he was exhausted at the end.

 

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7 minutes ago, Darren H said:

You might already know this, Andrew, but Beau Travail is an adaptation of Melville's Billy Budd, which is a fairly straight-ahead Christian allegory. 

 

Pun intended?

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16 minutes ago, kenmorefield said:

Pun intended?

I laugh-snorted at that.  I did know about the Beau Travail/Billy Budd connection, but I haven't read Melville's story since high school.  Thanks for the comments; and now to follow the link to your dialogue and interview...

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I really loved Beau travail when I saw it on the big screen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto at a rep screening. I've been pretty mixed on Denis' other films that I've seen.

That being said, I don't know if "spiritual" is the first word that would come to mind when describing the film. I feel like there is definitely something elemental to the film's allegorical storytelling, and Lavant's performance is especially primal. That final scene is transporting, but I feel like it's more of an emotional eruption than a some spiritual transcendence, but I'm open to the film operating on a higher wavelength than the pure repression of the flesh that drives so much of the plot. In my review from last spring, I mention that the ending is a "furious sequence of emotional expression, both beautiful and violent." Perhaps such an emotional outburst would necessarily be coupled with something spiritually uplifting, as if for once in his life, Galoup can finally be himself. I'm sure a revisit of the film with this question in mind would reveal more answers, or at least thoughts to ponder.

"Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film." - Werner Herzog

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> Perhaps such an emotional outburst would necessarily be coupled with something spiritually uplifting, as if for once in his life, Galoup can finally be himself.

I certainly wouldn't try to argue that the ending is spiritually uplifting. I've seen Beau Travail 20+ times and have so far resisted the urge to interpret the dance at all. It will always for me be primarily an expressionistic, aesthetic explosion. The narrative certainly suggests it's the moment of Galoup's suicide--"the dance between life and death," as Denis puts it. Of the films in the A&F canon, it's probably closest to Bergman's Through a Glass Darkly, if that film ended with Karin's vision of the helicopter rather than the rose-colored conversation between Martin and Minus.

That I still, after all these years, am no closer to being able to articulate how that final scene works, or what it does to my body chemistry each and every time, is my main reason for nominating it. Is it "spiritual"? That might not be the right word. But the film will be a profound object of contemplation for me for the rest of my life.

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Darren and Mike, that interview/conversation is absolutely phenomenal. So much insight and wisdom there, and such a great example of both having a keen sense of what cinema is, as well as the significance of why such conversations matter and film criticism matter—we become more aware and open to truth through the very act of dialogue. I may add it to a syllabus whenever I teach Denis.

2 hours ago, Darren H said:

That I still, after all these years, am no closer to being able to articulate how that final scene works, or what it does to my body chemistry each and every time, is my main reason for nominating it. Is it "spiritual"? That might not be the right word. But the film will be a profound object of contemplation for me for the rest of my life.

I've only seen the film once, but I strongly resonate with what you've said here, Darren. That final scene totally stunned me; I recall had a bodily reaction to it, something more than frisson, as if whatever had been awakened in Levant had been transported through the screen and had awakened me too. In this, I think there's something to be said about the link between the somatic and the spiritual, that Denis's films (and Beau Travail in particular) draw out and lovingly dismantle the mind-body, spiritual-physical dichotomies, revealing that these supposed poles might be more united than imagined. So it's more than just the content of the film being "spiritual," or perhaps even the aesthetic alone—the reception we have to the film, what it does to us, to our bodies and souls (if we can even distinguish the two) is mysterious, even mystical.

This brings to mind philosopher Jean-Luc Marion's concept of "saturated phenomenon," a phenomenological event or moment which so overwhelms the observer's intentionality and understanding that it exceeds mere cognitive reasoning. It's a moment of fullness, of excess, or as Darren says above, an "aesthetic explosion." Marion links this to divine revelation as "the gift." I wonder if Beau Travail could be a cinematic version of such a saturated phenomenon.

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What a useful concept, Joel. I think it's fair to say that I love cinema because I'm always on the hunt for "saturated phenomena"! As an aside, a therapist once suggested I've spent so much of my life watching movies, listening to music, and in the company of art because it allows me to experience peak emotional and bodily sensations that others are able to access more easily.

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10 minutes ago, Darren H said:

What a useful concept, Joel. I think it's fair to say that I love cinema because I'm always on the hunt for "saturated phenomena"! As an aside, a therapist once suggested I've spent so much of my life watching movies, listening to music, and in the company of art because it allows me to experience peak emotional and bodily sensations that others are able to access more easily.

Yes to all of that.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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7 hours ago, Joel Mayward said:

In this, I think there's something to be said about the link between the somatic and the spiritual, that Denis's films (and Beau Travail in particular) draw out and lovingly dismantle the mind-body, spiritual-physical dichotomies, revealing that these supposed poles might be more united than imagined. So it's more than just the content of the film being "spiritual," or perhaps even the aesthetic alone—the reception we have to the film, what it does to us, to our bodies and souls (if we can even distinguish the two) is mysterious, even mystical.

You say it much better than I could. Yes, this is what the film captures.

"Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film." - Werner Herzog

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Marion does work well here! Thanks, Joel.

This angle works well as a description of the Denis/Denis collaboration. Denis Lavant got pretty close to this in the famed Modern Love scene in Carax' Mauvais sang too.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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13 hours ago, Darren H said:

I certainly wouldn't try to argue that the ending is spiritually uplifting. I've seen Beau Travail 20+ times and have so far resisted the urge to interpret the dance at all.

SPOILERS FOR BILLY BUDD

I've been (and remain) reluctant to participate in this conversation for various reasons (but I'm glad you all are glad), but I dip my toe in to say that this statement struck me as largely appropriate given the Melville origins of the story. 

Perhaps some of my own indifference to BT is that Billy Budd is one of my 4-5 favorite pieces of literature, and it's nearly impossible for any film to duplicate our own *particular* (another Billy Budd word) reading of a story satisfactorily. 

That being said, one reason I've always resisted the gay reading of the novella (not the movie) is that Melville seems to me to offer it not as the key to unlocking Claggart, who is inscrutable, but as one of a series of possible explanations, none of which are sufficient or satisfying but all of which inevitably have their advocates among those who insist knowledge is possible and must have an explanation even if they know that explanation is unsatisfactory. (Aside: Have we figured out if light is a particle or a wave yet? Whether God is three or one?)

Although a reductive simplification-, Romanticism is in large part a rejection of Enlightenment rationalism, and Melville's favorite word, "inscrutable," pops up in all his texts to draw our attention to those objects -- Bartleby's passive-aggressiveness, The White Whale's impenetrable and unknowable consciousness or lack of it, the universe's seeming indifference to the suffering of maids at the paper factory, Claggart's stipulated but inexplicable hatred for Billy -- that can't be fully explained or understood rationally. Claggart disappears from the second half of BB because he is dead,  and the narrative shifts primarily to Captain Vere, who is tortured both by his inability to understand Claggart's actions and also the moral fabric of the universe that calls upon him to hand over an innocent to death because...necessity. In that sense, BT, at least in the dance, gives over large parts of Vere's character and his quandary to the Claggart character. The only way this conflation makes any sense to me is to read it as though Galoup does not know/understand himself. He is his own inscrutable object. (I think that's more of a look forward to the 20th Century but whatever, no director is beholden to my ideas of adaptation), 

Since he doesn't understand himself, the only way he can express himself is to sound his barbaric yawp (as another American Romantic once said). 

Postscript: Writing that penultimate paragraph makes me realize, finally, another one of my own reservations about BT. Given the historic gay readings of BB, it is possible to read his inability to understand himself as an inability to admit to himself that he is gay. There is a fine line and huge gulf between someone who is repressing his true self and someone who is a mystery to hiimself. The latter, I think, is something closer to St. Paul's "the very things I hate I end up doing." I'm less inclined to speculate or look for textual clues about what the thorn in the flesh actually is than I am to see that anguish brought about by the impossibility to articulate one's true self as being more universal. 

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> The only way this conflation makes any sense to me is to read it as though Galoup does not know/understand himself. He is his own inscrutable object.

That's as near an articulation of my own sense of Beau Travail as I've read. I think it's fair to say that inscrutability is part of Denis's formal strategy, and for me that's a strength of the film and of her voice as an artist. I'm not sure if you'd agree with me, though, Ken?

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31 minutes ago, Darren H said:

 I think it's fair to say that inscrutability is part of Denis's formal strategy, and for me that's a strength of the film and of her voice as an artist. I'm not sure if you'd agree with me, though, Ken?

I don't disagree per se; I just wrestle with this sort of stuff enough in literature and theology and inside my own head that I probably don't value it in movies as much as some of my friends/peers/colleagues. I mean, I've never been a huge Denis fan, but I don't think that stems from complaints I have against her formal style or voice. I'm a bit more mainstream in my film taste.

Don't yet know what the implications are of that as far as list making. 

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I'll throw this out there, and perhaps this speaks to my novice status before the works of these directors, but isn't inscrutability similarly a large part of the Dardennes' filmography?  I don't think Olivier really gets why he wants to take Francis under his wing, nor does Samantha articulate why she rescues the kid on the bike.  Yet, I think that mystery (for me at least) contributes to my appreciation of those films and prompts me to contemplate them far more than standard-issue dramas where everything is spelled out.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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I do think keeping certain interior aspects of characters' lives "hidden" or opaque is an intentional aspect of the Dardennes' aesthetic (as well as Bresson's). Characters will often simply say, "I don't know" when they're asked as to why they do the things they do, as if some invisible interior force is compelling them forward (I write about this in that BW/DR essay on The Son). So yes, inscrutability is, in a way, key to what the Dardennes are doing. And in a related way, so is polyvalence, i.e. the possibility of multiple valid interpretations and different affective responses to their films upon subsequent viewings, where we feel strongly about the film by its coda (and particularly in the final moments), but can feel strongly in different meaningful ways each time we encounter the film. I think this all can apply to Denis's aesthetic as well (at least for certain films, like Beau Travail and 35 Shots of Rum), but it's also quite distinct from the Dardennes too. I would possibly put Malick in this category as well, but he's also doing something different with "inscrutability," something that isn't like Denis or the Dardennes or Bresson but could still be accurately described as "inscrutable." The one thing about the word that might not apply is the notion that it's impossible to understand or interpret these films. In fact, I think the mysterious or enigmatic quality provokes such a response, that we're compelled to try to interpret or understand it even when we recognize that we can't. Could any number of words describe why the final dance scene in Beau Travail is so powerful and meaningful? Nope. That's why it's gotta be experienced as cinema. But we're still compelled to try to explain and understand it, to make an interpretive wager, then wager again and again with every subsequent viewing.

Sorry if the above is a word salad—it's a very stream-of-conscious effort. But I'm really enjoying this conversation.

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3 hours ago, Andrew said:

I'll throw this out there, and perhaps this speaks to my novice status before the works of these directors, but isn't inscrutability similarly a large part of the Dardennes' filmography?  I don't think Olivier really gets why he wants to take Francis under his wing, nor does Samantha articulate why she rescues the kid on the bike.  Yet, I think that mystery (for me at least) contributes to my appreciation of those films and prompts me to contemplate them far more than standard-issue dramas where everything is spelled out.

Well crud. I wrote a long and eloquent (trust me, it woulda knocked your socks off) reply. And now it's....gone. Maybe I didn't hit enter? All sorts of weird computer stuff today.  Sign.

Oh well, the skinny. 

I tend to think of the Dardennes as more of the inheritors or practitioners of a related Romantic theme: ineffability. Cue Emerson:

Quote

And now at last the highest truth on this subject remains unsaid; probably, cannot be said; for all that we say is the far off remembering of the intuition

I think Olivier and Samantha have some idea of why they do what they do even if the film doesn't feel the need to have them verbalize it. The only one I find truly inscrutable in the Dardenne canon is Lorna, but that may be more a function of when I saw the film. 

Think of it this way. Imagine some well meaning sophomore in a psychology of film class asking you to explain a Dardenne character and what is motivating him/her. For Sandra, this is easy, "Oh, x, y, z...and the film *tells* you some of it..." For Jenny or Olivier or Samantha, it's more like, "Well this is not the whole of it, but..." For someone like Galoup, my reply is more like, "Yeah, I got nothing for you. If the dance doesn't explain it, I can't really do any better." 

My wife, who has read more books on brain chemistry than I could make myself slog through in a lifetime is a staunch proponent of the notion that all rationalizations/explanations are metanarratives constructed after the fact by the right hemisphere which looks at lizard brain left hemisphere and has the bejeezus scared out of it. I'm not entirely with her on that score, but I do think there is a difference between, say, the Agnosticism that borders unbelief ("God does not exist, so how can you know Him?) and the Agnosticism that coexists with inscrutability (God exists, but his thoughts and ways are so far above/beyond ours that we cannot know Him or speak Him, only know of Him or speak of Him.) I think the ecstatic (but here I might be infringing on Mike's turf) postulates a knowing that is non-rational and not just non-speakable. That's probably why I think Galoup's dance has uplift, even if it is a suicide emblem (not endorsing that it is, just saying I think it has uplift even if it is). That's probably also why years later, the only other shot or detail from BT that sticks in my head is of the heart/chest muscle twitching on the other guy. It is so localized, so seemingly divorced from the rest of his body, it almost seems to indicate the presence of something in him that is not him. 

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24 minutes ago, kenmorefield said:

Think of it this way. Imagine some well meaning sophomore in a psychology of film class asking you to explain a Dardenne character and what is motivating him/her. For Sandra, this is easy, "Oh, x, y, z...and the film *tells* you some of it..." For Jenny or Olivier or Samantha, it's more like, "Well this is not the whole of it, but..." For someone like Galoup, my reply is more like, "Yeah, I got nothing for you. If the dance doesn't explain it, I can't really do any better."

Reading your and Joel's responses, it seems like degrees of scrutability.  Because, yeah, one can postulate why Olivier and Samantha do what they do, but I still feel like we're not doing much more than postulating, since they don't actually verbalize it.  Galoup has far less to give us, but we can still speculate why he hates Sentain - he's better looking, younger, has an ease about him, has a community that he's a part of (the isolation of authority), and of course, the likelihood of repressed homoerotic longing.  

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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And yeah, that's a good point about how we make our choices; the neuropsychologists seem to be in consensus that our rational decisions are after-the-fact justifications for non-rational choices.  So Denis and the Dardennes have been onto something there, well before the popular science writers put it in book form for the layperson.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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9 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

That's probably also why years later, the only other shot or detail from BT that sticks in my head is of the heart/chest muscle twitching on the other guy. It is so localized, so seemingly divorced from the rest of his body, it almost seems to indicate the presence of something in him that is not him. 

There's a shot in The Kid with a Bike that subtly echoes this moment from Beau Travail: when the first Beethoven movement begins to play after the opening scenes of Cyril trying to escape from the orphanage, there's a cut to Cyril asleep, and we can see his pulse beating in his neck—and it's beating fast, like a mouse, as if Cyril is always in motion/action even when he's asleep (see the screenshot).

To bring it back to Denis: I think "inscrutability" or "ineffability" or "ecstasy" are all suitable descriptions for what's happening in Beau Travail, but it's a "fantastic of the everyday" (to quote Paul Ricoeur). That final dance feels like it's nearing or reaching for transcendence, and it does have an ecstatic quality to it, yet that's a different kind of transcendence than Malick's The Tree of Life or Kubrick's 2001 or even the final black hole moments of Denis's High Life, where the awe-some factor is more due to fantasy/sci-fi and expressionistic/formalist aesthetics. In Beau Travail, it's just a weird dude dancing alone; there's nothing really "fantastic" or formally expressionist about it. And yet it's somehow just as mesmerizing and affecting as the birth and death of the universe or traveling through a psychedelic star gate.

 

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21 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

Since he doesn't understand himself, the only way he can express himself is to sound his barbaric yawp (as another American Romantic once said). 

Postscript: Writing that penultimate paragraph makes me realize, finally, another one of my own reservations about BT. Given the historic gay readings of BB, it is possible to read his inability to understand himself as an inability to admit to himself that he is gay. There is a fine line and huge gulf between someone who is repressing his true self and someone who is a mystery to hiimself. The latter, I think, is something closer to St. Paul's "the very things I hate I end up doing." 


Right! I am pretty sure the yawp has been used to describe this scene in A&F past, or some part of Denis' work. Once in that mode of probing neat, deterministic Enlightenment connections between the self and action, where does the writer or artist turn? Romanticism, nihilism, skeptical empiricism, or post-modernism. At least in Beau travail and earlier films, Denis seems captivated by the body electric. This is not her only film in the context of colonialism, and in each case she seems to be trying to evoke the idea that there is more to the human than various historical forces trying to define us. These screams, agitations, elations, and urges just emerge. But while this is lovely and compelling as the kind of gravity that builds families in 35 Rhums, all this can just as easily become a black hole.

This gets real close to Paul's idea that we are compelled by moral forces beyond our control, which distorts our sense of identity and purpose.

16 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

but I do think there is a difference between, say, the Agnosticism that borders unbelief ("God does not exist, so how can you know Him?) and the Agnosticism that coexists with inscrutability (God exists, but his thoughts and ways are so far above/beyond ours that we cannot know Him or speak Him, only know of Him or speak of Him.) I think the ecstatic (but here I might be infringing on Mike's turf) postulates a knowing that is non-rational and not just non-speakable. That's probably why I think Galoup's dance has uplift, even if it is a suicide emblem (not endorsing that it is, just saying I think it has uplift even if it is). That's probably also why years later, the only other shot or detail from BT that sticks in my head is of the heart/chest muscle twitching on the other guy. It is so localized, so seemingly divorced from the rest of his body, it almost seems to indicate the presence of something in him that is not him. 

Earlier in BT there is a very ambiguous scene of Galoup following the other soldiers on a night out, where we get hints there that Galoup may already be a ghost - as if the final scene is retrojected back into the middle of the film. At the very least, it is clear at this point that Galoup is driven by motivations and fears that he has no control over, and doesn't really understand. He is like a little boy who doesn't fit in and just follows the other kids at a distance while they play. This really destabilizes any effort at trying to interpret or psychologize his character. So inscrutable works here, but in the sense that the inscrutable does compel us in formative ways - we make the inscrutable visible through the choices we make or words we use. Or our ecstatic dances. I very much agree with you that we are talking about a non-rational knowing, which is a starting point for a lot of contemporary theology. 

I have a harder time with the Dardennes here, in that there are much straighter lines between their characters and an existing moral or political framework. I agree with the framework in most cases. But if I read your comment correctly, "inscrutable" and "ineffable" are two different things. Is that right?

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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1 hour ago, M. Leary said:

I have a harder time with the Dardennes here, in that there are much straighter lines between their characters and an existing moral or political framework. I agree with the framework in most cases. But if I read your comment correctly, "inscrutable" and "ineffable" are two different things. Is that right?

They are for me, but Andrew suggested the possibility (if I read him correctly) that they are different in degrees rather than kind. (At least as I poorly described it.)
 

I think inscrutability is about our inability to know the ontological (uggh, I hate that word due to years of graduate school, but there you go) world, and ineffability is about our inability to communicate or transfer subjective knowledge to it. Emerson's use of "intuition" above feels pointed to me...it reminds me of Kant, but I don't know if he was particularly thinking of him. Knowledge is possible, but only at first hand. There are things we know categorically, truths that are (as the Americans say) "self-evident." If I understand Emerson correctly, he postulates that we lack the confidence in our intuition and so forever try to codify it, verbalize it, look for "helps" (other people who have said it/agree with it, etc.) I tend to think of Melville as more fundamental in his doubt. "That inscrutable thing is chiefly what I hate," Ahab says of Moby-Dick. I don't think he means the whale itself so much as the whale as the objective correlative of the thing that is inscrutable -- that which cannot be known, at least not from studying it -- which is why Melville spends 500 pages trying to catalog it so that he can finally say, even with all that factual knowledge of the whale, you still don't really know it.)

I wonder (and here I'm just riffing) if there are some people who are so radically divorced from themselves or from intuited knowledge of themselves that they become inscrutable to themselves. Not just alienated in the modern sense of not being able to verbalize themselves to others but truly lost to themselves. (Maybe Tom Ripley -- at least as Matt Damon plays him, I haven't read the novel, or Stevens in The Remains of the Day.Heck, maybe even Hamlet...?) EDIT: I also wonder what causes that. There may be a divorce between those films that depict it and try to explain it, at least in part from those that leave the pasts of the characters in obscurity so that all you could do is conjecture. The latter certainly feels like the Melville way.)

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You know, that first sentence in your second paragraph is helpful. I am reading Inferno with my daughter right now, and we keep pointing out the lack of self-awareness present in every level of Hell (excepting the top bit, where the philosophers and decent folks are). Dante drops in these little cues that now strike me as analogues to what Denis is doing in Beau travail, and most certainly in her last film.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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5 hours ago, M. Leary said:

I have a harder time with the Dardennes here, in that there are much straighter lines between their characters and an existing moral or political framework. 

I was thinking about this today, and I kept circling back to how many times Sandra (in Two Days, One Night) says "I don't exist" or variations on that. I used to think she was just being melodramatic or hyperbolic in her depression, though Doug suggested to me that it has a lot more to do with phenomenology and how it influences the films and/or his readings.  And Rosetta has that weird (to me) scene where she lays in bed and says, "I have a job...I have a friend...my name is..." as though she is trying to convince herself that she is something effable.

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