"Like his earlier documentary, Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? on seminal filmmakers Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet at work on Sicilia!," begins Acquarello, "Pedro Costa's Ne change rien plays on the idea of répétition as the act of rehearsal and iteration to capture the ephemeral nature of the creative process."
At Slant, Andrew Schenker finds the film "is less concerned with the artistic process than it is with the play of light across a face or instrument, the smoky tones of a woman's voice on the soundtrack, or the circular drone of a guitar. Working in his trademark half-lit DV, Costa films Jeanne Balibar (best known for her roles in Olivier Assayas and Jacques Rivette films, but also an accomplished vocalist) as she sings with her quartet or rehearses for and performs in a musical, crafting from her half-finished musical warblings something like a semi-radical trance film."
"Balibar whispers and bellows and Dietrichizes here in recording studios (worrying phrases for the right rhythm and cadence) and in performance with a band (the longest rendition: 'Johnny Guitar')." Nicolas Rapold in the L Magazine: "The darkness that prevails - often voiding three quarters of the screen - goes beyond nightclub ambience and toward benevolently drugged abstraction: the gibbous-waning slivers of Balibar's facial contours, or a cat's head in sudden sprawling close-up."
"An ardent cinephile, Costa has cited Godard's One Plus One as an inspiration for his approach here, which eschews voiceover and interviews in favor of moody, atmospheric detail and abundant use of long takes." Damon Smith in Reverse Shot: "But he also applies the distinctive, low-light visual style he developed for In Vanda's Room and Colossal Youth, a tack that aligns this sultry music doc as much with the mise-en-scène of classic cinema (Von Sternberg, Nick Ray) and T Magazine-style fashion portraiture as it does with Straub-Huillet (a salient touchstone for the auteurist director) or ultrahip band-in-the-studio genre artistry."
Let's add one more name, courtesy of the New Yorker's Richard Brody: "Costa's film was born under the virtual gaze of three artistic godfathers with original approaches to filming musical performances - Godard, Chris Marker, and Jean-Marie Straub - and, in the course of this bracing, fascinating feature, he conjures them all."
"Apparently most people hate this," notes James Hansen, "but make no mistake: Ne change rien is a major accomplishment."
Earlier: Reviews from Cannes.
Update, 10/28: James Mansfield interviews Costa for Little White Lies.