Director Alain Resnais' "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet."

Director Alain Resnais' "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet." Credit: Handout

It seems to have an unusually flippant and idiomatic English title for a cerebral French experiment by Alain Resnais ("Night and Fog," "Hiroshima Mon Amour"). But "You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" aims to further demolish the wall between cinema and audience. The venerable Resnais, now 91 and ever nosing about the amorphous barriers between artifice and actuality, is still chipping away, in a movie that plays fast and loose even with life and death. A late playwright named Antoine (Denis Podalydes) has summoned, via his will, all the actors who've appeared over the decades in his version of the Orpheus legend, "Euridyce." They are to watch a new version, with younger actors, and render judgment.

What happens instead is a blurring of time, space, performance, dialogue and the fragile line between actor and role. The viewers begin by reciting along to the movie, gradually get absorbed in the characters; the movie talks back to them; all dramatic proprieties are rendered null and void.

The play within the movie is an amalgamation itself: Jean Anouilh's "Euridyce," married to his "Dear Antoine" -- and the actors are all veterans of Resnais' films, among the cream of French screen acting (Lambert Wilson, Sabine Azema, Mathieu Amalric, Michel Piccoli and Anne Consigny).

"You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet" is an actorly exercise -- the performers seem, quite often, to be deliberately overdoing it to serve their director's greater purpose, a construction of very self-conscious artifice that somehow explodes itself. But despite some hyperbolic excess, the process of Resnais' production is unexpected and free, and revisits the very nature of cinema, and theater, with a wondrous eye.

PLOT: From beyond the grave, a French playwright summons his former actors to watch a new production of his version of the Orpheus and Euridyce myth, and judge its worth. Unrated

CAST: Mathieu Amalric, Sabine Azema, Lambert Wilson

LENGTH: 1:55 

BOTTOM LINE: Enigmatic examination of the blood ties between the theater and its actors, untruth and reality, theater and life. (In French with English subtitles)

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