“It’s virtually impossible to think of a major contemporary French filmmaker who has been more independent, hence more consistently marginalized, than Marcel Hanoun (1929–2012). Born in Tunis, he immigrated to France immediately after the war and, as Bernard Benoliel and Nicole Brenez put it, “gradually taught himself the techniques of cinema, without the help of any formal schooling and apprenticeship.” Despite the fact that he remained on the margins of “the French cinema” as we know it (in terms of state support, distribution, and critical attention), he managed to make an astonishing 70 films over the course of his career. Although his first feature, the very beautiful and heartbreaking Une simple histoire (1957), showed at the New York Film Festival several years after its original release and had some limited US distribution, the only significant recognition in North America that Hanoun received after that came from Anthology Film Archives, which bravely included him in its canon while excluding all his nouvelle vague contemporaries. But because Anthology could only screen his films without English subtitles, this had only a limited impact on his stateside reputation. (Before he died, Hanoun also placed many of his films online at atelier-de-marcel-hanoun.com, and this continues to be an important resource.)
This situation makes last year’s release of Hanoun’s 1966 L’authentique procès de Carl-Emmanuel Jung on a PAL DVD with English subtitles from the invaluable Re:Voir label a major event, especially for those like me who have never been able to follow such a text-heavy film without some textual support. Inspired and prompted by the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem in 1961 (as well as a subsequent Nazi war-crime trial carried out in Frankfurt), Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem, and the documentation techniques of Peter Weiss (among others), Hanoun’s imaginary “authentic trial” of a cultivated Nazi war criminal who plays Bach and Gluck on the piano (Maurice Poullenot) unfolds in a dark and deliberately artificial studio space where the sound is both asynchronous and characterized by other discontinuities, all of which reflect the difficulties of ordinary viewers in assimilating the Eichmann trial as it was being broadcast. As Brenez notes in her superb essay, included along with half a dozen other texts (by Hanoun and others) in a 48-page bilingual booklet that accompanies this release,
“Conducted primarily in Hebrew (the judges) and German (Eichmann), dubbed live into English, the Eichmann trial was broadcast with a dubbed soundtrack provided by a series of translators, misaligning speech, bodies, and comprehension. Over the course of the broadcasts, the same protagonist could be translated by a male or female translator, in alternation. The voice of an English female could accompany a shot of Eichmann’s face, her slightly delayed translation sometimes involuntarily emphasizing the importance of what was being said, by virtue of repetition, as if the translation was already involved in a meditative synopsis. Marcel Hanoun radicalized this technique.”
But this only begins to describe the film’s provocative transgressions and contrapuntal details (which Brenez also writes about), such as the shots of a nude female model stretched out in a cheesecake pose to “illustrate” portions of the trial proceedings. After showing this film in late October to my students at Béla Tarr’s Film.Factory in Sarajevo as part of a survey of independent cinema, it was encouraging to discover that some of them showed immediate interest in seeing the film again.
(It’s worth adding that Jean-Luc Godard, who reviewed Un simple histoire when it first appeared in France, later helped Hanoun to produce L’authentique procès de Carl-Emmanuel Jung, and Brenez reports that Jean Eustache also supported the film and appears in it, although neither filmmaker’s name appears in the credits.)
My only quibble with the English translation of Brenez’s essay is an extremely minor one that actually pleased me: “Sur le fond d’une plastique noir et blanc en 16mm digne du Jugement à Nuremberg de Stanley Kramer (1961)…” becomes “Shot in 16mm, in front of a black and white plastic background worthy of Stanley Kramer’s Nuremberg Judgment (1961)…” After all the many years of Hanoun’s masterpiece being marginalized and ignored in favour of such Oscar-winning blunderbusses as Kramer’s, it’s a genuine pleasure to see Kramer’s film unrecognized and therefore marginalized half a century later by an English translator.” Jonathan Rosenbaum
884MB | 1h 2mn | 720×450 | mkv