THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Agnes Varda's One Hundred and One Nights (1994) attempts to create a single character to embody all of film history who can, through sheer experience, sit back and reminisce on a century of art. This pretentious pretense doesn't fully develop into a film exactly, but does spawn some interesting moments. When Monsieur Cinema, played by Michel Piccoli (whose real film career dates back to the forties), feels his memory fading he hires Camille (Julie Gayet) to be his muse and his tutor. She sits with him each day and discusses past cinematic triumphs, many of which he takes credit for.
What gives the film any value at all is the bizarre assortment of film clips illustrating Monsieur Cinema's memories, ranging from the Lumiere Brothers' train at the station to Bunuel's Un Chien Andelou, Welles' Citizen Kane, Romero's Night of the Living Dead, and Van Zandt's My Own Private Idaho. An impressive list of films which is often cleverly worked into the Varda film, through match cuts and similar movements.
The film also features a constant barrage of international stars as themselves paying Monsieur Cinema a visit, including Marcello Mastroianni (who seems to be having a ball), Catherine Deneuve, Jeanne Moreau, Gerard Depardieu, and Alain Delon. The film also features Robert De Niro in a bizarre cameo that makes almost no sense as well as totally ridiculous appearances by Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford who seem to have been caught unawares, Bowfinger-style. That the film lists them in the opening credits is essentially fraud. There are also many actors listed in the credits, from Leonardo DiCaprio to Harry Dean Stanton, Martin Sheen to Daryl Hannah that I suspect do not even appear in the film at all. There may be some potential lawsuits here.
One Hundred and One Nights also features a lame subplot that has Camille conspiring with her boyfriend, also named Camille (those crazy French!) to hijack the old man's estate. Whatever the point of the film, it all disappears in the end which features one of the most abrupt finales I've ever seen. It seems that, in order to be cute, Varda, whose Cleo From 5 to 7 and Vagabond are available on DVD from Criterion, decided to end the film at 101 minutes, regardless of how much still needed to happen. The only question that I was left with was, with all of the film clips featured, how come no Jerry Lewis?
Nothing to write home about. Some speckles here and there. I wouldn't recommend that enthusiasts buy this in lieu of a Citizen Kane release. The clips are fun but very short.
The film is in French and sounds fine. There is little in the way of dynamic sound production.
Only a trailer and some static text screens.
This falls into the category of films that I'm not sure have an audience. I've reviewed a number of films for which I honestly don't see the appeal. The packaging tries to play up the appearances of some noted film luminaries while reminding us of Cinema Paradiso, a film reminiscence that at least made an attempt to follow the lead of those older films and create characters for the viewer to care about. One Hundred and One Nights is like Greenaway without the kinkiness. I chuckled to myself at some of the many film references but other than that there is little to recommend.
Gil Jawetz is a graphic designer, video director, and t-shirt designer. He lives in Brooklyn.
E-mail Gil at firstname.lastname@example.org