Tuesday, May 23, 2006

New Film: Le Filmeur (Filmman)

Seventy-four year-old French festival-circuit auteur Alain Cavalier, best known in the U.S. for his exquisite, highly Bressonian Thérèse (1986), is the latest Gallic director (of that generation) to synthesize his or her own ideas of craft within the autobiographical essay genre. Whereas Jean-Luc Godard's masterful JLG/JLG (1995) offers a romantic's faith in beauty through a typically indirect means of exposition and Agnès Varda's The Gleaners and I proposes that the latter's work can be understood in the terms set forth in the film's title, 2005's Le Filmeur (Filmman) finds its genesis in Cavalier's admitted inability to see "touching" things disappear, following his similar confession that he wrote everything down prior to turning to video.

Indeed, what has preceded this qualification is a series of poignant passages and moments that are largely lacking in sentimentality, even though they depict such occasions as his father's death, his mother's 99th birthday -- okay, so there is some here -- and his bout with skin cancer, which periodically disfigures the director's face. Yet even more than these larger events, Cavalier composes his portrait as an accumulation of interstical moments, from his birdbath's ornithological visitors to a series of motel rooms where the director lives during one of his tours of the French festival circuit. The implicit poetry in this approach -- emphasized in the director's magnified reproductions of natural phenomenon -- certainly serves his profoundly elegiac perspective well, which is itself expertly summarized in the succeeding images of his ancient mother's birthday, the tiny rips in a still green leaf (portending the coming autumn, as is made clear in the accompanying voice-over) and the film's final fade to black.

Note: Le Filmeur does not have U.S. distribution, and is unlikely to receive anything other than some form of direct-to-video release, at best.

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