Subject: UCLA Daily Bruin
Article re: Maurice Pialat
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2005 1:32:13 PDT
To: sallitt at post dot harvard dot edu
Dear Mr. Sallitt,
With the semi-recent passing of French film director Maurice Pialat, the
UCLA Film Archive is in the process of doing a series of his feature films.
I am a reporter for the Daily Bruin and I am covering this series.
wondering if you would take a few moments and answer some questions.
Bill Krohn recommended I talk to you and regards what you will have to
say very highly. Anything and everything you say would be wonderful.
In a few sentences, who was Maurice Pialat?
A film director. His first art was painting, though he
was a film enthusiast from early adulthood, and made amateur 16mm films
with his friends while working day jobs. Eventually he began making
documentaries for French TV, and then, rather late in life, feature films.
Though he had difficulty raising funds all his life, he managed to turn
out 11 full-length fiction works in the years between his great 1967 debut
L'ENFANCE NUE and his final film, 1995's LE GARCU. He died, of kidney
problems, early in 2003.
His style, sometimes called "rough," "vibrant" or "passionate," often
features long takes and medium close-ups to study his actors' faces.
What did this style achieve? How was his style different from other
French filmmakers from the past several decades?
Pialat's occasional use of long takes is a characteristic of
his early films; after 1974, he uses a more fragmented style. In all
his films, though, he tries to generate a great deal of contradictory material
on his characters, playing with improvisation and drawing on biographical
and autobiographical material. He then assembles this material in
an imbalanced way, with big chunks of time removed from the story, and the
characters' contradictions emphasized rather than explained. What
he sacrifices in drama, he makes up in a powerful sense of immediacy.
What do you know about Maurice Pialat's personal life? Do you think
"nastiness" influenced how his films were received throughout France and
Pialat was said to be moody and difficult to work with, and
his confrontational and sometimes belligerent interviews certainly reinforce
I do not believe that his films would have been received much differently
had he been a different person. If anything, his celebrated (in France)
irascibility may have given him a certain mystique.
Why do you think Pialat, such
a talented filmmaker, is usually considered
His films are difficult. In one way or another, they are
all about death, about time going away. They are not films for people
who need to relax after a hard day at work.
Comment on Pialat as a bridge between the New Wave and contemporary
French cinema. How influential was he? Should he have been more
Like Eustache and Breillat, Pialat came after the New Wave and
had to make his own way without the benefit of a publicized movement.
I believe he was a bridge only in the sense that a generation of young,
daring filmmakers in the 90s were inspired by the integrity and consistency
of his career, despite his relative obscurity.
Pialat is unique, and other filmmakers are likely to trip up badly if they
try to do what he does. His honesty and his penetrating view of life
are inspirational to many, but perhaps it's best that his influence is not
If you have seen his films, what especially intrigues you about his work?
Are there any aspects that may make it harder to speak to a wide audience?
This relates to questions and answers above. Wide audiences
usually don't come to filmmakers who deal with painful subjects and actively
undercut the dramatic/storytelling aspects of their work.
Of the many things that intrigue me about his work, one that I haven't touched
on much is the way he uses biographical material. One gets the sense
that he doesn't trust screenwriters, including himself, to come up with
material that is lifelike enough to make a good movie. So he often
started from his own life experiences, or those of his collaborators, just
to have material random and erratic enough to satisfy himself.
What did his passing in 2003 as the end of an era signify for French film
and world cinema in general?
He died at a time when a new generation who loved his work had
begun to make good films of their own.
Why do think the UCLA Film Archive is bringing a Film Series of his
feature films to Los Angeles? Why is this important?
Pialat has recently become a name among film writers, and yet
his films are still little seen. He is in the process of passing directly
from relative obscurity to the status of a great master, without ever having
gone through a period of reappraisal and gradual appreciation. One
hopes that his death will cement his standing in the critical world, so
that these great films will continue to be shown.
What can future filmmakers learn from Pialat?
They can rediscover the relationship between art and poverty!
His is a hard path to follow.
Once again, any responses would be greatly appreciated.
Thanks so much for your time,
UCLA Daily Bruin Reporter, Arts & Entertainment
Hope this is helpful.