Mark the date: Jean-Daniel Pollet films in New York

I wish I could give some eloquent reason why the Anthology Film Archives' retrospective of French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Daniel Pollet—titled Unidentified Filmic Objects, and which starts tomorrow—is absolutely must-see, drive-all-night-if-you-live-outside-the-city essential—but I can't.  I haven't seen a single film of his.  And I would venture to say that few Americans have.  But I have been reading about him for ages now it seems, mysterious references in occult texts swirling around the New Wave.  And if I had my Godard on Godard handy, I might even be able to quote from his review of Pollet's most acclaimed and most sought after film, Méditerranée (1964)—but I don't.  So unfortunately I have to go the risky and perhaps tacky route of insisting on the absolute necessity of seeing these rare films (rarely screened, rarely subtitled) without a shred of evidence.  And go even a step further and let the retrospective's press release do the talking:

"Fully justified as it is, the praise lavished on the heavy-hitters of the French New Wave – Chabrol, Godard, Rivette, Rohmer, and Truffaut – has often deflected attention away from the many other talented artists who contributed to the breadth and vitality of that storied movement. Of all those associated with this unparalleled period, but eclipsed by the glory of their better-known colleagues, Jean-Daniel Pollet may well be the most gifted."

Because what else is cinema about but discovery, seeing new things and seeing things in new ways?  I have no doubt the films of Pollet will be rewarding to those willing to make the exploration.


Unidentified Film Objects: The Films of Jean-Daniel Pollet plays at the Anthology Film Archives, October 31 - November 5, 2008.

Mark the date: Jean-Daniel Pollet films in New York



10 responses to this post.  Join the discussion

  • HarryTuttle

    I second that. Pollet is one of my favourite director, and the most experimental of La Nouvelle Vague (with Alain Resnais).

    That’s a precious line up there, not to be missed, for even in France are his films rarely screened.

    Two of my preferred titles from this (incomplete) retrospective, Le Horla and L’Ordre, have never been released commercially because they were commissioned by a pharmaceutical company. Pollet turned these assignment into one-of-a-kind experimental film-essays! Don’t miss them.

    Le Horla, an adaptation of the great Maupassant short story, is the illustration in a visual poem of the effects schizophrenia has on the perception of time, space and reality. It is amazing.

    L’Ordre is a great document, totally personal and formalist, telling the story of a (penitentiary) island in Greece where lepers used to be excluded from society. He makes the empty walls speak. And listens to what the surviving lepers need to say. A humbling lesson of humanity coming from these voices.

    Mediterranée is also a must see, as you say, it’s unlike anything the young turks did. A wonderful film-diary, with staging experiments and a poetical narrative voice.

    I like Ceux d’en face a lot too. A testament film, where he cites images from his oeuvre in a thinly veiled autobiographically inspired fiction of a disappeared artist revived by the words and photographies collected by his girlfriend and a friend.

    It’s a shame they don’t show my most favourite, Pour mémoire (la forge) (1978), which cinematography is exquisite.
    I would also have had favored Tu imagines Robinson (1967), Dieu sait quoi (1994), and Jour Après Jour (2006), over the weaker (in my opinion) Six in Paris (Paris vu par… segment) and L’amour c’est gai, l’amour c’est triste (light comedy), thought they are pleasant to watch too.

    I hope a lot of people will see these films and that you’ll talk about them soon.

  • Daniel Kasman

    Hi Harry! Thanks for the background, sounds like the Pollet-starved (including myself) will need it! What is Pour memoire like, why is it your favorite?

  • HarryTuttle

    Basically, it’s a documentary on on the last traditional forge in activity in France, just before it shuts down, operated without robots, just men with manual skills and the metal in fusion. But the way it’s filmed is great. He documents the gestures, the slow, delicate and painful work taking place inside a dark warehouse, as if deep inside a mineshaft, only lit by the furnace. He also adds a beautiful elegy commentary at times, which consists of overheard phrases from the workers turned into prose by the reciting voices of voice-over actors.
    He mixes sumptuous high-contrast images of the factory artistically composed, in long takes, with casual images when he interviews the workers outside. Notably a shot of the snow melting on the roof, when solid matter turn into liquid, offered as a parallel with the fusion of iron.
    It’s just the best documentary I’ve seen, a perfect little film (only 1h).
    Here are some pictures and 2 short clip videos.

  • HarryTuttle

    Jour après jour is a posthumous film, his last project, edited and finished by his collaborator, Jean-Paul Fargier. Pollet was disabled and too tired to run a proper film shooting. So he decided to take at least 1 photo per day during the seasons of a year in his house. The resulting film is much more than just a slide show, like Chris Marker did with La Jetée, still photos, a tailored soundtrack and a narrated voice over. It’s more like a metafilm, explaining its construction. So it documents what the eye of the auteur lays upon, in what he knew would be the last year of his life. The regard of a poet on the life in flowers, fruits, the changing light, still life composition of objects and their alteration by days of outdoor weather. Video clip here

  • HarryTuttle

    Jour après Jour actually shows the same house, you will see amply shot in Ceux d’en face. So they should be natural companion screenings.

  • HarryTuttle

    Anybody went to see them?

  • Daniel Kasman

    I actually was able to see a couple last night, I didn’t think I would. Might be able to write something up on them soon…both screenings were surprisingly well attended I thought.

  • HarryTuttle

    Cool. Which ones did you see? Zach Campbell said on his blog he watched L’Amour c’est Gai, L’Amour c’est triste, and Pourvu qu’on ait l’ivresse.

  • Daniel Kasman

    Mediterranée, Le Horle, L’Ordre, Bassae and Au Pere Lachaise.

  • HarryTuttle

    Very well. I hope you liked them as much as I did. I haven’t seen Au Père Lachaise.

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