From Today Until Tomorrow

From Today Until Tomorrow ★★★½

A screwball comedy from hell. Oddly, the closest analogue that came to mind was Kaurismäki; his films are essentially opposite in tone (deadpan, where Straub/Huillet are here histrionic), but meet From Today Until Tomorrow in their abstraction. Discussing a moderate domestic quarrel in staid monotone or turgid opera evoke a similar distance (Brechtian or otherwise), and at once a similar comedy. The scrimmage that makes up this film’s entire is, inherently, funny; the phone conversation (in which the ‘famous tenor’ audibly croons through the receiver) is so ridiculous as to meet no other descriptor. So too is the moment in which, after a good twenty minutes of barreltone opera, the wife warns her husband to quiet down lest they wake their child. The grand abstraction of opera meeting the intimacy of film: ludicrous interludes pervade.

But at once, the film is terrifying. Schoenberg is largely responsible for this fact, his dissonant twelve-tone music doing as ever it does, creeping and cutting into and out of the ear. This is music of strife – less domestic than deep, internal, ineluctable. A fusillade against all that is pleasant and melodious. This music met with the choleric, wide-eyed performances pushes the film over into a place of consistent unease – the abnormality of opera leveraged to its most aggressively distressing. Straub/Huillet’s framing and lighting – emphasising the smallness of its single space – engender a further claustrophobia.

The content, while somewhat blunt, is not uninteresting. It plays itself as a kind of battle of the sexes (see: screwball), whereby an unhappy marriage bizarrely reverses itself when the ‘frumpy’ wife changes into a (only very mildly more becoming) dress. The husband, who had previously lusted after another, is now besot again; the wife can play truant in this relationship, desiring a ‘famous tenor’ who had supposedly courted her that very night. It is the film’s conclusion that brings its bizarre comedy into focus: being met with both of their supposed lovers, the couple reject them each. Over the course of the night they have come to realize it is the arch-strength of traditionalism and structure that might save them from crisis; a step from the ebullient hedonism of the Weimer 20s into the repressive cinctures of the decades to come. Amusing, unsettling, operatic, political: a cinematic carousel.