Friday, February 26, 2021

Elsa la Rose

Pet Names / Code Names

"Je suis / Le fou d'Elsa / — Aragon."

"Woman is the future of man." –Aragon, Le fou d'Elsa [Elsa's Madman, 1963]

Elsa la Rose [Elsa the Rose, 1966] is a kind of collage essay portrait film by Agnès Varda that examines the decades long marriage relationship between the writer-poets Elsa Triolet (née Kagan, Mayakovsky's lover) and Louis Aragon. Stretches of the couple's verse, read by Michel Piccoli, comprise the soundtrack. 

The consummate artist coupling, their writing a vow to keep the past tethered to the present. At their first encounter in 1928, Triolet recalls that Aragon's suit "was all shiny. Like a piano." "From that day on we've never been apart."

There's an urgency to Piccoli's recitations — indeed, Varda remarks in her 2007 video introduction that she encouraged the actor to read faster as the film went on, to gain speed like a hurtling train. For that matter, this vitesse is a natural component of Aragon's verses.

Elsa's eyes are, for Louis, everything. "Memory without recollection / And wound without dagger." Varda captures in a 20-minute flash the ungraspable mystery of love (the notion of the mystery; the revelation proves impossible), and in Elsa and Louis we might find echoes too of Agnès and Jacquot.


Other writing on Agnès Varda at Cinemasparagus:

La Pointe-Courte [1955]

Ô saisons ô châteaux [O Seasons, O Châteaux, 1957]

L'Opéra-Mouffe, carnet de notes filmées rue Mouffetard par une femme enceinte en 1958 [The Opéra-Mouffe: Diary Filmed on the rue Mouffetard in Paris by a Pregnant Woman in 1958, 1958]

Du côté de la Côte [Around the Côte, 1958]

Les fiancés du pont Mac Donald, ou (Méfiez-vous des lunettes noires) [The Fiancés of the Pont Mac Donald, or: (Beware of Dark Glasses), 1961]

Cléo de 5 à 7 [Cléo from 5 to 7, 1962]

Le bonheur [Happiness, 1964]

Elsa la Rose [Elsa the Rose, 1966]


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