The duality of man theme expressed in Full Metal Jacket (1987, Stanley Kubrick) shows how man’s id can be tapped to create a killing machine; and, say, one that risks exterminating his ego and superego as a result (i.e. Pyle and Animal Mother).
For this reason, Full Metal Jacket is one of the 2 most important films I’ve seen, thematically. And for this same reason, I find it the one movie that best suited Kubrick’s talent and vision. And, that vision is cynical, satirical, and dystopian, to say the least.
The other most important film, thematically, for me, is Au hasard Balthazar (1966, Robert Bresson). Au hasard Balthazar has been my favorite movie for years. It’s the one movie I actually love.
Instead of showing the duality of man, Bresson links man to animal through their souls. He shows that man is not a paradox, but a spirit, just as all living creatures are. But, Bresson also believes all of our destinies to be martyrdom.
Le gamin au vèlo (2011, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne) is very much concerned with the same aesthetic reverence and milieu of Bresson. Its central protagonist, Cyril, has a desperate hunger in his spirit to understand his purpose in life. He strives to decide if he’s a boy or an animal. And this juxtaposition is central, for the core of the film is this dilemma.
The narrative is a diptych in the sense that first, Cyril fights to understand what’s up with his dad, then the second half of the film arises after what Cyril does after he finds out.
The brilliance of Le gamin au vèlo’s focus arises from the blurring of the lines between boy and animal; because, all Cyril needs to be able to live as a boy is a parent, yet the film expands the elasticity of that connotation. In effect, what this establishes is the perspective that shows how the exact same thing is true of animals—or, as Au hasard Balthazar hypothesizes, kindness nurtures and is necessary for a spirit to exist and cruelty kills it, for humans and animals alike.
With the same ferocity as Alan Clarke’s characters like Gary Oldman in The Firm (1989, Alan Clarke) or the two adolescents in Christine (1987, Clarke), Cyril has a primal inertia. He sprints, attacks, bites, scales walls, climbs trees, and it’s easy to anticipate what he’s like once he gets on his bike—it becomes a Maverickian extension of his need for speed, or, more accurately, stress release and an escape.
The typical Dardennes camera style is maintained: handheld and documentary style. Yet, they also spend quite a bit of time on fluid
tracking shots of Cyril.
The color scheme calls attention to itself. Cyril always wears red, except for one shot. In color theory, primary red’s complimentary hue is primary cyan. In Le gamin au vèlo, Cyril appears in the first shot wearing a primary cyan tee under his zip-up primary red jacket. I actually believe right now that cyan represents Cyril’s spirit. (Other instances where primary cyan occurs are: the nighttime interiors when Cyril sleeps; and to a lesser extent, the accents in Cyril’s bedroom on the estate, and the clothes worn by other boys he encounters on the streets—notice which men wear black.) Finally, there is a crucial moment in the third act wear Cyril wears a primary cyan tee under a denim jacket, with no red—the only time in the film—and, during this scene, the one chance Cyril felt to be worthy of actually living as a boy with a spirit, it just so happens that life is a little more complicated and I’ll leave it at that. (You know it wouldn’t be a Dardenne brothers movie without that awesome "this can’t last" kind of dénouement, like Sirk at his best.)
The Dardennes are still the masters of minimalism when it comes to music. In Le gamin au vèlo, their sixth narrative feature, they use non-diegetic music for the first time—but it’s hardly anything resembling an actual score. The Beethoven cues really feel like the way Bresson portioned out the Mozart in certain moments during Un condamné à mort s' est èchappè ou Le vent souffle où il veut (1956, Bresson).
Basically, I identify most strongly with Cyril’s wild side; especially considering that pretty much all he’s after, underneath it all in the end, is someone to love him. That, to me, is a beautiful paradox: one’s wild animal nature ferociously fighting to find peace and love.
And the fact that movies this simple can still be made still remains a feat to me. I think its a wonder to be able to watch stories play out that can feel this honest and modern, with such lack of fuss over spectacle or high production values in the serivce of genre conventions.