Eugène Green

Read More

Los mini-films de Eugène Green

Eugène Green is an atypical director. He was already over 50 when he embarked on making his first film, Toutes les nuites (2001), a debut feature that attracted the attention of Jean-Luc Godard and won the prestigious Louis-Delluc prize, usually associated with emerging young filmmakers. But Green obviously did not come out of nowhere. He arrived in Europe just at the outbreak of the Prague Spring and May '68, witnessing and participating in both historic events. He decided to settle in Paris, where he would end up completing his studies in various artistic disciplines and the humanities. In 1977 he founded the Théâtre de la Sapienza, a company that attempted to re-establish baroque theatre in the context of contemporary performing arts in France. Thus, when Green became a filmmaker, he had already been training actors in this particular technique of declamation for more than 20 years and was recognised as a playwright at major festivals such as Avignon, where he performed plays by Pierre Corneille such as La Suivante (1993) and El Cid (1995), or filling the Sorbonne chapel in 1999 with his staging of Jean Racine's Mithridate.

This attention to words and their relationship with cinematographic language is the driving force behind Correspondences (2007), the first of the mini-films that make up this homage. An epistolary exchange between two young people passionately in search of love, Green asks himself how oral discourse can be filmed, or perhaps it is the other way around? At a certain point in the film, the protagonist, Virgile, points out to the girl, Blanche, that sometimes an image anticipates the enunciation of a written idea. The filmmaker thus suggests that the shots speak and that the letters can in turn be transformed into sequences. This balance between the material and the conceptual - more specifically, the spiritual - is one of Green's obsessions throughout his filmography. For him, film has the capacity to apprehend that which is unseen and which connects human beings to the universe. Love is therefore a mystical experience according to his conception of the world. Blanche and Virgile love intensely, although there is another piece, Eustache, who completes the triangle of this story. It must be said here that he is played by a very young Clément Cogitore, who is also assistant director, as well as being in charge of continuity and other tasks in the art department. Today Cogitore is, in his own right, one of the great renovators of French cinema. This is just one example of the enormous impact that Green has had on actors and directors in France over several generations in the last few years.

His love of languages - he speaks not only French and English, but also Italian and Portuguese and has a knowledge of other European languages - has led him to take an interest in Iparralde, the northern Basque Country. He was the first filmmaker to shoot fiction films in Basque on the other side of the Pyrenees. Basque folklore has crept into novels such as Les Voix de la nuit (2017) - Green is also a writer of fiction, essays and poetry. Occasionally, these affiliations have also brought him to Spanish territory. In Hitza egin (2015) - literally, "making the word" - he featured young Basques from both sides of the border. Preso egon denaren gogoa (2017), included in the programme, is a commission on adaptations of the poet Joseba Sarrionandia, originally included in the omnibus Gure Oroitzapenak (2017). The actress Delphine Hecquet reappears after being the protagonist in Correspondences, one of the elements that unite both pieces, but not the only one. Sarrionandia's verses speak of prison as a mental space, one to which the prisoner always returns, even after his supposed release. Green fables a new love triangle to reflect on the dynamics imposed by distance and (dis)memory. By contrasting the poem with a sequence that complements it, this minimalist proposal is open to multiple interpretations and reminds us once again of the inescapable relationship between word and image in cinema and how their associations and dissociations - via montage - can work.

Another European territory Green knows well is Lisbon. He shot his feature film The Portuguese Nun (2009) there and returns to the Portuguese capital in How Fernando Pessoa Saved Portugal (2017). Although irony has always been part of his work, this piece is probably the only pure comedy that Green has shot. The author is inspired by a perhaps little-known side of Pessoa, that of a publicist, and takes a real anecdote to make a tribute to the writer that also functions as a parody of the Estado Novo. The mind behind The Book of Disquiet also came up with the first Coca-Cola slogan in Portugal in the 1920s, and his ingenuity eventually got it banned. The authorities frowned upon the consumption of a concoction that resembled an opiate. "First you miss it, then you ingest it," Pessoa wrote for the brand. The effect of such witty wordplay was the opposite of what was intended. Coca-Cola did not arrive in Portugal until after the dictatorship. In his mini-film, Green invents such amusing situations as the exorcism of a bottle of this famous soft drink, highlighting the low intellectual stature of Salazarism and its irrational behaviour.

Not that Green considers the situation to be much better now. In what he himself has called his first and only montage film, Lisbon revisited (2019), he intersperses shots from his two Lisbon films with others taken by his regular director of photography, Raphaël O'Byrne, in the same tourist-ridden locations. His intention is to denounce the model of city that the authorities have sought to project in recent years, based on tourism and property speculation, which he believes is destroying European civilisation and the identity of places. One of the texts he superimposes on his images makes this very clear: "Cinema reveals the hidden reality, tourism hides the visible reality". Once again, the healing capacity of cinema as a spiritual tool that helps us to apprehend what is seen and what is not in reality, in the face of an ultra-capitalist barbarism that devours and erases the rich cultural tradition of our old Europe.

Part of an exhibition at the Serralves Foundation that reviewed his entire oeuvre, Lisbon revisited is one of Green's latest creations. Since then he has directed Atarrabi eta Mikelats (2020) and The Wall of the Dead (2022), which closes this programme. The latter opens with a passage from St. Augustine that in a way sums up not only the piece, but all of Green's cinema. For the Spanish theologian and philosopher, there is only the present tense: the present of things past, the present of things present and the present of things future. Cinema only captures the second of these tenses, but it has the capacity to suggest all of them, according to Green's cinematographic thesis. Another of his obsessions is that the verb becomes flesh, in The Wall of the Dead quite literally. A young boy, passing a World War I memorial and reading the name of one of the fallen soldiers, somehow summons his ghost. The boy, distraught at the time, realises that one can only rid oneself of such feelings if one is not weighed down by the past, and if one does not project oneself into the future. Live here and now. This does not mean that the signs and traces of other times do not live in us and guide us. The cinematograph is in essence light, it illuminates, and Green undoubtedly links it to faith, it is a vehicle for it.

As can be seen, the short film has been a constant in an author who does not pay attention to length. He prefers to call them mini-films, as if to draw attention to the fact that they are also films, with capital letters, even though they are shorter than his feature films.In them he exudes the same profound humanism and meticulous mise-en-scène that have made him one of the most singular and libertarian authors on the current European scene.

Tuesday 5 December, 20:30 pm
Cine Amor
45 min.
Tuesday 5 December, 20:30 pm
Cine Amor
45 min.
Wednesday 6 December, 19:00 pm
Cine Amor
47 min.
Wednesday 6 December, 19:00 pm
Cine Amor
47 min.
Thursday 7 December, 16:30 pm
Cine Amor
51 min.
Thursday 7 December, 16:30 pm
Cine Amor
51 min.