Recent years have seen documentary film restore its legitimacy, not only in France, but also in other film-producing countries. For young students in cinema today, embarking on the process of making documentary film has become a creative activity as attractive as narrative film, a situation inconceivable even a few years ago.
This change is linked to the evolution of narrative cinema itself, which is increasingly distanced from the real and dedicated to pre-digested mythology and rhetoric for a globalized public, without attention to cultural, geographical, or national differences.
In this context, documentary cinema is seen as a return to the first principles of the cinematographic gesture: the encounter between the creative idea, the project of a director, and reality—where reality is unique, unexpected, untamed and utterly contemporary. We can say that documentary film has become a potential field for resisting the temptation for global standardization observed in a certain kind of cinema. The challenge of making a documentary film today has become a way for the director to claim his due place in the world, and to assert his vision of the world. The status of author, once merely the privilege of narrative film directors, is becoming unquestionable for documentary film as well.
I believe that this stance of the director as “subject” of his own film is a decisive matter for understanding contemporary cinema. Increasingly, documentary film establishes a strong link between the subject/director and reality, without one becoming stronger to the detriment of the other.
Finally, I would like to add a word about “reality in reality,” a basic issue for all kinds of cinema. Since cameras first began shooting fragments of reality, it has been common knowledge that this mere action is not enough to give the spectator the sensation that the camera has captured some of that “reality in reality,” which the documentary film—when successful—can allow the individual to subjectively experience. The vivid sensation of occasionally being able to touch that ever elusive “reality in reality,” which obeys no rules or ideology, and follows no particular intention—good or bad—is to me the greatest evidence of the talent of a documentary film director.
Film critic and director. Member of the editorial staff of Cahiers du cinéma from 1978, serving as a deputy editor in chief from 1983 to 1985 and director of collections until 1988. Currently teaches at the University of Paris 3. Publications include Roberto Rossellini. Le cinéma révélé (ed.), Jean-Luc Godard par Jean-Luc Godard (ed.), and Nul mieux que Godard. His latest book, L’hypothèse cinéma (2002), is a reflection on the pedagogy of cinema in the education system. As a filmmaker, has not only directed feature films like Faux-fuyants (with Jean-Pierre Limosin, 1983) and Où que tu sois (1987), but also numerous documentaries on the arts.
Little Flowers of Pier Paolo PasoliniLes fioretti de Pier Paolo Pasolini
FRANCE / 1997 / French, ItalianColor, B&W / Video / 53 min
Director: Alain Bergala
Script: Alain Bergala, Herv Joubert-Laurencin
Photography: Jacques Loiseleux
Editing: Valérie Loiseleux
Sound: Pierre Armand Music: Bach
Voice: Alain Bergala, Guillaume Flageul, Bruno Tackels
Supported by: Laura Betti, Ninetto Davoli
Producer: Dominique Gibrail
The Century’s Auteurs series supervisors: Bernard Rapp, Florence Mauro
Production Company, Source: Les Films du Tambour de soie
One episode from a French TV series on film auteurs. Traces poet-cum-auteur Pier Paolo Pasolini’s struggles with post-war Italy, interpolating Pasolini’s Accattone and other works.