In 1964, film critic and filmmaker André S. Labarthe, together with Janine Bazin, widow of influential film theorist André Bazin, approached the French television channel ORTF about starting a program that would resemble the long, in-depth interviews with film directors that magazines such as Cahiers du cinéma and Positif regularly published. ORTF gave the green light, and Cinéastes de notre temps (Filmmakers of Our Time) was born. Many of the programs were dedicated to older directors, then in retirement or in the final stages of their careers. Instead of TV journalists, Labarthe and Bazin would often ask well-known film directors to make these programs: thus, Jacques Rivette on Jean Renoir, or Jacques Rozier on Jean Vigo.
Cinéastes de notre temps lasted until 1971, when ORTF, for various clear and unclear reasons, decided to terminate production. Over the following years, the series became almost legendary, with occasional bits of its programs appearing in other films. In 1988, ARTE, the French-German cultural channel, decided to reprise the series, now under the title Cinéma, de notre temps. The focus shifted to contemporary filmmakers, and generally speaking directors were now more free to choose their own approaches—such as the self-portrait by Chantal Akerman or the film noir style of Rafi Pitts’ film on Abel Ferrara.
The films made for both Cinéastes and Cinéma, de notre temps together form an invaluable history of the cinema, full of insights into the work of individual filmmakers as well as a sense of the shifts in taste and ideas about cinema.
Hubert Knapp; André S. Labarthe 1969
France | 104 minutes
While at first the Cinéastes team was more interested in capturing on film the titans of Hollywood, many of them already quite elderly, attention was also given to the “New American Cinema,” as seen in these two terrific films. The Cassavetes film was shot in two parts, over three years. The first part, shot in 1965, catches Cassavetes as he is editing Faces; he recounts his unhappy experiences trying to work in Hollywood, and his palpable excitement for what he’s done in Faces is apparent throughout. The second part, filmed in Paris in 1968, reveals a more focused Cassavetes, as the success of Faces has shown him the direction in which he wants to continue. (50m)
Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty
Rafi Pitts 2003
France | 81 minutes
After encountering Abel Ferrara in New York, Franco-Iranian filmmaker Rafi Pitts returned to Paris and proposed to Labarthe a film about him. The project was quickly set up, and the filmmakers headed back to America. Ferrara gave Pitts precise instructions about where to meet to start shooting, but right before they were to begin he called to say he couldn’t make it. Pitts understood that he was going to have to “take” this film from Ferrara, and thus began the hunt of a filmmaker for his subject. The result is a fascinating portrait of an ever-surprising director that could easily fit into Ferrara’s own filmography.
Shirley Clarke, American independent filmmaker is the genius behind groundbreaking and provocative films such as The Connection, Ornette: Made in America, and Portrait of Jason.
“Dancer, bride, runaway wife, radical filmmaker and pioneer — Shirley Clarke is one of the great undertold stories of American independent cinema.”
— Manohla Dargis, New York Times
ROME IS BURNING (Portrait of Shirley Clarke):
Cinéastes de notre temps (Filmmakers of Our Time): François Truffaut ou L’esprit critique (1965).
Luis Buñuel: A Filmmaker of Our Time
Luis Buñuel: Un cinéaste de notre temps | Robert Valery 1964
France | 105 minutes
For what would be the series’ inaugural episode, it was decided the subject should be Luis Buñuel, the old surrealist master recently returned to Europe to make Diary of a Chambermaid. Buñuel travels to Spain, where he visits Toledo, talks of old times with Garcia Lorca and Dali, and retraces the trip through Las Hurdes recounted in his film Land without Bread. (44m)
The Scorsese Machine
André S. Labarthe 1990
France | 103 minutes
Labarthe filmed Martin Scorsese soon after the “scandal” of The Last Temptation of Christ had begun to die down. Not sure which approach to use for the film, Labarthe and his crew simply went to Scorsese’s office and began shooting him moving around, watching rushes, etc. At the end of the first day’s shoot, Scorsese asked whether or not Labarthe was going to ask any questions; “No,” Labarthe replied, just speak whenever you feel like it. And that became the approach to this, one of the most widely-seen episodes in the series. Less an introduction to Scorsese’s work than to his world, the film includes a wonderful visit with Scorsese’s parents. (73m)
David Lynch: Don’t Look at Me (1989)
Shot sometime in the late ‘80’s right before ‘Twin Peaks’ came out, this rather fascinating documentary shows the legendary director/artist/composer relaxing at his home, carving small statues out of clay, and refusing to discuss meaning or any of the particular details in his films. That’s one thing you learn about Mr. Lynch here, he won’t tell you what his films mean, he’d rather hear what you think. There are clips from the director’s three greatest films, ‘Blue Velvet’, ‘The Elephant Man’ and of course, ‘Eraserhead’. Fans will be thrilled when Lynch grabs Jack Nance and drives to the famous tunnel where Henry starts his warped journey in ‘Eraserhead’. An in-depth look at one of the greatest and most thought-provoking directors of all time.
Samuel Fuller, Independent Filmmaker
André S. Labarthe 1967
France | 79 minutes
Fuller presents a kind of Dictionary of Samuel Fuller: in the course of the film, one of the cinema’s great raconteurs covers pretty much everything from racism to communism, violence to crime, and from money problems to life during combat. His extraordinary passion is evident in every frame, and the direct connection between his worldview and his work as an artist is made abundantly clear in extracts from his films Pickup on South Street, Forty Guns and Shock Corridor. The title is taken from Fuller’s self-introduction in Godard’s Pierrot le Fou. (68m).
Fritz Lang et Jean-Luc Godard
1967 - 60 min
Robert Bresson - Ni vu, ni connu
1965 - 65 min
Jean-Pierre Melville, Portrait en Neuf Poses
1971 - 51 min
1966 - 55 min
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