To those who know his name at all in America, Jean Eustache may be a one-hit wonder. But in France hes far and away the most important filmmaker of the postNew Wave era. Eustache left an indelible mark on French cinema and exercised a profound influence on such directors as Olivier Assayas, Catherine Breillat, Claire Denis, Philippe Garrel, and Benoit Jacquot. His 1973 The Mother and the Whore is the kind of movie that few filmmakers even allow themselves to conindex, let alone make: brutally honest as self-portraiture, as frank about human relationships (sexual and otherwise) as movies have ever gotten, and the last word on post-68 bohemian Paris. Eustache died before his time (by his own hand) in 1981. Often likened to John Cassavetes, he stands alone as a unique and visionary practitioner of the art.
For their help and support, we wish to thank Véronique Godard; Olivier Bouin and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, Boston; and the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
May 13 (Sunday) 7 pm
Eustaches first film follows two young skirt chasers as they go cruising for fun and trouble one Sunday in the Paris suburb of Robinson. When they pick up a girl who wants to go dancing and she ditches them for another boy, they decide to take revenge. Riding the crest of the French New Wave, Bad Company was admired by Godard, Rohmer, Douchet and others. Eustaches rigor and detachment here, combined with an exacting naturalism, established the tone of much of his subsequent cinema.
Screens with Bad Company (see above)
Directed by Jean Eustache
France 1966, 35mm, b/w, 47 min.
With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Gérard Zimmerman, René Gilson
French with English subtitles
Eustache made his second film with 35mm black-and-white stock left over from Godards Masculin Feminin and also used that films star, Jean-Pierre Léaud. Set in the provinces of Eustaches youth, the film focuses on the character Daniel, an unemployed young man who spends most of his time unsuccessfully trying to meet girls and dream up money-making scams. One day, needing a new coat, he takes a job as a street-corner Santa Claus and in this role suddenly finds himself able to cope with the opposite sex. This fresh, introspective study of French youth won the International Critics Week Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
May 13 (Sunday) 9 pm
May 14 (Monday) 9 pm
Following the success of The Mother and the Whore, Jean Eustache was finally able to make the equally personal but vastly different My Little Lovesa portrait of his childhood in the south of France in which every footstep, every gesture, and every visual detail seems drawn directly from the filmmakers memory. Young Martin Loeb plays Daniel, Eustaches thirteen-year-old alter ego, and he figures in every scene of this exquisite chronicle of a sentimental education. Beautifully photographed by the great Nestor Almendros, My Little Loves (the title is taken from a Rimbaud poem) reaches its emotional climax during an extended scene in which Daniel gets his first kiss in a movie theater showing Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.
May 14 (Monday) 7 pm
May 15 (Tuesday) 9 pm
This beautiful film essay explores three themes in Eustaches work: cinema, absence, and mourning. Both inquiry and requiem, The Lost Sorrows of Jean Eustache offers a complex portrait of a mysterious and mercurial artist.
screens with The Lost Sorrows of Jean Eustache ( see above)
In this unconventional work,Eustaches friend and collaborator Jean-Noël Picq, the happy scopophiliac of A Dirty Story, describes Boschs famous painting The Garden of Delights. Rejecting traditional readings in favor of a pure play of the eye over the canvas, Picqs oblique analysis makes us wonder, ultimately, if his account concurs with or contradicts the imagery we see.
May 15 (Tuesday) 7 pm
In A Dirty Story Jean Eustache presents the same story of storytelling twice: once in documentary fashion, filmed in 16mm black and white, and a second time in 35mm color with actors. Eustache invited his friend Jean-Noël Picq to sit down with a group of people to recount in detail how once, in the mens room of a Parisian restaurant, he found a hole in the wall and peered through to a perfect view of the ladies room. In order to test his contention that the actor (Lonsdale) would prove more convincing than the real-life storyteller, Eustache placed the fictional version first. While the film never shows anything more shocking than a man talking, French censors gave the film an X rating, proving Eustaches claim that sex has nothing to do with morals, not even with aesthetics; sex is a metaphysical affair.
screens with Dirty Story (see above)
Directed by Jean Eustache and Jean-Michel Barjol
France 1970, 16mm, b/w, 50 min.
The Pig, was shot in one blustery day on a small French farm in the Massif Central. Two separate camera and sound crews carefully recorded the slaughtering, dismemberment, and evisceration of a pig and its subsequent conversion into sausages. Eustache, perhaps more than any other French filmmaker, made it his business to get as much of French culture down on film as he could, and here he records a practice that has all but vanished in the face of industrialization. One of Eustaches most beautiful films, the work is also notable for its vivid sound track, alive with the thick, unintelligible patois of the farm workers.
May 16 (Wednesday) 7 pm
May 22 (Tuesday) 7 pm
Regarded by many as the monumental achievement of 1970s French cinema, not only by dint of scale (the film runs nearly four hours) but by virtue of its lacerating, confessional portrait of a generation in search of itself, The Mother and the Whore is a film like no other. Consecrated to the word, it consists almost entirely of lengthy monologues and dialogues: a quasi-autobiographical meditation on love, sex, and the malaise of living. The film, not coincidentally, stars two veterans of the French nouvelle vague, Jean-Pierre Léaud and Bernadette Lafont; it is deeply marked by and indebted to that era even as it stands in critical opposition to the cinematic excesses of that period. In his 1982 obituary for Jean Eustache, critic Serge Daney wrote that thanks to The Mother and the Whore, people would remember exactly what it was like in Paris for the generation that came of age in the wake of May 1968.