Between July 1 and 12, the 6th edition of the Paris Cinéma international film festival took place in the MK2 Bibliothèque, Gaumont Marignan, Le Latina, Balzac and the French Cinematheque, among others. This year some fifteen feature films and as many short films were presented in competition, as well as 27 previews in the presence of their directors.
Among the guests of honor at this edition, tribute was paid to the Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki with a comprehensive presentation of his work and a cinema-concert of his film Juha (1999) and a special evening was organized in honor of the Canadian director David Cronenberg during which his film La Mosca (1987) was screened in a new copy.
After Brazil, Korea and Lebanon, this year the Philippines was given the honor of a special program of 30 contemporary films, in order to celebrate the remarkable renewal of its cinematography, to discover its new talents and the emerging artistic energy of a country Latino, Insular and Catholic in the very heart of Asia.
The films in competition
Versailles (Pierre Schoeller, France, 2008) is the story of Nina, a young woman without a job or family, who must live on the street with Enzo, her five-year-old son. The permanent wandering takes them to the forests of Versailles where they come into contact with Damien, a man who lives alone in his cabin, far from civilization.
Throughout the plot line there are pairs of opposites that refer to the philosophical theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in whose writings he opposed nature to culture, understood as art, technique, law, institution and society. For Rousseau, nature meant everything that links us without mediation to our origin. Instead vice, lies and violence come from society and culture. Man is naturally kind but has been corrupted by the desire for power, possession and domination learned in the social sphere.
The Damien de Versailles is the most complete example of Rousseau's "noble savage". He lives apart from the civil order not out of necessity but by his own decision, in a natural environment beyond the law, morality or good customs. For him, every woman is acceptable, both Nina and his father's new partner. Yet he is generous and, at the same time, self-sufficient. On the contrary, Nina, although she feels excluded from society, seeks help and fights tirelessly to fit in and get her son back. Nina and Damien represent two opposing philosophies of life.
Language, as part of the culture, also plays a role in the film. Damien's neighbors generally use vulgar language, while his family communicates in a rather colloquial register. For her part, the social worker uses cultured language in her dialogues with Nina. These three registers of language are equated to the same degrees of social adaptation in the characters that use them.
Within the natural environment, another pair of opposites is also represented here: the forest and the garden. In Émile's treatise on education and in his novel La Nouvelle Héloïse, Rousseau describes the rational layout garden, French or English, as a place where nature is distorted. When little Enzo runs through the palace gardens, his disheveled appearance contrasts sharply with the neat and orderly environment of the green spaces. On the other hand, the same does not happen in the virgin forest, surrounded by the four elements, where the intervention of man is minimal. It is what Gilles Deleuze calls the "original world" which is only recognized "because of its formless character, a pure background, or rather a bottomless pool made of unformed materials (...) In it, the characters are like animals... they are human animals. " (G. Deleuze, The Movement-Image, Paidós, 1994, p.180)
No less important is the political reading. Versailles, more than a city, is here a symbol of the rise and fall of the monarchical regime. Enzo's growth process from childhood to adolescence works as a fable of the beginnings of the Republic.
When Enzo asks why he should go to school, he receives the answer: "For the Republic", something that connotes an ulterior meaning about the change of political regime promoted, among others, by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. His "Social Contract" is considered the founding text of the French republic. According to him, sovereignty belongs to the people and not to the monarch, and arises from a general will born of common interest.
In current times, unemployment, exclusion, social and family conflicts, everything that the film evidences, endangers the dream of a participatory democracy in which no citizen should be excluded. Through the character of Nina and her son Enzo, the director proposes a relentless struggle to recover those republican principles promoted during the revolution.
The same happens in Dernier Maquis (The last maqui) feature film directed by the Algerian Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche in 2008, where the Deleuzian "original world" is imprisoned within the workplace. A little along the lines of El Ángel exterminador (1962) by Luis Buñuel, an apparently controlled situation deteriorates slowly and irremediably.
Versailles by P. Schoeller
Located in the industrial area of Villeneuve-le-Roi -near Orly airport, on the banks of the Seine-, a pallet repair company and a truck garage employ dozens of North African immigrants whose lives consist only of obeying orders and pray. Labor rights and religious issues are precisely the central themes of the film.
Mao, the owner of the company, decides to open a mosque for his employees and appoints the imam without any consultation. Some workers dispute this decision and begin to become aware of their right to freedom of choice. Mao uses religion as a way to calm down his employees, to keep their minds trapped in thoughts that have nothing to do with their work situation. That is why on three occasions, the passing of an airplane - a sign of progress and modern technology - interrupts dialogues or situations that refer to Muslim beliefs. The first time, the flight of the machine is heard in off, completely covering a conversation about the possible life in the afterlife for those who have no money or power in this world; the second and third times, the camera pans the aircraft in flight during the hour of prayer. It could be said that the civilized, technified, ultra-modern medium comes to invade the religious space with its sounds and images to the point of putting it in crisis, to the point of deifying the machine.
The work space, with reddish tones, becomes claustrophobic, being only pierced by air and light from the openings formed in the pallet walls. The latent conflict remains red hot until the end, always on the verge of explosion. "The palettes are the heart of the film. That red jumps out at the eyes. The palette is the evident proof of the archaic side of any production system. It is an object that has no more value than the functional one," explains the director in an interview , "that wall is pierced with holes and light goes through it everywhere. That could be the last maqui."
Behind the fence is that other world, the real world of modernity. Contrary to the field of work, outside the colors turn towards green and blue. That imaginary line between the two universes is accidentally crossed by an American otter, an exotic species introduced in France for its prized fur. In a clear parallel with the situation of the workers, the otter finds himself trapped in the garage with no chance of escaping on his own. In the same way, the North Africans who work in the company have no chance of overcoming their situation without close cooperation, without becoming aware of their rights. According to the director of Algerian origin, these foreign workers, laborers, mechanics "constitute an important component of today's proletariat; but they are often ignored and excluded from the democratic process."
By way of conclusion, one wonders if the popular uprising that began in the suburbs of Paris in October 2005 was not perhaps the trigger for the writing of the script for Dernier Maquis.
For its part, Mange, ceci is mon corps (Eat, this is my body, 2007) by Michelange Quay is set on the island of Haiti, where a white woman, whom everyone calls by her nickname Madame, lives isolated with her dying mother and Patrick, her black servant, for whom she experiences a strange attraction. When she receives a group of Haitian children in her house, she plays an ambiguous game in which Madame tries to assert her power. Mother and daughter, -perhaps the same woman at different times-, are torn between the authoritarian attitude inherited from the colony and an irrepressible attraction to the Haitian people.
The dances and the voodoo ceremonies followed by the monologues in which the old woman speaks of her body as food, evoke from the beginning the two religions that coexist in Haiti, the voodoo and the Christian, syncretizing and diverging at the same time.
Black and white not only appear differentiated here in the contrast of skins, but also through the aesthetic treatment of image and sound. During voodoo rituals and carnival, for example, the painting appears saturated with multicolored human figures bathed in a filtered light of warm tones that turn to yellows and oranges; in contrast, the white woman appears alone in the painting, usually dressed in pale tones under a bright spotlight that makes her a ghostly character.
The aesthetics of Mange, ceci est mon corps fits very well into the parameters of what Omar Calabrese understands by "neo-baroque taste", a postmodern cinematographic style that takes up certain guidelines of the pictorial baroque. Its main feature is chiaroscuro, very strong in some scenes such as the group of children crossing the long corridor of the house where they were invited to dinner. The lighting contrast between a gloomy foreground and a brightly lit background gives such an impression of depth that the familiar "corridor" space is transformed into an endless labyrinth.
Dernier Maquis of Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche
According to Calabrese, the baroque and the neo-baroque "take the data of linear perspective to the extreme, varying the point of view, of flight, of distance, to the limit. Consequence: the production of a series of models beyond which perspective destroys itself , like the 'trompe-l' œil', the framing, the anamorphosis, the foreshortening" (Omar Calabrese, La era neobaroca, Cátedra, p. 67).
The mirrors in the film meet all the guidelines mentioned. They continue the space towards the background as a 'trap to the eye', sometimes being confused with the opening of a window, other times deforming the reflected image of the character in an anamorphosis, most of the time making a frame within the frame in a repetition infinite of the represented motif. Mirrors deform, repeat and distort a perspective that can no longer be observed from a single point of view but from multiple ones.
It is this essence of the multiple that the same author calls "aesthetics of repetition" (idem, p.45) as a form of temporal and spatial organization that tends to repeat the same motif with slight variations, in correspondence with the idea of scheme, for the image, and of rhythm, for the music. This can be seen very well when the camera reveals the electronic audio device that plays Afro-Haitian rhythms, where one would expect to see a native playing an indigenous percussion instrument. The camera rotates 360 degrees for about five minutes with no significant variation between the first full turn and the last. There is no new data that adds information to the painting, it is only an aesthetic choice, a pattern of repetition in the image that accompanies the musical rhythm.
No less important in the neo-baroque aesthetic is the obsession with detail, captured on film through the zoom. Michelange Quay makes use and abuse of the zoom, highlighting the roughness of the skin, putting an eye or a mouth in long close-ups, to the point of making the integrity of the figure disappear. "The details tend to become more and more autonomous with respect to the wholes and the fragments to underline their rupture with respect to the wholes without any hypothesis or desire to reconstruct them" (idem, p.98).
The fragmentation of the image corresponds to the same fragmentation in the story. In fact, the story is absent here, the dialogues have no other meaning than to further reinforce the notion of fragmentation and repetition. To exemplify, it is worth remembering the long shot-sequence of the dinner in which the diners, who paradoxically never get to taste a bite, repeat a single word indefinitely.
Between pure poetry, visual score and a composition that debates in the midst of chiaroscuros, anamorphoses and distorted perspectives, Michelange Quay invites us to a nightmarish universe more than to the assertion of an unequivocal truth.
Far from the neo-baroque image, the Mexican film Lake Tahoe (Fernando Eimbcke, 2008) has a stripped-back aesthetic, something that the director himself "cinema in pure form." The almost empty environments are barely traversed by one or two figures in the frame. The crumbling facades of houses and businesses often make up the entire set in the long still shots, prioritizing movement within the frame over camera movements.
The story takes place in Puerto Progreso, Yucatán, where a 16-year-old teenager embeds his father's car in a power pole on the side of the road. While looking for help, he meets an old mechanic, a teenager with a passion for kung fu, and a young mother, an expert in punk music, with whom he falls in love.
"A few months after my father's death, I caused an accident with the only family car" remembers Fernando Eimbcke, "I went through a long phase of denial, and I'm talking about several years, until I was able to accept it. In this sense, the The story this film tells is autobiographical. In fact, the obsession with repairing the car is for the protagonist of the story a way of coping with grief and escaping from pain.
In the montage, abrupt cuts were used, followed by black frames of variable duration according to the situation: longer in moments of drama (for example, during the car accident) and shorter in more relaxed passages.
The time of the story is circular and takes place throughout a full day, between the morning hours of the first day and the morning of the next day. In that period, a maturation process is completed that turns the protagonist into the same person and into someone different at the same time. As Mircea Eliade explains in his works "The Myth of the Eternal Return" and "The Sacred and the Profane", the mythical cycle of the hero is actually a man's effort to be reborn after a symbolic death. Each cosmic cycle ends with a death and begins again with a rebirth.
The trivial search for a car part in Lake Tahoe takes on the characteristics of an odyssey in which each everyday situation takes on existential dimensions and each encounter takes the form of a new stage of growth.
by Fernando Eimbcke
Annelaure Daffis and Léo Marchand
Lthe award-winning films
During the award ceremony that took place on July 10 at the MK2 Bibliothèque cinema, the jury chaired by composer and actor Michel Jonasz, accompanied by actresses Nora Arnezeder and Marilou Berry, journalist and writer Fabrice Gaignault, and actors Stanislas Merhar and Aurélien Wiik, awarded the Jury Prize (Pari du Juri) to Young@Heart (2007), a feature film directed by the British director Stephen Walker, which also received the most votes from the public: the Pari du Public Prize.
Young@Heart is a choral group from Northampton, Massachusetts that has performed a full repertoire of rhythm and blues, rock and punk for 25 years. The surprise is that the average age of the choir is 80 years. The film follows this particular group and its director during the rehearsals for a show that they must present in seven weeks.
This is the first documentary for the big screen by British filmmaker and screenwriter Stephen Walker. With tenderness and humor, it offers an emotional portrait of a generation rarely shown on film, exploring the daily lives of these atypical "rockers" and questioning them about their past, their desires and their sufferings.
Driven by their love of singing, inspired by the power of music, these characters seem to transcend their age and their weakened bodies. Through this unprecedented musical experience, Young@Heart It has an undeniable charm and offers a formidable life lesson.
For its part, the Prize for the Future (Pari de l'Avenir) was awarded to the film Tribe, after obtaining the majority of the votes of a jury made up of university students.
Tribe (2007), by Filipino director Jim Libiran, takes place in the streets of Tondo, the largest slum in Manila. In that lawless environment, only the strongest survive. One night, Ebet, a ten-year-old boy, witnesses the murder of one of the members of the Sacred Brown tribe. The night is just beginning, but the tension grows.
In this first fictional feature film, journalist Jim Libiran describes a world between reality and allegory, in which members of rival gangs play their own roles. On hip-hop music background, Tribe observes from within a society where violence and death are sometimes the only form of expression for young people who lack references and a future perspective.
Often compared to La Ciudad de Dios by Fernando Meirelles, the film describes with great precision the initiation rites of the new members, their rivalries, machismo, thus showing the current tragedy of urban misery.
Among the 20 short films in the international competition, Les Couillus (2007), by French director Mirabelle Kirkland, was awarded the Audience Award and La Saint-Festin (2007) by Annelaure Daffis and Léo Marchand, won the Jury Prize.
Les Couillus (The Fucking Ones) is a black comedy that tackles the subject of marital violence with humor and intelligence. Like in a documentary, Mirabelle Kirkland's shoulder-mounted camera lingers over the faces of these frustrated men, slowly revealing the reason for their presence at the support group they attend. This is a politically incorrect short film, played by convincing actors.
The Saint Festin is an animated short for which Annelaure Daffis and Léo Marchand used animation techniques such as the rotoscope and drawing on paper, as well as sets as diverse as a school notebook, a subway ticket and some photographic shots.
The title refers to an imaginary holiday during which each ogre goes out to catch and cook a child. The hunt is open but… these ogres have lost their teeth.
Adriana Schmorak Leijnse
Press release 'III Women of Film Online Festival' March 25 to March 3...
Festival Paris Cinéma 2009 Between July 2 and 14, fifteen theaters...
Paris Cinéma Festival 2008 Between the 1st and the 12th of July, the 6th...