Face off

Pourquoi des conversations? Pourquoi tant d’échanges de paroles des heures durant? On revient s’appuyer sur un environnement proche et avec des proches s’entretenir de proches afin d’oublier l’univers, le trop eloignant univers, comme aussi le trop gènant interieure, pelote inextricable de l’intime qui n’a pas de forme.
(Henri Michaux)

Picture 9

At some point in making this film, we decided we weren’t interested in doing interviews. In talking to people, yes, but what we’ve come to recognize as the classic interview situation had begun to bore us. And not only us. The interviewees themselves weren’t too happy about it either. ‘Je m’en fous des entretiens’ as one of them elegantly put it. It’s worth thinking about how much redundancy is built into the interview situation, how much it conditions our expectations of what documentary is and is not. A medium-close up of someone seated more or less comfortably in a familiar environment, recounting their memories cuts to archive footage of the events being described and we are caught up in a game of identification of joining the implicit dots between the individual now and the collective then, without considering the complexities of how subjects, far from being unified or unifying, from having a ‘point of view’ that gathers to a single point the dispersal of history (ready to be affirmed, contradicted or corrected by other such illusory points of view), are themselves ‘distributed’ across that history, just as they are across the interval that separates them from it and the present in which they recount it.
Partly this has to do with the fact that in recent years and in light of its commercial success documentary has come to be perceived by producers and audience alike as a traditional  ‘story-telling’ medium, a medium in need of characters with whom we can psychologically identify and plot development to propel our interest, in short all the tricks of conventional narrative cinema.

The medium shot or medium close-up of the interview thus testifies to a median placing of events in reference to a ‘human’ scale or measure, and to what we could call a ‘facialization’ of the real as its end, or at least, its quilting point. Facialization is not simply a question of the face itself but of its capture in a circuit whose other coordinates are the voice and name. Together these constitute the vertices of an identity, a constant reference which harnesses their various machines of expression in the service of an individualized enunciation which in turn serves to channel the spectator’s desire by providing one or more ‘points’ of identification.

Our first task is not erase but to liberate face, voice and perhaps even name (or prénom) from this reassuring but ultimately imprisoning triangulation (the coordonnées of Cartesian identity) in terms of a nomadic distribution of singularities in which each partial of enunciation can enter into more productive and defamiliarizing concatenations. Instead of a subject, a process of subjectivization, a body/brain distribution ranging across different territories (real, virtual, geographic, aesthetic, biopolitical, intimate) of affect.

But the facialization implicit in the interview situation is not simply a question of how a subject is presented. It also involves (and influences) the way subjects present themselves, their modes of speech and address, the ‘naturalization of their presence on screen as nodes of communication that push to the side questions such as  whom are they addressing? From what platform? Through which self? Foregrounding the fictional construction of screen presence we permit the emergence of a double alterity in that what appears is both foreign to the viewer and to itself.


Jean-Paul Fargier, Graeme Thomson, Silvia Maglioni

(Cinéma Espace 1789, 15 juin 2009)

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