Sunday, February 1, 2009
M.I.A. on Region 1 DVD Tribute Month (Film 1): Frederic Pardo's Home Movie, autour du Lit de la Vierge (1968)
One of the most mesmerizing portraits of a woman ever caught on film, painter Frederic Pardo's brilliant Home Movie, autour du Lit de la Vierge is an audacious, compelling and totally hypnotic tribute to his lover and collaborator, actress Tina Aumont.
Running just under 40 minutes and completely silent, Home Movie, autour du Lit de la Vierge was shot in 1968 on the set of Philippe Garrel's Le Lit de la Vierge. Pardo and Aumont had created a commune like atmosphere in the mid to late sixties for a group of French artists and filmmakers that had begun exploring the possibilities of cinema under the banner of Zanzibar Films. The 19 year old Garrel was among the most talented and his unforgettable career owes much to Pardo and Aumont's influence, with Pardo's paintings providing inspiration and Aumont becoming one of his most memorable actors in film after film.
Arguably even more compelling that Le Lit de la Vierge, Home Movie isn't so much a documentary on the making of a film as a heartfelt valentine to a relationship that obviously burned very brightly. Shot in 16mm with a mixture of black and white color footage, Pardo's experimental short is a breathtaking experience featuring an endless number of inventive cuts, and a dizzying variety of inovative screen manipulations that make for a silent film that is incredibly frenetic while being at the same time oddly soothing and meditative.
The silence serves the film surprisingly well and lends it's potent imagery a real avant-garde feel (Warhol was not surprisingly a major influence to many of Zanzibar's main players). According to some trivia mentioned at IMDB, Pardo himself suggested playing a Rolling Stones record during its running time to provide some music. I found that Bobby Beausoleil's soundtrack to Lucifer Rising worked quite nicely as well.
Clearly inspired by the student riots that shook Paris in 1968, the blossoming sexual revolution and no doubt a little chemical help as well, Pardo proves himself to be a great visual stylist with Home Movie, and its a shame that he didn't delve deeper into the cinema throughout his career. Featuring the stars of Garrel's film, Pierre Clementi and ZouZou, as well as friends and colleagues Pierre-Richard Bré, Jean-Pierre Kalfon and Babette Lamy, Home Movie is a striking snapshot of an extremely vivid time in film history, when it seemed that the camera was less a technical tool and more an actual possessor of magic.
Politics and Garrel's film aside, Home Movie is more than anything else a tribute to Tina Aumont. Filming her face and body as close up as possible with the kind of intimate detail rarely seen in film, Pardo clearly loves Aumont dearly and at one point even frames her surrounded by fireworks in the background. The film probably wouldn't work if Aumont wasn't so arresting but she is positively electric in these frames.
Home Movie, autour du Lit de la Vierge would of course make a wonderful extra to a special edition Region 1 DVD of Garell's film, but I actually think it is valuable enough to release on its own. Either way, I hope it becomes more readily available in America eventually as it is a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Information on a release of Garrel's film on import DVD with Home Movie as an extra can be found here.