Les États généraux du film documentaire 2005 Guy Gilles

Guy Gilles

Paris un jour d’hiver, Vie retrouvée, La Loterie de la vie… Return to Guy Gilles, one year later: this second part of the series stresses two essential components of his work: his Proustian inspiration and the genealogical utopia – or the attempt to position himself within a history of cinema that was still at peace with itself.

What is at stake in Montreur d’images (the craft of managing a small filmhouse), Où sont-elles donc ? (the sweet stars of the old days) and Festivals 1966 Cinéma 1967 (New Wave and the Cahiers) speaks of an obsessive enquiry which moves us today as much as it questions us, raising the problem of weaving a fabric between the cinema of childhood and a demand for modernity. Coming to cinema via the love of films seen in the past, we know, means to be obliged to work on a constant mismatch. This dissonance grows in particular from the middle of the sixties: the end of illusions, return to the Real, the call to resist are what the ideologies of the time call for.
What to do? Festivals 1966 appears retrospectively to be a way for Guy Gilles to question his position in a still profound historical and aesthetic upheaval, using live the material of chosen interviews to position himself as a filmmaker and not only as a journalist. The improvised nature of the film – crude editing, bumps on the mike, rushed reframings, as if the film was inventing itself under our eyes – negates declarations about any aims to construct a modern narrative (Rivette) while it is subverted for personal ends. What constantly resurfaces is always the pleasure and the almost proletarian incredulity of making film just like those “petits bourgeois” of the New Wave: of which the films manifest a fascinated admiration in many ways, but also joyous departures from the norm where the shoot seems to become the very subject of the film.

Even more so as this is Gilles’s first documentary, a crucial link between his reports which were typical of the time (Pop Age, his previous televised production) and the fruition of his earlier work. The question of the passage from the report to (documentary) cinema is explicitly raised by Godard, evoking Reichenbach whose films display "beautiful pictures but no thought". The entire film resembles a long course in cinema where the empassioned word is a barrier to an ever threatening melancholy, even if the proximity of this big family would soon be revealed as an illusion for Guy Gilles. Totally ignored at its release in February 1968 – and with reason –, Au pan coupé is an emblem of this impossible position: severely radical – no aesthetic compromise for the filmmaker and no social compromise for the character – and an extreme gentleness – without the strength to struggle.

Thus begins for Guy Gilles a double exile, bannished from industrial cinema – the cinema of his childhood henceforth subservient to a society he detests – but also from the major aesthetic currents of his time, whose insurrectional ideo-logy ill fits such sombre sincerity. Which leaves only television: the persistant melancholy which pervades his commissioned films (Le Jardin des Tuileries) as well as the short almost abstract poems (Chanson de gestes) finds an exemplary vehicle in Proust, l’art et la douleur. The major idea of the film is to transform the traditional place of the journalist (of the style played
by Chapier in Festivals 1966) by turning the character into a narrator, a guide, the director’s double, i.e. Patrick Jouané, the actor of all his fiction films. The field of question and enquiry is now incarnated in a body, young, beloved, malleable to the passage of time: the project lasted four years through a haphazardly arranged schedule of shooting. The passage of time regist-ers on Jouané, a changing envelope whose adolescent face is progressively deepened by the maturity of a young man. The actor is less the incarnation of the Proustian theme of lost time than its intimate and loving reappropriation.
By confronting what seemed to be the major influence of his work – wasn’t he hastily dubbed the "Proust of the New Wave"! –, Guy Gilles frees himself with surprising grace and obviousness.

More than anything else, it is perhaps this gesture of freedom, this constantly renewed liberation, flowing joyous and anarchic, which today gives its true value to his work, and makes necessary its long awaited discovery.

Coordination : Coordination: Gaël Lépingle

Guests : Un site très complet est consacré au cinéaste, ww.guygilles.com