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30. Uluslararası Film Festivali 2-17 Nisan 2011 Close
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VINCENT DIEUTRE: EXERCISES IN SOLITUDE

Vincent alone, facing a desolate world.

‘Writing cannot take place in the domestic space. It needs the outside.’
Franz Kafka

Stressing Vincent Dieutre’s uniqueness is neither a formal obligation nor a fitting mark of politeness. To this day, I cannot think of a director whom he could possibly be compared to, nor of a school or movement he could be deemed a part of.

As most of his films can be thought of as exercises in solitude –as one once said an exercise in admiration– it wouldn’t be paradoxical to define Dieutre as a solitary, an utterly solitary cinematographer. Solitary primarily through his style, offering an unprecedented balance between an oftentimes sentimental confession and a “reactionary” (in the sense of a longing for a foregone past... What a beautiful word, a word which contains “reaction”. What a beautiful word, stained by common progressive thoughts) sadness.

Sadness for the current state of the world, of which Dieutre gives a desperate rendering. He is European, very much so; the itineraries of his films speak for this. And his obsession for Europe takes an unexpected hue of timeliness in these days when menace comes soaring from across the Atlantic and the East of Europe. This identity, which was deemed by some a mere dandy show of melancholy in the 2000s, is now accepted as a form of resistance.

But solitary also because Dieutre handles the montage of pictures and words “in the first person,” in a way nobody else does in contemporary filmmaking. The use of the first person is not that rare anymore: Narrator-directors have been legion for about thirty years, Boris Lehman or Alain Cavalier, and Jonas Mekas before them to name but a few. But none dive in such a romantic drift, as could only be described in terms of elegance and grace. A grace whose land, Italy, is both its memory and its resisting promise.

Dieutre seems to be doing everything in his films: speak, scout and organise trips, shoot, edit, etc. Yet, somebody else has to be handling the camera when he is seen wandering, contemplating the world, sleeping and daydreaming. Despite appearances of a subjective cinematography which belongs to the essay genre, collaborators surround–and make the reveries of this–solitary filmmaker possible. Still, he alone occupies the front stage; he whispers to our attention, and all of his filmic work can be summed up in this moving moment of happiness and lyricism at the end of his Winter Journey: Interpreters of a Schubert’s Lied lend their voices to filmmakers for an admiring appropriation of their song in play-back.

Ever since the first film that drew attention to him in 1995, Rome désolée (Desolate Rome, Translator’s note), a unique dramatic tint has seeped through his–yet so frequent among other essayists–attempt at binding a concern for the self together with a lament in the face of the impossibility of reaching reality. An alternative title for Rome désolée could well have been Vincent désolé, (Desolate Vincent, Translator’s note) caught in the contemplation of a devastated Rome. “Rome is me,” Dieutre could have claimed in a Flaubert-like tone. Ever since this first film, his commitment to transform the city into a destroyed, derelict (Dieutre’s fascination for Rome’s remnants is nothing coincidental) mental organisation has granted the filmmaker a place as a poet among contemporaneous cinematographic essayism. A certain whiteness in the voice-over and the camera’s indifference to the textures of a painful confession are the trademarks of his style.

All of Vincent Dieutre’s films share this staging of a lost gaze, which will not set its lens on exceptional targets but, in the contrary, yield to the triviality of what passes before it. The camera is always set at a point which thwarts the Sublime’s infectiousness and even opposes–as is the case in very few among modern filmmakers–the artist’s own voice. A voice which, instead, won’t steer away from a mastered and measured pathos.

Jean Starobinski once proposed a definition for the literary essay, which ideally fits Vincent Dieutre’s films: “An act of the spirit, the expression of an impetus, a struggle of the thought which chases and binds the ideas and the narration of events.” One could not have phrased it any better.

–Dominique Païni (this February 12, 2017, 8PM)

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