srijeda, 4. prosinca 2013.

Dominique Benicheti - Le cousin Jules (1972)

Cousin Jules Poster

Restaurirani dokumentarac iz 1972. o svakodnevnom seoskom životu Julesa i Félicie. Namijenjen edukaciji izvanzemaljaca.

A lost masterpiece of cinema, now beautifully restored and available for the first time in years, COUSIN JULES was the result of five years of painstaking work by director Dominique Benicheti and cinematographer Pierre-William Glenn. Over that period, the team photographed and recorded the daily lives of Jules (Benichetti’s cousin) and his wife, French farmers living alone in the countryside. The result is a ravishing, totally immersive work, in which we not only enter into the subjects’ world but also into the very rhythms of their lives, captured with a wonderful sensitivity that never feels condescending or clinical. Highly and widely praised when first seen in 1973, the film slipped from view after Benicheti turned his attention and talents to a host of other projects. Yet the memory of LE COUSIN JULES lingered for its small but devoted cult of admirers, and now this extraordinary film is with us once again. (Film Society Lincoln Center)

COUSIN JULES: a rare combination of sophisticated movie-making technique (shot in CinemaScope and recorded in stereo) and content that is a veritable ode to the beauty of rural France, the simplicity of daily peasant life, and the nearly wordless intimacy of a lifelong relationship. Recording over a 5-year period, director Benicheti palpably captures the rhythms and rituals of blacksmith Jules Guiteaux and his wife Félicie as Jules dons wooden clogs and leather apron to begin work in his shop, while Félicie tends a vegetable garden and prepares their meals. Awarded the jury prize at the Locarno Film Festival in 1973 and widely acclaimed around the world, the film nevertheless remained unreleased in the U.S. until now. (c) Cinema Guild

Cousin Jules gets up early each morning, puts on his wooden clogs, and walks across the yard to his iron forge to work on horseshoes, which he bangs together with hammer and tongs with the automatic ease and fluidity that come with many years of habit. His wife meanwhile meticulously denudes corn-cobs of their kernels and preps the lunch--a simple meal of boiled potatoes (with shades of Tarr’s _Turin Horse_). They eat and exchange maybe a dozen words between them. Jules returns to work, and soon his wife enters to prepare the afternoon coffee (with a hand-grinder and on a wood-burning stove). They sit, silently, and sip. Jules smokes a cigarette. Back to work.
The season changes. Jules is alone, shaving in a small mirror hung temporarily by the window. He sweeps the floor, makes his bed, feeds the chickens. The forge lies dormant as he sits at the table in his one-room cottage, cutting vegetables with care, then cramming them into a pot that will simmer for the remainder of the afternoon.
Director Dominique Benicheti was, some time later, quite a big deal in 3D entertainment, having pioneered immersive multimedia experiences at Parc du Futuroscope. This, his first film, is futuroscopic in its own way: achingly and extravagantly detailed, it’s a secret grandfather to those many recent rural-themed hybird documentaries, including Sweetgrass, Bovines, and Bestiaire. Benicheti’s film is no less immersive in CinemaScope than those films are in HD, summoning vanishing worlds with sensual immediacy and a twinge of regret. -

  • Benicheti's commitment to his formalism, to the unstinting excavation of a time and place in the hopes of creating overwhelming verisimilitude, is practically monk-like in its dedication (and indeed, another film descendant is Philip Gröning's Into Great Silence); through his commitment, we begin to experience the film as a kind of mindfulness in action, the viewing of the picture as an immersion in a meditative state.
  • The framed monotony of this dailiness show is transfixing... “Cousin Jules” not only evokes André Bazin in its use of duration and pure recording but another mid-20th-century French philosopher, Gaston Bachelard, in documenting the lived experience of domestic space and the “poetics of space.”
  • Benicheti’s images have a plainspoken beauty, but it’s hard to make a film that features no less than three scenes of vegetables being prepared for the table sound interesting. Yet Cousin Jules is quite fascinating and manages to make such chores more compelling to watch than they probably were for Jules and Felicie to perform.
  • Cousin Jules, recently restored and only now receiving its first commercial release, itself feels admirably workmanlike in its approach, its observations long-haul, providing startling evidence of the years’ toll... Jules’s workshop may no longer stand today, but thankfully this remarkable document, at once becalming and bleak, does.
  • It’s readily apparent why “Cousin Jules” never found a distributor, but it’s also obvious that this is a uniquely rewarding movie... It only seems plotless. Momentous things happen, one of them tele-graphed in a single heartbreaking shot. The sense of time and place is so intense that Jules’ way of life seems to be disappearing even as we watch him.
  • It's a bit reductive in terms of a personal portrait, but this is a film that's not concerned with telling the story of a man, instead making him a representative symbol of a mostly bygone way of life, a reminder of both the fleeting nature of individual experience and the steady patterns of a broader human existence.
  • Long takes let viewers luxuriate in a fetishistic attention to country-life detail; the fact that this spiffed-up version lends a visual hyperreality to every greased gear and green blade of grass only heightens the hypnotic pull.
  • Benicheti’s observations don’t offer much depth or insight—what happened there during the war? How do they make their money? What’s in that newspaper that Jules reads at lunch? The movie is resolutely non-analytical, but it may leave a viewer hyper-alert to his own routine gestures and sounds.
  • Do they have friends? Any other family? Political opinions? Religious beliefs? In suspending such questions, and in subordinating the reality of their lives to what is in effect an art project, the filmmakers treat Jules and Félicie as exotic specimens rather than fellow citizens. There is no doubt that this condescension is unintentional, but it is also hard to miss. “Cousin Jules” is in many ways a wonder to see and hear, but there is less to it than meets the eye.

© Viennale

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