My Gleanings

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Eric Rohmer on Jacques Demy 1958

In the 1950s, a monthly feature of Cahiers du Cinema was "le petit journal of cinema" a medley of short pieces on various aspects of film. The last item in that section would often appear be under the rubric "Photo of the Month". In the April 1958, this page featured a photo of Jacques Demy on the set of his short film Le Bel Indifference directing his star Jeanne Allard. Beneath that photo was this write-up by Eric Rohmer. (page 50 my translation).

This black-and-white photograph offers only the remote idea of a film whose color is, not the ornament, but the method of essential expression.
We know the synopsis of Jean Cocteau's sketch written for Edith Piaf: in a hotel room, a woman soliloquizes piling reason on reason, trying to convince him that she loves him, she loves him, that they love each other. The man is not listening.
In such an endeavour, the task of the metteur-en-scene is, above all, a matter of choice: Choice of decor, of color, of wardrobe, of tone, of predisposition of style. Jacques Demy whose second film this is, following the excellent documentary Le Sabotier du Val de Loire, shows himself as not just felicitous, the work is of such a precision that it is impossible to conceive of others.
The red of the wallpaper could not be a different red, nor could the blue of the tiles in the bathroom, deviate from the blue chosen here. The bed and the mirror-faced wardrobe take their assigned places to the precise millimeter and we can't imagine another bed or wardrobe, nor any other bedspread or window curtains or door bolt.Highlighted by an admirable photography in tint plate. (accomplishing the feat of conciliating maybe, and without contest, for the first time, the point of view of the painter and the filmmaker). A electric wall-socket, a light-switch, a hat-rack and a coat hanger, are the impassable and cocteauesque Furies of this drama which its author might have filmed differently, but surely not more faithfully to his own mythology. The male interpreter himself, an unknown scooped up off the street, seems to emerge directly from a drawing of Opium.
This respect, not only praiseworthy, but necessary in the occurrence, can not be attributed to the least timidity. That the general allure of the direction rather leans towards the side Visconti, parallel to that of Rossellini 's The Human Voice, quite naturally invites us. Or more exactly, -- for, from the first seconds, we perceive the feeling of a personality already fully assured -- let's conjecture, without too much risk, that on this same fixed theme, Visconti would not have done better. That speaks pretty much of the esteem in which we hold Le Bel Indifference and its director, upon whom, among the cohort of young filmmakers, Cahiers determines to bank on with no delay and with more speed than it has done for anyone.

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