What is key, for me and a lot of other cinematographers, is a love of cinema, which allows us to adapt to being supervised by different directors, each of which generates his own universe. – Pierre Lhomme
Pierre Lhomme (b. 1930) began his film career in the mid-1950s as an assistant to two master cinematographers: Henri Alekan and Ghislain Cloquet. His early career advanced in parallel to that of Alain Cavalier, whom he’d met during his military service. Lhomme filmed Cavalier’s 1958 short An American and his first feature, Le combat dans l’île. Shortly thereafter, he received a phone call from Chris Marker, who asked him to shoot the film that became Le Joli Mai, thus initiating a profound friendship and professional collaboration.
Lhomme went on to work with a number of emerging French directors – Jean Eustache, Patrice Chéreau, Bertrand Blier – as well as one film each with established masters Robert Bresson and Jean-Pierre Melville. As his reputation spread internationally, he would also work with Dusan Makavejev and, several times, with James Ivory. Although much of his work features naturalist lighting, he has proved himself adept at any number of kinds of filmmaking, from Marker’s in-the-streets documentary to Merchant-Ivory costume drama.
The HFA is excited to welcome Pierre Lhomme here to accompany screenings of Le Joli Mai and Army of Shadows.
Special thanks: Eric Jausseran, Emmanuelle Marchand – Consulate General of France, Boston; Florence Charmasson, Unifrance.
Directed by Jean Eustache. With Jean-Pierre Léaud, Bernadette Lafont, Françoise Lebrun
France 1973, 35mm, b/w, 215 min. French with English subtitles
Viewed by many as the most monumental achievement of post-New Wave French filmmaking, not only because of its more than three-and-a-half hour length but by virtue of its lacerating, confessional portrait of a generation – people who in director Jean Eustache’s words "were desperate because life was passing them by...[and who] could find no explanation for their predicament" – The Mother and the Whore remains a touchstone of contemporary cinema. An anti-epic on the war between the sexes in 1970s Paris, the film is made up almost entirely of monologues and conversations among the inhabitants of an unstable ménage à trois. This massive slice of life derives much of its power from Lhomme’s understated, fly-on-the-wall cinematography, which grounds even the most self-indulgent or self-destructive behavior by the film’s characters in an undeniably recognizable reality.
Directed by Alain Cavalier. With Jean-Louis Trintignant, Romy Schneider, Henri Serre
France 1962, 35mm, b/w, 104 min. French with English subtitles
Like Eustache, Alain Cavalier began his filmmaking career (which continues to this day) just after the beginning of the New Wave. His first feature, Le combat dans l’île, is in some ways a precursor of Le Joli Mai, with both films diagnosing a malaise in the French body politic of the early 1960s that threatens to turn malign. Cavalier’s film is far from cinéma vérité, focusing rather on the marriage between an uptight young right-winger and a former actress that is threatened by the appearance of a free-spirited friend from the husband’s childhood. Lhomme’s lighting and framing brilliantly balances realism and expressionism, thereby enhancing the allegorical nature of Cavalier’s scenario.
THIS SCREENING HAS BEEN CANCELLED
COMBAT DANS L'ÎLE WILL SHOW INSTEAD
Saturday November 23 at 9pm
Directed by Robert Bresson. With Isabelle Weingarten, Guillaume des Forêts, Maurice Monnoyer
France 1971, 35mm, color, 87 min. French with English subtitles
It is sometimes said that Bresson shifted emphasis from the metaphysical toward the sensual and even erotic over the course of his career. Of no film is that more true than in Four Nights of a Dreamer, set in a dreamy, beatnik Paris where a struggling artist and a lonely young woman strike up a friendship. Having shot three films with Ghislain Cloquet, Bresson turned to Cloquet’s somewhat younger colleague, Pierre Lhomme, to shoot this tale full of passionate youth. Lhomme’s cinematography brings out Bresson's quasi-Romantic side in languid nighttime sequences and long takes as the young lovers stroll the streets and bridges of Paris.
Directed by James Ivory. With James Wilby, Rupert Graves, Hugh Grant
UK 1987, 35mm, color, 140 min
E.M. Forster’s novel of gay love begun in the 1910s and later revised, was published only after its author’s death. Similarly, Maurice’s 1987 film adaptation was something of a pioneer, appearing at a time when same-sex content was still almost solely the province of European art film and experimental cinema. Forster’s romance is a class-crossing affair between the solidly bourgeois title character and a gamekeeper, the better to cast a critical eye on society and its discontents. Ivory and Lhomme respond with restrained hues and dim lighting for interiors, which contrast with floods of color and light for the external scenes, many of which are associated with Scudder, the gamekeeper. The cinematography eschews any nostalgic glow to its Edwardian setting, favoring a restrained naturalism that is by turns handsome and oppressive.
Directed by Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme
France 1963, digital video, b/w, 123 min. French with English with English subtitles
This grand-scale, beautifully photo-graphed study of Paris and its people during the month that marked the end of the Algerian War presents interviews with an assortment of citizens and then broadens out to consider the physical setting and political context in which they live. The film has been compared to Jean Rouch's cinéma vérité classic, Chronicle of a Summer, made the year before. Marker begins and ends Le Joli Mai with meditative, poetic voiceover commentary as only he can write it, but otherwise yields to the sounds of Paris and the voices of a slum dweller, a merchant, an African student, an Algerian worker, a priest turned militant communist, and others.
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. With Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse,
France 1969, 35mm, color, 145 min. French and German with English subtitles
Based on a 1943 Joseph Kessel novel as well as director Jean-Pierre Melville’s own experiences during World War II, Army of Shadows is a mesmerizing and haunting portrait of the Resistance in occupied France, for whose members paranoia, betrayal and the possibility of imprisonment, torture and execution are the stuff of everyday life. Melville’s mastery of the crime thriller and a complete absence of sentimentality combine to deliver a film both suspenseful and thoughtful, at once a celebration of heroism and a meditation on death and defeat. Pierre Lhomme had to struggle to convince Melville of his naturalistic lighting scheme, but Melville’s attention to realism combined with Lhomme’s insistence on a cool, desaturated color scheme results in some of the most beautifully bleak images ever captured on film.