Magic of Jacques Demy in Greece

The fate of the French nouvelle vague cinematic movement would have been somewhat bleak were it not for the constant support, now through some 500 issues, it has received from the 50-year-old Cahiers du Cinema journal. The journal, often considered the Holy Book for art film-lovers, is celebrating its 50th birthday with a series of events taking place in Cannes, Locarno, Venice, New York and, now, Thessaloniki and Athens. Within the framework of this broad cinematic celebration, the Thessaloniki International Film Festival, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and the French Institute, has decided to organize a tribute to one of the nouvelle vague’s most important representatives, film director Jacques Demy (1931-1990). Demy, though initially excluded from the group associated with the Cahiers du Cinema and filming international successes based along the lines of the American film industry, quickly became recognized both for his popular appeal and for his ability to combine myriad commercial film elements with the French cinematic tradition and a deeply human outlook. Starting tomorrow and running until next Thursday, December 13, at the Pavlos Zannas movie theater in Thessaloniki and from December 14-20 at the Apollon theater in Athens, the festival will be presenting 15 features and four shorts of Demy’s, while also organizing lectures and other events on his work. Evolution In a recent press conference at the Apollon movie theater in Athens, Thessaloniki Film Festival President Michel Demopoulos discussed the events the festival has in store and introduced Thierry Jousse, editor in chief of the Cahiers du Cinema from 1991-1996 and a permanent associate. Jousse spoke of the journal’s tempestuous past through changing ideologies, monumental theoretical debates and the manner in which it evolved with the contributions of eminent critics and directors such as Andre Bazin, Lo Duca, Jacques Rivette, Francois Truffaut, Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, among others. Jousse referred to Demy as a director with a composite and controversial narrative who lies between Bresson, Ophuels and the American musical, who combined grandiose elements with melancholy. The press conference evoked an earlier time when theory had power and charm, when the landscape of film was clear, not cluttered and vague like it is today, and cinema was an art that provoked constructive dialogue and heated debate. A critic must have memory, not just of cinema but also of politics, in order to analyze events, argued Jousse, adding that the critic is not a professional but an amateur: He must watch a lot of cinema, talk about it, think and write. Events The films which will be screened in Thessaloniki and Athens are Lola (1960), La Baie des Anges (1962), Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1963), Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1966), Model Shop (1968), The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1971), L’Evenement le Plus Important Depuis Que l’ Homme a Marche Sur la Lune (1973), Lady Oscar (1978), Une Chamber en Ville (1982), Parking (1985) and Trois Places Pour le 26 (1988). The shorts on screen will be Le Saboteur du Val de Loire (1955), Le Bel Indifferent (1957), Ars (1959) and Les Sept Peches Capitaux: La Luxure (1961). Tomorrow, at the opening night at the Pavlos Zannas cinema, Thierry Jousse will deliver a brief lecture on the opening film Les Parapluies de Cherbourg, starring Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo and Anne Vernon. He will also present the films La Baei des Anges and Lady Oscar on their Saturday and Sunday screenings. The Athens tribute will also include a great surprise: Film director Agnes Varda – herself an important representative of the nouvelle vague as well as Demy’s partner – will make an appearance in order to present her trilogy on Demy with the films Jacquot de Nantes (1991), Les Demoiselles ont eu 25 Ans (1993) and L’Universe de Jacques Demy (1995). Also, on December 15, the French Institute in Athens will be holding a round-table discussion on The Adventures of the Cahiers du Cinema (1951-2001) with guest speakers Frank Nouchi, the new director of the journal and Jean-Marc Lalanne, the editor in chief, as well as several respected Greek film critics. Another part of these parallel events is a monograph, compiled by the festival, composed of critiques and opinions on his work by eminent French and Greek critics and presented in the form of a Cahiers du Cinema issue. A brief history of the Cahiers du Cinema journal The first issue of the Cahiers du Cinema was published in 1951 in the wake of two other frontline cinema magazines, L’ecran Francais and La Revue du Cinema. However, it soon stood out for its more polemical character, featuring controversial opinions and a cutting-edge stance, provided by its first editors Jacques Doniol-Valcroze, Andre Bazin and Lo Duca. The Cahiers du Cinema characterized cinema as high art at a time when American commercial film was flourishing and trends opposing this evolution were beginning to appear throughout Europe. France’s nouvelle vague grew and blossomed through the pages of the Cahiers du Cinema. By the end of the 1950s, the Cahiers du Cinema had created a new cinematic forum expressed through directors such as Jacques Rivette, Francois Truffaut and Eric Rohmer. Drawn by the great ideological controversies taking place both in France and around the world at the time, in the ensuing years the Cahiers du Cinema changed, evolved, lost and regained members. The Cahiers have in their 50 years reflected the course of modern and contemporary French history, modernizing when this was necessary – as it was in 1974 under Serge Daney and Serge Toubiana – and expanding, which occurred in the 1980s when Olivier Assayas and Charles Tesson began exploring Asian cinema. In its most recent change, the Cahiers du Cinema became a member of the Le Monde group in October 2000 under its new director, Frank Nouchi, a move which increased the number of their subscribers and readers by 50 percent.

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