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Maurice Pialat

Maurice Pialat

Marja Warehime
ROBERT INGRAM series editors
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Maurice Pialat
    Book Description:

    One of the most gifted directors of the post New Wave, Maurice Pialat is frequently compared to such legendary filmmakers as Jean Renoir and Robert Bresson. A quintessentially realist filmmaker, who, like Bresson, was trained as a painter, Pialat’s particular form of realism influenced an entire generation of young filmmakers in the nineties. This volume is the first book-length study of Pialat’s cinema in English. It provides an introduction to a complex and difficult director, who saw imself as a marginal and marginalised filmmaker, but whose films are deeply rooted in French society and culture. Pialat was long considered the only major filmmaker to portray ‘la France profonde’, the heart of France – the people who, as he put it, ‘take the subway’. Taken as a whole, Pialat’s work can be seen both as an oblique autobiography and the portrait of a fundamental institution – the family – over several generations, from the Third Republic through the end of the nineties. The power of Pialat’s realism has often overshadowed his formal originality and this study gives equal attention to formal issues, including the crucial role of montage in the elaboration of his filmic narratives. The volume provides a brief biographical sketch of the filmmaker, situating Pialat’s work in relation to the New Wave and the popular Saturday night cinema of his childhood, as well as giving an overview of the major themes and formal preoccupations of his work. Subsequent chapters provide readings of each of his full length films. This volume is essential to any collection on film – or French film – and French studies. It makes an indirect contribution to studies of the family and also to the genre of autobiography.

    eISBN: 978-1-84779-437-6
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of plates
    (pp. vi-vii)
  4. Series editors’ foreword
    (pp. viii-ix)

    To an anglophone audience, the combination of the words ‘French’ and ‘cinema’ evokes a particular kind of film: elegant and wordy, sexy but serious – an image as dependent on national stereotypes as is that of the crudely commercial Hollywood blockbuster, which is not to say that either image is without foundation. Over the past two decades, this generalised sense of a significant relationship between French identity and film has been explored in scholarly books and articles, and has entered the curriculum at university level and, in Britain, at A-level. The study of film as an art-form and (to a...

  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-x)
  6. 1 Introduction: Maurice Pialat, the outsider
    (pp. 1-22)

    To call Maurice Pialat a ‘marginal du centre’ (literally a ‘central marginal figure’, a pivotal or influential outsider) – asCahiers du cinémadid in 1983 – suggests the contradictions of Pialat’s career and sums up the difficulties of categorising the work of one of the most important and idiosyncratic figures of the post New Wave (Bergala 1983: 20). Pialat’s work inspires comparison with such legendary figures as Jean Renoir and Robert Bresson, yet he does not have the international reputation one might expect, given his gifts as a director and his importance in French cinema history. Pialat’s death in...

  7. 2 Pialat and the Nouvelle Vague
    (pp. 23-44)

    ‘Vous savez,j’en veux(je dis bien: j’en veux) à la Nouvelle Vague’,¹ Pialat announced abruptly during an a 1979 interview withCahiers du Cinéma– the very journal that had served as a seedbed for the New Wave some twenty years earlier (Pialat 1979: 15). The interviewers parried the thrust by expressing surprise at his antagonism and claiming that he actually had much in common with theNouvelle Vague. Pialat did not deny it, but insisted: ‘C’était si on veut le lièvre et la tortue: ils faisaient des films et je n’en faisais pas (j’étais pourtant plus vieux qu’eux)....

  8. 3 A family of works
    (pp. 45-66)

    One of the most striking features of Pialat’s cinema is its formal and thematic coherence. Although his films treat subjects as diverse as the problem of adoption and the tragic death of a legendary painter, the autobiographical substratum of his work emerges in a number of ‘primal scenarios’ (the abandonment or rejection of a child, a brother or a brother-in-law’s betrayal, the death of a parent, the failure of a love relationship between an older man and a much younger woman) which are reinterpreted and replayed from film to film. However, the fundamental unity of his work – and its...

  9. 4 Family portraits I: Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble, La Gueule ouverte and Passe ton bac d’abord
    (pp. 67-94)

    It would certainly be valid to study Pialat’s films in a variety of different combinations, to considerL’Enfance nue, Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble andLa Gueule ouverteas an autobiographical triptych stretching from childhood to maturity, for example – or to group togetherLa Gueule ouverte, Passe ton bac d’abordandA nos amoursas three variations on the theme of the breakdown of the family unit. However, I have adopted a strictly chronological approach to Pialat’s films in order to suggest the sometimes subterranean connections between Pialat’s films, the way unresolved (personal and aesthetic) problems carry over from...

  10. 5 Family portraits II: Loulou, A nos amours and Police
    (pp. 95-130)

    Although Pialat began work onLouloualmost immediately after finishingPasse ton bac d’abord, the real events that inspired it took place almost ten years earlier. The scenario forLoulou, written by Arlette Langmann, was based on the break-up of her relationship with Pialat over her affair with ‘Dédé’, who had been involved in the production ofLa Maison des bois. Langmann kept only the kernel of the story, fictionalising the circumstances of the relationship while attempting to convey its emotional intensity. Langmann’s central character, Nelly, played by Isabelle Huppert, abandons her husband of three years, André, an art-loving publicist...

  11. 6 The saint and the artist: men apart
    (pp. 131-154)

    LikePolice, Sous le soleil de SatanandVan Goghreflect Pialat’s move towards more ambitious projects in traditional genres. For all their differences in climate –Sous le soleil de Satanis a winter and nocturnal film;Van Gogh, despite its sombre ending, is lit by spring and summer sunlight – both films reflect a dominant trend in the 1980s, the heritage film, and pay homage to the tradition of studio filmmaking Pialat associated with the great filmmakers of his youth, Carné in particular. However, unlike Bertrand Tavernier’s 1984Un dimanche à la campagne, which marked a nostalgic return...

  12. 7 Conclusion: paternity and Le Garçu
    (pp. 155-164)

    Le Garçu, which came out in 1995, became Pialat’s last film. He remained dissatisfied with it and even made plans to re-edit it, although his failing health made this one of the many projects he was not to complete. YetLe Garçuis not an inappropriate conclusion to Pialat’s lifework in film. It brings his career full circle, reconnecting with the autobiographical and documentary inspiration of his first films and focusing more directly on what had always been the central concern of his cinema: the family. Although the isolation of the exceptional individual had preoccupied him inSous le soleil...

  13. Filmography
    (pp. 165-171)
  14. Select bibliography
    (pp. 172-174)
  15. Index
    (pp. 175-182)