In Bruno Collet’s film Mémorable, the protagonist Louis holds a gun to his head in a moment of resigned, existential despair only to pull the trigger and realize that he holds instead an ordinary hairdryer. Collet’s film is not a comedy, however, but a tragedy: a sobering and melancholy portrayal of the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease. Collet was inspired to produce this resplendent animated short by the suffering of artist William Utermohlen, who, after having been diagnosed with the disease, documented the gradual decay of his cognition through self-portraits.
Mémorable, however, transcends the tragic nature of the disease and becomes a beautiful love story. Despite Louis’ difficulties, he retains an unflagging love for his wife, Michelle, and for art in general. Even when his memory for her fades, his love remains and is expressed touchingly in his portraits of her – a love that matches Collet’s own clear reverence for the arts.
Indeed, his adoration of the arts is apparent throughout the piece, be it through elaborate homages to surrealist artist Salvador Dali, or to the raw and unsettling style of figurative artist Francis Bacon. Collet’s precise and nuanced approach to the subject is enhanced by his use of stop-motion animation and claymation techniques, which enables the audience to better empathize with Louis’ condition. Louis eventually becomes unable to recognize himself. He regards the bathroom as “occupied” when seeing his own reflection in the mirror. In an increasingly abstract and twisted world, Louis’s love for Michelle and art becomes pure instinct. He paints for Michelle, who now appears to him as a translucent figure composed of fragmentary paint strokes. They then dance seamlessly, until Michelle, Louis’s last piece of memory, vanishes into a swirl of drifting pigment granules.
Such romantic tragedy alone is inadequate to make Mémorable a magnum opus, however the core of the film lies in its ingenuity in venerating earlier artworks. The most obvious expression is Collet’s transposition of rough, clay-textured brushwork to Van Gogh-styled strokes. The scene thoroughly divorces from reality, juxtaposing Louis’s restless, illusionary world to that of Van Gogh. In fact, Van Gogh can be construed as Louis’s prototype: his lunatic mentality and abounding artistic creations provide the film with more space for aesthetic interpretation. Similarly, the psychiatrist character borrows from the manner of Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures: he is volumeless, weightless, and close to disintegration, a physical manifestation of the psychic affliction of Alzheimer’s disease. This film will surely resonate with those who have a passion for art and the courage to stare into the face of human agony and yet admire the beauty and dignity of it all. At the very least, Collet’s transcendent artistry will surely be memorable.
Yike Zhang is a sixteen-year-old sophomore from China currently attending school in Boston. She has a deep passion for international relations, creative writing, and debating. In her free time, Yike immerses herself in the world of song and dance. She finds particular delight in musicals, with “Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” and “Six!” being among her favorites.