Pialat, or: Realism(s) #2

You can tell a lot about filmmakers and their attitudes from the way they choose to frame a child...

--Adrian Martin, "John Cassavetes: Inventor of Forms", Cinema Scope 8, 2001, p.42.

L'Enfance-nue - Maurice Pialat, 1968, 35mm


Passe ton bac d'abord - Maurice Pialat, 1979, 35mm

I start with a really long film, one that resembles the real world, and then I cut it down by playing with editing. Editing is useful because we can make a life out of useless fragments; however, it's also the worst crux of cinema. A necessary evil. I play with film fragments as little as possible - it's a lot of work. But all the same, it's play. Editing is all about physical contact, a manual mode of expression.

--Maurice Pialat, interviewed by Christian Fevret & Serge Kaganski, Film Comment 40.3, 2004, p.38.

Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble - Maurice Pialat, 1972, 35mm


The reality that cinema reproduces at will and organises is the same worldly reality of which we are a part, the sensible continuum out of which the celluloid makes a mold both spatial and temporal. I cannot repeat a single moment of my life, but cinema can repeat any one of those moments indefinitely before my eyes. If it is true that for consciousness no moment is equal to any other, there is one on which this fundamental difference converges, and that is the moment of death. For every creature, death is the unique moment par excellence. The qualitative time of life is retroactively defined in relation to it. It marks the frontier between the duration of consciousness and the objective time of things. Death is nothing but one moment after another, but it is the last.

--André Bazin, "Death Every Afternoon", in Rites of Realism (ed. Ivone Margulies, Duke UP, 2002), p.30.

La gueule ouverte - Maurice Pialat, 1974, 35mm

"I think he also wanted to go beyond what he'd been able to do when his own mother died. For example, there was a scene we shot where he... When he buried his own mother, he'd had the urge to open up his grandmother's coffin to see what his mother would look like in 20 years. And he didn't do it. So when we shot the mother's funeral, the character played by Philippe Léotard asked to see his grandmother's vault. He had his grandmother's coffin opened up. It was gruelling for the actors, for Nestor Almendros, for everyone. There was a kind of... trail of powder. People were saying, "Pialat's opened the tomb!" But to be honest, it was something which I completely understand. That desire to see, that curiosity. I wasn't in that shot, I was in a later sequence. I was waiting in this little cemetery. It was very early in the morning. Hubert Deschamps was grumbling. He didn't want to go. Philippe was very reluctant too, but once they'd shot the scene he said, "Come and see. It's beautiful. It's reassuring." In our imaginations it's terrifying. We imagine creepy-crawlies. But it was very beautiful. There were the remains of a skeleton, of dust, of tissue. It wasn't at all frightening. It was actually quite calming. But he cut the scene. We shot a lot of scenes that he didn't include."

--transcribed from a video interview with Nathalie Baye, 2004, from disc 1 of La gueule ouverte, MoC, 2009.

Ingrid Superstar - Andy Warhol, 1965,16mm


And that's the cinema. Films play back the same way every time. We return to them over and over again, even when they reveal unpleasant truths - or pose insolent questions, the answers to which it's up to us to formulate (not regurgitate), to construct with our own battered material. The movies are mentors: we keep coming back out of admiration for their moxie. They're a conversation, a sitting for self-examination. The 'characters' don't have a destiny because they don't need one. We do. For better or worse, we are the cinema.

--Craig Keller, The War of Art, in Passe ton bac d'abord, MoC, 2009, p.22.


waggish said...

Just saw L'Enfance Nue the other day. Pialat's unsentimental and unmawkish sympathy is stunning. A Nos Amours is even more raw and the performances he got out of the preternaturally talented Bonnaire and himself were some of the least mannered since Eustache.

Which is to say I really like him....

Marcine M. said...

Whatever you are doing, please continue doing so. Your compositions are among my favorites.

Guy Sands said...

I agree completely with Marcine. An insightful reduction.