#175 A Tale Of The Wind
Une histoire du vent
(1988, Joris Ivens)
Europe, we need to talk. It was bad enough when self-indulgent home movie compilation Sans Soleil turned up on my list, closely followed by a director adapting his own diary for the screen in Dear Diary, but now it’s gone too far. Please tell your directors to stop making pretentious arthouse films about themselves, because it’s getting silly now.
Yes, A Tale of the Wind is yet another European director going travelling and making a film about himself in the process. At its heart, Dutch director Joris Ivens travels to China because he wants to capture the wind on camera (oh goody, this sounds thrilling!). Overall though, this is a movie about absolutely nothing.
Now, I normally adopt a rule when I’m watching these movies, and that’s to sit through the entire film, no matter how little I’m enjoying it. It’s only fair to the movie in question. So it’s with a heavy heart that I have to confess that I switched this one off about 35 minutes in. The movie’s only an hour long, but even that was too long. I sat through Rocky Horror, so this is a pretty big achievement for an hour-long movie, that it makes me want to switch it off halfway through.
What made it so bad? Perhaps I was a little burnt out from the aforementioned Sans Soleil and Dear Diary to be entirely willing to watch yet another director turn a camera on themselves and act like we somehow care. Perhaps it’s because the concept of the film sounded pretentious as hell. Perhaps it’s because nothing in the movie makes any damn sense.
That’s right. We start out with Ivens sitting in the middle of the desert on a wooden chair, watching for the wind to blow through the sands. He sheds tears, although it’s not clear why. We then bounce around a number of scenes that seems to have little to do with Ivens’ quest to film the wind. A small child with an interest in windmills is perfectly acceptable and I can see the connection, but I’m more confused over some other scenes.
Why does the movie randomly decide to cut to clips of A Trip To The Moon before moving onto a bizarre Lynchian scene where Ivens talks to some woman in the sky? Why does it go from there to a communist rally on what looks like the set of a game show? Why is there some guy in heavy makeup chucking bananas at a kung fu master?
None of this is ever explained, and nothing connects with anything else. This disjointed meandering was a key criticism I had of Sans Soleil, but at least that had a narrator vaguely linking everything together, while here I’m completely at a loss. And what does any of it have to do with the WIND?!
It doesn’t help that everything is shot at such a pedestrian pace it makes that hour long running time feel like four. Connecting these disjointed scenes together are scenes of a film crew in a tent waiting around for the wind to start blowing. I’m not exaggerating, we literally have to spend chunks of this movie watching people sitting around waiting for something to happen. No one talks, no one does anything, they’re just sitting around.
I did skip through the parts of the movie I didn’t watch to see if anything held together better, but I found that I was constantly landing on more footage of people sitting in a tent, and gave up on the movie entirely. I’m sorry to let you all down, but I just couldn’t watch that extra half an hour. It was making me angry to watch any more.
So, Europe, some tips for your directors. Anytime a director wants to make a film that involves them going to another country and filming themselves, discourage them as much as possible. Make it an EU law or something, because movies like this are tiresome and unnecessary.
Starring Joris Ivens
Written by Joris Ivens & Marceline Loridan
Produced by Marceline Loridan
Music by Michel Portal
Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast & Jacques Loisleux
Edited by Genevieve Louveau
Favourite Scene: I didn’t have one. In case that wasn’t already clear.
Scene That Bugged Me: Every single scene. Especially the invasion of A Trip To The Moon.
Watch it if: You love Europeans making movies about themselves
Avoid it if: You like films to have a purpose, or a plot