Simoine Lainè’s documentary Michel Ciment, The Art of Sharing Movies (Michel Ciment, le cinèma en partage) provided Saturday’s highlight at the IFI French Festival as renowned French critic Michel Ciment engaged the audience with his thoughts and memories in a lively Q&A session after the screening of the fascinating documentary about his life as a critic. The documentary provided an insight into Ciment’s central role behind the film periodical Positif (and its long-running rivalry withCahiers du cinema). Ciment’s love of cinema is a joy to behold as his frames of reference extend beyond film to engage with art, music, literature, history and philosophy – all of which he skillfully brings to bear upon his reflections on cinema, which he always speaks about in a clear manner without fuss. He is clearly fascinated with the role of the director and the documentary engages with directors who themselves speak of their respect for Ciment. Amongst the directors who appear in the documentary to profess their admiration for Ciment are Bertrand Tavernier, Arnaud Desplechin. Quentin Tarantino and Joel Coen.
The Q&A after the documentary gave the audience a chance to experience Ciment’s passion for cinema at first hand. He talked of his early love of cinema as a child going to see gangster and swashbuckling films and Westerns and, as he grew up, engaging with cinema on a more sophisticated level discovering auteurs in the mid-50s such as Ford, Bergman, Bresson and Tati. Ciment spoke then about discovering silent film and how he began to concentrate on the visual aspect. For Ciment cinema is first and foremost a visual medium.
He talked about Trauffaut and Godard and expressed his admiration for Resnais’ Hiroshima mon amour, likening the ‘shocking’ impact it had to Picasso’s revolutionary development of cubism.
Throughout the Q&A, Ciment demonstrated his passion for cinema and in doing so engaged the audience with his wide-ranging knowledge and deep understanding of film reflecting his own belief that cinema is a synthesis of all the arts. Ciment’s love of painting, music and literature constantly feeds into his understanding of film.
Ciment was on hand later in the day to introduce Jean Luc Godard’s Moments choisis des histoire(s) du cinema screening as part of the festival.
Saturday closed with the evening screening of Of Gods and Men (Des hommes et des dieux), winner of the Grand Prix at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Xavier Beauvois, the film is an intense fictional account of the 1996 kidnapping and murder of 7 French Cistercian Monks by Islamic Fundamentalists in Algeria. Of Gods and Men is preoccupied with the fundamental similarities between 2 religions and their involvement in the real world. Never less than compelling, Beauvois’ film proved itself to be a worthy winner at Cannes.
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