The 26th Entrevues festival in the charming town of Belfort in eastern France was a bustle of activity on many levels. As usual, it paid court to new movies, long and short, and offered themed series, including overviews of the Western and the Bad Boys (not the same category!), a tribute to Howard Hawks, two retrospectives (of Jean-Claude Brisseau and Patricia Mazuy) and a highly relevant look at the Arab Spring, including clips from films in progress and discussions. The claim of its founder to be the smallest of the big festivals was never better exemplified than over the nine days it took to complete.
One of the major planks of this year’s festival was an Hommage à Éric Rohmer. Rohmer stands close to the heart of Belfort’s existence as a powerhouse of the film world. The festival was founded by Janine Bazin, widow of André Bazin, France’s most distinguished film critic and theoretician. The open space facing the cinema complex is now named after her. Rohmer remained Bazin’s most devoted disciple amongst filmmakers till his death in January 2010.
The festival showed many though not all of his central canon, but included great rarities such as his TV educational films made in the 1960s, (1) Le Canapé rouge (The Red Sofa), a 24 minute short made in 2004, Marie Rivière’s documentary En Compagnie d’ Éric Rohmer (2010), which, like Marie Binet’s film Les Contes secrets ou les Rohmériens that I reported on in Issue 54, has not yet found a distributor, and a 10-minute short by another of his favoured actresses Rosette (Françoise Quéré), Une Histoire qui se dessine (1999).
Much attention is given to supporting events: two workshops were offered to senior schoolchildren (the baccalaureate includes Conte d’été [A Summer’s Tale, 1996] as one of its chosen texts this year), the first by Françoise Etchegaray, Rohmer’s long-term producer; the second by Noël Herpe, the cinema critic and historian. Large audiences listened with remarkable degrees of attention, proving that passing the bac is still a central target in every young French person’s life. Rohmer’s depiction of the French Revolution, L’Anglaise et le duc (The Lady and the Duke, 2001) was preceded curiously by a learned disquisition by the curator of Belfort’s museums on landscapes. This seemed somewhat perverse as very few scenes are set outside Paris in the open air. But this was the only talk to fail to hit its mark.
The organisers invited several of Rohmer’s actors to introduce films that they had appeared in: Alain Libolt, Amanda Langlet, Béatrice Romand, Bruno Ganz, Charlotte Véry, Marie Rivière, Lisa Hérédia and Rosette. Sadly Romand, Ganz and Véry were unable to show, but in their place the entire Rohmer technical crew turned up to enlighten us: Françoise Etchegaray (Producer), Diane Baratier (Camera), Pascal Ribier (Sound) and Mary Stephen (Editor). The sense of a happy team was very evident as they willingly submitted to batteries of young and old questioners after each performance.
Rivière’s documentary is a moving tribute to a great director. At the age of 87, he was happy to let her bring her borrowed camera to his office, as actors came to join in the fun of poetry reading, singing and reminiscence. We must piously hope that this invaluable document can find a means of going public: till now it has appeared only at select festivals around the world.
Huge efforts went into the running of this festival however one criticism it must face is the technical quality of the films shown. In particular, the delightful and revealing making-of, La Fabrique du Conte d’été, which offered invaluable assistance to the students in understanding Rohmer’s working methods on location, failed to finish the course.
Entrevues Belfort International Film Festival
24 November – 4 December 2011
- Those shown: Les Cabinets de physique au XVIIIème siècle (1964), Le Béton dans la ville (1970), Métamorphoses du paysage (1964), Perceval ou le conte de Graal (1965), Don Quichotte (1965) and Les caractères de La Bruyère (1965). A box of 4 DVDs containing 13 of these films has been announced for publication in December 2011.