Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mario Ruspoli, Prince of Whales and Other Rarities (introduction by Florence Dauman)


A cura di / Curated by Florence Dauman

Florence Dauman: “One of the great forgotten names of documentary-making, Mario Ruspoli is, on the contrary, a fundamental figure of documentary film history. The descendent of a noble Italian family that dates back to the 14th century, Mario was one of the few Ruspolis who worked for a living. His producer and friend, Anatole Dauman, included a chapter on Ruspoli in his autobiography: “Mario and I studied at Montjoie together, more attracted to the poetry of the snow than the charm of studying. His inventive personality shone through the eloquence that differentiated him from our group” (Anatole Dauman, Souvenirécran, Jacques Gerber, 1989). And he added: “According to Chris Marker, Mario was a Pico della Mirandola, with a vast cultural education and an extraordinary knowledge of languages”. A collector of contraptions, a passion for entomology, and also a Regent of Collège de ‘Pataphysique en Physétérocratie, “he led a double life, his own and whatever his passion was at the moment” (Jean Raspail).”

“Georges Sadoul acknowledged him as “a master of cinéma vérité, who used the living camera effectively and prudently”. It was in 1958 that Ruspoli’s conferences for Connaissance du Monde led him to making his first short feature for the movie theater, Les Hommes de la baleine about whale hunting by the last harpooners of the Azores. This film contains the foundations of direct cinema, with an ethical perspective similar to Vertov or Rouquier (Farrebique). In 1961 Ruspoli took part of the crew of the film Chronique d’un été, which Rouch and Morin had just completed, the prototype of the Coutant camera, and a Nagra tape recorder. With these means he and Michel Brault shot three shorts in Lozère that were a turning point in the history of documentary film: Les Inconnus de la Terre, Regard sur la folie, and La Fête prisonnière. In 1963, in a written report for the Unesco for the creation of a “lightweight synchronous film group”, Ruspoli sketched out an authentic direct cinema manifesto:“It is evident that, and therein lies an inherent danger, elements of reality can be used to build a kind of lie, one word can betray the issue and the people filmed. This is a fundamental problem for direct cinema, which arises at the beginning of the project, continues through filming, and becomes even riskier during editing. [...] The investigations of direct cinema, in short, should expose facts rather than making conclusions about or proving them; to analyze and to inform the public, to make audiences aware of human and social problems that demand solutions”.

“Anatole Dauman said of him: “The Prince had been enucleated in his youth. His one good eye, in the service of direct cinema, had been directed towards the people he judged to be furthest away from the ordinary, such as whale hunters, foresaken peasants, asylum outcasts, and finally, cavemen”. “ Florence Dauman

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