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Jul 13, 2009

Fmff : "that's all, folks."

After discussing Huillet-Straub cinema, what is left but shut up, for good ?

"Ite, missa est."

At least, until further notice.

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Jul 10, 2009

Huillet-Straub : thank you for the shortcuts. (8/8)

8c42da75df7204db66be7db4ae3a0b75.jpgAccording to the film credits, « Lothringen ! » is « tiré de » rather than « basé sur » -« pulled out » rather than « based upon »- a novel called « Colette Baudoche » : Huillet-Straub pull their film out of the book, like a rabbit out of a hat.

« Colette Baudoche » is the impossible love story of a German civil servant with the title character, a young woman from Metz after the French-speaking city was annexed, like the whole of Lothringen, but not Lorraine, by the German Empire born out of France defeat in the1870 French-Prussian war.

« Colette Baudoche » was written by Maurice Barrès, a patriotic right-wing writer, who would tirelessly campaign until WW1 for the return to France of the territories lost in 1870.

The novel is three hundred pages long, « Lothringen ! » is a twenty one minute movie : a viewer’s digest of a book nowadays about totally forgotten.

As with « Cézanne, dialogue avec Joachim Gasquet » and « Der Tod des Empedocles », Huillet and Straub do not comment the text from which they pull out their film, but only quote from it.

A long excerpt describes the exodus of the inhabitants from Metz just before their city becomes German and plays over a series of shots of what we expect, but are not told, to be present day Lothringen.

As we grow accustomed to the Huillet-Straub way, we now know better than wonder about our exact whereabouts or similar questions of little matter and instead focus our attention on the space on screen : unspectacular and rather dour cities of individual grey houses with tiny gardens, on which the camera slowly pans, from left to right, then right to left, as if looking for traces of the flood and ebb tides of an invasion.

Other shots show a countryside, crossed, like in « Cézanne », by a road or a railway, while, on the soundtrack, during long stretches empty Barrès’s words, only play the sounds of traffic and, again, wind in the trees.

We also see an attractive town, by a river, and another one, equally nameless, which we believe to be Metz, hear music by Haydn -which we are proud to identify on our own as the source for the German national anthem- and, in one brief shot, meet a young woman who wears late 19th -or early 20th- century fashion and utters one single sentence to an off screen character or herself.

She returns at the end of the movie, in an equally brief scene, with a question which, again alone on screen, she shall answer herself : « Can one be excused for marrying a German ? No. »

The film then closes, suggesting that, with its outcome revealed, we need to know nothing more about Maurice Barrès’s novel. We agree.

The titles give us one last bit of information : the young woman is played by Emmanuelle Straub, and we wonder if, though obviously older in « Lothringen ! », i.e. 1994, than Ernesto in « En rachâchant », i.e. 1982, she is older or younger than Olivier Straub in real life.

The relations between the two actors, as well as between them and Jean-Marie Straub, also remain appropriately mysterious.

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Jul 08, 2009

Huillet-Straub : Lothringen is (no) Lorraine. (7/8)

29be1afa77319636d9a2276f96b9beee.gifIn separate interviews about the genesis of « Cézanne, dialogue avec Joachim Gasquet » and then « Lothringen ! », a 1994 film, Straub repeats nearly exactly the same story ; it has little to do with the lofty « affinités électives » invoked about « En rachâchant ».

About « Cézanne », Straub explains Musée d’Orsay initiated the contacts for the film. He and Danièle Huillet refused as they were already busy on another project, and advised the Museum to ask Rivette, or Godard.

Musée d’Orsay did not give up and returned to harass them until they completed their work in progress and eventually agreed to the film the Museum would later reject.

With respect to « Lothringen ! », Straub similarly tells how he was approached by the German side of Arte, a European TV channel run mostly like a French-German partnership : because he was born in Metz, they wanted him and Danièle Huillet to contribute a film to a « thematic evening » the channel planned about « Lothringen ».

As with « Cézanne, dialogue avec Joachim Gasquet », they first refused, but Arte Germany insisted and guaranteed them utter freedom as to the format and content of the film.

Again, Huillet-Straub ultimately accepted, but Straub warned that their film would be « anti-German », and against the brand of European Union politicians force-fed to reluctant populations.

The « Cézanne » and « Lothringen ! » stories nevertheless ended differently : true to their word, the programmers of Arte Germany accepted the film as it was.

With its background partly explained, « Lothringen ! », like « Cézanne », sounds more appealing, but will require substantial additional research to become fully palatable : « Lothringen ! » is even less self-explanatory than « Cézanne, dialogue with Joachim Gasquet ».

I confess I did not know Lothringen meant « Lorraine » in German. As per Jean-Marie Straub’s and other accounts, Lothringen and Lorraine are nevertheless not one and the same thing.

Lothringen is only a part of what the French call Lorraine : the German -or more accurately « francique »- speaking corridor running from Metz to the Luxembourg border, where most of the region iron ore and coal mines are located.

« Francique » is the generic word for all German dialects derived from the original language of the Franks, while Metz, though in Lothringen and its major city, is by exception a fully French-speaking town.

In typical Huillet-Straub fashion, the film keeps mum about its context -or it would no longer be a context.

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