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Un homme qui dort. 1974. France. Directed by Bernard Queysanne, Georges Perec. Screeplay adapted from a novel by Perec. English voiceover by Shelly Duvall. 77 min.
“The English-language version of this film could also be called ‘Shelley Duvall reads Georges Perec.’ ‘What?,’ you might be asking yourself. Yes: this film features a 77-minute voice-over of a story by Georges Perec read by Shelley Duvall, whose oddly misplaced voice cuts through the existential banality. A white, male college student wakes up in a pile of cigarette butts in an M. C. Escher- and Réne Magritte–postered garret apartment, drinks instant coffee out of a generic café au lait bowl, walks into a typical university building to take a general sociology test, and suddenly find his life narrated in the voice of a Texas department store clerk who became a movie star. ‘Instead of you, someone else, a replica, a ghostly, careful double, is performing, one by one, the acts you no longer perform. You’re not going to say in four, eight, or 12 ruled pages, what you know you should think about alienation, or the working class, or modern life and leisure, about the white-collar worker, or automation, about other-directedness, about Marx’s critique [mispronounced “critic”] of de Tocqueville, or Margarete Mead versus Marcuse [mis-pronounced “Markooss”].’ I am reminded of the way Elizabeth Berkley’s wildly confident, naive mispronunciation of “Versace” in Showgirls generates an acidly campy moment at the center of a potentially disastrous film, and you can’t stop watching even as you cringe. That Duvall’s voice-over in Un homme qui dort performs a radical undoing of how the protagonist sees his position in the life-world, from being an automaton of dominance to a mass of particles among sounds, objects, and other people—and that this transformation happens in voided, empty city streets that are suddenly full again—may resonate in the present without distance” (Ken Okiishi). Courtesy Dovidis
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