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Video Essay. We Have to Look: Mathieu Amalric’s “Barbara”

A video essay exploring Mathieu Amalric’s unorthodox film about beloved French singer Barbara.
Mathieu Amalric's Barbara is showing exclusively from February 24 – March 25, 2019 on MUBI in the United States.
Mathieu Amalric's Barbara is a deliberately mystifying work, a study of deceptive surfaces and identity hiding in performance and multiple personae. Amalric's early films as a director, from his documentary on the illustrator polymath Joann Sfar to his raucous 2010 road movie On Tour, were obsessed with artists and the compromises made in order to exist, but he's never made anything so beautifully stranded in the act of creation. Barbara moves from the real to the imagined, fiction to non-fiction, the intimate to the guarded and workshopped, to show the speed with which a performer has to move from a solitary practice space to center stage surrounded by an audience, and the thin boundary separating our public and personal lives. Barbara is like watching a magician reveal his secrets only to suddenly realize we were being mesmerized the whole time. This essay attempts to explore some of the film's methodology and posit where Amalric's magic trick begins. 

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