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Author: Joseph Mai

This book provides a comprehensive account of Robert Guédiguian’s numerous films since 1980, combining stylistic analyses with historical, political, and generic context. More importantly, it makes the case that Guédiguian’s work represents one of the most discretely original but radical projects of contemporary French cinema: to make politically committed films with friends, predominately in a local space, over a long period of time. The book starts with a consideration of the philosophy of friendship and its relation to politics, relation, difference, time, and space. It concentrates on Guédiguian’s early life in the Estaque neighbourhood of Marseilles, where he became politically active and developed the friendships that would continue in his filmmaking, as well as Guédiguian’s disillusionment with the Communist Party. It then examines the political pessimism of the 1980s through Guédiguian’s four early films. The book examines the turn toward local activism and utopianism in the 1990s, and follows Guédiguian’s work as it spreads into diverse experimentation with genres and registers in more recent work. It emphasises Guédiguian’s political assessments and his frequent meditations on history, violence, and utopia. But it returns consistently to the underlying themes of friendship, and thus intervenes at the crossroads of affect, politics, philosophy, and art.

Films since 2000
Joseph Mai

human relations –​the masks of revenge, self-​satisfaction or bourgeois complacency  –​to locate a more open, ethical model of human relationship. My goal in   86 86  Robert Guédiguian this chapter is, as far as is possible, to avoid repetition of ideas discussed through earlier works while indicating what is new or deepened in each film. Dystopia/​Utopia: the family as philia La Ville est tranquille (2001) La Ville est tranquille, written and filmed at the same time as À l’Attaque!, is an example of Guédiguian’s willingness to explore generic and emotional

in Robert Guédiguian
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Joseph Mai

vivre.’3 (Danel 2008: 46) Robert Guédiguian has had an industrious and productive career lasting thirty-​five years (and counting), producing, co-​writing and directing nineteen full-​length films, as well as a parallel career as an independent film producer with Agat Films & Cie, a company that he co-​founded in the early 1990s. His work attracts a core of loyal fans, numbering approximately 200,000, who consistently turn out for 1 ‘The cinema does not interest me as a craft: it is a way of living collectively.’ Unless otherwise stated, all translations are mine. 2

in Robert Guédiguian
The decade of the conte de L’Estaque
Joseph Mai

French workers’ movement.’   48 48  Robert Guédiguian more positive and focused, which he had hitherto misunderstood: a different type of communism rooted in small-​scale groups, communes, local political movements, predating the Revolution and discernible from (if related to) the history of the Communist Party. Perhaps it never was grand narratives, political parties or the idea of a goal in history that interested Guédiguian in the first place. Perhaps it is, rather, politics at a local level, enacted by small groups of friends and neighbours, like the anarcho

in Robert Guédiguian
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Another cinema – a project in time
Joseph Mai

is Gérard Meylan, Guédiguian’s oldest friend. Meylan is an untrained, non-​professional actor: a nurse in a pulmonary ward   136 136  Robert Guédiguian and union representative until his recent retirement, Meylan has acted during vacations and occasional sick leave. In his own film about Guédiguian’s work, Robert sans Robert (2013), Bernard Sasia, Guédiguian’s editor, remembers being struck by Meylan’s ‘presence’ when watching the rushes of Dernier été; Guédiguian compares him to John Wayne or Robert Mitchum: untrained actors whose faces ‘tell a story’ (Danel

in Robert Guédiguian
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Films of the 1980s
Joseph Mai

can lead people to revise their evaluative outlooks on social or moral issues. This time the friends are gathered on the café terrace. The camera is fixed on them, at their level, its frame determined by the group of friends while slightly theatrical, in a long duration shot. Michou, a 2 In this way, the film responds in the opposite way to Pagnol’s Marius, in which the old port is generally shot as homogenous and provincial.   22 22  Robert Guédiguian gay friend from the neighbourhood, arrives from off-​screen. Gilbert asks him why he looks glum, and he

in Robert Guédiguian

The great American film critic Manny Farber memorably declared space to be the most dramatic stylistic entity in the visual arts. He posited three primary types of space in fiction cinema: the field of the screen, the psychological space of the actor, and the area of experience and geography that the film covers. This book brings together five French directors who have established themselves as among the most exciting and significant working today: Bruno Dumont, Robert Guediguian, Laurent Cantet, Abdellatif Kechiche, and Claire Denis. It proposes that people think about cinematographic space in its many different forms simultaneously (screenspace, landscape, narrative space, soundscape, spectatorial space). Through a series of close and original readings of selected films, it posits a new 'space of the cinematic subject'. Dumont's attraction to real settings and locality suggests a commitment to realism. New forms and surfaces of spectatorship provoke new sensations and engender new kinds of perception, as well as new ways of understanding and feeling space. The book interrogates Guediguian's obsessive portrayal of one particular city, Marseilles. Entering into the spaces of work and non-work in Cantet's films, it asks what constitutes space and place within the contemporary field of social relations. The book also engages with cultural space as the site of social integration and metissage in the work of Kechiche, his dialogues with diasporic communities and highly contested urban locales. Denis's film work contains continually shifting points of passage between inside and outside, objective and subjective, in the restless flux.

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The symbolics of space in the cinema of Robert Guédiguian
James S. Williams

3 Requiem for a city: the symbolics of space in the cinema of Robert Guédiguian Space and being in contemporary French cinema Symbolics of space in the cinema of Robert Guédiguian Marseilles never ceases to evade the take. (J.-L. Comolli) This area is dead, and so are we. (Bert in Dernier Été) Marseilles metropolis The spectacular opening panning shot of La Ville est tranquille/ The Town is Quiet (2000) is one of the most majestic and seemingly all-encompassing in recent French cinema. To the calm, opening notes of Erik Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies, the camera

in Space and being in contemporary French cinema
James S. Williams

world in order to rediscover it afresh, Dumont continually frames it, in all senses of the word, to the point of reducing it to pure function. The symbolic and political demands of Robert Guédiguian are so absolute that Marseilles – and all his heavily mapped and circumscribed urban landscapes – invariably become the same empty, abyssal space to pass through eyes wide shut. His cinema almost always arrives after the image due to a lack of any genuine investment in space qua space. Indeed, despite some show-piece sequences suggesting the contrary, Guédiguian’s symbolic

in Space and being in contemporary French cinema
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Derek Schilling

social beings comes into question. As director Robert Guédiguian notes, on ne peut pas dire … qu’un personnage de Rohmer est un ‘jeune Français’, car tous, sans exception, sont des ‘jeunes Français vus par Rohmer’. 3 (Cohen 1997 : 59) Nor can it quite be said, given this, that

in Eric Rohmer