February 05, 2016 at Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago.
CENTRAL OUTSIDER: THE FILMS OF MAURICE PIALAT
Full schedule & tickets available at www.siskelfilmcenter.org/pialat
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From February 5 through March 3, the Gene Siskel Film Center, in partnership with the Cultural Service at the Consulate General of France and the Institut français, presents Central Outsider: The Films of Maurice Pialat, a series of nine features and one short, all presented in 35mm, by the supremely individualistic French filmmaker.
Defiantly, resentfully, often self-destructively, Maurice Pialat (1925-2003) stood alone. He belonged to no school or movement. He has been likened to Renoir, Cassavetes, and Bresson, but such comparisons seem incomplete at best. His style is difficult to define and at times seems more like an anti-style.
Nevertheless, director Arnaud Desplechin said in 1996, “The filmmaker whose influence has been the strongest and most constant on the young French cinema isn’t Jean-Luc Godard but Maurice Pialat.”
Fitting in comfortably with neither the art house nor the mainstream, Pialat craved both commercial success and critical approval. Remarkably, he managed to achieve both. His films won major awards, and several of them enjoyed a box-office success far beyond that ever attained by his New Wave rivals. Yet, his attitude toward the filmmaking establishment, his collaborators, and his audience remained largely (and perhaps purposefully) antagonistic — most notoriously when he denounced a jeering audience after winning the Cannes Palme d’Or in 1983 for UNDER THE SUN OF SATAN.
Pialat avoided the Paris-centric orientation of the New Wave, setting his stories in the “deep France” of provincial and small-town life. Similarly, his preferred characters were drawn not from bohemia or the bourgeoisie but from the humbler ranks of shopkeepers, factory workers, supermarket cashiers — what he called “people who take the subway.” His subject-matter is intensely personal and often transparently autobiographical; critic Michel Boujut said, “Every film by Maurice Pialat is a film about Maurice Pialat.” His stories focus on dissolution — things coming apart or coming to an end: childhood, marriage, love, families, faith, life itself.
Although Pialat’s relationships with his actors were often acrimonious, he drew unprecedentedly authentic performances from the likes of Sandrine Bonnaire, Gérard Depardieu, Jacques Dutronc, and Isabelle Huppert by taking them out of their comfort zone. The same principle might be applied to his viewers: Pialat’s confrontational, combative style takes us out of our comfort zone, but the rewards are an unsentimental compassion and bracing candor achieved by few other filmmakers.
Films featured in the series: LOULOU, WE WON’T GROW OLD TOGETHER, VAN GOGH, UNDER THE SUN OF SATAN, POLICE, THE MOUTH AGAPE, GRADUATE FIRST, A NOS AMOURS, and NAKED CHILDHOOD.