Falling out of Frame
By Alexander Scholz. LA NUIT AMÉRICAINE by François Truffaut starts with a shot of a crowded public space. Disoriented by this choice of a rather conventional establishing shot by Nouvelle Vague’s master director, the viewer follows the proceedings, until the aforementioned yells “Cut!”. The scene freezes and the viewer is signalled: it’s alright, you've actually come to the right cinema. Within the next two hours the production conditions of the classical studio film are undermined by a director’s subversive stylistic devices, who – to clear up any doubts that may arise – even plays his own alter ego, equally quarrelsome about cinema and life, himself.
Jonathan Rio doesn’t have two hours time and can only afford two minutes of confusion about the layers of reality. So there’s no long shot which gently reflects cinematic traditions, instead we see just a relaxedly shaky panning shot leading from diegesis to non-diegesis. What gives the scene – and the whole film – its irresistibly casual charm is the fact that this bumpy transition into a documentary meta layer happens out of a chase sequence. The camera lands on the director who obviously was responsible for this moderately original idea of a chase sequence in the first place. He explains his rather mundane film with self-assured authority to a beautiful journalist. He is, however, not played by Jonathan Rio himself, which only seems consistent, as Rio in contrast to Truffaut is not out to fathom the borders between cinema and life in his short film. The borders between cinema and cinema seem much more interesting to him.
As a mockumentary manipulator he always remains the driving force in the background. Whereby “driving” luckily does not mean “organizing”. All main characters are supporting characters, every visible thing is potentially invisible, even diachrony is discussed, ranging from Jump Cuts to 3D glasses. In the end the director of the diegetic film even puts the special effects into the journalistic camera via his fingertips – no problem at all. This humoristic gimmick additionally poses the question of what frame is used to frame which picture – connected to the challenge to be more impressed by this ambivalence than by all the cheap effects.
This challenge is proposed via the journalist, which is the condition for it to reach the audience in an intelligent and subtle way. Here Rio is actually coming closer to Truffaut, because the borders between cinema and life become blurred when the reviewer is already doing what the film tells him to: enthusing.