Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Grémillon: Documents

The Edinburgh Film Festival has announced a tribute to French director Jean Grémillon whose films was the subject of a hugely revealing retrospective at Il Cinema Ritrovato (Bologna, 2012), and later a three DVD boxed-set of the major films was released by Criterion.

Last July, shortly after the retrospective in Bologna, I updated one of my older essays and posted on MUBI Notebook which can be accessed here. During the research process for that piece and other Grémillon articles (mostly written in Farsi/Persian) I collected some documents, mostly covering the reception of his films in English language countries.

Here, you have uploads of some of those documents and I hope in future I can add more scans and other assorted materials to this blog that might help any Grémillon researcher or aficionado. I hope the Edinburgh revival puts this exceptional, poetic filmmaker in the place he truly deserves and sheds light on one of the most neglected careers in history of French cinema that in some respects seems as accomplished as those of Renoir's and Duvivier's.

The document below, from microfilm, is designed to introduce the screening of Lumière d'été (1943) in the Great Britain. For a better read, click to enlarge:

The first major critique and career study of Grémillon in English is known to be written by Hazel Hackett for Sight and Sound in the Summer of 1947 (see scans below). Hackett, who had met Grémillon in person, describes a man of diverse interests and impressive education:
I saw Grémillon in Paris this spring in his fifth-floor flat in a quiet street which, although only a short walk from the Place de la Concorde, has all the feeling of a small Provincial town. Books in several languages line the walls of the salon, and the chief piece of furniture is a piano, significant pointers to the tastes of the President of the Cinémathèque Française, and the most scholarly of film directors. 

While regretting Grémillon's obscurity in the UK, Hackett sees some fundamental similarities between the filmmaker and his British counterparts:

Jean Grémillon deserves to be better known in this country, for his work, while always recognisable as that of a French director, comes close to that of the English documentary school. He himself started quite independently with the making of short films, and in his subsequent full-length films he has preserved the documentary approach to a subject and retained the distinctive style which he developed in his early work. He is intensely aware of his country’s civilisation, knows and understands his own people, and has the gift of putting them and their background on the screen with imagination and authenticity.

In the end, from the French archives we have a very brief appearance by Grémillon (at 00:19), standing in a striped suit, on a footage of Berlin Film Festival, 1952. The focus of this 2-minute long silent newsreel is the French films shown in the festival and it shows some striking images of the Berlin movie theatres and streets, where you can still see the scars of war on tattered buildings.

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