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JIHLAVA 2020

Review: A Man Leaning

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- Marie-Violaine Brincard and Olivier Dury beautifully pay homage to the talent and tragic destiny of poet Thierry Metz through an atmospheric and literary documentary

Review: A Man Leaning

"Where are we? What time is it? It is only now and this is the book. And I haven’t found anything else. But I sow everything that I am so that there is a path at the crossroads of our voices." By plunging in the depths of the works and the life of French poet Thierry Metz, who took his own life in 1997 at 40 years old, Marie-Violaine Brincard and Olivier Dury sign with A Man Leaning a bewitching, poignant, ascetic and atmospheric documentary about creation. In this film both impressionistic and realistic, which had its international premiere in the Opus Bonum competition of the Ji.hlava Film Festival, language and thought echo like a desperate quest for serenity within the invisible chorus made up of the small variations in the force of nature.

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“I looked, having had enough, for a bit of earth on top of the tree, and for some bread. I found a field, a path, or rather a beaten track, something to surrender one day, one single day, to that which is nothing: tracing only lines.” Heard in voice-over throughout the film, the writings of the poet (taken from the books Sur la table inventée, Le journal d’un manœuvre, Entre l’eau et la feuille, Lettres à la Bien-aimée, Terre, Carnet d’Orphée and L’homme qui penche) tell us about his life when he settled in the Agen countryside with his wife and his three children in order to dedicate himself to his art. To make ends meet, he works on construction sites, analysing the isolation, the encounters and the physical and repetitive alienation of the job in his writings, where he also describes weekends spent with his family and his very attentive love for all the sensations and colours born of nature: the trees, sun, wind, birds, earth, flowers, rocks, wood bark, twigs, the banks of the Garonne river, etc.

But tragedy strikes in 1988: his youngest son, aged 8, is hit by a car in front of their home and dies in his arms. There begins a long descent into hell for the poet, who sees his family leave him a few years later before he sinks completely into depression and alcohol, leading him to the final stage of his ordeal: a psychiatric institution in Cadillac, where he attempts to become sober again and writes L’homme qui penche.

A construction site spreads itself progressively to the sound of shovels and machines, in the profound forest, along the corridors of the clinic seemingly haunted by its patients: the film digs deep into the soul of the poet as in a gold deposit, and illustrates his words with a multitude of symbolic and suggestive representations, most often in still shots and long takes that let the time pass. At first glance rather austere and relying on viewers’ ability to project themselves into a world of subjective ideas and perceptions, the documentary becomes more intense and emotional as it follows the tragic destiny of the writer, given a very beautiful and poetically cinematic homage by Brincard and Dury. A film in keeping with its subject: “to walk, to drift… Slowly I followed the sun… Slowly… Never mind what I found. Wind and shadows. I was passing through.”

Produced by Survivance, A Man Leaning was co-produced by Studio Orlando and The Shooting.

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(Translated from French)

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