|To Reality and
Back: Classic and Contemporary French Documentaries - Part I
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This Series is Exclusive to the Aero Theatre and
will continue through the end of the year!
A series from the Film Society of Lincoln Center
and Cahier du Cinema.
Presented in Association with the Los Angeles
Film and Television Office - French Embassy and the French Cultural Services in New York.
Ever since the Lumière Brothers decided to call their 50-second
strips of moving images, "actualities," filmmakers in France have been at the
forefront in the exploration of the complex interplay between the art of film and the
world surrounding us. In what seems to be a worldwide explosion of interest in the various
forms of non-fiction filmmaking, France has witnessed an increasing presence of both
domestic and foreign documentaries in film theaters, often enjoying considerable success.
French television, both public and private, has also been very supportive of documentary
The series offers a brief survey of some of the finest and most adventurous recent French
documentaries, along with three programs of beloved and highly influential classic
documentaries. Works by internationally celebrated filmmakers such as Jean Vigo, Alain
Resnais, Claude Lanzmann, Raymond Depardon, Agnès Varda and Nicolas Philbert
are included alongside films by artists rarely seen in America such as Claire Simon.
Friday, May 12 - 7:30 PM
"À Propos De Nice,"
1930, 25 min. Dir. Jean Vigo and his cameraman Boris Kaufman went down to the
capital of the French Riviera and shot many hours, sometimes clandestinely, around the
city and of its inhabitants; the result was this stirring, provocative portrait of Nice
that stands among the best of the eras "city symphonies."
"Those Of Our Land" (Ceux
De Chez Nous),1914/1939, 45 min. Made by a very young Sacha Guitry (later one
of Frances finest actor/directors) as a kind of counter-propaganda exercise against
Germanic claims for the superiority of their "Kultur," Guitry introduces us to
12 French luminaries, including Sarah Bernhardt, Monet, Rodin, Degas, and August Renoir.
Shot silent with an early amateur camera, this was "a celebration of French creative
genius," according to its director, that showed these artists in the act of creating,
or at least pretending to be creating. In 1939, Guitry added spoken commentary to the
film, which is the version that will be screened.
Saturday, May 13 - 7:30 PM
THREE SHORT DOCUMENTARIES BY ALAIN RESNAIS
Before revolutionizing the feature film with works such as HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR and LAST
YEAR AT MARIENBAD, Alain Resnais made a number of remarkable documentaries that
often anticipate the stylistic explorations and themes found in his later work.
"Statues Also Die" (Les Statues Meurent Aussi), 1953, 30 min. Dirs. Alain
Resnais and Chris Marker. Banned in France for 12 years, the film traces
the devastating impact of French colonialism on African art. As Resnais co-director,
Chris Marker, stated, "We want to see their suffering, serenity, humor, even
though we dont know anything about them." Their film shows what happens
when art loses its connection to a culture.
"All The Memory Of The World" (Toute La Mémoire Du Monde), 1956, 21 min.
Dir. Alain Resnais. A kind of Borgesian fantasy, this is a lyrical exploration of
Pariss Bibiothèque Nationale, the French National Library. As Resnais camera
glides down a labyrinth of corridors past endless rows of books, one is struck, and put in
awe, of the vastness of human experience, and moreover how little one can ever know of it.
"Night And Fog" (Nuit Et Brouillard), 1955, 32 min. Dir. Alain Resnais.
Surely one of the most remarkable, and unforgettable, documentaries ever made, this burst
upon a world that already trying to move away from the memory of the Holocaust.
Juxtaposing period footage, contemporary images of the former camps and a haunting
narration by writer Jean Cayrol, Resnais attempts to sketch the outline of events too real
and yet still unimaginable.
Sunday, May 14 - 6:30 PM
A Masterpiece Not To Be Missed!
REPRISE, 1997, 195 min., Dir. Hervé Le
Roux. One of the monuments of contemporary documentary cinema and not only in
France, REPRISE offers a provocative re-evaluation of the tumultuous and by now mythical
events in May of 1968 and their aftermath. On June 10, 1968, students from the Parisian
film school, IDHEC recorded the end of the strike at the Wonder Factory in Saint-Ouen. A
young woman worker refused to go back to work. After director Hervé le Roux saw a
photograph of her in Cahiers du Cinéma he began a long search for this
"heroine," a search that charts the changes in French radical politics over the
past 30 years. "When we set up contacts with everyone in summer 1995, explaining
our intentions, most people including the unionists asked, We would like to
contribute but who would ever be interested in these old stories? I didnt want
to make an antiquated or a nostalgic film. 20-year-olds consider it a historical film. It
describes a vanished world: large industrial companies in left-wing suburbs, a kind of
company culture, a sense of belonging which has disappeared and been replaced with
insecurity, the fear of the loss of jobs. And yet, despite predictions by officials about
the workers situation, it remains basically unchanged, the way others predict the
death of cinema." Hervé Le Roux
Sunday, June 18 - 7:30 PM
FRENCH DOCUMENTARIES PART II
THE TENTH DISTRICT COURT: JUDICIAL HEARINGS (LA 10ME
CHAMBRE, INSTANTS DAUDIENCE), 2004, Lorber, 105 min. Veteran photographer and
filmmaker Raymond Depardon's look at the inner workings of a Parisian courtroom is
a fascinating study of clashing egos and dueling rhetorical styles. Within a deceptively
simple framework, Depardon gives us an absorbing and entertaining sketch of contemporary
French society, as a parade of African immigrants, pickpockets, threadbare artists, and
self-righteous academics come face to face with the formidable judge Michèle
Bernard-Requin. She's tough, more than a little bemused, and understandably tired of all
the shenanigans she has to witness. Far more than a documentary on the frustrations of the
legal system, The 10TH DISTRICT COURT is a film about the endless complexity of human