For the month of September, Le Cinéma Club is honored to present a series of short films programmed in partnership with La Cinémathèque française and drawn from the legendary Parisian institution’s collections – one of the largest and most significant film archives in the world. These rare works, testimonies to the ingenuity and scope of French independent cinema from the ’60s to the late ’80s, were recently digitally restored with the Cinémathèque’s help and now screen in their online premieres.
Pierre Clémenti is known to most cinephiles as an actor who brought an eccentric and mercurial energy to roles in films like Visconti’s The Leopard (1963), Buñuel’s Belle de jour (1967), and Bertolucci’s The Conformist (1970). However, he was also an underground filmmaker with his own radical vision of cinema. His short Soleil is a hybrid, combining elements of the diary film with autobiographical recreations, behind-the scenes footage, and purely experimental passages. It was Clémenti’s final film as a director, and his favorite among his own works.
Pierre Clémenti’s filmmaking began in the late ’60s, when he used money earned as an actor to buy a 16mm Beaulieu camera, which he would stay loyal to through a number of shorts and short features. These were largely cut together from material he shot spontaneously during the course of his everyday life, whether on the streets of Paris during the May ’68 protests, behind the scenes of films like Marc’O’s Les Idoles (1968) or Philippe Garrel’s The Inner Scar (1972), or at home with his wife Margareth and son Balthazar. His working methods were decidedly D.I.Y. – in addition to writing and directing all of his films, he also shot, edited and produced them.
“The reconciliation of the visual with the colorful psychedelic impulses of these luscious times… To find again the chant of origins, images that inscribe themselves in us like a double and that wave to us.” PIERRE CLÉMENTI
A fierce commitment to an engaged, inward and outward looking cinema can be seen in Soleil. It combines new material with footage culled from his previous works, and begins with a recreation of his 1971 arrest in Rome for possession of narcotics. He maintained that the drugs had been planted as a retaliation by Italian authorities against his radical leftist politics, and indeed he was eventually released due to lack of evidence. That event and its repercussions are at the film’s heart, but Clémenti’s scope goes far beyond a single subject or focus.
His voiceover narration, influenced by the poetry of Rimbaud and the automatic writing of the surrealists, follows a stream-of-consciousness logic that mirrors his associative, free-flowing montage. A funky electronic soundtrack by John Livengood lends the film a propulsive, hypnotic rhythm. When Soleil ends, you might feel as if you’ve been snapped out of a trance, or awoken from a dream.
‘Soleil’ has been digitized and mastered in 2K by the Institut audiovisuel de Monaco, from an internegative image print and the sound negative. This project was conducted by the Institut audiovisuel de Monaco, La Cinémathèque française and Balthazar Clémenti, in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou. Special thanks to La Cinémathèque française and Balthazar Clémenti for making this screening possible.
- Credits for
- Balthazar Clémenti, Margareth Clémenti, Pierre Clémenti, Rose Clémenti & Marie-Laure de Noailles
- written by
- Pierre Clémenti
- John Livengood