France, Caméra One Télévision, Pyramide Films, 2005, DCP, 96 minutes
Scriptwriters: Alain Cavalier, Françoise Widhoff
Director, cameraman, sound director, and editor: Alain Cavalier
Sound editor: Florent Lavallée
The French word “filmeur” is quite obscure and difficult to translate into Russian. Literally it means “a person who films”. Sometimes this can be said about a person who spontaneously films people on the streets. Starting with the film "The Encounter", Alain Cavalier takes his camera with him everywhere and constantly captures everything that he encounters every day. He forms a large video archive compiled of fragments of his personal history. Many of them formed the basis of "Le Filmeur", which can be called a manifesto of late Cavalier’s creative method. The new approach allowed him to completely free himself from the economic barriers of the film industry. The noted French filmmaker became like an amateur filmmaker, filming his work with minimal technical means, just for pleasure. However, there is a big difference between a layman’s recording of the surrounding reality and the film experiments of Cavalier. His film consists of video footage that he shot from 1994 to 2005, and at first glance does not tell about anything other than the daily life of an ordinary Frenchman. Each shot is filled with a measured flow of life, and the next event is impossible to predict. We see the crowded streets of Paris, the director's wife in the bedroom, his friends, pets, the interiors of private and public premises, as well food and household items.
The continuous stream of images captured by Alain Cavalier creates the feeling that the world is constantly moving forward. But gradually, among the random and fleeting episodes, shots related to aging and death begin to appear in the film. The director shows his parents at a very old age, traces of blood from a cut on his arm, food gone bad. And through this, a tension is created between the constant movement of time and its potential suspension, which becomes the main nerve of this film. The theme of death can be found in the very nature of the autobiographical genre. After all, what is a self-portrait if not an attempt to create a death mask, in which the author's desire to be seen is combined with an attempt at self-reflection and a fight against their own mortality? But in addition to this meta-level, there is another formal aspect that distinguishes “Le Filmeur” from the most contemporary kind of autobiographies, vlogs, whose creators also strive to leave their trace in eternity. Cavalier offers his viewers two dimensions at once: not only the "here and now" of the images that he created, but also the "here and now" of the author’s reflection and commentary. The director does not attempt to hide the traces of his work and to let the recorded facts speak for themselves. He accepts responsibility for the process of this "documentation" and openly demonstrates his questioning "I" in the face of reality. The audience is offered to identify with the author, who turns his gaze onto himself, which leads to introspection on the part of the audience as well. Everyone finds themselves in a unified thought process that unfolds somewhere between the screen and the retina of our eyes.
Reflexive self-portrait diaries similar to “Le Filmeur” existed before Alain Cavalier's films, but it is significant that he turned to this form precisely when he also made the transition to video. According to Raymond Bellour, this technology has become the most suitable for self-portraiture, because it not only simplified the process of film production (instant feedback, an easier way to edit and process images), but also made it possible to place one’s body more naturally into the frame and to speak with the viewer in a direct way, reinforcing the authors’ rhetorical tools. This makes the internal nature of such films highly narcissistic. Cavalier was well aware of this and, up to "Le Filmeur", never actually placed his face in his films, trying to keep more free space for the audience. He was prompted to do this for the first time by specific and very significant events. During the filming he was diagnosed with skin cancer, so the fight against mortality in "Le Filmeur" became literal for him and ended up being a key storyline of the film. Cavalier’s face is transformed due to painful surgical operations and, in this case, rather weakens the narcissism of self-representation. Dissolving in the daily hustle and bustle, it serves as an emotional marker of the rapid flow of time and encourages viewers to talk about the finiteness of human life.
The resonance between the main theme of “Le Filmeur” and the internal logic of the genre, the reflexive nature of audience identification and the ability to avoid narcissism: all this made Alain Cavalier's autobiography unique. Like a death mask, this film has forever preserved its author in the history of world cinema.
The pinnacle of Cavalier’s diary method, it is the film he was making for over ten years. Moments of everyday life, pulled out from the stream of life, as if by accident, add up to an intricate mosaic of love and death. Among various events and incidents that happened to him and his wife during this time - the struggle with skin cancer. The director’s body, his voice, the movements of his hands, and the transformations of his face in the shot take the genre of autobiography to new heights.