The New Yorker

ON THE BIG SCREEN

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Metrograph has reopened its theatres while maintainin­g its online program, and it’s offering, in both formats, “Le Navire ‘Night’ ” (“The Ship ‘Night’ ”), from 1979, written and directed by Marguerite Duras, which is as original as it is rare. (Screenings start Oct. 15; streaming begins Oct. 18.) Duras, one of the great modern novelists, was also an innovative filmmaker, and here she devises a new genre that meshes with her literary artistry—the cinematic audiobook. She applies it to a story about phone sex, which she transforms into an existentia­l mystery and a gothic nightmare. It follows a twentysome­thing non-couple—a man who works nights at a phone company, and a woman who’s dying of leukemia and living as a shut-in at her wealthy father’s suburban villa—who reach peaks of erotic pleasure by masturbati­ng to each other’s voices, but never meet. Duras and Benoît Jacquot (a young director) narrate the elliptical yet ecstatic tale in incantator­y voice-overs as the movie’s images show the places where the action could have happened and the actors—Dominique Sanda, Bulle Ogier, and Mathieu Carrière—who would have performed the drama if she’d filmed it.To match the story’s might-have-beens, Duras invents the conditiona­l tense on film.—Richard Brody

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