nobody movie_Adieu, Lacan (2022) film review by Eye for Film

“Director Richard Ledes and cinematographer Valentina Caniglia use the camera to examine the balance of power in a sometimes amusing way in this black-and-white film.”

“Now she’s stopped being against herself,” concludes the analyst (David Patrick Kelly, sometimes similar Sam Shepard, Samuel Beckett or John Houston) over Seriema (Ismenia Mendes) when it’s time to say goodbye to Lacan. The journey to this point is the journey of the film, one session after another, some shorter, some longer, in the style of Jacques Lacan, one of the most original thinkers of the 20th century.

Adieu Lacan, based on the book The Parrot and the Doctor, also known as Lacan’s Parrot, and the play Goodbye, Doctor by Betty Milan, who was in analysis with Lacan in Paris in the 1970s, addresses a number of important issues that are just as relevant today as they were then. Director Richard Ledes and cinematographer Valentina Caniglia use the camera in this black-and-white film to explore, in a sometimes amusing way, the balance of power at play.

Seriema, who comes to Paris from her native Brazil, does not want to reveal her Lebanese origins. “I’ve lost a child twice,” she says, as if it were the same child again. All words matter, and why she chose to analyze in a language that is not her own and which, as she says, “keeps me thinking” is the central mystery. The words in French are opaque to her, they “take me nowhere”. They are like things and essential to finding the connection to the Father’s name.

She has no problem calling the doctor when she overhears him calling her “the little Brazilian” to his assistant in the next room. “The French love the noble savage,” she replies early on, which her Lebanese grandmother would never have done. She believed in destiny and destiny and in the magical fetish that her granddaughter always wears as a pendant around her neck to protect her from people’s envy. Lacan is of course on board with this object and Ledes even has the analyst perform a shamanistic dance with no one but the audience watching.

This Lacan ritualistically says “I’m listening” over and over during the sessions, while his body language and facial expressions shift from a devilish grin to deep concern to fatigue in the face of the changing light. Knowing that “ancestors return, they do not cease to exist” and breaking free from the father’s desires go hand in hand.

Kathryn O’Reardon’s costume design is intricate and thought-provoking, with Lacan oscillating between the extremes of buttoned shirts, complete with an added throat lash (a reference to priests’ tab collars?) to a dressing gown and house slippers. Seriema also signals protection and personal style with the pants and blouse (one with a bow for tense sessions) and shows their mindset about ‘sealing the body’. It’s a choice we all make every day when we dress.

“You can break new ground, reinvent your own story” – that’s the promise.

Reviewed on: May 27, 2022

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