Anthology Film Archives

DOCUMENTARISTS FOR A DAY

June 6 – June 21

This series, which we inaugurated in February and will be continuing in June, highlights the documentary achievements of directors more widely known for their fiction films. Part 2 brings together a diverse constellation of filmmakers including Orson Welles, Claire Denis, Raúl Ruiz, Manoel de Oliveira, Martha Coolidge, Satyajit Ray, and Spike Lee (among others), and features a special sidebar showcasing the numerous, little-known television documentaries of Éric Rohmer.

While their subjects, motives, and modes of exploration vary greatly, these films all demonstrate the allure of nonfiction filmmaking and its capacity for accommodating the sensibilities and approaches of such a wide range of artists. At the same time these films reveal new dimensions of each particular author’s work.

Conceived and co-curated by Bora Kim, who also wrote the film descriptions below (unless otherwise noted).

Special thanks to Brian Belovarac (Janus Films); Cassie Blake (Academy Film Archive); Dies Blau (INA); Manuel Casimiro de Oliveira; Kitty Cleary (MoMA); Stefan Droessler (Munich Film Museum); Amélie Garin-Davet (Cultural Services of the French Embassy); Manuela Guillemard (Réseau Canopé); Nadège Le Breton (Why Not Productions); Spike Lee; Sara Moreira (Cinemateca Portuguesa); Elena Rossi-Snook (Reserve Film and Video Collection of the New York Public Library); Filippo Ruffilli, Federico Spoletti & Emanuele Tasselli (SUB-TI Ltd); Abderrahmane Sissako; and Richard Steele (HBO).

DIDACTIC CINEMA: THE DOCUMENTARIES OF ÉRIC ROHMER
Part 2 of “Documentarists for a Day” opens with a special series-within-the-series devoted to the numerous – but, outside France, virtually unseen – TV documentaries of Éric Rohmer. Throughout the 1960s Rohmer made short and medium-length, pedagogically-oriented programs for educational television, in which he delves into the lives and work of important writers, thinkers, and other historical figures such as Blaise Pascal, Stéphane Mallarmé, Victor Hugo, and Louis Lumière, or explores various schools of thought, concepts, or historical periods. Unapologetically didactic, they encompass primary documents, narration, reenactments, and footage filmed in locations connected to the various subjects. These films reveal a dimension of Rohmer’s work that is very different in form than his narrative features, but they anticipate his extraordinary period films (such as THE MARQUISE OF O…, PERCEVAL LE GALLOIS, and THE LADY AND THE DUKE), while illuminating the voraciously curious, ever precise, and incisively perceptive mind that animates every one of his works.

“Without seeming to, these cinematic experiments form a portrait of Rohmer painted by himself, and shed a nuanced light on the thought of a man, revealing all the power of attraction that this classical, steely, vertical thought exercises on us.” –Pierre Léon, “Rohmer éducateur”

“The films made for RTS were for Rohmer what the cabinet de physique in Mme du Châtelet’s chateau was for Voltaire: a place of experimentation that allowed him to see whether his conjectures were off track or not.” –Philippe Fauvel, “Le Laboratoire d’Éric Rohmer”

“For the past two years I have made a certain number of programs for educational television. I say ‘programs,’ but I could say ‘films,’ because none of them was made ‘live’ (en direct), and in my opinion they are all part of my work, on the same footing as my fictional films. And I don’t think that they are minor works: they are as valuable as the rest.” –Éric Rohmer

All the Rohmer documentaries are in French with projected English subtitles. The Antoine de Baecque & Noël Herpe quotes below are taken from their book, ÉRIC ROHMER: A BIOGRAPHY.

Special thanks to Archives Réseau Canopé, who provided all the Rohmer films.

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