Les États généraux du film documentaire 2009 Sacem Day

Sacem Day


As a faithful contributor to the États généraux du film documentaire, the Sacem (French Society of Musical Authors and Composers) will devote a day to musical documentary. In agreement with Pascale Paulat and her team, we have programmed two sessions which prolong the debates already initiated by the seminars and meetings of the event but which are dealt with from the perspective of music and its capacity to lend meaning. As usual, the day will culminate with the awarding of the Prize for the musical documentary chosen by the Sacem for 2009. Before unveiling the content of the day, it is important to note the change of date of our traditional rendez-vous, which is now in the middle of the week, on Wednesday August 19th.
To begin with, we invited Michel Follin to present some of his lesser known and little screened films. He introduces us to the problematic link between art and society in Le Madrigal des Amants and Pardesi (L'Étranger) as well as to the knotty question of how to film music in echo to Chantal Akerman's film Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher de Henri Dutilleux.
The afternoon will be devoted to a screening of films selected by François Porcile on the theme "Images and Propaganda Musics (1936-1949)", illustrated by exceptionally strong films and excerpts from this troubled time. The role given to music to reinforce the film discourse elaborated by various dictatorships, and the use at the same time of music by democracies in situations of resistance, will be obviously at the heart of this rewarding investigation.
Finally to close the day, the film Boris Vian, la vie Jazz directed by Philippe Kohly selected by the Sacem as the best musical creative documentary of 2009 will be projected followed by the awarding of the Prize to the winner at the end of the evening.
Have a good Sacem day and also a good États généraux.

Aline Jelen

...On some stories of music

As a film-maker who delights in music, stories and narratives which are demanding in their writing, I invite you to share three films, three stories of music yesterday and today.
Look for the story. Is there a scenario behind the music?
Trained in the rigours of editing which I practised alongside numerous documentary makers of French television in the sixties and seventies, today I let myself be guided by instinct and emotion.
From this point of view, music satisfies me completely.
Faced with a musical work or its composers, I have always made sure that the music be allowed to speak, that it tells the tale. "Tell me a story..." says the child. "Tell me your story", I asked Ligeti, Dusapin, Solal, but also the interpreters and works themselves like the Bolero. All of them recount the world around us and how it is engraved in their art.
Whereas in the hierarchy of arts, music is apparently the least visual, I can thanks to their stories conjure up as if by surprise my own images: their Real becomes my scenario.
Like a predator, I grab hold of this objective and subjective material to offer up and share, after the work of recording and editing images, what I hope to be a moment of cinema.

Michel Follin

Images and Propaganda Musics (1936-1949)

During the period of silent film, Abel Gance said: "When you want to electrify the crowd, you must above all speak to their eyes." With the coming of sound film, Goebbels could add "...and to their ears". "When our heroes can speak, cinematographic works will be able to exert enormous influence", Stalin confided to Eisenstein.
As old as governments, propaganda adopted as soon as they were available modern methods of transmitting image, sound and synchronous sound. Wireless radio and the loudspeaker effectively seconded the messages of graphics and the poster. As film quickly was recognised as the best vehicle for propaganda dissemination, it is normal that the most vital period of propaganda cinema, that which accompanied the gathering of the storm clouds prior to the Second World War, should coincide with the first years of sound cinema.
Propaganda has always required music to reinforce its message or to denigrate the adversary: be it music from the repertory or original scores, it constitutes one weapon from the panoply that allows conditioning of the viewer. Darius Milhaud and Charles Koechlin fight against the policy of nonintervention in the Spanish Civil War (Espoir and Victoire de la Vie), Prokofiev rises up with Eisenstein against the Teutonic threat (Alexander Newski) and Shostakovitch, against his will, is forced to celebrate Stalin (The Fall of Berlin); Chaplin composes his own music for his caricature of Hitler (The Dictator) and Hanns Eisler assimilates the death of SS-Obergruppenführer Heydrich to that of a rat (Hangmen also die!). Experts in derision, the English "re-cut" to the rhythm of the Lambeth Walk the Nazi demonstrations at Nuremberg which were magnified by the composer Herbert Windt before he became the bard of Aryan beauty as filmed by Leni Riefenstahl in Olympia.
As a notorious anti-semite, Wagner was taken on to support Nazi cinema overseer Fritz Hippler's film The Eternal Jew just as Franz Liszt's Les Préludes stigmatised the misery of Soviet life (Facing Bolchevism). But these same Préludes are recuperated by the Americans to back up images of bombing Berlin (Eye for Eye). The same music can be used on different sides in a kind of ideological ping pong. The four notes of destiny that open Beethoven's Fifth become an identifying signal for the BBC as well as for France Libre, but are also used to accompany images of the Wehrmacht's advance through Soviet territory in Nazi newsreels.
But on the edge of this reciprocal catapulting of enemy propaganda, there existed another approach followed by British documentarians: "We were convinced that our work consisted in producing propaganda for faith in democracy", declared Edgar Anstey, echoing his "boss" John Grierson: "In times of war as in times of peace, strength resides in hope and the wisest propaganda is that which inspires hope". Of that, the best illustration is Listen to Britain by Humphrey Jennings (1942), an admirable audio emblem of a country in a state of high alert, a country engaged in resistance.

François Porcile


Guests : Debates with the participation of Michel Follin, Philippe Kohly, François Porcile et Aline Jelen.


Evening award of the Sacem Prize for the Best Musical Documentary on Wednesday, August 19 at 9.15 pm.