« Santa Claus Has Blue Eyes, 1966 | Main | La Peine perdue de Jean Eustache, 1997 »

April 9, 2008

Une Sale histoire, 1977

dirtystory.gifComposed of two separate, near verbatim vignettes - alternately framed as a documentary, then as fiction film - Une Sale histoire is told from the perspective of a recovering peeping tom who tells his sordid tale of voyeuristic obsession before an intimate, predominantly female audience. In the first part, the spatial relation between the speaker, played by actor Michael Lonsdale, and the listener, played by film critic Jean Douchet - a distance that is reinforced by the latter's invitation to sit on a couch to tell his story - suggests the role of subject and interviewer (or perhaps, patient and analyst), as the glib, animated speaker recounts his accidental discovery of a cleverly concealed (and intentionally created) gap in the doorway of the ladies' room while using the public telephone of a local bistro, and the figurative Pandora's box that his newfound secret, erotic gateway unleashes in his quest to find the perfect woman whose physical appearance complemented the images created by his aroused fantasies. In the second part, the deliberation and exactness of the speaker, this time, played by the author of the story, Jean-Noël Picq, suggests a formal re-enactment of the earlier "interview" - the staging of a non-fiction fiction. Upending conventional roles by casting actor as storyteller (Lonsdale) and storyteller as actor (Picq), Jean Eustache creates a radical and intriguing exposition into the nature of narrative and performance itself, proposing that the boundaries of filmmaking do not exist between reality and fiction, but within layers and permutations of equally modulated fiction.

Posted by acquarello on Apr 09, 2008 | | Filed under 2008, Jean Eustache Retrospective


Hey, Acquarello --

I'm sorry I missed this. It played at Eastman House tonight, and Dave Kehr specifically urged me last week to see it, but I got buried at work. I might get another crack at it in Toronto this summer.

By the way, are you seeing Mes Petites Amoureuses?

Posted by: Girish on Apr 09, 2008 10:27 PM | Permalink

Hi, Girish, alas, that's one of the ones I won't get a chance to catch this time around. It's playing in New York when I'm in DC (on the 15th), then in DC when I'm in New York for the Romanian film fest. I need to figure out where to get a clone one of these days. :)

Posted by: acquarello [TypeKey Profile Page] on Apr 10, 2008 7:22 AM | Permalink

Hey, Acquarello - great coverage, as always.

My memory of this film is probably a bit deceptive, but to me it seems like a great companion film to The Mother and the Whore. Picq in the second part seems to eerily channel Alexandre from the earlier feature while essentially presenting a 'performative' version of himself for Eustache's 16mm camera. In retrospect, the subdued earlier vignette with Lonsdale (on 35mm, if I'm not forgetting?) translates as one of the funniest things in Eustache's oeuvre!

I think the best Eustache films do wonders with 'le désir intérieur' - whether expressed in terms of these dangerous games of creation/destruction (language and/or the fictive apparatus in The Mother and the Whore, Une sale histoire and Les photos d'Alix), or in terms of pure experience (gestures, sensations - as Girish talks about in his latest post - in Mes petites amoureuses and Le cochon), although there are surely moments when the two elements converge, such as in The Mother and the Whore.

Posted by: Mubarak Ali on Apr 10, 2008 8:20 AM | Permalink

Thanks, Mubarak, ah yes! Great point about the 35mm versus the 16mm parts, another way that Eustache subverts the fiction/non-fiction convention. Interesting idea about 'désir intérieur' and I tend to agree with you on that. I see them as ruptures or subverted expectations, but I can see how they capture a certain internal "chaos" if you will.

Posted by: acquarello [TypeKey Profile Page] on Apr 10, 2008 9:38 PM | Permalink

Hi everybody.

A friend of mine told me that a second film exists, also inspired by
Jean-Noël Picq' writing. Same story, same director (perhaps, he's not
sure), probably same year of production, more or less, and played by
Jean-Pierre Léaud instead of Michael Lonsdale. This friend of mine saw the
movie at the french Cinematheque. No trace on Internet.

So... someone heard something about that flick ? Or is it a myth, a
visual hallucination due to drinking Beaujolais ? Great thanks to you
by advance for any information. (And pardon me for my o so bad


Posted by: Claude Eckerman on Jul 31, 2011 5:40 AM | Permalink

Post a comment:

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)