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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Joris Ivens: Pour le Mistral (1965)

One of Joris Ivens's most poetic films is his first attempt to film the wind. With a beautiful photography, a powerful editing and a poetic commentary the film tries to make the wind visible and tangible. It starts in black and white, continues in color and ends in cinemascope to illustrate the force of the upcoming Mistral wind that blows in the south of France. It was difficult to find a producer for this film, for most people were rather skeptical to finance a film with an invisible main character. Finally Claude Nedjar was willing to produce the film, which despite many financial problems was finished in 1965.

The spirit of the Avant-garde of the 20's was still alive in 1965, the year when Joris Ivens made Pour le Mistral. The same Productionist credo as in De Brug and Philips-Radio, the same subtle poetry as in Regen. Actually here the Productionism goes well beyond its ideological burden: it is the endless struggle of the human against Universe (be it the mechanical world of factories and construction sites, be it the world of Mother Nature). Here the universe is the Mistral; only a wind as powerful as it can be, is invisible; we have here (like in Regen) a qualisign, the pure quality of the wind, sending us to the idea of Nature omnipotence; a Universe, almighty and blind, and a hero (the human) facing the Universe, struggling with it, living with it, endlessly. Day after day, times with calm weather, times with beastly wind, Times and Winds (to paraphrase Reha Erdem), each day like the one behind it, like the one after: the any space whatever, l'espace quelconque.

The beginning scenes called in my mind the beginning of ¡Que viva México!: the same feeling of Eternity. Should I say again a qualisign?

Pour le Mistral (1965): Part 1/3
(video by alextrebek323)

Pour le Mistral (1965): Part 2/3
(video by alextrebek323)

Pour le Mistral (1965): Part 3/3
(video by alextrebek323)

Dutch documentarian Joris Ivens's Pour le Mistral is his first attempt to film the wind. In Provence, in Southeast France on the Mediterranean, the wind rages and inhabitants resist the rage, as captured in a series of witty streetside freeze-frames. In one, a young woman tries restraining her bridal veil as she mounts the church steps. The heightened mode with which Ivens begins is somewhat correlative to the middle of things at the launch of a literary epic. A series of static shots of rough, daunting rock formations, suggesting ancient history, gives way to a modern aerial shot that is so high it shows an airplane below traversing the ground. We are back on Earth; is it the voice of Cosmos that we hear in the poetic commentary? The camera seems driven in a fluent, and rising, traveling shot through open landscape. The camera has become the wind. Farmers farm; sitting on the ground, a woman knits; boys rambunctiously play. It is as though the wind were humanity's invisible bloodstream. But then the rage comes: trees, first lightly danced upon, are thrashed by the howling wind; part of the roof is blown off a house. The contrast between shepherds, who love children and animals, and the dressed-up woman, en route to the theater, who is most concerned about her pearls, which the wind has torn from her neck and scattered: gratuitous; silly. Otherwise, the film deserves the documentary prize it won at Venice. The film passes from black-and-white to color. Prior to another raging gust, Nature appears calm and in gorgeous full bloom—like the burst of spring in Jean Renoir's The River (1951). Over the land the play of light and darkness suggests the influence of Eisenstein's The Old and the New (1929).

(Joris Ivens)



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