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April 5, 2008

Le Cochon, 1970

cochon.gifSomething of a germinal template for Raymond Depardon's Profils Paysans films on a dying way of life in rural (and largely forgotten) France, Jean Eustache and Jean-Michel Barjol's reverent, vital, and painstakingly observed ethnographic documentary Le Cochon chronicles a day in the life of peasant farmers in the mountainous region of the Massif Central. In hindsight, the central nature of the pig implied by the film's title introduces the element of subverted expectation that would continue to resurface throughout Eustache's body of work. In Le Cochon, the violence of the establishing sequences that record a communal, fattened pig's anxious capture, instinctive struggle, restraint, slaughter, and exsanguination gives way to the unexpected artisanal skill, attentive care, and graceful ritual of its dressing, butchering, food processing, and cooking. In a lingering, stationary shot, the stark whiteness of the dressed pig framed against a bed of straw - still emanating steam from its residual body temperature and the hot water applied during the cleaning - creates an ethereal image that suggests a metaphysical sublimation. In another sequence, a farmer's methodical recovery of the intestines to be used as sausage casing transforms into a seeming rustic ballet in the synchronous sweeping motion of his arms, initially, to obtain equally apportioned lengths, then subsequently, to displace a quantity of rinse water throughout the length of the casing. Later in the film, the delicate precision and innate craftsmanship of sausage making is reflected in the measured drawing and turning of the casing against the meat grinder. In a sense, by presenting these quotidian rituals without narration or intertitles, and relying solely on the words expressed by the farmers in their regional dialect and colloquialisms, the film, too, becomes a sublimation, rejecting the mediation of external translation towards an instinctual coherence of human toil, creativity, and celebration.

Posted by acquarello on Apr 05, 2008 | | Filed under 2008, Jean Eustache Retrospective


Can't wait to see this in a few weeks...

Posted by: Dave on Apr 06, 2008 12:35 AM | Permalink

Hi Dave, yeah, this is definitely a good one to catch. I like how Eustache transforms the experience from something very graphic to something almost peaceful, even spiritual. It's kind of a crude parallel, but the dressing of the pig actually reminded me a little of the son preparing his father for burial in The Second Circle, there's something quite loving and tender about the whole process.

Posted by: acquarello [TypeKey Profile Page] on Apr 06, 2008 10:25 AM | Permalink

Sounds neat. I really like Depardon's profiles of farmers (the ones I've seen, anyway), but I didn't realize Eustache worked in a similar vein. I'm going to get another crack at some of Eustache's films soon -- for some reason I keep missing them -- but I'm not sure if I'll get to see this one.

Posted by: davis on Apr 08, 2008 5:24 PM | Permalink

Hi Rob, I don't know if 'naturalist' is a good way to describe his aesthetic, but it's something like that. He reminds me a little bit of Maurice Pialat too in that regard, except with more humor. I also get the sense that the style follows (or conforms to) the performance in his films.

This is the only one I've seen so far that reminds me of Depardon though. Photos d'Alix on the surface is Les Années déclic-ish in the sense that it's basically telling a life story while showing pictures, but Eustache's approach is experimental with the images not always corresponding to the story, while Depardon's was straightforward.

Posted by: acquarello [TypeKey Profile Page] on Apr 08, 2008 10:33 PM | Permalink

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