Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa‘s latest piece of archival “found footage” cinema would appear to have been taken straight from television. Edited together are a dozen or more red carpets from the Gala evenings organized by the Paris Opera at the Palais Garnier during the 1950s and 1960s. Apparently, there is some kind of irony to this work, or at least that is what the synopses floating around attempt to claim. It doesn’t seem off base to imagine that this purported irony lies within the exclusionary nature of the spectacle: in the distance between those on the red carpet and those to the sides, the latter of whom allowed to merely attend and view the spectacle but never engage in it. Unfortunately, there is very little to praise here; perhaps some aesthetic enjoyment can be gained from the synthesis of the event’s spectacle and the spectacle contrived through the form of the film, or maybe even from the chance to catch sight of our favourite contemporary celebrities or members of royalty. But what is any of this supposed to suggest that we haven’t seen or heard a hundred times before? Even as a simple documentation of an event(s), A Night at the Opera is sorely lacking. I can confidently say that I gained absolutely nothing from the experience of watching this film. No, I’ll do one better and say that the synopsis itself is enough to describe everything that happens here — your imagination can fill in the rest, and likely do a better job than the real thing. High society never changes, ostensibly.
Published as part of NYFF 2020 — Dispatch 6.