Les sept déserteurs ou La Guerre en vrac: The irrepressible Paul Vecchiali
by Alfonso Rivera
- At the age of 87, the French maestro is presenting his new film in competition at the Gijón Film Festival, a cheerful anti-war statement that he shot at the same time as another movie
The gracious, astute, loquacious, dynamic and beguiling Corsican filmmaker Paul Vecchiali (Ajaccio, 1930), together with two of the lead actors from his new film (Bruno Davézé and Hugo Broussot, who had two reasons for being there, as he also plays in the latest work by Eugène Green, En attendant les barbares, presented just a few days prior), passed by the 55th edition of the Gijón International Film Festival in order to bring his most recent film, Les sept déserteurs ou La Guerre en vrac [+see also:
film profile], to Asturias as a European premiere, in competition. He admitted to shooting this film at the same time as his upcoming movie, Train de vies, which is now in post-production, and which relies on the same cast and crew as well as using nearby locations (the closing credits of this film dedicate a few words of special thanks to each and every member of his team).
As a matter of fact, as implied by its title, Les sept… is a war film, but one that oozes a joyfulness and luminousness that are hard to find in this genre. Here, the war itself is always outside the shot: we only hear its distant or nearby rumblings. The titular deserters (four men and three women, including an anarchist, a homosexual, an aristocrat-turned-widowed nun and a lovestruck maid) find themselves in an autumnal forest containing nothing but ruins, and they begin to live together, thus spawning all kinds of relationships between them.
The viewer never finds out which war is going on, and neither will he or she be certain of who fires certain shots, nor whose hand it is that brings the final curtain down at the end of the film. But the French auteur leaves those secrets shrouded in obscurity in order to let the audience complete the picture with their own imagination: thus his film has manifold and varied answers, meanings and points of view.
He claims to have been inspired, like the insatiable cinephile he admits to being, by Godard and his The Carabineers, by his role model Samuel Fuller and by The Story of G.I. Joe, a film starring Robert Mitchum and directed by William A Wellman in 1945. However, any similarity to these inspirational movies is purely coincidental in this feature, which bears an obvious anti-war message that – in much the same way as the aforementioned Eugène Green film screening at this edition of FICX – also champions literary texts and words as crucial elements of its narrative, despite the fact that it may be portraying something as trivial and domestic as ironing clothes, for example.
It was the extremely free-spirited and independent Vecchiali himself who wrote the screenplay, which is full to the gills with rhymes, parables and metaphors, not to mention lashings of sarcasm. Amidst jokes and games, falsehood and criticism, hedonism and the sheer pleasure of reading aloud/listening, the film unfolds in the guise of tableaux spanning seven days, never specifying the time or the place, and incorporating costume, decorative and prop elements from different eras, thus bringing a feeling of timelessness and abstraction to proceedings.
Les sept déserteurs ou La Guerre en vrac was produced by Vecchiali himself through the company Dialectik, which is also managing its distribution.
(Translated from Spanish)
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