In 1969, Cahiers du Cinéma published a long interview with Moullet in which he provided what amounted to a cinematic manifesto. “I think that Les contrebandières is an attempt to bring back people’s actions and thoughts to the rather reduced dimension in which in fact they manifest themselves. For the cinema must readapt people to life, make them see the tiny place they occupy in life.” And, later, “A film is simply a direction that is prolonged by the viewer. A film must give the impression that it continues even outside the impression that the viewer received from it.”
The interview also includes Moullet’s crucial definition of “modern cinema,” which he says is characterized by three things: repetition, with its indissociable links to duration (“It seems to me that the great mission of cinema is to justify and to make accepted the notion of duration”); a taste for provocation that drives the film to offer itself as a sacrifice to the viewer, to whom the film willfully gives displeasure rather than pleasure (Moullet calls this tendency “holocaust”); and the quest to remove as many elements as possible in order to reach a degree zero of cinema (Moullet calls this “ablation”).
His films are ideal models of this modern cinema. In UNE AVENTURE DE BILLY LE KID|A GIRL IS A GUN (1971; May 26 at 7 pm and May 30 at 9 pm), he removes all narrative pretext from the film in order to concentrate on the relationship between a man and a woman in a landscape. Jean-Pierre Léaud is the actor least suited to appearing in a Western, with his seemingly endless arms and legs and his furious, nervous physicality, and Moullet exploits this to full effect in a lengthy scene in which his star, trapped in a pit, runs around in circles whinnying. As in all Moullet’s films, rocks play a key role; for much of this film, they are the only background. The primitive psychedelic music (by Patrice Moullet, Luc’s brother) adds to the elemental effect.
UNE AVENTURE DE BILLY LE KID: Jean-Pierre Léaud as a cowboy?!
ANATOMIE D’UN RAPPORT|ANATOMY OF A RELATIONSHIP (1976; May 26 at 9 pm; May 30 at 7 pm) is a logical sequel to Billy le Kid: another film that focuses on a male-female relationship and explores the closeness of love and violence. “The problem is, the only way you can see to make love is to rape,” the hero’s lover tells him. In its way, the film is Moullet’s equivalent to Jean Eustache’s La maman et la putain|The Mother and the Whore. (Eustache edited Billy le Kid, and Moullet produced Eustache’s 1970 Le cochon.) Moullet plays himself in Anatomie d’un rapport, which deals with his relationship with his partner, co-director Antonietta Pizzorno. This is a frank, confessional film, but one in which the confessional quality is always distanced. It is a kind of documentary, as much of the culture of its period as of the lives of the two characters: he wants to have a child; she doesn’t; she demands clitoral orgasms, he laments the disappearance of the “complementarity of the sexual relation” and perceives that he has arrived on the historical stage too late. The masterstroke of this extraordinary film is the ending, in which the real Pizzorno, whose role has been taken by an actress, Christine Hébert, discusses the film with Moullet. Yet even here the fictional distance that has been present all through the film continues, as Pizzorno is replaced by Hébert again.
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