Oui Non (2002)

Run Time - 116 min.  |  
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Since his 1996 decision to work exclusively with digital video instead of film, Jon Jost has made mostly non-narrative, experimental works exploiting the possibilities of the new medium. Oui Non is an unfortunate step in a different direction. Set in Paris, it is an attempt to marry narrative elements to his formerly abstract style, but Jost's visual virtuosity is far outweighed by his tedious attempts at deconstructing cinematic narrative. In telling the story of a love affair between two young Parisians, he tries to blur the line between fact and fiction by incorporating documentary interviews with the actors playing the protagonists with fictional segments and ruminative shots of the city accompanied by voice-over monologues. The problem is that this territory has been covered much more gracefully by other filmmakers, both in recent years and in previous decades. Iranian directors like Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf, for instance, have been exploring these issues with fascinating results since the 1980s, and Jean-Luc Godard began exploring the boundaries of narrative in the late '60s. In fact, with its Paris setting and endless philosophical musings on cinema, photography, and death, Oui Non comes off as embarrassingly derivative of Godard's experimental late-'60s/early-'70s period. Jost's first feature, the 1973 autobiographical essay film Speaking Directly, owed a big debt to Godard, but he soon developed his own style, and many of his films, such as Last Chants for a Slow Dance and Frame Up, stretch the boundaries of narrative technique in truly original ways. Oui Non is a big step backward, which is all the more disappointing given Jost's impressive track record.