Sunday, June 30, 2013

Le joli mai (2012 restoration by AFF-CNC)

Ihana toukokuu / The Merry Month of May. FR 1962. D: Chris Marker e Pierre Lhomme. SC: Chris Marker, Catherine Varlin. DP: Pierre Lhomme, Étienne Becker, Denys Clerval, Pierre Villemain. M: Michel Legrand. "Joli mai", theme song written for the film - paroles: C. Varlin, B. Mokroussov, M. Issakovsky -  musique: Philippe-Gérard - sung by Yves Montand. ED: Eva Zora, Annie Meunier, Madeleine Lecompère. C: Yves Montand (commento). P: Catherine Winter, Gisèle Rebillon per Sofracrima. Premiere: 2 marzo 1963. 35 mm. The duration of the screening was 148 min (with the song intermission and the music after the image). B&w. Da: CNC - Archives Françaises du Film. Sala Scorsese, Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, 30 June 2013

Restored by CNC - Archives Françaises du Film. The first photochemical restoration was made in 2009 by CNC - Archives Françaises du Film having been cut by 17 minutes from the original version, as desired by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme. In 2012 Mikros Image laboratory, with support from CNC, made a 2K scan, with digital restoration of the image and sound. New cuts were made because the directors never considered the original version to be definitive.

Peter von Bagh: "After Africa, Siberia, China, Israel and Cuba comes the first film focused on Paris by Chris Marker, introduced - Simone Signoret is speaking - as "the most beautiful city in the world. One would like to see it for the first time at dawn, without having seen it before, without memories, without habits. One would like to track it like a detective, with a telescope and a microphone". The film is aptly dedicated - paraphrasing Stendhal - "to the Happy Many". And true happiness it is: people - some known, most ordinary - are enjoying the end of the atrocious Algerian war (Marker's 55 hours of film were shot during the first May following the war), living the short collective moment on the threshold of utopia that might soon vanish. The cruel realities are not hidden: miserable salaries, inequality, police violence, new developments in the munitions industry. According to the author, the first part of the two and half hour film is a presentation of space, the second of time. Both images and words create time travel over and over, as the masterful, rich cinematography of Pierre Lhomme conveys both the classic beauty of a city and the brave new world of modern technology, always one of the core areas of Marker's deep enthusiasm: the camera constantly produces unexpected elements, in the cityscape and in people. Marker never misses details and facts about groups, gestures and individual faces that are generally overlooked, and such images emerge from the weather or nature as well. The editing, more invisible than in most of Marker's montage masterpieces, proceeds according to the laws that arose from the material: "In the beginning a plan was developed with themes according to which the interviews would be conducted. But during the editing, it was revealed that on certain occasions a theme yielded something completely different and that the linking of these themes was different than what I had envisioned abstractly. In life new connections turned up, sometimes due to an image. The film began to have a life of its own, and suddenly it had rules of its own". Like many of the most beautiful films, Le Joli mai is unclassifiable - essay, film poem, cinéma vérité (as such, a sister film, yet totally different from Rouch and Morin's Chronique d'un été). Whatever it is, for me it might be Chris Marker's finest film. Yves Montand reads the most lyrical commentary the cinema has given us: "So what do you say? You are in Paris, the capital of a rich country. You are hearing a secret voice that tells you that as long as poverty exists you cannot be rich, as long as people are in distress you cannot be happy, as long as there are prisons you cannot be free"." Peter von Bagh

The originally 165 minutes long movie has now been edited into a definitive version of 148 minutes.

From the intimate to the world-historical, Le joli mai is a vision of Paris in a year which we now know was the most dangerous during the Cold War. We visit The Eiffel Tower, Rue Mouffetard, the "Celesteville" of the 15. arrondissement, Aubervilliers, Pont de Neuilly, Porte de Clintagnout, a railway station, Rue de Tolbiac, Champs-Elysées, Place de la Pyramide, Place de l'Étoile, and the walls of a great prison. 1962 was the year of assassination attempts against De Gaulle, and we see security patrols on roofs when the President is on the move.

This is a speech-driven picture with the commentary read by Yves Montand, and with dozens of long interviews (among the interviewers' voices there is the one by Chris Marker).

We saw a traditional way of living on La Mouff, the "ridiculous" modernism among skyscrapers, a young couple with the man soon going to war but not thinking about society, nor history. The Évian accords have just enabled a cease-fire in the Algerian war. The OAS terror is rampant, and there is a giant funeral celebration to eight victims of street atrocities. "The country is on the verge of a civil war". The Madison is the newest dance craze, and there is a world record of the twist. There are montages of cats. Among the interviewees there is an African from Dahomey, a worker from Algeria ("la France, c'est comme une mère") and a religious trade unionist. Discussions range from leisure time to superhero comics to television as a window to the world to religion ("God is the great explanation") and to fundamental values. There are time lapse montages of Paris at all times of the day and long lists of statistics. "As long as there is poverty you are not rich. As long as there is unhappiness you are not happy. As long as there is oppression you are not free."

A rich cinematic survey into life during the Cold War, right after the collapse of colonialism. Its value will keep growing.

The visual quality is cinéma-vérité with a look that may be rough, contrasty, or soft. I would guess that it's been shot on 16 mm with available light and blown up to 35 mm.

"Joli mai"

Joli mai, c'était tous les jours fête
Il était né coiffé de muguet
Sur son coeur il portait la rosette
La légion du bonheur joli mai
Sur son coeur il portait la rosette
La légion du bonheur joli mai.

On l'a gardé le temps de le croire
Il est parti pendant qu'on dormait
Emportant la clé de notre histoire
Joli mai ne reviendra jamais
Emportant la clé de notre histoire
Joli mai ne reviendra jamais.

Joli mai, notre amour était brève
L'été vient qui mûrit le regret
Le soleil met du plomb dans les rêves
Sur la lune, on affiche complet
Le soleil met du plomb dans les rêves
Sur la lune, on affiche complet.

Joli mai, tu as laissé tes songes
Dans Paris pour les enraciner
Ton foulard sur les yeux des mensonges,
Et ton rouge dans la gorge de l'année
Ton foulard sur les yeux des mensonges,
Et ton rouge dans la gorge de l'année

Paroles: C. Varlin, B. Mokroussov, M. Issakovsky. Musique: Philippe-Gérard. Chanson du film 'Le joli mai' de Chris Marker (1963), avec Yves Montand & Simone Signoret.

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