Cathartique is a brief love letter to the city of Paris. It’s done in a very literal manner, with a woman onscreen literally speaking to and about the city as a lover, and loaded with insert shots that give it a suggestive feeling of arousal. As the words come together, some of them repeating phrases, such as “I am a cursed child”, we understand that it’s not the city itself that she’s talking about, but an experience that she had there. The experience is being related from an entirely personal perspective where the name of the city and this mysterious love affair are interchangeable. What she describes is some event or relationship that is equal parts rapture and agony. The key thing that reoccurs over and over is that there is something about it which she cannot move past. She is reliving the affair over and over, as a compulsive memory that doesn’t want to let go of her. There are warm, close up shots of her mouth and lips that are sensual, combined with black and white images of her looking toward the camera sipping a drink as if the beverage itself were the contained memory, which she is ingesting a little bit at a time. Other shots have a deliberately grainy texture to them and look like tourist images, like they were taken from a reel of home movies. Essentially, both the words and images of the film move in a way that simulates memory, thinking, and feeling, as something we are remembering is coming together all at once in a jumbled collection of associations. Another interpretation could be that the woman herself is the object of obsession, and that all of these memories, including her voice are fragments that have taken hold inside of the mind of a former lover. In any case, the pacing is just right, including the film length itself. This is an especially strong use of editing and music to create a whimsical but powerful experience that floats through the mind and senses. In the final moments, all of the different effects that have been used on the various scenes are lifted, bringing the face of the woman into a more natural light and scene. In this context, it’s like a return to the present, or to the less romantic ideals that the dreamer has infused this memory with. As the final words state, “I need my life back. While the dreamer might not find the perfect resolution for themselves, the persistence of time has pulled them through the other end of this dilemma. The dreamer must wake up.
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