Les États généraux du film documentaire 2008 Fragment of a filmmaker's work: Michael Grigsby

Fragment of a filmmaker's work: Michael Grigsby


Without any doubt, during the “Doc History: Great Britain” programme, Michael Grigsby will infect you with his passion for the documentary history of his country and his particular attachment to the work of John Grierson. This programme could not properly close without culling from his impressive filmography still largely unknown in France. Born in 1936 in Reading, a documentary enthusiast since his childhood, Michael Grigsby has directed some thirty odd films since the fifties.
Testimony of the mutations of British society, these films recount the social problems that affect the working classes. Undeniably committed, Michael Grigsby not only denounces the injustices and traumas experienced within his own country, he was one of the first to interview veterans of the Viet Nam war, in this case three young Texans, in I Was a Soldier, in 1970. The opening of the film sets the mood. A long still shot showing a long road in the heart of Texas. A car approaches from far off which we follow with our eyes. It seems to appear suddenly close and hit us straight on as will strike us the words of these young vets, from a state in America far from the heart of the anti-war movement.
A slow immersion... Take the time, offer the space attention necessary for speech to emerge. Michael Grigsby works patiently, with great humanity, to stimulate that of his characters and does not hesitate to prefer silence and details of soundspace to the use of commentary. In A Life Apart made in 1973 for Channel Four, the alternation of interviews and long, slow shots of the fishing vessel denounce the hard work of fishermen and invite us to a mood of reflection and meditation.
A cinema of poetry which seems inadapted to television broadcast, the means of distribution Michael Grigsby holds so dear. It is nonetheless with the BBC that he made The Score in 1998. This time, he plunges us within the universe of football. But unexpectedly, no sign of any players, rather it is to Sheffield's supporters that he pays attention. Images and sounds make up a fine musical score where each shot draws a magnificent naturalist painting. No interview, no direct sound, a superb original musical score suffices to reinforce the intensity of expressions and sensations.
An essential element in Grigsby's work, the soundtrack is meticulously crafted in each one of his films: interlacing natural sounds, dialogues which most often precede the appearance of characters (slow immersion of the spectator in their universes) where carefully used music intervenes as a counterpoint, sometimes in contradiction with the image, adding a slight touch of irony. In Rehearsals (2005), songs, music, poetry, interviews and direct sounds are carefully mixed and draw a complex portrait of Belfast. Once again, Michael Grigsby offers us a fine composition of image and sound, so representative of the originality of his work.

Pascale Paulat


Guests : Débat en présence de Michael Grigsby.