Exercises in Solitude

in 36th International Istanbul Film Festival

by Alberto Castellano

The unique and inimitable oeuvre of French director Vincent Dieutre was given the retrospective treatment at the festival and Alberto Castellano guides us through the films to underline what makes him so different and also highly respected.

One of the events of the 36th edition of the Istanbul Film Festival has been the complete retrospective of the cinema of Vincent Dieutre, the French director – better filmmaker – who occupies a particular space in the international cinema. As writes Dominique Païni in the introduction to the catalogue of the Festival “I cannot think of a director whom he could possibly be compared to, nor of a school or movement he could be deemed a part of. As most of his films can be thought of as exercises in solitude, it wouldn’t be paradoxical to define Dieutre as a solitary, an utterly solitary cinematographer. Solitary is through his style.” All his nine films presented together at the festival (from his first feature directed in 1995 to the last shot in 2016) have given a good occasion to know better an author in the whole of his complexity; an elegant, graceful, romantic narrator-director, whose obsession for Europe is now accepted as a form of resistance. So, Desolate Rome (Rome désolée, 1995) is an intimate, fragmented, painful journal of a young gay man in Rome at the end of the 1980s, Tenebrae Lessons (Leçons de ténébres, 2000), the first part of the “Films of Europe” cycle, is the nocturnal itinerary of a man searching for beauties past in the 90s through three cities Utrecht, Naples, Rome) and two love stories, while with Bonne Nouvelle (2000) Dieutre explores his Paris district telling (with three voices) some micro-stories of flirting and drugs. My Winter Journey (Mon voyage d ’hiver, 2003), the second part of the “Films of Europe” cycle, depicts the director during a long journey by car with his young godson crossing Germany to rediscover the past; Bologna Centrale (2003) is a kind of film diary, a retrospective autobiography, a sort of sentimental documentary about the late 1970s in Bologna where Dieutre lived for three years and returned 20 years later and Jaurès (2012) talks about the love story of Dieutre and Simon and the last year of his life spent with a woman in Paris, with some scenes shot on digital video. Roland Wounded (Orlando ferito – Roland Blessé, 2015), the third and last part of the “Films of Europe” cycle, is an essay-film in which the author was inspired from a testamentary document written by Pasolini travelling across the far south of Europe to arrive in Palermo for the first gay demonstration, comments on contemporary Sicilian society and the state of politics in Italy and Europe today. Journey Into Post-History (Viaggio nella dopo-storia, 2015) is the result of the desire of the filmmaker to shoot in Naples on the traces of Voyage to Italy by Roberto Rossellini, not for a remake but to show what survives in a different Italy, that of After-History. The latest film of Dieutre, Trilogy of Our Lives Undone (Trilogie de nos vies défaites, 2016), is another journey through France, Belgium and the Netherlands to tell of the lives of three generations whose feelings, choices, and even death, wander on the web.

Edited by Steven Yates