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Pierre Bressan : trajectory

Focus #1

Wed 6 October 202106.10.21
19H00—21H00
Place Georges-Pompidou
75004 Paris
Fee
Full price : 6 € Reduced price : 4 € Free for Centre Pompidou Pass holders
réduit : 4 €
Gratuit pour les détenteurs du Laissez-passer du Centre Pompidou
Programmed and presented by Theo Deliyannis and Judit Naranjo Ribó

Programmed and presented by Théo Deliyannis and Judit Naranjo Ribó

This session will trace the meteoric rise of Pierre Bressan, an unjustly forgotten filmmaker from Nancy, whose last film won a joint award at the Clermont Ferrand Film Festival with Leos Carax’s first film. Also a programmer at the mythical FUFU (Festival Underground du Film Universitaire, or “Underground University film festival”), Pierre Bressan has created a particularly consistent body of work of about ten films between 1976 and 1985. His work, although being extremely specific, appears at the crossroads of several movements belonging to experimental cinema or others: the cinema of the body, the baroque cinema, and a certain taste for the costumes and atmospheres inherited from Hammer productions. These films were recently rediscovered after having been carefully stored in the cellar of the filmmaker’s sister for more than thirty years.

Les Lamentations
Pierre Bressan

France
1977
16mm
12'

Frauenzimmer
Pierre Bressan

France
1978
16mm
17'

Usual Gesture Drama
Pierre Bressan et Alain Krepper

France
1979
16mm
6'

Maria Guadalupe Villalobos
Pierre Bressan

France
1979
16mm
6'

La Dame aux Camélias
Pierre Bressan

France
1980
16mm
30'

Midas
Pierre Bressan

France
1976
16mm
5'

Pierre Bressan : trajectory

Pierre Bressan, born in 1956, died in 2011. Born in Nancy, this filmmaker had a short but intense career. Over the period 1976-1985, he directed one commissioned feature, two medium-length films, six short films, and an extended cinema performance. He is also a film programmer at the FUFU (Festival Universitaire du Film Underground) in Nancy. Like the meetings in Rennes and Toulouse, Cinémarge in La Rochelle, and the Cinéma Différent section of the Hyères film festival, these festivals remind us that experimentation was also, and above all, happening outside the capital.

A very quiet personality and a dark dandy, Pierre Bressan builds, throughout his films, an extremely consistent universe, very black, even gothic, where he gives free rein to his taste for stoic, Schroeterian poses, empty and strangely lit rooms, black costumes, a suspended, underexposed time, and Nancy-esque lights. Although his work is very singular, it could be compared to other films of that time, be it the adaptations of Poe by Roger Corman, the films of the so-called School of the Body, or the cinema of the pose: Philippe Garrel, Yvan Lagrange, Denis Develoux or Patrice Énard.

We wanted our program to be chronological, because Pierre Bressan’s films are well suited to this order: his universe slowly gets populated, perfected, with details emerging. We will screen his films until La Dame aux Camélias, his first truly fictional foray, created after he defended a thesis in literature on Alexandre Dumas (son). He then directed Nuits Blanches, which will not be screened as part of this program, a strange experimental thriller set in Nancy, with yellow tones, whose technical mastery sometimes gives us the illusion of watching the reverse side of a Hollywood film, and which was awarded a joint award in Clermont-Ferrand with the first film of Leos Carax.

After these films, Pierre Bressan still worked in cinema as a director of photography on some short films, including the first film of Laetitia Masson, produced by the GREC, where one can feel Bressan’s touch. He then disappeared: first from Nancy, then from the experimental cinema scene. His films disappeared with him, well wrapped up and dry in a cellar. When he died in 2011, his sister recovered the copies which, in a remarquable way for an experimental filmmaker, were perfectly arranged and annotated.

Why he suddenly stopped making films is difficult to know. There is one hypothesis, however: Pierre Bressan is one of those rare romantic filmmakers for whom  filming represents everything, and for whom each shooting is trying because it requires a total investment, close to madness. Unlike filmmakers who film when asked to or because they are given money, he is one of those who only films when their desire is intense and burning. And this fire rarely lasts long: then comes the need to stop, to take a rest, to take the films off the streets, for a while at least. Ten years after his death, it is time to give it a new life.

- Theo Deliyannis

For some time now, we have been carrying out a minute archeological work at the Collectif Jeune Cinéma: searching, finding, restoring and then screening films that once belonged to our catalog but which, for various reasons, have been withdrawn from circulation, most often to end up in the cellars of the copyright holders. The discovery of an entire filmography that has completely vanished from the history of experimental cinema is a rare moment, and a real gift to our cinephilia.

A few months ago, Theo told me when he arrived at office [1] that he had managed to find Pierre Bressan’s sister. Bressan : Les Lamentations, mention of the Jury at the 1977 Hyères festival; this forgotten filmmaker whose invisible films have intrigued us for some time. Théo found his trace thanks to Alain Lithaud, a composer of electroacoustic music and of a good part of the music of Pierre Bressan’s films.

A few days later, Theo and the filmmaker’s sister met at her home and she entrusted us with the copies of the films so we could restore, digitize and then distribute them. The films have all been carefully stored and preserved, from the original pictures (reversible Ektachrome for almost every film) to the screening copies with magnetic stripe sound tracks.

From April 6 to 8, 2021, we digitized and discovered the entire work of Pierre Bressan at the Polygone Étoilé. This location dedicated to cinema and established in Marseille welcomes resident filmmakers (film and digital editing, post-production), workshops, and is also home to an important editorial work [2]. There, we celebrate cinema during an Semaine Asymétrique of public screenings.

The Polygone has recently been equipped with a scanner to allow for projects of valorization and preservation like ours, allowing for digitization of films independently from laboratories, supported by a community, and affordable. It is thanks to this that certain works that remain on the fringe of institutions, and of a certain history of cinema, can find their way into film programs, research and distribution.

Once on site, without screening the films beforehand, we decided to digitize them chronologically and thus were able to witness the technical and plastic evolution of Pierre Bressan’s work. As soon as the first silver images appear on the digital screen, our intuition is confirmed: a great forgotten filmmaker reveals himself, which it is now time to rediscover.

- Judit Naranjo Ribó

1

Théo Deliyannis and myself are the only two employees of the association presently. We are sometimes assisted by interns and community service staff.

2

I am refering to the collection Cinema Hors Capital(e) for the Éditions communes, books that come with a DVD.