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April 20, 2018

A Violent Life

A Violent Life.jpg

Une Vie Violente
Thierry De Peretti - 2017
Icarus Films Region 1 DVD

Thierry De Peretti uses an unusual visual strategy for filming his main character, the 27 year old Stephane, played by actor Jean Michelangeli. Most of the time, Stephane is not seen clearly. His face is in the shadows. His back is to the camera. There are only a couple of times when the camera is focused on Michelangeli, always from a distance, in the sunlight. The most sustained view is an extended lateral tracking shot of Stephane, walking along the sidewalk, fully certain of his sense of sense and his impending fate.

A Violent Life is De Peretti's second feature, and again takes place in Corsica. His debut feature, Les Apaches was about a quartet of young men of Moroccan descent involved in small time theft that escalates to an ultimately meaningless tragedy within the group. De Peretti returns to Corsica and the more recent past of the country, where simultaneous to factions wanting different degrees of independence from France, also saw violence between rival groups. The film opens with titles giving a brief overview of the historic context to the story.

De Peretti keeps his distance visually through most of the film employing full or medium shots of his characters. There is a sense of detachment to those scenes other filmmakers would usually emphasize for their dramatic qualities. The camera is a distant observer to an early scene with two men sitting in the front seat of a car, each shot at close range by two other mean, with one pouring gasoline on the car and lighting it on fire. Similarly, when Stephane's group of nationalist activists ignite bombs around the city of Bastia, we see a full shot of the main city, with the sight and sound of explosions at various points, while the camera remains as if a passive observer.

As De Peretti is himself from Corsica, one might interpret the visual distancing as a way of providing a counter-balance to that which might considered personal. The major portion of the film takes place in 1997, when the filmmaker was the same age as his main character. At this time, there is very little about De Peretti in English. There is a quote in which he describes A Violent Life as being about a "bruised generation" of which he is a part. From a French interview, De Peretti has stated that wanted, " . . . to give an account, to recall to the memory some atypical and representative paths of the people of my generation. That of this young nationalist militant, Nicolas Montigny, who was killed in Bastia in 2001 and whose character of A Violent Life is inspired, is perhaps one of the most brilliant. He was a young man of his time but who evolved in a fairly conservative environment, the Corsican nationalist movement of the late 90s, I liked this contradiction."

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at April 20, 2018 10:30 AM