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The Grand Suggests: "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!"

The French film grabs you

Director Alain Resnais designed a movie that celebrates his actors: their varying ages, their versatility, their heart.

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In a series of commercials for Paul Masson champagne, (which you should definitely look up on YouTube, but I digress), the late, great Orson Welles once opined, "Ah, the French..." and while Welles then went on to extol the virtues of moderately priced champagne that was somehow French despite being vinted in California, his fond opening remark concerning the French could just as easily have segued into praising their contributions to cinema.

French filmmakers' influence in shaping the world of cinema can't be overstated, and any effort to adequately convey the fullness of that influence within the limits of this article would fall far short. You'll just have to trust me when I say that it is a treat to review You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!, the latest from director Alain Resnais. Resnais, 91, began his directorial career shortly after the Liberation of Paris from the Nazis, so to say he has played a bit of a role in French cinema over the years is putting it mildly.

A word of warning about this film: Sacrebleu, it is so very French! Even if you're not a connoisseur of French cinema and you have only the vaguest of stereotypes in your head of what an artsy French film is like, this will almost certainly fit the bill. Jean Reno and Gerard Depardieu fencing with baguettes atop the Eiffel Tower would not be half as French as You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!  At first glance, it might seem pretentious and overwrought, and at times it becomes confusingly surreal; but oh là là does this film grab you!

The film opens with the sudden death of (fictional) playwright Antoine d'Anthac, (Denis Podalydès).  A cavalcade of legendary French actors, (playing themselves), are summoned to d'Anthac's home for the reading of his will.  Via a prerecorded statement, d'Anthac asks that this his colleagues evaluate an experimental theater company's taped performance of his play Eurydice, a play in which each actor in attendance performed a role at some point in their career.  However, as the viewing progresses, the actors find themselves slipping back into the roles they played years earlier, reenacting scenes from the play as they unfold onscreen.  In some cases, actors who played the same role in different productions of the play decades apart from one another reenact identical scenes, but their individual idiosyncrasies make both performances unique and equally valid. Things take a turn for the dreamlike when the viewing room gradually transforms into stage sets to fit the scenes being performed and the actors in the viewing room give pointers to the actors onscreen, and the onscreen actors answer them, but their performances are so captivating, you just don't question it.

As is common with a good deal of French cinema, You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet! eschews a clear-cut moral or message in favor of each viewers' individual interpretations; but for this viewer, it was a poignant meditation on the infinite malleability and timelessness of great art and great artists.

YOU AIN'T SEEN NOTHIN' YET!, 2 and 7 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 27, The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, $4.50-$9, 253.593.4474

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