July 9, 2006

Jean-Claude Rousseau by Akasaka Daisuke (excerpt)

2005...From "visual" to "audio"

A fix shot. In a hotel room, there is a bed, and sunlight enters from a right window. A middle aged man enters into the room and takes off his coat and hat. When he opens the window, the atomosphere and noisy sounds of outside invades inside. The man leads the sounds from outside of screen. He switched on TV, the voice of an announcer of RAI appearing, and noisy siren of a patrol car filled in the room. At the moment that we feel as if the space is exploding with them, the shot and the sounds are cut...black screen with silence, and ties to a vivid long shot of the city which liberates sounds to outside atmosphere.

Jean-Claude Rousseau, who himelf plays the man, is an amazing cineaste in that he can show what cinema is as such only one shot. In Japan his four video works were shown for the first time in "Panorama of New French documentaries", in Institute Franco-Japonaise de Tokyo, in November 2004. He was born in 1948, and influenced by american underground cinema during he had been in NY, like Phillipe Garrel. After came to Paris he made 8mm film works, each one for years. In 1999 Valley Close won prizes in Belfort International Film Festival, and acclaimed. Jean-Marie Straub says Rousseau is one of the greatest filmmaker in Europe, as Frans Van de Staak and Peter Nestler. Recently Rousseau is making video works at a faster pace. The first one I described is a short film which called Lettere a Roberto (2002), it's a masterpiece. I was so fascinated with the movement of light, sound and leading by Rousseau's gesture in the space. The movement captured by this fix shot is very fresh, fun and even entertaining, the director's looks are gloomy to the contrary. But, why?

Some viewers must have the same question about Juste avant L'orage(2003), which was shot while Rousseau has been in South-Korea for Jeon-ju International Film Festival.Why such a low-angle fix shot of a street stall so fascinated? Immediately after men at rest left, woman in shop for cleaning, and families from a distance, in addition a motorcycle and a car appear and leave roaring like the choreographed extra in Jacques Tati's film. But it's not a comedy. Was it directed or not? I don't know,but this simple shot is incredibly funny. Then the space filled with noises suddenly turns into black screen with silence,and an inside shot of a taxi which captures wipers moving on wet windshield appears, with the conversation between a driver and a guest.

Faibles Amusements (2004) fragmentally tells a love story that the director himself tempts a young man who wants to be a filmmaker. They stay at a hotel near Lake Como and a young man leaves the director, but viewers just can see for example the deck of a ship on which passengers take (Ozu!), a young man posing in bed with the director's voice, the young man who reads outside through a window like a Bonnard's picture, and a street with conversation of the two men about Robert Bresson... The relation between image and sound is loose (for example a shot of the young man's face with conversations in an other scene), and the time goes back and forth. And in 5 minutes short film "Contretemps"(2004), we hear the message voice of a young man from telephone "I can't come to you " with black screen, and see the next wonderful shot whose composition consists of books and antiques of oriental taste on a desk. A book turned over shut by itself. That's all. But in such a short film which consists of extremely simple images and sounds, we feel Rousseau gives his absolute confidence to space and sounds -- as if each shot answers"yes" when you ask " Is such an image valuable?"

In Rousseau's films he trusts audio-visual sense of viewers that recognize movements which create this world. And through his cinema he lets us notice the existence of the space and sounds which we can't recognize in daily life. How the collision of sounds, their deletion and invasion to space can expand our audition and amuse us! Rousseau developed Bresson's way of "off sound", and he implies that the manipulation of the author himself who organizes the movement of the sound that goes in and out of a fix shot, is an amazing subject, too. His films are documentaries of manipulation in that sense. Rousseau is an ultimate filmmaker because he reform cinema buoyantly like keeping a diary.


But why most of viewers turn away from trust of these cineastes and leave themselves to the operation of audio-visual? Every year it becomes difficult to watch the films that awake our sense on screen in Japan. Most distributors and bureaucrats believe that they can leave the sleeping beauty as she is, without knowing it drives us into dangerous places. Our life is enclosed with images now and in future, and the person who doesn't think about it deeply is influenced , as if it's easier for the person who doesn't have immunity to get disease. We need the cineastes who give us an oppotunity of thinking with enjoyment of listening.

--- Akasaka Daisuke

Complete essay "2005...from 'visual'to 'audio': Jean-Claude Rousseau, Monteiro's Branca de neve, Nestler, Straub-Huillet" can be found HERE.

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