La Presse at the 74th Berlinale | The cinema verite of Christine Angot

(Berlin) Christine Angot decided to film the truth. Not her own truth, but the truth itself. His documentary A familyfeatured in the Encounters section of the 74e Berlinale on Saturday, gives full meaning to the expression cinema verite.

Revealed at age 40 by Incestin 1999, the writer returned to the novel The journey to the EastPrix Médicis 2021, on the repeated rapes she suffered from the age of 13, from the moment she met her father for the first time, during a trip to Strasbourg.

The filming ofA family, produced from 2021, is in a way a visual complement to the novel. It begins in Strasbourg, the painful memory of which upsets Christine Angot. She decides, after unanswered calls from her late father’s wife, to go to her house unannounced. We see the writer hesitate, then ring the bell and literally force the door, when her father’s widow refuses to let her enter with cameras.

She needs witnesses, needs to feel supported, she told him, shouting, after having pushed her a little. We almost feel sorry for this octogenarian who was attacked. She tries to defend herself as best she can – she didn’t know, she supports her, she couldn’t confront her husband suffering from Alzheimer’s, she believed, as it was a novel, that there was truth in it. and falsehood. Christine Angot makes him pay a hundredfold for each clumsy word, each ambiguous sentence.

This is the greatest strength of this documentary: it doesn’t gloss over anything. Neither outbursts of anger nor verbal or physical violence.

In this production, Christine Angot never gives herself the good role. She doesn’t try to appear sympathetic, far from it. She has, moreover, never made any effort to please the intelligentsia, the public, her readers or her publishers.


Christine Angot

Also, it places us, the spectators, in a delicate and uncomfortable position. That of pitying an old lady who closed her eyes and looked away, who did not show empathy for years, because she seems to make amends in front of the cameras as soon as she knows she is being filmed. It is she, we say straight away, who is attacked by this documentary filmmaker with dubious methods who has ambushed her and who will not let her explain. And we forget who the real victim is in this story.

We find it unfair that the novelist criticizes her mother for saying she was hurt that their relationship was broken at the dawn of adolescence by this incest of which Christine Angot kept the secret until adulthood. Even if we understand that it’s because she herself is broken. She finds it hard to blame her ex-husband for not coming to her aid when he suspected the rapes had started again, when she was in her mid-twenties. Even if we understand that the power mechanisms of incest do not disappear after childhood.

Christine Angot puts everyone around her in the dock, with her accusatory camera, in A family. It no longer tolerates complacency and inertia, euphemisms and weak excuses. Nor does she tolerate the indecent jokes of misogynistic hosts like Thierry Ardisson (we see her leaving the set of Everybody talks about it French in 2000). She is angry, with almost everyone – except her emotional daughter – and she is right to be. Because we don’t protect victims of incest. Nobody does it. Neither loved ones, nor families, nor villages, nor the State.

The victims are left to fend for themselves while those around them are stunned the day the secret is revealed or pretend to do so. I never saw anything, I couldn’t guess, he never did anything, etc. And then, he was a man very well regarded in the community (like the father-in-law of Neige Sinno in his poignant story sad tiger).

The filmmaker traces the thread of events using photos and videos. Thanks to her off-camera narration, we understand that her half-brother and half-sister always maintained that she was fantasizing about their father’s incestuous relationships. And thanks to the editing, we later understand to what extent Christine Angot’s father’s wife was hypocritical in front of the cameras. As soon as her back was turned, she filed a complaint against the writer, notably for assault. She trembles with anger as she leaves him a message on his voicemail. “I’m going to kill them,” she said.

Her anger having given way to doubt, she admits that she was aggressive, even violent, during a discussion that was as frank as it was interesting with her lawyer. People who kept silent should not now call themselves victims, he pleads. It’s direct cinema. At its most destabilizing, at its most uncomfortable, at its most impactful. And at its most authentic.

A funny Assayas

French cinema was in the spotlight on Saturday at the Berlinale. Out of time by Olivier Assayas was presented in competition. An autobiographical fiction that Truffaut would not have denied, narrated by the voice-over, monotonous and trembling of the filmmaker of the Sentimental destiniesreminiscent of Vincent Delerm singing Fanny Ardant and me.


Micha Lescot and Vincent Macaigne in Out of time

Out of time is a confinement film. The story of two brothers who took refuge in the family country house at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, with their respective partners. This is what Assayas did with his brother Michka, a radio host and rock music critic.

In Out of timetheir names are rather Étienne and Paul, but in his narration, literary, poetic and slightly shifted from the story he is directing, Assayas refers to his own journey as a filmmaker (Irma Vep, the influence of the Nabis, etc.). It is Vincent Macaigne, a subscriber to tragicomic roles, who plays Étienne, Olivier’s alter ego. And in fact, Out of timewith its pearls of self-deprecation, is perhaps the funniest of Assayas’ films.


Olivier Assayas

There is a scent of nostalgia in this film which revisits childhood, the weight of the parents’ cultural legacy (books bound in Italy by the writer father furnish the shelves), but also the brotherly relationship. The Assayas brothers grew up together, worked in the same fields – Olivier started as a critic at the Cinema notebooks –, but have shaped their own trajectories. Have they become strangers to each other? What is certain is that after three months of confinement, they are getting on each other’s nerves…

Étienne makes compulsive purchases on Amazon, despite his brother’s admonitions. He is completely obsessed with health regulations. Very careful, he washes his hands by carefully following tutorials on YouTube, after putting all his clothes in the wash. All because he just picked up his order in the grocery store parking lot, masked and gloved. On the other hand, he says he is “not psychologically ready for the bakery”!

His brother (Micha Lescot), the rock critic in need of freedom, is deeply irritated by what he describes as a neurosis, him constantly cooking pancakes.

Fortunately, they also have moments of complicity. Meals on the terrace to guess who sings which song and to find themselves in their shared love of music.

“At the moment, there is nothing that gives me hope,” Étienne says in an interview (Macaigne borrowing Assayas’ drawling voice), while being aware of his privilege of being confined to bourgeois comfort. of a country house and enjoying this “stopped time”.

He is a scholar who quotes poems from memory, but claims in an interview with France Culture to have read a Japanese book “because it feels good”, which his partner gently reproaches him for. We happily find the Franco-French cinema of Assayas, that of Cold waterof End of August, beginning of SeptemberofAfter May. A simple, but irresistible comedy, which inevitably reminds us of people around us during the pandemic.

There are clichés that don’t get lost


Renate Reinsve in Another Endby Piero Messina

At the end of the press screening ofAnother End, also presented in competition, many festival-goers spontaneously burst out laughing. Because this film by Italian Piero Messina, starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Renate Reinsve and Bérénice Bejo, never stops unveiling predictable punches. Set in a more or less near future, this science fiction drama imagines a technology that allows the memory of a deceased person to be implanted in the short term in the body of a donor. A way to say goodbye more peacefully. Also, Sal (Gael Garcia Bernal) lets himself be convinced by his sister (Bérénice Bejo) to revive the memory of his wife Zoé in the body of Ava (Renate Reinsve). The opportunity to see the Norwegian actress, revealed by The Worst Person In The World by Joachim Trier, blazingly naked in a second film by a director in the competition in two days. Shows that there are clichés that are not lost in cinema.

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