Les États généraux du film documentaire 2006 Pieces of an opus : Benoît Jacquot

Pieces of an opus : Benoît Jacquot

Demanding, prolific, eclectic, all these adjectives can be applied to the cinema of Benoît Jacquot.

Forty-five films in thirty years, documentary and fiction, films of theatre and the opera, for television as well as for the cinema: a diversity and abundance which make up an impressive and atypical opus, always marked by the same concern to renew cinematic writing and form.

Also demanding on the content: right from the beginning with his film on Jacques Lacan directed in 1974 for the Research Service of the ORTF, a wager at the time but which has become an incunabulum, a founding document which only a profound intellectual complicity could have made possible.

Benoît Jacquot’s entire career is marked by such encounters. We will only evoke some of them, the fruit of a long and happy collaboration with Ina (the French National Audiovisual Institute).

Attracted to cinema by the New Wave, influenced by such references as Lang, Hawks, Grémillon, Cocteau..., he began his career as assistant to Marguerite Duras. Here his two passions, cinema and literature, flowered. This is the source of the almost filial friendship so splendidly expressed in La Mort du jeune aviateur anglais in which Benoît Jacquot returns, via the act of filming it, the present that Marguerite Duras had given him in offering such a strong subject. For the spectator, this film, screened here for the first time, is a unique occasion to approach through the narrative which Marguerite Duras builds little by little, the mystery of a creator in action and a creation undergoing elaboration.

Benoît Jacquot belongs to the family of literary cineasts. Many of his feature length films are adaptations, often free, of the authors he preferred: Dostoievsky for L’Assassin musicien, his first feature, Henry James for Les Ailes de la colombe, Louis René des Forêts, a rare and discreet writer to whom he dedicated a documentary at the same time as he adapted that author’s Les Mendiants.

If the universe sometimes described as Bressonian is constant in its originality, if the camera is always precise and stable, the direction is always different in its search for the best way to apprehend the singularity of each writer: a dialogue of writers between Louis-René des Forêts and Jean-Benoît Puech, intense debates by adolescents fascinated by Salinger and his Attrape-cœur.

Beyond literature, Benoît Jacquot has an inexhaustible curiosity for the arts and he uses cinema as a magnifying glass on each of them. The encounters with the artists he filmed leave nothing to chance. They are intimate meetings in the best possible locations to access a true understanding of their practice and their art: Alfred Deller in his daily environment to sweep away any risk of anecdote that the strangeness of this counter-tenor voice might provoke, buddhist monks filmed in their sacred space, Merce Cunningham and Robert Motherwell in their workshops in the heart of New York.

The work of Benoît Jacquot places a great importance on actors: he loves his actors. This is evident in his fictions which are, as observed by Isabelle Huppert, an actress with whom he has frequently shot, documentaries around the actor. This is true also in his film of theatre where he restitutes in a remarkable way the spirit of the original stagings.

Elvire Jouvet 40 is a film born of his complicity and collaboration with Brigitte Jacques. It largely contributed to turn his theatre films into a genre of their own. It also heavily influenced Jacquot’s own thinking about his direction.

La Place Royale, a comedy by Corneille, was filmed on the stage and in the wings of the Théâtre de la Commune at Aubervilliers and illustrates even more clearly the attitude of documentary filmmaker that Jacquot adopted when filming an artistic creation that pre-existed his viewing.

The film, emblematic of an approach, of this osmosis between theatre and cinema that we wanted with Brigitte Jaques and Benoît, also finds the material for his formal logic in the issues raised by the subject: the story of young people caught in the trap of passionate love, striking against the existential questions raised for each generation, that of Corneille like our own. By screening this film, we allow ourselves a wink at Corneille who seems to have been forgotten among the commemorations of our time on the fourth centenary of his birth.

Claude Guisard

Guests : Programmation élaborée en partenariat avec l'Ina.
Débat en présence de Benoît Jacquot lundi 21 août.