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November 17, 2009

SDFF 2009 - Irene


Alain Cavalier - 2009
Pyramide International 35mm film

Alain Cavalier remains a relatively unknown filmmaker for many of us following French cinema stateside. Reviewing his filmography, I realized that I had only seen two of his previous films. Le combat dans l'ile recently played at several select locations, including the Starz theater here in Denver. I had also seen La Chamade, from the novel by Francoise Sagan, on DVD. Therese is a film I recall seeing on Bravo almost twenty years ago when that cable station was devoted to programming shows on the arts, as well as foreign language films. Irene is not a film that I expect will make Cavalier better known, and will probably only be available, if at all, as a film to be seen at festivals or at career retrospectives.

Cavalier's wife, Irene Tunc is probably best known to the serious followers of French cinema, generally in supporting roles. Cavalier's film is a first person meditation on Tunc's death in a car accident, and a reflection on their relationship, shot with a small video camera. The camera roams around their house, examining a few artifacts. There are shots of Cavalier's diaries from the last three years they were together, with Cavalier reading excerpts. Cavalier films while riding a subway station escalator to the street where they had met, only to fall down the escalator, injuring himself. A clip from La Chamade includes a bit of dialogue included from Cavalier and Tunc's own conversations.

This is not a film that I feel I can write easily about. Reviewing Cavalier's filmography and what little is available in English and online, Irene might be better understood as part of a series of autobiographical works done previously, such as Le Filmeur, in which Cavalier reflects on part of his own career as filmmaker. Even if one is not familiar with Cavalier, one can still appreciate the conflicting feelings one might have about someone who was both a significant part of one's life, and also no longer part of that life.

Irene 2.jpg

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