Alain Cavalier: Le Paradis

In the mid 1980’es I fell in love with the French film ”Thérèse” by Alain Cavalier. Like many others did. Let me refresh your memory and let newcomers know about it –

The back cover of the dvd, according to Amazon, goes like this: ”Winner of eight Cesar Awards including Best Film and Best Director, Alain Cavalier’s monumental film depicts the true story of St. Therese de Lisieux, a young woman who found personal joy and spiritual liberation within the restrictive traditions of an austere religious order. Wishing to dedicate her life to Christ, Therese (Catherine Mouchet) enters a cloistered convent of Carmelite nuns at the age of 15. But shortly after joining the order, she finds her devotion to the Lord tested by a grim battle against the debilitating effects of tuberculosis, for which she refuses any treatment. The strength of her faith eventually becomes an inspiration to both her fellow sisters and the millions of admirers who remember her as “The Little Flower of Jesus.”

In 2008 Cavalier visited DocsBarcelona, invited by Thierry Garrel for a session “Le Dernier Repas”, that the former director of documentaries at arte France had chosen to share with the French director. Garrel introduced him like this:

… Alain Cavalier is a pedestrian in Paris. He loves the city. Unexpectedly on his walks, with his eyes and his ears always wide open, he has come across a woman who makes mattresses, a woman who works in a dry-cleaner’s, the owner of a bistro, a woman who makes thread… and decided to film these women…

The films he refers to are to be found in the minimalistic series ”Portraits”.

Today I have seen ”Paradise”, which is the 83 year old director’s latest work, quite challenging to watch with its introspective, fragmented structure, like a stream-of-consciousness of images, maybe an essayistic reflection on Life and Death, best when it concentrates on the small observations and details of life that you believe you make when you reach that age, where you don’t move around so much any longer: The peacock in the garden, the baby-peacock (as he says or rather whispers, the voice-off has character of being a whisper) that dies and get its small grave that is still there season after season in the countryhouse where so much is filmed. A text introduces the journey of Odysseus as well as many other literary quotes that I can not identify but also images of objects, Cavalier is obsessed with, small sculptures, memories, a textural narrative, you are attracted but still it is distant and a cinematic world difficult to enter. ”It’s My Time”, it is said, is the film a testament from Cavalier… And beauty there is to find in many sequences and a personal tone and approach that is his own.

France, 68 mins., 2014

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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