Jacques Le Brun, who died on Monday April 6 of Covid-19, was one of these discreet scholars but whose work, devoted to spiritual and mystical literature of the XVIIe century, imposed a deep mark on a whole field of knowledge. Born in Paris in 1931, he had followed a classic course (preparatory classes for Henri IV, aggregation of letters, teaching in high school) before joining the section of religious sciences of the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (EPHE) where he supported his diploma – “Bossuet et les psaumes” – in 1956. Followed a thesis at the Sorbonne, under the supervision of René Pintard, on Bossuet Spirituality.
At the University of Poitiers, then at the EPHE where he occupied from 1978 to 2000 the chair of history of modern Catholicism, he devoted his research to Bossuet, Fénelon (which he published in La Pléiade), to spiritual biographies women and forgotten mystics like Angelus Silesius. Member of the Sigmund Freud School of Psychoanalysis, he sought to register some of his works – on “pure Love”, forfeiture and abdication – in a long story going from Plato to Lacan.
Tireless worker, prolix author (ten personal works, as many editions of texts), Jacques Le Brun had published his latest book, God, a pure nothing, Angelus Silesius, poetry, metaphysics and mysticism at the Threshold in 2019 and worked until these last weeks on a manuscript entitled “Jesus Christ in the XVIIe century ”.
The decision fell on Tuesday: on order of the police headquarters, the return match of the knockout stages of the Champions League between Paris-SG and Borussia Dortmund (2-1 for the Germans to go) will be disputed in camera closed. The Ruhr club having received in front of its public to go, sports fairness is flouted and it does not matter in the light of the hundreds of dead, the eighth world power under quarantine or the fear that rises everywhere. However, we will play football on Wednesday at the Parc des princes and it is not nothing: the futility of the favorite game of men is not a luxury in such a frightening context.
It’s even something to savor: Italy is no longer there. The camera: no sharing or common momentum, something of the mystic of the player integrated into the city that floats in the air on match nights completely passed out. More prosaically, the circumstances will cost the Paris club some 5 million euros in “match day” revenue. But it’s still football, reduced to its nuclear heart: 22 players at the same time on a lawn, a ball and a referee. The TV microphones will pick up words from the field like behind a handrail: “Leave”, “I have”, “squeeze” or “closed”, and it is not forbidden to think that the imagination of viewers will bring back some memories, the noise of crampons slamming on the tiles and the door which is closed on a cloakroom stained with dirt and a forgotten towel.
Football has many faces: it also has that one. During their formative years, the players did not always perform in front of an audience. Since then, some have learned to feed on it, others to ignore it, still others to imagine a loved one (sometimes disappeared) somewhere in the gallery: the absence of decorum, often used as an external stimulus, will suggest to them an original idea of the game, the space of the match as a closed world belonging to them completely. Of course it is not: the weight of a club-state for Parisians, that of a career on the rise for the 19-year-old star attacker of Borussia Dortmund Erling Haaland, and the sporting ambition well understood for players on both sides. However, the decor will suggest sweaters rolled into balls as posts. We confess to be curious to know how they will manage.
There are two types of psychedelic rock: one who swears by his great pagan gods, and one who really is. The first one really doesn’t suffer from any style or manufacturing constraints, it can sound like any variety that goes by without disturbing anyone in the supermarket. The second can take quite diverse forms – from bluesy rock that expands the pupils at radioactive lava flow – but it requires without possible arrangement a total commitment, body, ego and spirit mixed, of the one who devotes himself to it at the moment when he creates, because how to cause the alteration of the state of consciousness of the listener when one don’t you take advantage of the transformative virtues of your art?
The music of David Spher’Os, who has devoted himself to altering his own conscience by all arts and all pores for three decades, obviously belongs to the second category. First with Aqua Nebula Oscillator, noise freaks veterans of the French underground scene through which he converted a lot of fellow students among the public, also by means of a polymorphous and unbridled creation, “Sculptures, retinal visualization, travel, music, poetry”, Spher’Os does just that: seek the way to a more lively, bright and colorful place than our sad reality.
Possession, his first solo album that Pan European Recording and Release offer you to discover today in full, is the concentrate of his research in one “Unique and multifaceted monster” with seven heads, seven pieces and seven films made by him in which he poured ancestral legends and hectoliters of “Menstrual blood of wolf-headed unicorns”, which are like the absolute antithesis of the fast-food psyche that is too easy to inject. Inspired by a thousand poetic, esoteric and mythological sources, Possession is a pure ritual delirium in the first degree, theatrical, morbid, inhabited, filled with animal cries, bone sounds that collide and monophonic synth solos, where David Spher’Os declaims Grand-Guignol way of wandering lovecraftiennes from planet to planet, to the end of “Interstellar magma”. It is little to say that the trip is worth it, provided you give a little of yourself and immerse yourself up to your neck in these forty minutes for real, at the risk of leaving a bit of yourself – but at what’s the point of staying whole if it’s to bother like a dead rat until the end? “The key to joy is disobedience”, we breath Sphaeros. It’s up to you how you want to spend the rest of your day.
Now that the prize list has fallen, the time has come for a final review of this successful 70e Berlinale, to evoke a few films that have been able to float in the memory of the festival critic exhausted by an overflow of images, German coffee and stuffy pretzels.
Siberia of Abel Ferrara. Vivo film. Maze pictures. Piano
Let’s start with an aberration, which we cannot say whether we like it or not, one of the most awaited films of the competition which created an almost general perplexity: Siberia by Abel Ferrara. It is a series of enigmatic visions and encounters experienced by an American, Clint (Willem Dafoe), running a bar in the middle of Siberia. Memories, dreams, nightmarish or mystical apparitions are linked together in this trip where we guess the clear influence of Andrei Tarkovski. Many critics found the film grotesque, and most of the spectators in the very large room of the Friedrichstadt-Palast, where we saw it, had apparently chosen to consider that they were facing a comedy. We do not hide the fact that certain situations or ideas made us smile and that it is quite difficult to genuinely adhere to this mystical-psychoanalytic peregrination in which Ferrara immerses us in the obscure depths of his imagination. But, in addition to the fact that the film arouses in us the sympathy of unclassifiable and netless objects, it is undeniable that the one who produced it is a real filmmaker, who knows how to create singular images, invent a complex mental space or seize us by a simple connection between two planes. And in a festival where there are so many films in one day, sometimes of great platitude or shapeless blistering, this Siberia so mocked at least had the audacity to explore in its own way nothing less than the twists and turns of cinematic time and space, through those of dream and memory.
Malmkrog by Cristi Puiu. Mandragora
It is in a completely different way that we recognize a strong sense of duration and framework in the long, complex and sometimes sumptuous shots that constitute Malmkrog (presented in the Encounters section), the new film by Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu (discovered in 2005 with the extraordinary the Death of Dante Lazarescu). Shots that are not just the result of a skill in framing and photographing, but that are constantly tended by life and the words that unfold therein. Adapting texts from the Russian philosopher and poet Vladimir Soloviev, this 3:20 am film takes place in a unique place: a mansion in Transylvania where Nikolai, a large landowner, welcomes Christmas friends of aristocrat friends, of different nationalities. Between meals and board games, their main activity consists in sharing their visions of the world, essentially in French, around subjects as big as death, progress, religion, morals. We think of Manoel de Oliveira, with less humor although the film is not devoid of fantasy and strangeness. You can get lost in conversations but it is the very word that matters, the need to keep talking, to think out loud even if it turns out to be increasingly complex and perilous.
Days from Tsai Ming-liang. Homegreen Films
Days by Tsai Ming-liang (in competition) marks the return to fiction after seven years of absence (since stray dogs, in 2013) from another great filmmaker of the plan, of their slow deployment over time. He is equal to himself in his new film where, far from Puiu’s talks, almost no words are spoken. Again, he becomes attached to solitudes that will eventually intersect. In the countryside, a man (Lee Kang-sheng, the filmmaker’s favorite actor since his first film) with tired and slow gestures, seems to be bored and suffering physically, requiring baths, massages and acupuncture sessions; in the city, a younger man, on the contrary, is distinguished by the dexterity of his gestures, especially when he is washing food and cooking it. In the montage that shows them evolving in parallel, elements visible in almost every plane already unite them: water, fire, plants, present in many forms. The film is tied to the meeting of the two men where, for the time of a sensual and then sexual massage, the skillful hands of the first relieve the tired body of the second, until enjoyment. It is very clear and very beautiful, no offense to the impatient.
The Woman Who Ran from Hong Sang-soo. Jeonwonsa Film Co. Production
In Hong Sang-soo, the precision and rigor of the plans is not as obvious as in Puiu or Tsai. The Korean filmmaker, who claims Rohmer’s influence, again appears in The Woman Who Ran (presented in competition) a lightness and a simplicity that the frames, panoramas or zooms scrutinize with acuity but without will to artificially embellish their obviousness. A young woman (the magnificent filmmaker’s muse Kim Minhee) takes advantage of her husband’s business trip to visit three former friends. Through their conversations mixing very concrete and material subjects – the price of things, neighborhood problems, food, vegetarianism -, Hong deals in his own way with very contemporary questions, with a humor that gradually turns to melancholy . Ultimately, this film in which the few men who appear are troublesome and essentially filmed from behind, evokes a certain female solitude, chosen or suffered. To cold surveillance camera shots, Hong sets his gaze on the lookout, available to prodigious chances, such as this camera movement which reveals a perfectly placed and attentive cat at the end of a long shot where the stake of the conversation was precisely the presence of cats in the vicinity. A plan so miraculous that it sparked applause in an entire room of criticism in Berlin.
In the recesses of the parallel selections, a few films with modest means made, like Hong Sang-soo, of their economic poverty an engine of freshness and vitality. In Boarding (Panorama section), the new film by Guillaume Brac, declared admirer of the Korean filmmaker, we follow the summer getaway of two friends going to find in the Drôme the conquest of an evening of one of them. As in July tales (2018), Brac turns again with young actors from the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art, rediscovering something of the adventurous spirit of Jacques Rozier’s films but by matching it to the languages, cultures and customs of a very contemporary youth . As always with Brac, under his apparent humility the film is precise and dense, in addition to being funny and extremely endearing.
In Isabella (presented to Encounters), the Argentinian Matías Piñeiro films another friendly adventure, but coupled with an ambiguous rivalry. Two young theater actresses apply for the same role, that of Isabella in Measure for measure of William Shakespeare, while the brother of one is the lover of the other. It is a film about envy, in the double sense of the word – desire and jealousy – where the Rivetian play with the theater is made more complex (something new in Piñeiro) by a play with chronology and a formalism which sometimes leads to on an abstraction of colors and shapes. A captivating and confusing film that will perhaps be enjoyed above all by those who already know Piñeiro’s cinema, all the elements of which (theater, friendship, acting, speech) are here reorganized in a more free and mysterious way.
Finally, one of the great discoveries of the festival was A metamorfose dos pássaros, the first feature by Portuguese catarina Vasconcelos (presented at Encounters), shot for less than 100,000 euros. It is a biography of the filmmaker’s own family, of his grandparents and parents, reconstituted in beautiful fine-line shots essentially framing gestures, objects, photographs, and playing on materials, colors, simple visual effects (the recurrent use of a magnifying glass, for example) while voiceovers follow one another to evoke moments in the life of each. Imagine a Cavalier film filmed by Manoel de Oliveira (still him) to get an idea of the beauty and originality of this minimalist and poetic family novel. The kind of unexpected little pearls that we always hope to find in this clutter of films that is a film festival as bloated as the Berlinale.
Born in Sousse thirty-seven years ago, a consumer mainly of ninja or Jean-Claude Van Damme films on VHS when he was a teenager, Ala Eddine Slim came to the cinema discovering, being electrified, The Sunchaser of Michael Cimino on TV, “One Thursday evening after Correspondent“. For ten years, he has formed with a nucleus of friends a kind of collective around his company Exit Productions, which allows him “To learn to do by doing” and of “Tinkering, accompanying, more than producing, in the sense that most producers are managers, more imaginative in marketing than in creation. The main thing for me is to have my freedom to change and adapt in each production. ” A few years ago, he reviewed Cimino’s film. “It didn’t have the same effect on me, but I don’t care.”
“Lots of joints”
“I work on my fantasies, in total freedom, so that all sorts of things mix outside of any logic of writing, at least that which presides over most of the films that we see today. I wanted to work in a territory rich in possibilities that I could follow all of them, whether they lead me to contemporary facts or to mythological elements. This film therefore comes from islets of ideas and desires that I try to collect.
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“Besides, I smoke a lot of joints when I write and when I shoot … Some things connect the film to my previous one [et premier] feature film, The Last of Us. I went back to the same place: I like the idea that any story can be seen from several angles. There is also this soldier figure which comes from one of my first courts. At the end, the character left the city in a bus where there was a clown, a police officer and a soldier, that is to say the three pillars of Tunisia: the clown who presides, the police force which is the hand of the President, and the soldier which is the body that carries it all. I wanted to return to the latter to discuss the place of the soldier in society. I travel the country a lot by car and I often take soldiers on hitchhiking, with whom I speak on the road. In the Tunisian imagination, the army holds a place of protective figure, very close to the people, because it has never intervened in any political scheme. But it seemed to me that the soldiers were the first to be sacrificed, because they are the ones who confront terrorism, and at the same time they find it difficult to return home. ”
“Neither religious nor mystical”
“In Tunisia, there are two very sensitive subjects, not taboo but risky, likely to provoke very violent reactions: the army and religion. It’s not like Algeria or Egypt, where the army is in command. In Tunisia, after independence, the first presidents made the country more of a police than a military state, and under Ben Ali the army was weakened to the benefit of the police. But it remains this hidden monster that can come from afar and pull the whole country down. For example, I have some reservations about the famous war on terror. I do not deny that there is a threat, but I think that it is inflated, disproportionate, so that in the name of this war we sweep all human rights: we kill people, we card them, there are sudden deaths during interrogation… It is like the disproportionate reaction of the police against the demonstrators and the yellow vests in France.
“But the film, like its protagonist, starts from this to move away from it, sweep everything away from the military postulate and lead the other character into an absolute desertion. And the film, which confronts religious elements in the second part (Adam, Eve, the serpent …), is not an attack on these two monsters that are the army and religion. It is a reading, a vision. Me, I am neither religious nor mystical, and I did not specially think of that consciously, even if I knew the range of the signs: for me, it was very natural presences in territories such as that crossed by the characters in the second part of the film. A territory which one can say is supernatural, but for me this forest is a natural place, complementary to the sceneries of the first part, a place which brings its own laws of functioning of relationships and existence. “
“Society full of unnecessary noise”
“With each film, I try to find a non-verbal means of communication. I had written dialogues but I knew they would not be spoken by the actors. Right before the shooting, I had this idea of field-backlit exchanges with the eyes. As a filmmaker, I try to blur the vision and I said to myself: why not go to the physical source of the gaze? Since information had to be conveyed all the same, I tried to write directly on the image. Until then, I preferred not to work with dialogues, I had a little by chance difficulties on my first short film and since I said to myself: why not try to advance without that?
“Besides, I’m not someone who talks a lot, I don’t love that. I try in each film to experiment with methods, processes, cinema, that’s it, DIY, research like in a lab. And that suits the trajectory of my characters, who are fleeing from codes, a society which speaks to them, full of unnecessary noise. They go elsewhere and meet by look, the first foundation of any contact between two people. It joins the movement of the film which is that of a return to the primary elements, to the primitive. We are going back to the beginning of everything, but it is not about making the same trip. It’s not at all nostalgic. It’s more like shaving everything down and trying to go somewhere else. ”