Monday, May 26, 2014

Stéphane Delorme on L'Enfant secret

“Now I’ve called for a more emotional cinema. So what I’m looking for is emotional texts. In the past, I avoided that, largely out of reserve. Then I wrote a short piece on Garrel’s L’Enfant secret in the first person and I realized that was a potential way forward.” - Stéphane Delorme

Delorme’s contribution to the Cinéma retrouvé feature Onze stations pour une histoire poétique du cinéma français on Garrel’s L’Enfant secret is an important text for his editorialship at Cahiers du Cinéma. On page 94 of the October 2012 issue (N.682), which on its cover features Hong Sang-soo, in three paragraphs he is able to emphasize strong emotions and poetry, which will be the key themes in a remapping of the history of French cinema, and through repetition the key directors that will rise to the top are Grémillon, Garrel and Carax. As well it is perhaps his most personal contribution at the magazine, especially in regards to his conviction that he could have directed the film. It is an important piece for Delorme, who now mostly just writes editorials and is selective about writing critiques and événement essays, as it culminates a focus on strong feelings associated with cinema, which will gain more momentum and become the guiding drive at the magazine. For example, in the editorial Avec ou sans Maillot (N.695), “We needed to write a manifesto for an unruly cinema for 2014… a call to unleashes our demons and to throw ourselves in the water… without a bathing suit!” In the editorial Exaltation (N.696), “There remains only one antidote, to recite towards and against everyone, like a mantra: “The wind rises! … We have to try to live!”” And now more recently, for their 700th issue they received 138 contributions of famous film people to share their own significant film experiences. Let’s keep this going! – D.D.
L’Enfant Secret
I am at the Forum des images in Paris, I’m twenty years old. One movie gives me everything, like a blinding light. For a long time, this film is remembered by its first images: a boy and a girl are in their nightshirts, they’re laughing and kissing, it’s glorious, their experience is unforgettable, their happy. In all of this, in these sumptuous white images, I don’t get much… There is a great tenderness, the paradise of childish love, the secret of childhood. I don’t yet know the great beginning of Au Hasard Balthazar (1966): two children in a barn with the black donkey, their on a swing, there is a little girl, who is pale and sick, and that is looking at them while crying – these are as much fragments of the donkey’s memory, as they are the rare years of happiness. The start of L'Enfant secret has this same silent magic, the children are the only ones to occupy this house just like in Garrel’s first film, which he made when he was 16, Les enfants désaccordés (1964). But it’s Bresson with Godard. Two kinds of mysticism married together: the sacred and modernity. The voices are lost, the image evaporates and comes back, the images are re-filmed in a visionary way, piano music breaks through the silence in regular intervals. The fragment and the rhythm does not destroy the representation but instead makes it incandescent.
I did not know that Garrel himself was re-learning how to make films, after his reclusive years, to return to the streets, and to film Paris, the benches of Paris or the lovers that stop at them to then separate. L'Enfant secret is the moment of convalescence, the return to fiction, but that remembers the liberty of the great portrait-films that he made in the Seventies with Nico. It is maybe not Garrel’s best film. Les Hautes Solitudes is more pure, J'entends plus la guitare is more profound, Le Berceau de cristal is crazier. But it is this rare equilibrium between an intimidate journal, that would reign in the French cinema, and the flood of the power of dreams, that, would unforgivably retreat. It could have been the film with potentially the biggest influence.
There is the question of a hidden child, Swann, of cinema, of a rupture and, like always, of truth. The cinema of Garrel has nothing mute about it. From his years of being amazed, he comes back talkative. The dialogue is reduced to simple maxims: “The loyalty towards others is the only movement of the soul.” Or poetic lightning bolts that Anne Wiazemsky renders familiar: “Your face is like lace.” We dream of leaving the city to go to the country to work the land, like in a song by Gérard Manset. One day being poor. In seeing them, we finally realize that there are two kinds of great films: those that impress and that even from a distance shine like a thousand fires like an exploding star (Vertigo). And those that are so close that we could hold them in the palms of our hands. L'Enfant secret, I could make this film, I could have made this film, it watches me. This isn’t a pretension, only a certitude. And if there remains only one image, it’s the first, and the last, which are the same one: a hand going through hair, a hand on one’s neck – to love or to heal. In the preface to Une caméra à la place du coeur, Leos Carax wrote about Garrel: “The air is cold. Through his hair, a man looks at a woman. Together they shudder… THE CINEMA TREMBLES.”

Stéphane Delorme

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