Review: Jeune cinéma
- Yves-Marie Mahé’s documentary tells the story of the now forgotten Hyères Young Film Festival, characterised by heated debates and exceptional discoveries, at a time when film was a serious affair
Watching Jeune cinéma, Yves-Marie Mahé’s new documentary which was screened in the 41st edition of the Torino Film Festival following its premiere in the IFFR, is something of a memory exercise. Countless films and directors have gone under the radar after taking part or triumphing in the festival and it’s worth mentioning a few of them if only for illustration: Mamaia by José Varela, for example, and La Vieille Dame Indigne by René Allio, whose directors didn’t enjoy the promising career they’d hoped for.
The Hyères Young Film Festival was founded in 1965 to oppose the commercial logic of the film industry at the time and to liberate a certain kind of New Wave cinema, which had also broken with the establishment before going in to actually become a part of it. Over the course of the festival, films were discussed by the public and the press in gruelling fashion, in heated debates, as Yves-Marie Mahé looks to demonstrate in this montage film, which gathers together footage from the time, shot from 1965 up until 1983 when the festival ceased to exist for reasons which were clearly political, as well as financial. Among the young and promising directors featured in the film, we see Philippe Garrel presenting Marie pour mémoire, Chantal Akerman discussing his first works, and Guy Gilles, no less, a director who definitely doesn’t get the credit he deserves, doing all he can to ensure adequate distribution, a problem still plaguing young directors at all latitudes.
The greatest attribute of Jeune cinéma is its tendency to remind us of a period when film culture was alive and curious, when the concept of art was continually called into question. And whilst it’s amusing to note that the criticisms levelled at the nearby Cannes Film Festival were very much the same as those levelled today (high rate of commercialisation, films mainly seen as market products), it’s interesting to note how the level of the discussion, insults aside, was generally higher. Retrospectively, seeing Claude Chabrol, who didn’t respond well to accusations of corruption within the jury in the ‘60s, says a lot about the general state of modern-day film criticism, which is increasingly akin to press releases and which shares the need felt by directors to prevent films from being reduced to mere content.
The legacy of the Young Film Festival and its combative, contradictory spirit is seeing a revival in today’s Paris Young Film Collective (which Yves-Marie Mahé himself is a part of), which focuses on distributing and showcasing a different, independent and free kind of cinema, celebrated in the Paris International Different and Experimental Film Festival, an event which is now at its 25th edition and which is very often the first to understand the changes in the world when it comes to commercial film and arthouse cinema, whose producers are enjoying increasing glorification. So it’s all the better that this documentary shifts focus onto a now forgotten festival, offering up different ideas on how to understand film. It looks to the past to learn certain fundamental lessons which might appear outdated, but which are actually useful if we want to rewrite one of the many collective film-focused stories which stood in opposition to official history, which has forgotten about Mamaia and La Vieille Dame Indigne.
Jeune cinéma is produced by Local Films, who are also handling the movie’s international sales.
(Translated from Italian)
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