Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dans les pas du Petit Timonier and Projection privée: Yasujiro Ozu

Fuir la clarté, chercher l’obscurité,” Adrien Gombeaud begins his travelogue-biography Dans les pas du Petit Timonier (Éditions du Seuil) on the historical leader of the People's Republic of China, Deng Xiaoping. But as it turns this mythical Xiaoping quote turned out to not even be by him. This unveiling of myths will be the general approach of the book as it attempts to go beyond mere surface realities and instead to find the truths about Xiaoping and his influence on China in its obscurities. This is just like how one person he meets on his trip says, “Everything that you will see in this country isn’t the reality, it’s actually a surface that hides the reality.”

Gombeaud, who is a regular contributor to Positif, is a specialist on Asian culture and has already written books on the Tiananmen Square protests, a dictionary on Asian cinema as well as a book on Marilyn Monroe. In this newest book Dans les pas du Petit Timonier, Gombeaud traces both Xiaoping’s original childhood journey to his eventual political position along with his final trip in life to the south of the country. Xiaoping who was the designated le Petit Timonier (the Grand Timonier was his predecessor Mao Zedong) is described as, “representing at once the ultimate incarnation of the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution and the father of reformation that would bring the triumph of the country into the global market.”

Xiaoping was born in 1920 in the small village of Sichaun (the “celestial country”), which would later be integrated within Guang’an. This would be the first stop in Gombeaud’s trip and through it he would describe in intimate details the places that he visits and the people that he meets. Just like the great Asian filmmakers Jia Zhang-ke or Hou Hsiao-hsien, Gombeaud’s description of contemporary China, Xiaoping and his legacy, and the country’s complex history stand out through its poetic approach.

In other news it’s a pleasure to discover Gombeaud on this week’s episode of Projection Privée, which is one of the great French film podcasts along with Pendant les Travaux and Hors Champ, who along with Michel Ciment, Diane Arnaud, Mathieu Capel, and Mathias Lavin discuss Yasujiro Ozu who is now receiving a major retrospective and DVD releases in France. For more on Gombeaud you can also read a great recent review by him in Positif (N.637) of Spike Jonze’s Her where in a trademark Positif tradition of cinephilia and of cultivated references he discusses it in relation to to Shame, 2001, Joaquin Phoenix’s acting career, the painter Cy Twombly, and the cultural critic Roland Barthes.


Oriane Sidre said...

I so muck like what Gombeaud is doing. I expect a lot of his new book. I read a book about new Korean cinema that he wrote (a quite old book, I think). I also love Ozu and your post made me think to podcast the last "Projection privée". I already saw on a conference the guests that are in this show : Matthias Lavin and Diane Arnaud. And Diane Arnaud just gave a conference about "Ozu today" at the Cinématheque.

David D. said...

Wow. That's cool. Even though I'm not the biggest 'Her' fan (I thought it was too twee) Gombeaud's review made me like it. There are too many people that just hates thing. It gets tiring. His book on China is really good too. He's a good writer.