Ne Change Rien, 2009

Like his earlier documentary, Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? on seminal filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at work on Sicilia!, Pedro Costa’s Ne Change Rien plays on the idea of répétition as the act of rehearsal and iteration to capture the ephemeral nature of the creative process. Shot in black and white, Costa’s chiaroscuro and neutral framing compositions create distinctive textures from a monochromatic palette that illustrate the spectrum of Jeanne Balibar’s diverse performances. For the prelude song, Torture, a down-directional spotlight illuminates Balibar on a dark stage, framing her slight figure in a cone of light that echoes the song’s sentiment of emotional captivity. In a studio rehearsal for Cinéma, Balibar and guitarist Rodolphe Burger are framed in an extended, stationary medium shot as they explore variations on the refrain, “peine perdue” before deciding to slow down the delivery of the second instance as a way to “emphasize the silence”, reinforcing the nuances achieved in the seeming sameness of the repeating line. Another side of Balibar emerges in the rehearsals for the opéra bouffe La Périchole by Jacques Offenbach – appropriately framing her in profile to reflect her multi-faceted artistry – as an off-screen voice coach emphasizes the precision intrinsic in the pronunciation and intonation of the piece. For These Days, Costa shoots the live performance with a shallow depth of field, resulting in a sharply focused Balibar against a blurred, almost ghostly cast of musicians that take on a metaphysical dimension in its stark contrast between the tactile and the ethereal. Concluding with the isolated spotlighting of Balibar and Berger during the studio recording of Ton Diable, the image becomes a metaphor for the deconstruction of the creative process, the synthesis of distinctive, individual voices into crescendoed, sublimated polyphony.

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