– Are you going to sleep with the Chinese?
– Yes, I think so.
– When?
– Maybe later on today.1

Barbara

Two events made the trip worthy to the American Film Market (AFM). First was the screening of Mathieu Amalric’s Barbara, starring Jeanne Balibar in the title role.2 At the time of this writing, the film had not been released in the US. The mystique of “La Dame en noir” (“the Lady in Black”) had enchanted my formative years so it’s hard to realise that Barbara (1930-97) is not as well known outside France. She fascinated us with her voice, allure, legend, charisma – and with the intensity of her lyrics (something that gets lost in translation). The 1968 publication of a book dedicated to her in the collection Poètes d’Aujourd’hui (Today’s Poets) by the publishing house Seghers made her officially a part of French literature.3 Barbara’s songs were an intimate and poignant rendering of her emotions. Yet, the music, often playful, light, witty to the point of insolence, transfigured them with poise and style, eschewing melodrama. Barbara could make us cry, but not in the visceral way Piaf or a torch singer like Fréhel did. A little Jewish girl, born Monique Serf in 1930, that “should have been killed by the Nazis, but was not”. An incest survivor, who, in one of her most famous songs, “Nantes”, lamented that she missed “the last rendezvous” with the wandering rogue: “He never saw me again – He was already gone (…) – He came back one evening – And it was his last voyage – and it was his last shore – He wanted before dying – to warm himself with my smile – But he died that very night – without a goodbye, without an ‘I love you’ – My father… my father…”4 The struggling singer with the angular face and the short haircut who worked hard to impose her style in the Left Bank cabarets and started writing her own lyrics after her father’s death in 1959. And finally, from 1963 on, the Diva – majestic, generous, temperamental, adored by millions of fans.

Amalric’s project is not a biopic – but a mise en abyme of his own fascination. He cast himself as Yves Zand,5 a director working with an actress, Brigitte (Balibar) to make a film on Barbara – and he keeps shifting registers: What are we watching? Who are we watching? Who is singing? Who is fascinated by whom? Barbara sparkles with covert sexual energy – as it marks the cinematic reunion of Amalric and Balibar. Mostly known abroad as one of the best, most versatile contemporary French actors, Amalric considers directing as his primary passion. He first appeared in two films by the Paris-based Georgian auteur Otar Iosseliani, Les Favoris de la lune (1984 – when he was 19) and La Chasse aux Papillons (1992).6 He started directing shorts in 1985; this led him to meet Arnaud Desplechin, who gave him a small part in his first feature, La Sentinelle (1992).7 In 1996, he received a César Award for “promising young actor” for his interpretation of Paul Dédalus in Comment je me suis disputé… (ma vie sexuelle), Desplechin’s second feature – starting a fruitful collaboration between the two men. Balibar plays one of the women with whom Dédalus gets entangled; she and Amalric were partners in real life from 1996 to 2003 – they were the “it” couple of the new French cinema for a while: glamorous without being fashion model-pretty, bursting with talent, displaying a warm, humorous, witty magic touch in their interaction. Together they acted in Bruno Podalydès’s first film Dieu seul me voit (Versailles-Chantiers) (1998); in Olivier Assayas’s Fin août, début septembre (1998); they inspired Cahiers du cinéma veteran critic/filmmaker Jean-Claude Biette to construct Trois ponts sur la rivière (1999) around them. Amalric also cast her in his first (critically acclaimed) two features, Mange ta soupe (1997) and Le Stade de Wimbledon (Wimbledon Stage, 2002). In 1999, Balibar started a new career as a singer, releasing her first album in 2003 – and inspiring Pedro Costa to shoot Ne Change Rien (2009), a documentary about her recording session.

AFI AFM 2017

Barbara

Casting her as Barbara was an inspired move: not only does Balibar sing and have significant stage experience, but her unconventional beauty presents an uncanny echo to that of “the Lady in Black”. Poking gentle fun at himself as the nerdish-looking cinephile/fan/director, Amalric is clearly still fascinated (at least professionally) by his ex. As Proust’s entire oeuvre testifies, bygone love stories are the ones that endure – even as the passing of time challenges our memory. Zand keeps alluding to a fleeting fragment of the past, when he met the singer Barbara. He was 16… And she kissed him… Or did she? And how old was he, anyway? “We already had a right-wing government…” Or was Amalric (rather than Zand) the one who waited for Barbara with hundreds of other fans after a concert? And, 20 years ago, wasn’t the same Amalric waiting, somewhere, somehow, for Balibar?

With the complicity of Belgian DP Christophe Beaucarne (who had shot a number of his previous films) Amalric creates a riveting vertigo by sensuously slipping in and out of these various registers: while the majority of the film is shot with a RED camera, grain was added to match the shots with 16mm archival footage of Barbara, and the concert scenes (also shot in 16mm) where Balibar plays Brigitte who plays Barbara.8 Balibar’s singing skills allow for a complex audio-track, in which what we hear is sometimes her rendition of the songs, and sometimes the singer’s original voice that seems to take possession of her body (no phony lip-synch here: like the Pythia of Delphi in Ancient Greece, Balibar looks as if she is inhabited and driven by the voice of another) – and the frisson that, as spectators, we then experience, echoes a very ancient, mythological sense of the sacred.

When the fictional Barbara elopes with one of her technicians, and, when the latter falls asleep at the wheel, who is the woman who said that “she didn’t know how to drive” and nevertheless, coolly takes the wheel and brings the vehicle to safety – then unceremoniously discards the young man? (“darling, your stuff is in the hallway” – meaning that she has put his clothes outside her door, and he has to leave the room naked). The gumption, the nonchalance, the insolence could be either’s. “This is because the child is fascinated that the mother is fascinating”, wrote Maurice Blanchot.9 The mystery remains: the film is not going to “reveal” who was Barbara, who is Balibar and how was the character of Brigitte imagined. The vanishing point structuring the filmic space is Amalric’s desire as a heterosexual male, and he rigorously sticks to it.

This acute, singular point of view, while making the film endearing, mercifully works against any pretence as a biopic. A lot of things we knew (or we thought we knew) about Barbara are missing – such as her status as a lesbian icon. But this “heterosexualisation” of the myth is done with fluidity, making room for alternative readings. On the walls of the country house she bought near Paris at Précy-sur-Marne, Amalric shows the phone numbers of three main figures of ACT UP Paris: Didier Lestrade, Cleews Vellay and Christophe Martet10 In 1987, she composed the song “Sid’amour à mort”  (“AIDS from love till death”)11 and got actively involved in AIDS activism. While alluding to her cult status within the French queer community, the film does not turn her into a “politically correct” angel. Instead, it elegantly flirts with the element of craziness (and probably sexual/emotional “disorder” of the most creative sort) that inspired Barbara’s life and formidable energy. 

A Network of Women

Gender-wise, things have been brewing in US film circles: the protest over the non-representation of female directors in Cannes Main Competition in 2012, the controversy about the Academy membership (in which issues of race were also part of the discussion) in 2014, and finally the “watershed” triggered by the Cosby and then the Weinstein cases. A high-profile panel discussion at the AFM was “The Future is Female”, presented in partnership with The Alliance of Woman Directors12 and hosted by the founder of the organisation, actress/director Jennifer Warren – also a member of the Academy and Women in Film13 and currently on the faculty at USC.14 In front of a packed audience of mostly women, Warren started with an eloquent plea for “parity in the workplace,” which she contrasted with the dire reality: “in feature films, women directors hold about 6% of the positions.” Actress Geena Davis presented the research of the Institute on Gender in Media, which she founded in 2004 – “to expose gender imbalance, identify unconscious bias and creatively remodel content to achieve gender equity”.15 In the US, only 29.3% of speaking characters are female. And only 30% of films sport a woman as the main protagonist. The Institute fights to impose the idea of gender-blind casting – giving an actress a role originally written for a man. In 1979, indeed, Sigourney Weaver played the monster-fighting Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien – to great effect. Yet the solution is only thinkable in Hollywood, where screenplays are discussed in the boardrooms, and narrative characters are functions or “shifters”, in other words empty vessels. The Institute has also conducted research in other countries – proving that such a gender bias is no “destiny”: the UK, Brazil, Korea and China give more screen time to women than the rest of the world.

Networking was the motto. Jen McGowan16 generated passionate questions and comments from the floor when she introduced Film Powerered, the networking site for women working in the film industry she founded.17 Two vanishing points in the discussion: the question of race, and the looming presence of television. Too many women direct a short that makes a splash on the festival circuit, then a first feature that gets noticed at Sundance, SXSW or even Locarno… and years later you find them, away from the studio sets, in the talented but semi-anonymous crowd directing, writing or producing for television. This is changing, as some of the producers, writers and directors working for television or cables are becoming real stars18 and there is a constant to-and-fro between “film” and “television” – especially among women directors. Representing television, Wendy Calhoun.19 Often mentioned was Ava DuVernay, one of the best examples of the ingenious crossing of the boundaries between various professions.20  She was represented in abstentia by two producers of her new, much-anticipated directing venture, Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, (due to come out in the US in March 2018): Catherine Hand – who, as a teenager in 1963, had written to Walt Disney to urge him to make a movie about the book, written in 1962 by the prolific (white) writer of young adult fictions, Madeleine L’Engle (1918-2007) – and Jim Whitaker (the only man on the panel). Hailed as a possible “game changer” for Hollywood, and being the fourth film over 100 million dollars directed by a woman,21 A Wrinkle follows the space-time travels of a teenage girl (14 year-old African American actress Storm Reid).22 “When I started this voyage to produce A Wrinkle in Time in 1980, the thought of a woman director in 1980 was like a dream… it didn’t exist. So [this panel] is such a wonderful reflection of how far we’ve come”, said Hand.23

The Travels of Agnès

Agnès Varda – who started her directing career in 1954 – is not shy, describing in private and in public how “the boys” had made it rough for her. One day, the editorial team of Cahiers du cinéma met her in Resnais’ apartment when he was editing her first film, La Pointe courte (1954): “I was there, as an anomaly, feeling small, ignorant, and the only girl among the boys from Cahiers.”24 For a while, she was also quite fed up with being called “the grandmother of the New Wave”, stating that it took a while for the Cahiers critics to take notice of her films or those of her husband Jacques Demy (1931-90).25 Now, at 89, Varda is having a ball, collecting awards and lifetime achievement accolades wherever she goes and humorously displays her presence as the short-woman-with-the-bi-coloured-monkish haircut. She made her latest film, Visages Villages (Faces, Places), in collaboration with the 30-something photographer/muralist JR – casting the two of them as endearing cartoon characters: the tall, skinny young man and the short elderly woman serendipitously travelling through France, like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, meeting/talking to/shooting/photographing ordinary people on the way. The film had a theatrical run in the US in the early fall, but the AFI FEST Presented by Audi organised a special event, a screening and a conversation with the director, interviewed by Serge Toubiana (former Cahiers du cinéma editor and former director of the Cinémathèque française, now president of Unifrance). Varda was in LA to receive an honorary Oscar for the totality of her oeuvre. (Visages Villages was also hailed as “Best Documentary” at the Independent Spirit Awards on March 3.)All is true,” she said of her documentary – but it is a truth à la Varda, involving a witty projection of the self, highly subjective points of view – and a sense of magic inherited from a long-time practice of finding the cinematic equivalent of the plays on word she is quite fond of.

AFI AFM 2017

Visages Villages © Ciné-Tamaris

JR’s trademark is to connect photographed faces with street life and architecture – by blowing the snapshots up and flyposting them in public spaces. Varda, on the other hand, delights in the detail – kept as a detail. “I love the 50mm cinema lens, because it isolates a bit what is in the frame and keep enough presence without producing the long focal effect (which comes with soft focus and other lacks of rigour in the background)”, she once wrote.26 A shining example of the creative difference between the two directors occurs when they visit a container warehouse under lockout due to a dockers strike. They start hanging out with the boys, then Varda asks “where are the women?” Three dockers wives are identified and found, and JR endeavours to plaster their magnified photographs on piles of containers. Then Varda intervenes, asks the crew to remove the three containers covered by the part of the photographs corresponding to the sitter’s heart, and places each woman in the space thus vacated. The detail within the large, spectacular image – that becomes the whole body within the photography of a detail

Varda creates the landscapes around her – and brings back the dead, even for the short time of a low tide. A picture of her friend, the photographer Guy Bourdin (1928-91), she had taken in 1954, is glued by JR’s assistants on the side of a WWII blockhouse incongruously fallen on the beach from a cliff. Bourdin’s image is placed in such a way that he seems to be “rocking” at the bottom of the blockhouse. “When you think of the dead, you want to cradle them,” says Varda.

AFI AFM 2017

Visages Villages © Ciné-Tamaris

The poignant ending is a striking reminder of two divergent conceptions of mise en scène – a battle of giants between Varda and Godard, with JR as a transitional object. In the late ‘50s Varda and Demy were friends with Godard and Karina – who both appear as “the young lovers” in the silent film-within-the film that graces Cléo de Cinq à Sept (1961). At the time, Godard “was hiding his large, sad eyes behind very dark sunglasses. Throughout the years, the glasses became more transparent.”27 JR also wears dark sunglasses he refuses to take off… A meeting is planned between the three of them (and the camera operator)28 at Godard’s house in Rolle, Switzerland, near Lake Geneva, and Varda brings JLG’s “favourite brioches” from her neighbourhood baker. The house is locked up, empty, and the master has left a perfunctory hand-written note, alluding to a restaurant where the two couples used to meet decades ago. This rejection – as well as the memory of Demy – brings tears to Varda’s eyes. Out of sympathy, JR takes off his sunglasses – but (reverse angle shot), the veteran filmmaker’s vision is now blurred, and the lens of the camera accordingly out of focus. Fiction? Reconstruction of a subjective POV that subsumes the entire project? Or ultimately a splendid statement that Varda’s cinema is more haptic than visual – hence its enduring hold on us. It has been said that Godard wanted to write the ending of the film – so he scribbled a note, sharp, dry and definitive. Yet Varda is the one who invented the term cinécriture29 and the film ends up on a combination of cinematic signs (including a seductive soundtrack by rock musician Matthieu Chedid), not on a text. Varda offers the spectator a charmed yet doomed world in which a filmmaker can no longer “see it all”. As if, like the Renaissance painters who’d put the image of a skull on the lap of a beauty to remind the viewer that this is where all beauty ends, she was telling us (and Godard) that this is where cinema aims at – the death of the image. The fracture between Varda’s filmic space and that of the “Nouvelle Vague” re-emerges as a certain conception of “the real”. For Godard, the real is what resists you (and this is what he does, turning the table). For Varda it is what you imagine… or cradle.

Voyeur or Voyageuse?

Both cinema and travel, argues Giuliana Bruno, articulate displacements that, in turn, define a geography of terrains negotiated according to sexual difference. The model of the male voyager is Ulysses, whose “anxiety… is the fear that he may not find the same home/woman/womb he has left behind”.30 To replace film theories (even feminist ones) based on the primacy of the gaze, Bruno offers an alternative reading, a “nomadic” approach describing film as a “haptic matter”, developing “along a path that is tactile… The fixed optical geometry that informed the old cinematic voyeur becomes a moving vessel for a film voyageuse.”31

Whether or not a filmic narration – or narrative journey – tends toward the haptic has much to do with the placement and the handling of the camera. Key examples involve Ozu’s tatami position, or Akerman’s decision to place the camera at her height (as a relatively short woman) but also Hou Hsiao-hsien’s tableaus or Antonioni’s “camera in flux, whose position and rhythm actually appear to generate the events.”32 One of the “conversations” organised at the AFI FEST was with Christopher Nolan after a 70mm projection of Dunkirk. Nolan started his career with the tales of young men haptically lost in space (Following, 1998) and in time (Memento, 2000) – and the first three quarters of Dunkirk are a thoughtful, admirable return to his original inspiration. Through his work on the frame, on details, a savvy use of non-linear narration, Nolan communicates the physical helplessness these young fighters experienced – they are bodies afraid to drown, to be suffocated, flattened, dismembered, torn by bullets or shrapnel, thrown as they are by the winds of war into a very sensorial horror. Yet, at the end, the sweat, the fear, the pain in the guts, the inarticulate cries, the awkward gestures, the “friendly killing”, are subsumed into the grand master narrative (the Victory of the Allies, the return of the British boys home.) This, in turn, eradicates the sense of loss and dislocation that was made so acutely palpable earlier in the film, re-states the binary opposition between home and travel and reshapes the narrative as a “circular structure”, as a “return to sameness – the home of identity or the identity of home”.33

In A Ciambra, Jonas Carpignano avoids this rhetorical foreclosure by directing the camera as a vérité filmmaker unsure of whether what was essential has been framed. The credits list the actors as non-professionals (there are 16 members of the Amato family playing themselves, keeping their own names, and probably improvising most of their lines). The camera is sometimes “too close” to the protagonists’ faces, we often see only part of their bodies, aspects of a location (no establishing shot), fragment of an action (when Pio tries to start a car by connecting two wires together, Carpignano only shows a close-up of the wires being manipulated) – which conveys all-too-well the physical and emotional chaos in which the protagonist, a 14 year-old piccolino, is plunged. Pio, third generation of a huge clan of Romani (Gypsies) stuck in the garbage and rubble-littered backwaters of Gioia Tauro in Calabria (Southern Italy), sees the world through his fears, limitations and contradictions. He can’t read and depends on his younger niece to decipher a message on his cell phone; he’s afraid of riding trains because they “go fast”; he has a big brother-little brother friendship with an immigrant from Burkina Faso, Ayiva (Koudous Seihon), but his relatives keep spitting out racist slurs, and, when having to do business with members of the African community, he is too “embarrassed” to enter their dwelling; he is a virgin, attracted by girls and playing cocky but not getting anywhere until his older brother buys him the services of an older prostitute; and he is afraid of his mother, the formidable Iolanda, already a grandmother through her other children. Executive-produced by Martin Scorsese and co-produced between the US and Europe (Carole Scotta is one of the co-producers),34 A Ciambra is some sort of sequel of Carpigano’s acclaimed first feature, Mediterranea (2015) – which followed the plight of African immigrants in Calabria. Pio, now a bit older, has kept his friendship with Ayiva, who struggles to stay put, make money and remain on the right side of the law – while occasionally getting involved in some shady deals. La Ciambra delves into the way Europe’s geography and social structure have been profoundly, irreversibly, modified by immigration and population displacement. It is one of the rare films that addresses the less visible issue of trans-European migration, in particular, the increasingly vexing “problem” of the Romani – that no country wants. The impossible return would be to that bygone time, invoked with nostalgia by Nonno (Grandfather) Emiliano (U Ciccaredu), when we were always on the road. We were free, we didn’t have bosses. Kept outside Italian society, the Romani make a living by stealing cars (after negotiating respective territories with the powerful Calabrian mafia), purloin electricity by switching live wires (this is Pio’s job), and have their men periodically arrested.

AFI AFM 2017

A Ciambra

Eschewing mainstream Italian society Carpignano anchors the point of view in Pio’s young body, sometimes shifting it to the African community through the vector of Ayiva’s gaze. Narratively, he articulates this physical and emotional displacement through the (mis)use of the word home (casa). Separated by the great racial divide Pio and Ayiva were soul mates who in each other had seen a mirror of their loss. Ayiva helps Pio unload a stolen computer – then asks him for 10 euros ”for gas” (he has driven the boy to the camps of the African community). Pio refuses, and Ayiva pretends to leave him alone and starts driving off on his motorbike. What follows is an affectionate exchange between two guys who takes pleasure in bullshitting each other.

The next time Pio asks to be taken home comes after his family is struck with a huge “electricity fine”. Things are serious, and Pio’s older brother Cosimo, fresh out of jail, decides to take matter into his hands. And Pio is the one who has to distract Ayiva. He does it like a kid, a really lost kid. He fakes a bicycle accident (but hurts himself in the process); he cries, refuses to talk to the point it frightens Ayiva. And then he tearfully asks Can you take me home?

This is the kiss of Judas – but the little traitor will not hang himself. He will continue being one of these Romani who steal, have brushes with the police, go to jail, are comforted, fed and scolded by the women in the clan and largely ignored by society. Ayiva represented a vista toward another world – the cultural Other, a man who was different enough yet similar enough to be a friend – but this also led nowhere. There is no possible mirror image – as the mirror is broken. You can only walk through life blindly, touching things, cars, garage doors, electric wires, women, money, as you go along.

Aki Kaurismäki uses a more classical film language (he is a great admirer of Sam Fuller) to convey a comparable case of haptic disintegration. A multiple award-winner,35 Toivon Tuolla Puolen (The Other Side of Hope) starts on the montage of two sequences showing his protagonists (re)starting a journey with an unknown destination. An older man, Wikh­ström (Sakari Kuosmanen) silently packs up his suitcase, while darting furious glances at a woman (Kaija Pakarinen) sitting at a table in front of a glass. He takes off his wedding ring and puts it on the table. After he is gone, she contemptuously throws the ring into the overflowing ashtray in front of her. A marriage is over, and Ulysses starts his journey. Simultaneously, the face of a man slowly emerges from a container of coal: Syrian refugee Khaled (Sherwan Haji) arrives in Helsinki as a stow-away on a freighter. Barely cleaned up, he asks to be taken to the closest police station – because he wants to apply for political asylum. He has no idea that Finland has a refugee problem, and a tough immigration policy – as it is currently deporting 80% of the asylum seekers.36

Finnish society is represented by a few hapless policemen, inefficient social workers and skinheads who attack Khaled and scream anti-Semitic insults as him (confused boys that they are) – and, as expressed by a critic, the “economy of means” evidenced by Kaurismäki’s cinematic écriture (he has to “be thrifty on everything: words, gestures, sets, the duration and the number of shots”) is a form of identification with the have-nots.37 Wikh­ström and Khaled meet by chance – in a moment of crisis. Wikh­ström gets rid of his business as a traveling shirt salesman, and, through a stroke of luck and in an ironical echo to noir B-movies, wins big in poker against a gang of elderly tough guys. He uses the money to buy a run-down restaurant – and discovers that the three employees (rather incompetent, but o-so-Kaurismäki-cool) – the chef (Janne Hyytiainen), the waitress (Nuppu Koivu) and the maître d’ (Ilkka Koivula) – come with the package. In spite of various attempts to seduce the clientele (from serving sardines out of a can to please an habitué to reinventing it as a sushi palace overdosing on wasabi), the restaurant is a losing business proposition, yet it evolves as an utopian space for misfits. Having escaped the deportation centre, Khaleb finds “asylum” near the garbage bins of the joint, then in a closet (which he will eventually share with a stray dog). At first, Wikh­ström and Khaleb resort to fist-fighting (the way men get to know each other, I suppose) – but the mirror effect that was shattered in A Ciambra works here. The two men are voyagers who have something in common: a woman to return to. Having escaped from Aleppo with his sister Miriam (Niroz Haji), Khaleb got separated from her in the messy business of illegal border crossing. Now he keeps trying to find her. Whether or not Miriam will be found and/or Khaleb deported provides tension and suspense – and Kaurismäki saves his final narrative touch till the end. Wikh­ström was really Ulysses – yet not Homer’s hero, but an ordinary fellow echoing the protagonist of James Joyce’s novel, Molly Bloom’s husband.38

Haptic dislocation is both within and without the screen in Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Une Saison en France (A Season in France). Landlocked in Central Africa, Chad is one its poorest and most corrupt countries; its film industry is virtually non-existent (as there is one movie theatre in the whole country). There is also no way to raise money in Chad, so, since 1982 (he was 21 at the time) Haroun has joined the cohort of African filmmakers who live in Europe to try and get funding for their projects. Since his first feature, the pessimistic, semi-autobiographical Bye Bye Africa (1999), Haroun has managed to shoot personal stories in Chad – and to show them internationally: Abouna (Father, 2002), Daratt (Dry Season, 2006), Un homme qui crie (A Screaming Man, 2010), GrisGris (2013). In 2008 Haroun directed a made-for-TV comedy, Sexe, gombo et beurre salé (Sex, Okra and Salted Butter) taking place in the Malian community of Bordeaux (South West of France). Une Saison, a more ambitious film, is officially the first feature he directed in France – a situation potentially fraught with difficulties – and Haroun incisively stages his protagonists’ discomfort as well as his own. Having fled war-torn Central African Republic with his wife and two young children, a former school teacher, Abbas (Cameroonian actor Eriq Ebouaney), applies for refugee status in Paris; his wife was killed during their escape, and he keeps hallucinating her presence (the “phantom” is played by Cameroonian jazz singer Sandra Nkaké). His one buddy is a former colleague from the school, Etienne (Central African musician Bibi Tanga, who also wrote the lullaby Abbas sings his little girl), with whom he shares books and intellectual conversations, as well as the frustration of waiting long hours in the office of the CNDA (Cour nationale du droit d’asile/National Court for the Right of Asylum) after their requests are denied. Abbas works on the vegetable market, squats or sublets substandard housing – while Etienne keeps his collection of books in a homeless shack. More problematic is the relationship of Abbas and his French lover, Carole (Sandrine Bonnaire). It is written as being warm, but on screen there is a lack of chemistry between them: their bodies don’t “belong” to each other – underlining that Abbas “does not fit”. Haroun turns the situation around to address the gradual eradication of the African exiles into invisibility. Etienne sets himself on fire in the CNDA office (an event inspired by the real-life self-immolation of a Chadian refugee in Paris in 2014), dies a few days later and is buried in a “paupers plot”. Abbas and his kids find temporary shelter in Carole’s apartment, but the police track them down and they have to leave… without any place to go.

While the point of view had been that of Abbas until then, it now, tellingly, becomes that of Carole. As her three guests have disappeared, she sets to look for them in the “Calais jungle” that has just been cleared by the police.39 There is nothing and nobody to see, and Carole remains a lonely voyageuse with her feet on the melancholy gravel.

Women Looking at Men

Sometimes, when female directors film men, they intuitively show them the way women perceive them: haptically – as bodies to be desired and touched – also as bodies going through dislocated spaces.

Critically received as a “sign of a new life” for German cinema, Valeska Grisebach’s third feature, Western, is such a film. Relying on improvised dialogues and non-professional actors, Grisebach brings her camera (hand-held by Bernhard Keller) within the shifting space where two groups of men interact: the inhabitants of a Bulgarian village near the Greek border and immigrant workers from Germany that have come to construct a hydroelectric power plant. Grisebach ironically patterns her story around the tropes of a true-and-tried film genre, the Western. Based on the ideology of the frontier (opening up new spaces to American domination), the Western is covertly imbued with a classical circular structure. The hero may ride lonesome, but somewhere, in a saloon or a homestead, there is a woman waiting for him, or one he longs for. Not so in Grisebach’s film. Our John Wayne, Meinhard (Meinhard Neumann), a fifty-something with a moustache and a chiselled face, becomes the focal point of the fiction as he rides into the village on a magnificent horse found roaming on the nearby hills. The horse becomes a vector for non-verbal communication between his owner, Adrian (Syuleyman Alilov Lefitov), his teenage nephew, Walko, and Meinhard – while they don’t speak each other’s language. Women are also transitional objects – albeit more problematic, and the villagers become upset when Vincent (Reinhardt Wetrek), the German team’s foreman, horses around with two teenagers trying to take a dip in the river. Rituals of male rivalry ensue, at cross-purpose with rituals of male bonding, and Meinhard finds himself at the centre of it all. A nomad without a house or a family, he is reluctantly candid about his past as a legionnaire having served in Afghanistan and Africa. He lives in the moment, savouring brief instances of pleasure – smoking a cigarette, riding a horse, having a casual-but-satisfying intimate encounter with a free-spirited young woman.

AFI AFM 2017

Western

As the arrival of raw material is delayed, the German crew is reduced to temporary inaction, and tensions rise – especially as the traces of the German presence during WWII are still felt in the area. Outside verbal communication, Bulgarian and German men exchange what Giuliana Bruno would call “emotions” by the way their bodies react to situations: annoyance, feral hostility, desire for ownership (of a space, of money, of a horse, a woman) or ability to solve practical problems. The horse is victim of a fall – partially caused by Vincent – and has to be put down. Meinhard is handy with guns… A virile community is constructed around the body of the dead animal. It is no surprise to read in the credits that the film is produced by Maren Ade, another representative of the “Berlin school” of the new German cinema and whose most recent film, Toni Erdmann (2016), showed both protagonists without a port and German presence in Eastern Europe.

Where will Meinhard go when the job is finished? And what happens to men whose “home” has long been taken over? In Wajib, Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir affectionately follows the interaction of a father and son in Nazareth – played by a father and son in real life, Mohammad and Saleh Bakri.40 Shadi, the son, is an architect living and working in Italy, and he’s back in town to attend the wedding of his younger sister, Umal (Maria Zreik). The “wajib” (duty) of the title is the tradition, among Palestinians, to hand-deliver wedding invitations to friends, neighbours and relatives – and Jacir spends a great part of the film in the car with them. Israeli presence is felt, but with a light touch (no use stating the obvious). It is, however, in this context that lines of fracture appear between the two. A long-time school teacher, Abu Shadi longs for the return of his son, secretly hopes that he will settle down with a local girl instead of remaining involved with the daughter of a PLO leader living in Rome. Shadi is on edge. The ground below his feet is a shifting territory: the largest Arab city in Israel, Nazareth was forcibly incorporated into the new state in 1948. To Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian, who had lived there for generations, their ancestral home is now a “foreign country” where their presence is marked as “problematic”. Jacir depicts small details of this texture of contradictions, guarded actions, and uneasy, sad and exhausting cohabitation – such as Abu Shadi’s “realistic” compromises (inviting a colleague suspected of working for the Israeli authorities), which infuriates his son.

Yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg, and the narrative conceals multiple layers. Shadi’s Italian exile is an echo of the structuring absence of another. Years ago, his mother left the family to live with her lover in the US – abandoning her children and symbolically emasculating her husband – and it’s far from being sure that she will travel to attend her daughter’s wedding. In Nazareth, when people look at Shadi, they see his missing mother; his body becomes a ghost, a stand-in. Staying is impossible, leaving is sad. Instead of a “voyage” Jacir offers us the tactile exploration, door after door, street corner after street corner, through its kitchens, its yards, its bedrooms, of the “lost” city of Nazareth – anchoring it into the bodies of two lost men.

The warm reception received around the world by Teströl és lélekröl (On Body and Soul) (Golden Bear in Berlin, Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film) should alleviate our regret that Ildikó Enyedi has made so few movies since her exhilarating Camera d’Or for Az én XX. Századom (My Twentieth Century) in 1989. Granted, there are specific obstacles to raising money for films in Hungary, and probably more if you happen to be a woman – but maybe Enyedi’s cinema is so precious because it comes so sparingly, like a rare essence of perfume that took years to make and, encapsulated in a small bottle, enraptures you. The presence of the “soul” is not obvious – it is suggested or whispered, as an “afterimage” that keeps its mystery. Starting with the mating rituals of deer, Enyedi treads on the disquieting, slippery frontier between man and animal. When Endre (non-professional actor Géza Morcsányi) first appears, he is framed within an open window, and we feel his pleasure at letting the rays of the sun falling on his face. In the foreground, his disabled left hand. Haptically represented, Endre is defined by his relationship to touching – a problematic gesture for him, yet a pleasure he has gradually accepted to forego (later he explains to Mária that, after years spent sleeping with too many women, he decided to stop). On the other hand Mária (Alexandra Borbély) does not want to be touched; she’s phobic, as well as mildly autistic. She’s also an extremely competent woman with an iron first when it comes to quality control (her job). She arrives in the industrial slaughterhouse where Endre is CFO, and negative sparks fly. Enyedi has the fortitude of filming the slaughterhouse for what it is – a place where animals are killed – a place where we are reminded that we are flesh, and that we will go the way every flesh does. The end credits state that “some animals were harmed during filming, but none of them for the sake of this film…” There is indeed an unbearable shot that deserves to remain in the history of cinema the way le petit lapin de Renoir (“Renoir’s little rabbit”) did.41 Cinematic mores have evolved, and you can no longer put animals to death for the sake of a fiction; so the frontal shot of the cow stuck in the cubicle where it is going to be slaughtered is documentary – closer to the Franju of Le Sang des bêtes (Blood of the Beasts, 1949) than to Renoir. The gaze of the cow, knowing it is about to die and looking straight at the lens, takes us inside a metaphysical abyss. Maybe this is where the soul is, hiding in the flesh of a cattle marked for our carnivorous consumption, expressed in this gaze, and the very moment it’s going to flicker out.

This unforgettable moment anchors the fiction – and its oneiric aspects – into the mysteries of the body. Endre and Mária will finally be able to touch each other because they have dreamt (and accepted) their animality – a fictional element that Enyedi unfolds with affectionate and surrealist humour. A police psychiatrist hired to help solve a theft (of a supply of aphrodisiacs designed to trigger mating among the cattle!) discovers that, unbeknownst to each other, Endre and Mária make the same dream every night – they are deer in the forest (a male and a female) meeting and frolicking. This is the second instance when the existence of the soul is shown through the bodies of animals. Haptic representation reshuffles the balance between figure and landscape, and therefore between body and soul: the space traversed by the protagonists “reads as an interior landscape in a constant shift between inner and outer worlds.”42 The animal/anima (soul) within the protagonists becomes the landscape that they explore while carrying it inside them.

Magic Women

It is on these exciting premises that Indonesian filmmaker Mouly Surya shapes her third feature, Marlina Si Pembunuh Dalam Empat Babak (Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts), another exhilarating homage to the Western, that reclaims all the up-in-your-face elements of the genre – including a haunting, atmospheric post-Ennio Morricone musical track, written by Zeke Khaseli and Ydhi Arfani. Marlina (Marsha Timothy) loses it all in the first ten minutes. A young widow having miscarried a baby boy, she lives alone in an isolated shack with her cattle and the mummified body of her husband (this is the first sign that the film is not entirely realistic, as Marlina has a special relationship with dead men). A stout, older man, Markus (Egy Fedly) arrives on his macho motorbike, informing her that his buddies are going to join soon, that they will steal her cattle and gang rape her (as a widow, isn’t she “the luckiest woman in the world” since her body attracts such plentiful male attention?). In the meantime, she has to cook her best chicken soup for them. Looking as fascinated and powerless as a bird hypnotised by a snake, Marlina complies. Six bandits indeed arrive in a pick-up truck. Before the feast starts, the younger (and lustier) one, Franz (Yoga Pratama), is sent back to town with the cattle; while they drink rowdily, Marlina crushes some substance into a powder and covertly pours it into the soup. (In this opening sequence, Timothy’s understated performance conveys a mixture of fear, horror and simmering rage, which, in their cocksureness the men fail to notice). As the “guests” fall dead one after the other, Markus, who had already settled down on Marlina’s bed, does not touch the soup, being more interested in having sex right away. This does not leave her much of a choice: riding him and feigning excitement, she neatly cuts his head off with a machete.

AFI AFM 2017

Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts

Next we see her, carrying the head in a plastic bag (homage to Sam Peckinpah’s 1974 Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia?) boarding a bus on her way to the police station. The other riders ask to be let off – but others join in: an older woman in a hurry to bring a dowry to her nephew’s future in-laws, and the heavily pregnant Novi (Dea Panendra) who keeps trying to call her AWOL husband on the phone. A mishmash of cinematic clichés that nonetheless hit the mark, the scene at the police station is a small gem of black humour. A young bored policeman awkwardly types Marlina’s statement and informs her that she needs “medical proof” of having been raped, but no rape kit is available in town. In the next shot we see Marlina taking a shower (washing off all possible traces of the sexual violence she has undergone) while conversing with a bright little girl her parents named Topan (a man’s name) so she could be a hero (it turns out that this was also the name of the baby boy Marlina lost). Marlina The Murderer achieves a gradual reclaiming of the space in a feminist and post-colonial context. Exquisitely shot in Cinemascope by Yunu Pasolang, the spectacular landscapes of Sumba Island become as emblematic as Monument Valley was for John Ford. Rather than being a frame for Marlina’s journey, it is an enchanted, haunted space – a projection of her fears and desires. As she fight back, rides horses, talks with Novi or young Topan, escapes Franz’s vengeance, she keeps seeing Markus, playing a traditional string instrument. Enriched with folk tunes of the island, Khaseli’ and Arfani’s score now seems an expression of the surreal dialogue Marlina has with the dead man. Until she finally agrees to bring his head back to Franz in her shack. This time, though, she is not longer facing danger alone, as Novi and her unborn baby have followed her…

Valérie Massadian and Claire Denis have each crafted a film revolving entirely (and haptically) around the body and desires of the heroine. “I am floating,” says the eponymous protagonist of Massadian’s Milla, (played by a real teenage mother, Séverine Jonckeere). First we see her through the windshield of a car, in a tight embrace with her boyfriend, Leo (Luc Chassel). The teenagers are homeless, they have eloped (we don’t know from what or from where) to live their amour fou. Next they break into an abandoned house on the Basque seashore, appropriate the space, build a playground with piles of the books that were on the shelves, lying around them. As Milla is reading The North China Lover, they playfully enact a nonchalant, sassy dialogue between “The Child” and her best friend, Hélène. Leo is the one citing Hélène’s lines… Duras was writing about the strength of young female desire – the opacity of love itself – the cruelty of an erotic situation defined by colonialism and the need for money – and the non-specificity of object-choice (“The Child” desires Hélène as well as “the Chinese man”). This transgression of gender identification occurs later, when Milla makes up Leo as a woman. Yet traditional roles are hard to break; as the young woman gets pregnant, Leo finds a job as a fisherman – and then, one stormy day, disappears, swallowed by the sea.

He drowns, she floats, she has no anchor, nothing that belongs to her except her belly, her resilience, and her capacity to love. We see her next as she is working in a hotel, making friends with an older female co-worker (played by Massadian herself), and exploring, à la Sophie Calle,43 the traces left by the guests in their rooms (an expensive shirt, the picture of a woman, torn love letters, never sent). The film takes another shift, after Milla’s son (Ethan Jonckeere) is born – this is her second amour fou. As she explains to the kind woman owning the organic fruit and vegetable stand for whom she works – “wherever I go, he goes with me”. Without a fixed script, Massadian shoots the intimate mother-and-son interaction with precision and tenderness, framing them tightly in a sort of symbiosis with the modest, yet magical space they have created together – in which there is even room for Leo’s ghost, who has fleetingly returned to play with his young son. Milla, too, has a special, magic relationship with dead men…

In Un beau soleil intérieur (Bright Sunshine In) Claire Denis basks in the conflict between the search for the One and the multifarious, perplexing, infuriating, yet infinitely seductive, existence of the Multiple. We’ve been told again and again that things are hard for a divorced woman past her prime, no matter how attractive she is (in this case, cast as Isabelle, Juliette Binoche oozes cinematic pheromones) – but, with a great sense of (self?)deprecating humour, Denis goes against the grain. This culminates into a juicy, unexpected ending that sent ripples of laughter through the audience, with Gérard Depardieu’s trademark voice enumerating the erotic possibilities offered to Isabelle and why it’s not going to work. It’s not working because One + One makes Two – two points of view, two desiring trajectories – and the stronger desire is, the more disappointing “reality” becomes.

Distantly inspired by Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, Denis (reworking the argument with her co-screenwriter Christine Angot)44 lets us into the secret (the “internal sunshine”) of a sophisticated woman prone to kidding herself, while being well aware that “the Other”, “The Loved One” can never pass the test. With a devil-may-care honesty, Isabelle tells a friend that one of her lovers, the wealthy banker Vincent (filmmaker Xavier Beauvois) is such a bastard (she’s right: we have seen him in action) that this is precisely what was turning her on. From this moment on, anything goes, and Denis delightfully embraces Isabelle’s idiosyncrasies, her mauvaise foi (bad faith), her ill-advised encounters with her ex, her mood swings, her changes of heart, her social faux pas, her unfairness, her bad taste in men (and who are we to judge? She and Sylvain are not fitted socially or culturally, but “he is a great dancer”). Denis elevates a commonplace scene – a man and a woman in a car trying to decide if they should go “home” together, or see a movie the next day, or never see each other again – to a well-constructed oratorio, in which Isabelle is particularly evasive, objectionable, impossible to pinpoint. Yet the film takes her side. She is right, always right: as wrote Barthes, the will for fulfilment is indestructible, creating a “libertarian subject”. The discourse of love is beyond language – it speaks though the body – this is something you feel rather than understand, and Un Beau Soleil beautifully guides us into the sensual disorder of female desire.

The ultimate haptic heroine of the AFI FEST was the unnamed protagonist of Krotkaya (A Gentle Creature), the third narrative film of the Berlin-based Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitza.45 The Russian title is that of the original short story by Dostoyevsky (1876) about a meek young woman inexplicably committing suicide, but, in its country of production (France), the film is called Une Femme douce – like the 1969 adaptation of the same story by Robert Bresson directed. Indeed Vasilina Makovtseva is as quietly beautiful as Dominique Sanda and she exudes a similar, magic radiance even at the moment of her defeat. Through the fable of a woman looking for her incarcerated husband, Loznitza returns to his topic of choice: an evocation, bordering on the improbable and the surreal, of a long-time malaise in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

AFI AFM 2017

A Gentle Creature

The heroine lives alone, eats alone, sleeps alone in an isolated dacha. One day she receives a note: a package she has sent to her imprisoned husband has been returned to her. The post-office won’t help – instead the staff treat her with anger and contempt. She does not even know why her husband has been jailed; and now she is not sure where he might have been transferred, or whether he is alive. This is the beginning of a nightmare depicted by Loznitza through a series of cruel details. After a long bus trip, she arrives at the jail – only to discover that the economy and society of the entire town revolve around the penitentiary. Guesthouses for the relatives of the jailed people, the local mafia organising prostitution rings, drug and human trafficking and peddling information, and, on top of this, a bureaucratic maze that remains hermetic. The gentle creature loses ground at every turn, yet she persists, because she has nothing else to fight for.

The film was criticised for being heavy on the metaphor, especially in a dream sequence in which the characters we have encountered during the ill-fated journey start singing praises to the current regime. The grotesque aspect of this pageantry is indeed disturbing, even grating – but has its roots in a special brand of “gallows humour” that has flourished in countries of the former Eastern bloc. And I prefer Loznitza’s imperfections to the perfectly mastered authorial tone of a consecrated masterpiece like Nelyubov (Loveless). I suspect that Andrey Zvyagintsev does not like his characters – especially not the women – and treats them as mere symptoms of “what is wrong in contemporary Russia”. Loznitza creates a relatable heroine, quiet and almost mute, but persistent as the ground is being pulled from under her feet. We are with her, in her body, her longings, her revulsions, her descent into horror. Like K in Kafka’s novels, the gentle creature fails, but still retains agency and even desire when confronting a faceless administration.

American Film Market
1-8 November 2017
Market website: http://americanfilmmarket.com/

AFI FEST Presented by Audi
9-16 November 2017
Festival website: http://www.afi.com/afifest/

 

Endnotes

  1. Marguerite Duras, L’Amant de la Chine du Nord, translated by Leigh Hafrey as The North China Lover, New York: The New Press, 1995, 56 – as quoted in Valérie Massadian’s Milla.
  2. Barbara opened the 2017 Un Certain Regard section at Cannes, where it received a special award for “Poetry in Cinema”; it was later awarded the “Critics Prize” Louis Delluc and the Prix Jean Vigo; at the Césars ceremony in France on 2 March, 2018, Jeanne Balibar received the “Best Actress Award”.
  3. Jacques Tournier: Barbara, ou, Les parenthèses, Paris: Seghers, 1968. Amalric alludes to this episode, showing the singer taking pleasure in tormenting her biographer/editor by saying “I am no poet.” On the book cover, the title of the collection was changed to “Chansons d’Aujourd’hui” (“Today’s Songs”).
  4.   Barbara, “Nantes” (1963): Mais il ne m’a jamais revue – Il avait déjà disparu (…) – Il était revenu un soir – Et ce fut son dernier voyage – Et ce fut son dernier rivage – Il voulait avant de mourir – Se réchauffer à mon sourire – Mais il mourut à la nuit même – Sans un adieu, sans un ‘je t’aime’ (…) – Mon père, mon père.”
  5. Zand is the family name of Amalric’s mother; see note 6. Amalric had already chosen this family name for the character of the struggling producer of a Burlesque show touring French provinces he plays in the film he directed previously, Tournée (On Tour, 2011).
  6. The son of Jacques Amalric, foreign correspondent for Le Monde, and of Nicole Zand, literary critic for the same daily paper, Amalric lived in Moscow from 1973 to 1977.
  7. Jeanne Balibar, uncredited, appeared in the film as an extra. The daughter of philosopher Etienne Balibar and physicist Françoise Balibar, she had switched from an academic career to acting in 1992.
  8. See an interview with Beaucarne by Leslie Charreau on the site of the Belgian Society of Cinematographers: http://www.sbcine.be/?p=8010, 28 May, 2017; accessed 16 February, 2018.
  9. Maurice Blanchot, L’Espace littéraire, Paris: Gallimard, Folio/essais, 1955, p. 30.
  10. A point duly noted by the French queer magazine Têtu – originally founded in 1995 by the two co-founders of ACT UP, Paris Didier Lestrade and Pascal Loubet. See Adrien Naselli: “Le film sur Barbara n’oublie pas qu’elle était une icône gay”, Têtu, 6 September, 2017; accessed 12 February, 2018.
  11. The title and the lyrics, almost impossible to translate, enunciate a series of plays on words between SIDA (The French acronym for AIDS), love, death, damnation, disease, and end up on the concepts of abandonment and assassination.
  12. http://www.allianceofwomendirectors.org.
  13. https://womeninfilm.org.
  14. See: http://cinema.usc.edu/faculty/profile.cfm?id=6655&first=&last=warren&title=&did=50&referer=facultydirectory%2Ecfm&startpage=1&startrow=1.
  15. See https://seejane.org/about-us/; accessed 18 February, 2018.
  16. After working on independent films in New York, including Boys Don’t Cry (1999) directed by Kimberly Peirce and produced by Christine Vachon, and making a couple of short films, McGowan directed the feature Kelly & Cal (2014) that premiered in SXSW.
  17. https://filmpowered.com.
  18. Ilene Chaiken for The L Word and Empire, Jill Soloway for Transparent, Six Feet Under and I Love Dick, etc.
  19. Wendy Calhoun co-executive produced 15 of the 66 episodes of the Fox series Empire created by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong, as well as being involved in various creative capacities on other crowd-pleasing series such as Nashville (for ABC) and Justified (for FX).
  20. Born in 1972, Ava DuVernay worked briefly as a journalist, then as a publicist, before opening a public relations company, The DuVernay Agency, in 1999. While being active in various promotional ventures aimed at the African American community, she switched to filmmaking in 2005, first with a short, then with a couple of documentaries. Her first narrative feature, I Will Follow (2011), was shown at the AFI FEST; for her second, Middle of Nowhere (2012), she became the first African American woman to receive the US Directing Award at Sundance. This was followed by Selma (2014), which generated controversy about the lack of diversity at the Oscars when it only won for Best Song. She returned to documentary with 13th (2016), presented at the New York Film Festival. She also directed projects for television, including two episodes of the Oprah Winfrey-produced series, Queen Sugar (2016).
  21. See Eliza Berman: “Hollywood Once and Future Classic”, Time Magazine, 25 December, 2017; accessed 10 February, 2018.
  22. Starting her career as a TV commercial model at three, Reid most notably appeared in 12 Years A Slave (2013), helped by three guardian angels (Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and the Indian American comedian/producer/TV personality Mindy Kaling).
  23. Hand’s sense of powerlessness – she was working as an assistant to a (male) producer at the time – is well taken, but this statement is not quite accurate. In the 1980s, Amy Heckerling, Kathryn Bigelow, Susan Seidelman, Mary Lambert, Penelope Spheeris Alison Anders and Lizzie Borden had already started their filmmaking career, both in Hollywood and the independent sector. Moreover, actresses and female comedians such as Elaine May, Barbra Streisand, Penny Marshall or Martha Coolidge were directing comedies for Hollywood, other women like Randa Haines were switching from television to film – and there was a number of women making independent/experimental films – a scene wilfully ignored by the Hollywood producing teams. The first African American female feature film director, Kathleen Collins, was also active at the time. But, apart from success stories such as Bigelow and Heckerling, and the indestructible energy of Spheeris, the sense of isolation expressed by Hand appears when one looks at the career of these women – who were not offered to make as many films as their male counterparts. This also proves that, in the United States as well, minor histories – such as the women’s history, or the history of the labour moment – are subjected to a constant risk of erasure and amnesia, that we are often in the situation of building on sand and having to start all over from scratch.
  24. Agnès Varda: Varda par Agnès, Paris: Cahiers du cinéma, 1994, p. 13.
  25. They were usually listed as “Left Bank directors”, along with Resnais and Marker – the latter two, though, being embraced by Cahiers relatively early.
  26. Agnès Varda, op. cit., p. 27.
  27. Ibid p. 19.
  28. While it has been duly noted that Varda shot Les Glaneurs et la glaneuse (The Gleaners and I, 2000) herself with a small digital camera, she usually works with cinematographers; moreover, the current state of her eyesight (honestly described in Visages) prevents her to read – “I have read enough books in my time”, she says proudly – and to use a camera; four camera operators worked on Visages: Romain Le Bonniec, Claire Duguet, Nicolas Guicheteau and Valentin Vignet.
  29. Varda, op. cit., p 14.
  30. Giuliana Bruno, Atlas of Emotion – Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film, New York: Verso, 2002-2007, p. 85.
  31. Ibid p. 6.
  32. Ibid, p. 96.
  33. Ibid, pp. 85-86.
  34. With her partner Caroline Benjo of the company Haut et Court, Scotta has played a major role in shaping new French cinema, from the films of Laurent Cantet and Robin Campillo to La Vie en rose – see http://www.hautetcourt.com/production/films.
  35. Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2017 Berlinale, FIPRESCI’s Best Film for 2016-2017
  36. “Il fut une époque où la Finlande renvoyait 4 % des réfugiés qui trouvaient asile dans le pays. Ce taux est passé aujourd’hui à 80 %. J’ai profondément honte de cette situation” (“There was a time when Finland was deporting 4% if the asylum seekers. This percentage is now as high as 80%. I am deeply ashamed of this situation.”), interview with Jacques Mandelbaum, Le Monde, 14 March 2017; accessed 15 February 2018.
  37. “Le cinéaste s’identifie à ses personnages en se fantasmant encore en éternel prolétaire du cinéma qui doit tout économiser: la parole, les gestes, les décors, la durée et le nombre de plans.” in Murielle Joudet, “L’autre coté de l’espoir: le retour des ‘Temps modernes’ à Helsinki”, Le Monde, 14 March 2017; accessed 18 February 2018.
  38. The famous stream-of-consciousness soliloquy that concludes James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) ends up on Molly Bloom saying repeatedly “Yes”.
  39. The Calais jungle denotes a series of makeshift camps set up by refugees going through the port city of Calais (in the northern tip of France) on their way to try and illegally cross the Channel to the UK. It is estimated that at some point, more than 7,000 refugees were living there, in substandard conditions and exposed to civil rights violations. The French police cleared the jungle on 26 October, 2016.
  40. A theatre and film actor Saleh Bakri (born 1977) was cast as the trumpet player in the Israeli movie Bikur Ha-Tizmoret (The Band’s Visit, 2007) by Erin Kolirin. He also starred in Jacir’s two previous films, Bikur Ha-Tizmoret (Salt of this Sea, 2008) and Lamma Shoftak (When I Saw You, 2012), and has worked on Elia Suleiman’s The Time that Remains (2009). Mohammad Bakri (born 1953) is a film and theatre director, who has also appeared in films by major Palestinian (Rashid Mashrawi, Michel Khleifi, Najwa Najjar, his son Ziad Bakri) and Israeli (Amos Gitai, Eran Riklis, Uri Barabash, Ali Nassar) directors. He directed four documentaries, including Janin Janin (2002) about the massacre in the refugee camp, which was banned by the Israeli Film Board.
  41. Godard mentions le petit lapin – that dies in a close-up after being shot during the hunting sequence of La Règle du jeu (1939) – in Histoires du cinéma (1980-98) before stating that cinema failed to show the concentration camps; making La Règle du jeu shortly before a war that was looming at the horizon, Renoir knew how to look at death.
  42. Bruno, op. cit. p. 96.
  43. See Sophie Calle, L’Hôtel, Paris: Editions de l’Etoile, 1984. Photographer/filmmaker Sophie Calle worked as a chambermaid in a Venetian hotel, and turned the photos she took in the rooms into an artwork and a book.
  44. Christine Angot is a controversial French novelist, writing at the boundary between fiction and autobiography, and whose most famous novel is L’Inceste (1999).
  45. Loznitza started making shorts and documentaries in 1996. He has directed 18 documentaries, including Blockade (2005), Maidan (2014), Sobytie (The Event, 2015) and Austerlitz (2016).

About The Author

Bérénice Reynaud is the author of New Chinas/New Cinemas (1999) and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A City of Sadness (2002). She teaches at the California Institute of the Arts. She edited the Senses of Cinema dossier devoted to Chantal Akerman.