Les États généraux du film documentaire 2008 Sacem Day

Sacem Day

The Sacem (French Society of Composers and Musicians) day, at Lussas this year, marks both an anniversary and a link with one of the major themes of this festival's programme.
From one anniversary to another, our wish was to use this twentieth edition of the États généraux du film documentaire to celebrate the one hundredth birthday of Olivier Messiaen.
The Sacem proposes moreover at the invitation of the editorial team of the États Généraux an open choice of films to establish a connection —obviously free— with one of the seminars scheduled at Lussas this year, “Forms of struggle and Struggles of form”, a reflection on protest in documentary cinema.
Our hommage screening will be presented with the participation of Claude Samuel, founder and director of the Acanthes Centre, an academy of contemporary music born in Avignon, like Messiaen himself, and whose students were able to appreciate still twenty years ago how the figure who referred to himself facetiously as an “ornithologist and rhythmacist” was also an exceptional pedagogue. As general delegate of the 2008 Messiaen Year, Claude Samuel has kindly agreed to accompany us as we take a look, via film this time, at the work of a genius whose contemporary significance transcends all commemorations.
Except for their format —both these films are rather long, clocking in at around eighty minutes— everything seems to distinguish the documentaries presented here: one was shot in 1972 with the participation of Messiaen in full possession of his powers, the other was made in 2007, fifteen years after his death. The first was co-authored by two people close to Messiaen —one of his commissioners and one of his students— the second was made by a director from outside the inner circle of contemporary music. One evokes the sound phenomena integrated within the material worked on by the composer, discusses musical theory and captures live Messiaen's pedagogical practice, whereas the second questions the improbable energy at the source of the composition, the way a musical work, served by the commitment of its interpreters, can move from the realm of individual gesture to that of a universal experience.
This connection between the intimate and the social, the rapprochement of an equivocal musical language which requires no explanation to be transmitable and a possibly political message, is not unconnected to the idea that music might be a vector of social transformation that much more powerful in that it relies on this primordial apparent contradiction.
From the moment that it demands a liberty of form, music is a ferment of protest whose vibration can be felt well beyond the field of aesthetic experience. This impact of music is even more flagrant when, carried by the commitment of the musicians themselves, it is accompanied by a deliberately dissident discourse. Free jazz is, from this and other points of view, from its consciously provocative emergence at the end of the fifties and early sixties, a social and artistic milestone in contemporary history.
The open choice that we have proposed to Jacques Goldstein — a director who started out with Enfants du Rock, and who continued with documentaries like the biography of Miles Davis in the eighties, then multiplied shoots with Afro-American or Afro-European musicians such as Steve Potts, Wadada Leo Smith, John Thicaï, David Murray — is centered on a necessarily limited selection of films which illustrate this great upsetting of our musical habits.
The selection of films assembled on this theme of radicality and formal research over the past fifty years by black musicians in the West —but also in the South— associates first documentary reports, more recent productions constructed around filmed concerts, long and short films, projections of complete works (details are announced in the catalogue) and selected excerpts to be discovered during the screening.
Finally, our day devoted to musical film will be rounded off with the evening award of the Sacem Prize for best Creative Musical Documentary followed by a projection of the prize-winning film. The prize winner this year is someone well known by all professionals as well as to Lussas festival-goers as he has already received the Sacem prize twice before. We are speaking of course of Michel Follin whose La Passion Boléro, a documentary on the phenomenal work by Ravel, produced within the series of monographies on musical pieces commissioned by Arte to a limited range of authors and directors. Michel Follin shares paternity of this film with his co-author Christian Labrande, a director of musical programmes for television, editor-in-chief of a video collection devoted to the republishing of the great archives of the twentieth century, founder of the Classical in Images biennial and programmer of cycles of filmed music at the Louvre Auditorium.
La Passion Boléro explores without exhausting its charms the complicated relationship this emblematic work has with its composer, its interpreters and a public who, even if it seems to have appropriated the Boléro in a way that rarely happens to pieces of so-called classical music, does not know it very well. The Sacem jury was impressed by the way archives and fictional scenes support the interviews of chosen figures to compose a musical film whose form —inquiry?— is supported by a solid research, fine choices of viewpoint and a particularly effective cutting.
In the name of the Sacem, we wish one and all a fine festival and hope that we will find many of you during our day of musical film.

Gaël Marteau

Guests : Débats à l'issue de chaque séance en présence de Michel Follin, Jacques Goldstein, Christian Labrande (réalisateurs), Gaël Marteau (Division culturelle Sacem) et Claude Samuel (délégué général de l'année Messiaen 2008). Remise du Prix Sacem du documentaire musical de création vendredi 24 août à 21h15. Projection suivie d'un cocktail.