Ingrid Caven: Music And Voice

Ingrid Caven: Music And Voice


Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

I have always had a soft spot for Ingrid Caven, my favorite Rainer Werner Fassbinder heroine. Bertrand Bonello's challenging and rewarding Ingrid Caven: Voice And Music captures the second of her two concerts performed at the Cité de la Musique in Paris and allows us to delve deeply into the vast universe of an unpredictable and genuine star.

"She goes from Mozart to Fassbinder songs to contemporary music," said the director at the NYFF press conference via Skype. Not only that, she also switches from French to German to English, sometimes within the same song. The film has no subtitles and even if you understand all three languages, Caven's presentation at times resembles a fearless squirrel collecting sounds or an entryway into the womb of the world. Understanding the words is clearly not the point here. If you let her, she will guide you into a kind of pre-symbolic order of purrs and hisses, the history of the world and the individual, told by a marvellous story teller, dangerous and fragile, dressed in asymmetrical Yves Saint Laurent ruffles, sometimes shimmering oxblood, other times black.

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"Wozu sind Worte, die man nicht sagt"

What good are words one doesn't say, is what she sings, before we see her on stage. Bonello, shows the entire performance, including the darkness, with the audience clapping or gasping inaudibly. His concert film succeeds in an intimacy and immediacy that many movies try to stage. Jonathan Demme's excruciatingly contrived Neil Young Journeys (2012) comes to mind, where spit on the camera replaces rapport and closeness.

Ingrid Caven, once upon a time married to Fassbinder, and starring in many of his films, has more faces than Dr Mabuse. Her pale blonde bob makes her resemble Marilyn Monroe, at first, and with each song she changes expression, suddenly she bats her eyes like Lillian Gish, for brief moments becomes Cate Blanchett, Gena Rowlands, Angie Dickinson - film history in a haircut served up by a fantastic actress. When she most resembles Marlene Dietrich, in a song about Berlin, she changes her voice and becomes Emil Jannings instead, not Dietrich's Lola Lola from von Sternberg's The Blue Angel (1930).

When she performs Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves, famously sung by Jeanne Moreau in Fassbinder's Querelle (1982), she slowly vivisects the song, superbly real in her artifice. She gives you that little bit too much that you don't want to see and hear. From Ave Maria to Polaroid Cocaine to a Shanghai encore, Ingrid Caven tells us stories as if we were little. A well-travelled aunt, perhaps, who speaks many languages and introduces a fascinating world we only partly understand, mysterious and dangerous, like a half forgotten dream of a tale we once knew. During the press conference, I asked the director about a particularly haunting song. "One desperate night, Fassbinder has written me a macabre song," she introduces it in the film and states that this was the first time she ever performed it. "Is the family in the song eating the son for dinner?" is a question you don't get to ask very often at a press conference. "Yes, they are," he confirmed and quickly compared her face to the sun coming out of the night.

Parental cannibalism, in what sounds like Fassbinder's rhymed, chopped version of The Juniper Tree, collected by Runge and the Brothers Grimm, mingles seamlessly with my favorite Johannes Brahms lullaby Abendlied. Ingrid Caven is currently touring with Pierrot Lunaire by Arnold Schönberg.

Catch me if you can, is Ingrid Caven's game.

Reviewed on: 14 Sep 2012
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The actress captured in concert.
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Director: Bertrand Bonello

Starring: Ingrid Caven

Year: 2012

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: France


New York 2012

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