Other than a brief dust-up almost near the end, there’s scarcely a fraught moment between these two protagonists. And over a story that spans decades, the constant getting along is maddening to watch. Did nobody try to give these characters any emotional range or depth, any texture apart from the beards? The movie spends two and a half hours trying to bring them into focus and never does.
One thing for which “The Eight Mountains” is useful is allowing me to pivot to “Scarlet,” directed by Pietro Marcello, whose “Martin Eden,” freely adapted from Jack London’s novel, starred Marinelli in the title role. “Scarlet” opened the parallel festival Directors’ Fortnight, and like “Martin Eden,” it’s a difficult picture to pin down in terms of film style; it veers from austere drama to fairy tale to musical. Marcello also continues his technique of interweaving his fictional narrative with archival clips and footage from other movies.
The plot centers on the relationship between a World War I veteran, Raphaël (Raphaël Thiery), and his daughter, Juliette (played by Juliette Jouan as an adult), whom he meets for the first time upon his return home, when she is a baby who has been cared for by Madame Adeline (Noémie Lvovsky) since Raphaël’s wife’s death. For some reason, the townspeople look at Raphaël askance, and he and his daughter eventually become pariahs, although Raphaël, a gifted craftsman, and Juliette supply a store with increasingly outmoded toys that Raphaël carves out of wood. A pilot (Louis Garrel) who happens upon Juliette singing raises the prospect of romance, with Juliette at times taking the lead in the courtship.
How you react to “Scarlet” depends partly on your acceptance of Marcello’s fanciful formal gambits; the abrupt shifts in tone and genre require him to sacrifice the story’s flow. But the director, who got his start as a documentarian, is further refining a fiction-film style so odd that it’s becoming endearing.