Book Review: Maurice Pialat (French Film Directors)

| November 21, 2011 | Comments (0)

Pialat

Title: Maurice Pialat (French Film Directors)

Author: Marja Warehime

Marja Warehime amongst many other merits in writing this Maurice Pialat biography, has finally offered the English reader an account of French director Marcel Pialat’s life as until now most of the texts written about him have mainly been in French. As far as biographical information is concerned, Warehime’s book probably represents one of the more accomplished works about the life and the career of an anti conformist director. Warehime’s style of writing to describe Pialat’s career and approach to life is astonishingly warm and passionate. The biography chronologically portrays the entire career of the French director from his first short films to his last film feature Le Garcu.

Through Warehime’s account we discover that after training as a painter and making, during the ’60s, several short films, Maurice Pialat in 1968 wraps up his first feature film with the co-production of Francois Truffaut’s L’Enfance nue (Naked Childhood). Using non-professionals, this was a stark and moving portrait of a boy pushed into frenzied adolescence by his parents inability to cope with his difficult personality; it won critical acclaim and the Prix Jean Vigo. A second personal film was made in 1972, Nous Ne Vieillirons Pas Ensemble, a harrowingly accurate account of a love affair turned sour.

In 1974, Pialat directed his first masterpiece, La Gueule Ouverte, the story of a 50-year-old mother dying of cancer, told from the perspective of an impotent son and a promiscuous father, rather than the protagonist. Its long takes emphasise the claustrophobic intensity of the situation. It was released in English as The Mouth Agape. A Nos Amours’ in 1983 marked a turning point in his career, as his works were becoming more intense and demanding while adopting a tone close to the autobiography. A Nos Amours’ brought him the César for Best Film and at the same time it revealed the actress Sandrine Bonnaire to the public.

Pialat and his troublesome relationship with the ‘Nouvelle Vague’ is contained in the second chapter of this book but possibly represents the most relevant text as it allows the reader to get a great insight into the difficult relationship between Pialat and all the writers from the French film magazine, Cahiers du Cinema. In fact Pialat on some occasions expressed his resentment over the fact that the young directors of the ‘Nouvelle Vague’ had already begun to make names for themselves in the 1960s while he was still struggling to make films.

Through the pages of his work, Warehime draws the style of the French filmmaker as something very close to his character, expressed through his strength and his raw and uncompromising approach, becoming a form of cinema that might be well described with the term ‘naturalist’. After finishing Police, Maurice Pialat, in 1987, received the Palme d’Or in Cannes with Under the Sun of Satan, a film adapted from a novel by Georges Bernanos, causing scandal at the awards ceremony, he addressed the crowd with the famous line: ‘If you do not love me, I can tell you I don’t love you either.’

In 1991, Pialat finally decides to pay homage to his love of painting realizing a film on Vincent Van Gogh with Jacques Dutronc in the title role, for which he won the César for best actor in 1991. Four years later, the filmmaker completed his latest feature, Le garçu (The Boy), where he directs Gerard Depardieu, one of his most loyal actors.

Always against the role model, anti-conformist and pessimistic – such traits conveyed to his character a certain legend to the extent of being considered one of the greatest French directors, if not the greatest, by many of his peers.

This biography is a valuable account of the French directors work, with an impressive amount of well-researched material, logically arranged. The information about Pialat’s controversy with established French culture, which is given as much space here as his cinematic achievements, is particularly useful as it helps the reader to grasp the mood in which Pialat’s cinema was trying to express itself.

Marja Warehime offers a fascinating text combining an account of the filmmakers remarkable work through interesting photos from his films and locations, original transcripts of some of his most important public interviews (with English translations as footnotes) and sharp observations on the way he approached the creative process of filmmaking.

Nicola Marzano

Paperback: 182
Publisher: Manchester University Press
Language: English
ISBN: 978071906823.2
Product Dimensions: 20.7 x 13.5 x 1.7 cm

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Category: Book Reviews, Reviews

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