“Under the sun of Pialat”, on Arte: the filmmaker of pain


You have just (re) seen, at 8:50 p.m., We won’t grow old together (1972), this vivisection of an impossible love, and you continue with Under the sun of Pialat, William Karel’s documentary. You may have already known it, otherwise you will see it very quickly, the director who is at the center of Karel’s film is the identical twin of Jean, the wounded and wounding man that plays Jean Yanne in We will not grow old together.

When it was his turn to pass in front of the cameras, to talk on television sets about the films in which he appeared in the guise of Jean Yanne, Philippe Léotard (The open mouth), Guy Marchand (Louie) or Gérard Depardieu (The Garçu), Maurice Pialat continued this business of stripping bare, denigrating himself with the same energy he had put into demeaning his actors during the filming.

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William Karel was the still photographer of Maurice Pialat, ofTo our Loves (1983) to his last film, The Garçu (1995). He witnessed the miraculous meeting between the filmmaker and Sandrine Bonnaire for the first of these films, the shipwreck that was the shooting of Police (1985), the tribulations of Van Gogh (1991), marked by violent conflicts between the director and his producers. At the invitation of Pialat, Karel shot his first documentary while filming Under Satan’s Sun (1987), the adaptation of Bernanos which earned its author a Palme d’Or, which has remained famous for the bronca it caused in the aisles of the Théâtre Lumière in Cannes.

Peaceful and lucid words

To sketch (how to do more in fifty-two minutes?), The portrait of this loner, who has always kept away from movements (starting with the New Wave) like coteries, Karel asked Sandrine Bonnaire , the chosen one, or to Sophie Marceau, the reprobate, brutalized and harassed by Pialat and Depardieu during the filming of Police (1985), to remember this man who did everything to blend in with his work.

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Accompanied by old documents, such as this corporate film shot for Olivetti (where Pialat worked from 1954 to 1957) on the model of a burlesque short film, these calm and lucid words open a window on the creative process of an artist. who seems to have found inspiration only in pain, whether it be to come into the world (his first film, Naked Childhood [1968] brutally shows the pain of living with a placed child), of loving (We will not grow old together, Loulou) or create (Van Gogh).

The statue of the suffering artist is barely nuanced by the last sequences devoted to the Garçu, built around the figure of a child, his own. This paternal love discovered in extremis was nevertheless clouded by the awareness of an approaching end, as Gérard Depardieu recounts in one of the most moving sequences of Karel’s film.

Under the sun of Pialat, documentary by William Karel (France, 2021, 52 min), Arte, October 18, 10:35 p.m., on Arte.tv until December 16.

We want to give thanks to the writer of this article for this remarkable material

“Under the sun of Pialat”, on Arte: the filmmaker of pain

Hank Gilbert