Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Jacquot (1991)

WHO: Agnès Varda wrote and directed this, based on the childhood reminiscences of her husband Jacques Demy.

WHAT: The Pacific Film Archive's current Jacques Demy series is not just the most complete in Frisco Bay history because it's showing fourteen of the French director's films. It's also screening three films about Demy made by his wife, then widow Agnès Varda, all in 35mm. Two of these seem much like the kinds of documentaries often seen on high-end DVD releases, although The Young Girls Turn 25 is not found on the Miramax release of The Young Girls of Rochefort, and The World Of Jacques Demy can only be viewed awkwardly excerpted on DVDs for Lola, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Model Shop, etc. 

Jacquot is, by contrast, a re-enactment of Demy's childhood, a catalog of his inspirations, and the last "fiction" feature film made by Varda to this day, although she has made quite a few documentaries and shorts in the meantime. It was speaking to the camera in her superb 2008 autobiographical doc The Beaches of Agnès that she made her first public comment on the fact, known more as rumor beforehand, that her husband had died of AIDS complications. She and other friends held this secret in "affectionate silence, totally respectful of Jacques, who didn't talk about it." As other voices in the documentary relate, "back then, in 1989, AIDS was considered a shameful disease," and "it was taboo."  Jacquot was begun and completed as Demy was dying, and for the cast and crew making the film was a way of accompanying the director in his final months. According to Varda, the film finished shooting on October 17, 1990, just ten days before her husband's death.

WHERE/WHEN: Tonight only at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, at 7:00.

WHY: Even if you're not planning to be a completist and attend everything in the PFA's Demy series (or, as I'm considering, at least everything unseen previously), there are many reasons to consider making tonight's screening one of your selections. First of all, Agnès Varda, the so-called "grandmother" of the French New Wave (though she was born just a few years before Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol & François Truffaut, and is in fact younger than Alain Resnais & Jacques Rivette) and one of the world's greatest living filmmakers. Of those I've seen, I can't think of a single film of hers that isn't about reflection and mortality, and though I haven't seen Jacquot, its circumstances of production seem right along that line. 

There's also Agnès Godard, who was one of three cinematographers on Jacquot (according to the PFA note, she shot "the longest segment" of the film). Anyone who enjoyed this Godard's appearance in Berkeley last month, and only wished for more examples of work from earlier in her career, this is your chance to get a look at a key work made the same year as her first of fifteen (thus far) credits as cinematographer for Claire Denis.

Finally, the general topic of French cinema. This might be the last good chance I get to mention it beforehand, so I thought I'd point out a refreshing program coming the Castro Theatre August 7th & 8th: a two-day booking of a 35mm double-bill of Jean-Pierre Melville's Un Flic starring Catherine Deneuve, and Claude Sautet's Max Et Les Ferrailleurs starring Michel Piccoli. Deneuve and Piccoli, of course, have both featured in films for Demy and for Varda, including The Young Girls of Rochefort and The Young Girls Turn 25.

HOW: 35mm print


  1. Brian: That's exciting about Max Et Les Ferrailleurs, I had mentioned in a previous comment that it had played commercially in New York City last year, and was hoping someone out here would book it. I think this is the Bay Area premiere of this 1971 release.

  2. That's what the Castro is claiming, anyway! I'm particularly excited about the two-night stand, myself. It's frustrating that so many Castro bookings are one-night-only, often opposite something at the PFA, as with last Wednesday when I had to pick They Died With Their Boots On over Gloria, two I'd never seen before.

  3. I see that the Castro actually touts their showings of "Max" as "Never before released in the U.S.,"which of course since it played last year in at least New York is inaccurate.

  4. I think the Castro is just borrowing the boiler-plate from Rialto's New York City release. On one level it's misleading and inaccurate, and on another level it tells you what you probably need to know, which is that it's not a film you saw at a 1970s arthouse (unless maybe you frequented European arthouses in the 1970s) and just have forgotten the title of.

  5. To continue this thread: The Examiner (not always the most reliable source) listed Sunday that Max's co-feature Un Flic "screens for the first time in the U.S."
    I saw it in New York City in 1979.