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  Vallée, La Tribal Gathering
Year: 1972
Director: Barbet Schroeder
Stars: Bulle Ogier, Monique Giraudy, Michael Gothard, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Valérie Lagrange, Jérôme Beauvarlet
Genre: Drama, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Viviane (Bulle Ogier) is the wife of the French consul in Melbourne, but she is not with him at the moment for she doesn't like to socialise with her husband's fellow diplomats and prefers to buy up native artworks for her importing business. Today she is in a shop in Papua New Guinea which sells such things, seeking product for her business, when a young man enters with new goods. He is Olivier (Michael Gothard), wishing to gather enough money to go on an expedition, and after Viviane accidentally cuts his foot with a tribal knife, they get to talking...

If La Vallée is recalled for anything these days, in fact if it was recalled for anything back in the mid-seventies, it was for its Pink Floyd soundtrack, one of two they provided for films by this writer and director Barbet Schroeder, the other one being More. Although if you're a Floyd fan who is watching to hear you favourite band, then you may well be disappointed as all you hear of them is the odd snatch of music on a radio, or to add a little atmosphere to the opening and the ending. If you really want to appreciate the music, then you would be much better off listening to the album.

So say you've settled down to watch this and notice that the Floyd aspect is something of a letdown, what else is on offer to hold your attention? How about a hippy-dippy search for paradise here on Earth? There haven't been many films made in New Guinea, but if nothing else the picturesque landscape is really something to appreciate here as Schroeder and his cinematographer Néstor Almendros do their level best to present it as attractively as possible, with lush greenery in the jungles, babbling brooks and rivers and rolling hills and mountains almost giving the impression of visiting another world.

It's just the human part that falls short, as while this was the decade of self-actualisation, for a lot of trendies anyway, La Vallée has a hollow sound to its adventures. Viviane is pretty blatantly set up as a clueless Western exploiter of the pure and natural natives as all she wants to do for the first half is secure herself some bird of paradise feathers for her commercial purposes, and although Ogier has been an appealing presence elsewhere in her films, here she doesn't half grate. Not the actress's fault, it's all there in the script, but you're relieved when she finally gets her head together having joined Olivier's party.

That expedition is an attempt to show us decadent capitalist running dogs that there's more to life than buying up bits of the Third World to hang in our living rooms, actually there's a whole new life out there. If this seems patronising to you, Schroeder does at least acknowledege that when Olivier feels that he and his colleagues are little more than tourists in this land. Nowhere does he feel this more than when they turn up at a tribal celebration, surely the first time this was ever filmed as there were actual tribes from the country taking part here, which must have been a thrill for the filmmakers even if you may sympathise with Olivier's grumpiness. Still, the novelty value is strong even though you might not enjoy a spiritual awakening, and judging by that anticlimactic finale, where they finally reach the lip of that cloud-obscured valley and er, that's it, they ran out of ideas.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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