Garage Screen and the 1st Moscow International Festival of Archival Film present a mini-retrospective of the French film director Alain Cavalier celebrating his 90th birthday. The program features four films that explore the world from a radical autobiographical perspective: This Answering Service Takes No Messages (1978), La Rencontre (1996), and Le filmeur (2005) joined into a trilogy, and the short Lieux saints (2007).
Alain Cavalier started making films parallel to the legends of the French New Wave Godard, Truffaut, and Chabrol—but always stood apart from his colleagues. Cavalier himself separates his career into three stages, each corresponding to a particular approach to filmmaking: in the 1960s and 1970s, he was a metteur en scène and made big-budget noirs and melodrama films starring Alain Delon and Catherine Deneuve; in the 1970s, he became an experimental filmmaker—cineaste—and turned to smaller-scale stories that blurred the boundaries between the document and fiction; finally, in the 1990s, due to the spread of light and relatively cheap cameras, he developed a unique style free from the conventions of the film industry—he no longer needed a film crew and became a filmeur, who made deceptively amateur-looking diary essay-films that raised important questions about the human life. Cavalier was among the most interesting filmmakers whose work reflected Alexandre Astruc’s vision of the new avant-garde: with a light camera-pen, the filmmaker can express any idea, no matter how abstract it is.
In the time of global social perturbations, Alain Cavalier’s autobiographical films This Answering Service Takes No Messages (1978), La Rencontre (1996), Le filmeur (2005), and Lieux saints (2007)—seem of particular interest. All of them are filled with deep emotion—the pain of losing a loved one, the joy of regaining the ability to love, the urge to accept the finality of one’s life. The main thing that unites them, however, is the director’s focus on himself, which resonates with the introspective experience most of us had to go through during the times of isolation when we were so often on our own. And in fact, the practice of pointing the camera at ourselves has become part of our everyday long before the Covid-19 pandemic. But unlike Cavalier, we do not always use selfies to discuss eternal questions. This short retrospective presents the French filmmaker as a collector of the intimate fragments of life, whose camera does not only work as an extension of memory but also as a therapeutic device that can help one come to terms with death.
Curator of the program: Dmitry Frolov
The program was organized with the support of the Institut français in Moscow.
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