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FILMS Belgium

Review: Manu


- Emmanuelle Bonmariage delivers a multi-layered documentary about a filmmaker and extraordinary man’s road to remembrance

Review: Manu

With her debut film, Manu [+see also:
interview: Emmanuelle Bonmariage
film profile
, Emmanuelle Bonmariage paints a portrait of her filmmaker father that is far from a hagiography, but rather a film that gets right to the heart of the director's creative process, nourished by his experience as a man. Manu Bonmariage is one of the spiritual fathers of Strip-Tease, a certain genre of direct cinema that is free from aesthetic artifice and in touch with reality (a reality?), often focusing on the humanity of the little people who don’t usually get much screen time. Manu is also the man with the camera, the one who after losing an eye as a child, could only really become a cameraman, which allowed him to take stock of his surroundings more easily.

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The camera plays a leading role in Manu’s relationship with the world. Almost always attached to the end of his arm (even when he is the subject of the film, he continues to film), it serves as a tool for mediation with the world. One of the issued tackled by film is the question of who the man behind, or without the camera, really is?

The film also gains depth when Emmanuelle takes hold of the camera lent to her by her father. Manu is gradually finding that his ability to hold things is deteriorating. Manu will surely be his last film. Because despite no longer being the director, he participates as an actor, instead. Flashbacks to Manu’s life as a director reveal a pure genre of cinema, such as the truly hallucinating scene shot in the depths of a mine, where without warning, he comes to life. 

Manu is not only a filmmaker of the people, filming individuals with empathy and benevolence, sweeping away all condescension or mockery, he is also an extraordinary man, and an ideal subject for his own cinema.

His own work fits beautifully into the narrative, and the director integrates it organically into her story, leaving selected extracts time to unspool. Despite never explicitly explaining Manu’s cinema, these extracts give us a sense of it. The scene in which the filmmaker re-watches Les Amants d'Assise with his editor sheds light on how he approaches his subjects, who are occasionally questioned. The filmmaker’s palpable emotions when faced with images – now several decades old – of a man revealing all of his pain in front of a camera, is one of the director’s major strengths: he never judges or condemns his subjects. 

The film is also about a complex father/daughter relationship, full of love and contradictions. She who bears her father's name, who inherits his camera, has chosen him as her first object of study, or rather the first subject of her work, creating an act of memory and transmission, between memory and the future. Almost as though, as a final offering to the father she is slowly losing, she is gifting him his own memory on the big screen.

Produced by Clin d’œil Films, Manu will be released on 6 June in Brussels, Namur and Louvain-la-Neuve, and will be the subject of numerous sessions throughout Wallonia, broadcast by ScreenBox.

(Translated from French)

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