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La Comédie Française ou l'amour joué

Director, Script, Editing, Sound: Frederick Wiseman
Photography: John Davey
Production Company: La Compagnie des Phares et Balises,
Idéale Audience, Zipporah Films
Source: Idéale Audience
6 rue de l'Agent Bailly, 75009 Paris, FRANCE
Phone: 33-1-4970-0810 / Fax: 33-1-4970-0811
FRANCE / 1996 / French / Color / 16mm / 223 min

Frederick Wiseman

Born in Boston in 1930. Made his directorial debut in 1967 during the height of direct cinema with Titicut Follies, a film about a facility for the criminally insane. Although this work was banned until the early 90s, Wiseman continued to consistently produce around one film a year. High School (1968), Law and Order (1969), Hospital (1969), Manoeuvre (1979), Missile (1987), Near Death (1989), High School II (1994), Ballet (1995) all explore the theme of daily routine in American institutions. Model (1980) was shown in the invitational section of the YIDFF 91 and Zoo(1993) won the YIDFF 93 Mayor's Prize in the Competition section.


No voice-over narration, no extra-diegetic music, the object of study is always an institution or closed organization which acts as a mirror of society--that is Wiseman's style. This time his subject is France's Comédie-Française. A full picture of France's premier theatrical troupe is presented: the on-stage rehearsals, the expressions of directors and performers, stagehands preparing scenery and costumes, the administrative committee, etc. This is the first time Wiseman, who until now has restricted himself to circumstances in which his own language and culture prevail, has pointed his camera at a subject from another culture. The closed world of Comédie-Française may be a mirror of society, but it is also theater. The camera can also be turned on the stage to show Marivaux's La double inconstance and Molière's Dom Juan. While capturing both performance and what is being performed, this work begins to penetrate the dual quality of stage and film. It may be said, then, that this piece is deeply interesting with regard to Wiseman's style.
--Murayama Kyoichiro

Director's Statement

La Comédie-Française ou l'amour joué is a film that documents the work of one of the oldest theatrical companies in the world. In my other films I have been interested in the way people play professional roles as politicians, doctors, nurses, soldiers, teachers, lawyers, judges, prison guards, models, and the roles of ordinary citizens. This opportunity to study the work of great actors enabled me to look at people who have the capability to play any role. The film is organized around the presentation of different aspects of love--tragic in Racine (La Thébaïde), farce in Feydeau (Occupe-toi d'Amélie), rational in Marivaux (La double inconstance), and manipulative in Molière (Dom Juan).

Also, the film suggests the relationship between life in contemporary France and issues treated in the press, and it examines the Comédie-Française as an institution that reflects certain traditional aspects of French life which are both rooted in the past and contemporary.


Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee