the great story seen through film scraps


Image taken from “Journal d’Amérique”, a French documentary by Arnaud des Pallières.

THE “WORLD’S” OPINION – MUST SEE

The work of Arnaud des Pallières, born in 1961, has always advanced, in the good sense of the term, “aside from the plate” of the cinema industry. Rarely where we expect him, as if he was having fun deconstructing everything he had learned at Fémis, the prestigious Parisian film school – by sending characters and scenarios overboard! As a good disciple of German philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), des Pallières likes the idea that some of his films are “ragpicker’s works”that is to say from scrap film, forming end to end a patchwork of images and stimulating his imagination as a storyteller.

Read the interview: Article reserved for our subscribers Arnaud des Pallières: “At 50, what interests me is always the question of revolt”

After Diane Wellington (2010), and Dust of America (2011), here Journal of America, all three made from the American Prelinger archives: this one, founded in 1983 by Rick Prelinger, combines scraps from advertising spots, institutional films, family archives, etc. A great picture book in which the author of Disneyland, my old native country (2001), who has never set foot on Mickey’s land, likes to abandon himself, each time creating new “stories”.

Into the dark and whimsical Journal of Americathe director of Michael Kohlhaas (2013) once again revisits the silent film in a montage film, the seams of which he reveals to us. The sequences are dated from January 18 to April 14, 2021, as if the work had evolved along a straight line, in the mode of automatic writing, without return – a choice umed by the author, who claims the influence of Chris Marker (1921-2012).

Selected in 2022 in the Encounters section of the Berlinale, Journal of America already owes its power of spell to its rhythm, which consists of listing its micro-narratives in boxes, as one would throw cards on the table. Sometimes it is a matter of a few words, which only take on meaning when the next ones appear, the spectator finding himself waiting, as if caught in a spiral. Arnaud des Pallières has fun, sometimes takes us by the hand – with a text illustrating the image – or puts us into a waking dream. A pretty René Magritte-style sky, with its clouds floating perfectly in the blue, above an infinite road, sets the tone.

Reconnecting times

A few first chapters take us back to early childhood – as if produced in series – with its horde of twins scrutinizing the image, indecisive faces, as if hypnotized by the camera. Des Pallières seizes the pretext to plunge into the black humor of Mark Twain (1835-1910), and remind us of this alleged story of a twin brother who died while both were taking a bath as babies. Or maybe it was him, Mark, who drowned… Other cruel tales are embroidered from a question: and if sharks were men, would they be kinder to small fish ?

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