A reflection on Pascal Magnin's film Reines d'un Jour
Panting breath, swishing clothes, chomping feet. When we get there you have to roll down again and if you roll into someone you have to roll over them and then they have to toss you in the air and then you have to do it again and then you do it again and then you dance all night at the party while the grownups drink and the boys steal the men’s shoes and the men take them back and the old lady whispers to the young girl.
Pascal Magnin, give us the good stuff: the wine, the nubile French jeunes. Make us frolic with them among the cows in the streams up and down grassy Swiss hills. Tender us a dreamy, sexy, romp through the fertile mountains of Switzerland, and cut it through with urgency. If you want to do life, you tell us, we must get drunk with dance.
In dusk’s profile a woman leads an ascending column as they dash up a backlit mountain. Suddenly, she’s plummeting downward in rotating turns. A following man leaps over her only to dive into his own spinning descent, barely averting collision. In quick succession the following sprinters dive over their brethren and fall into their own descending rolls.
Sunlit wild grass shivers in the wind. A man’s body lies prostrate, his left hand strewn over the slit of his suit jacket. The camera slides to his face, fallen sideways towards the woman stretched out beside him. In answer to whether these unmoving bodies are still of this world, the camera pans to yet another figure, this one wiping her hand across her nose. He, beside her, has been tickling her face with a grass frond extruding from his mouth. She turns to rise over him; as they begin to revolve downward, their mouths reach for each other’s. She continues to roll; he pauses before diving somersaulting out of frame towards her absent figure. A choir sings behind the sounds of their bodies roughly sliding against the slippery grass.
If we speculate too long as to why these beautiful people are pitching themselves at startling speeds down a stony mountain, we might realize with painful recognition that as we sit, watching, we are not of them. We must behold them, instead, with an imagined smile of too much white wine. The dancers stomp their feet and run after laughing children. The villagers clink glasses and tell stories. Magnin makes us a drink and tells us to gulp.
I wonder who has paid for these serious hiking boots. Who provided the multiple dresses and suits required without grass stains before each take? From whose munificent coffers do gorgeously shot films appear on YouTube? In what European heaven have we arrived?
Bells clanging awaken me from more disjointing queries. Whirling too fast, a woman flies down the mountain. Our lovers have reunited. He captures her in the scoop of his arms, then catapults her away once again. We’re unexpectedly inside, following a woman’s slowly shifting back as her hands press gently against a mottled wooden wall. Her strong, battered feet crush leather boots underfoot as she alternately inserts and extracts her feet from their hollow interiors. Three young boys run to her, seize some boots, and run off, chased.
There are parties and trios and more transitional cows. A duo pushes their interlocking heads against each other’s chests. Lovers or sisters, in the weight exchange of combat, Magnin illustrates something beyond a territorial battle. In order to fight, we need our opponent to fight back. It takes two to tango–and then, they tango.
In the barmy pleasure of hills of bodies intertwining and flirting furiously lives a mad exigency. It’s so frightfully good I fear something sorrowing is coming. In a final text, a scrolling fable explains the fevered urgency. Magnin has proffered art as fecund indulgence, then reminds us au fin that mythmakers around our world condemn dance as a gateway to sin, if not sin itself.
Though we like to believe we declare our ethics through our pronouncements about existence and our choice in morality books, in truth we tell our values through our bodies. Where do we place ourselves in the world? Are we inside, on our knees as instructed by our priest, or are we flying down hills, blowing on each other’s faces like flirtatious children? We sit before our screens sucking in their passion, but maybe Reines d’un Jour is really meant to spring us from our seats and into our own fertile paradise. Dance is defiance. Let’s dance.