2016. Directed by Andrzej Zulawski
"Tolstoy wrote that our biggest mistake is to confuse the pretty with the good."
Zulawski's last film is an absurdist tribute that mocks the big questions of life that are often found in films and literature. Rebelling against the tenants of traditional storytelling, Cosmos presents a ridiculous premise, accentuated by dark omens and manic dialogue, that ends with a hilarious whisper, reminding the viewer that they are indeed, woefully insignificant in the eyes of the universe.
Witold arrives at a forgotten bed and breakfast, hoping to find inspiration for a novel. He's joined by his friend, Fuchs, who randomly disappears and then reappears with mysterious injuries. The inn's owner is an eccentric matriarch who delights in stoking the familial fires. Her lover, Leon, is a drunken prophet who puts salts on his warts and carries a wishbone totem. There a cleft palette maid and the owner's gorgeous daughter, Lena, who entrances Witold whenever she enters the room, despite the presence of her charming fiance'. For reasons unknown, none of these souls are capable of extracting themselves from one other. As strange happenings begin to occur, each of the occupants react in a plethora of behaviors, none of which make any sense, with each person reveling in their shortcomings and lamenting their inability to escape.
Zulawski's script attacks the viewer's sensitivities, patience, and concepts of realities by presenting an endless string of exchanges and bizarre events. Jonathan Genet gives an excellent performance as Witold, a hopeless romantic and struggling artist who hasn't stumbled upon the truth of his inconsequential existence. Johan Libereau as Fuchs has the most deceptive role, appearing as the bloodied sidekick who may or may not be a love interest to Withold. There's nothing easy about Cosmos, or more importantly human existence. The ravishing Victoria Guerra's Lena is a mirage. She manages to take what could be an understated femme fatale and instead delivers a self centered paper tiger which blends perfectly into the surreal environs.
Jean-Francois's Balmer and Sabine Azema eclipse the other performances as the lover and the owner. Balmer Leon is a tainted fortune cookie of bad ideas while Azema's specter like movements are essential to Cosmos' constant poisoned mantra. Zulawski's script is shallow and deep, darkly comedic and somewhat terrifying in the brutality of its message. Taking cues from Camus and Bunuel, if hell is other people, pray you don't end up with "these" people.
Andre Szankowski's cinematography is deceptively rich, with spinning shots that capture the schizophrenic action and brash close ups that chronicle the mental decay with uncomfortable intimacy. Paula Szabo's set design is a sleeper addition, with the placement of strangled animals, unwelcome mollusks, and errant peas marrying with the antics to produce the misguided ambrosia that is the heart of the film.
Available now on iTunes, with a blu ray release forthcoming, Cosmos detonates the Heavens and forces the viewer to sift through the metaphysical rubble, protecting its secrets with an endless parade of nonsense that is deliberate and ingenious. An absolutely amazing film that is malicious and nonchalant in equal amounts, Cosmos is a farcical critique of self importance and a warm reminder that the greatest pleasure in life is an appreciation for the simple miracle of waking up alive.