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Master of all genres

Alain Corneau ... believer in collective work.

ALAIN CORNEAU occupies a unique place in French cinema. His films cannot be classified under one genre; they embody the main kinds of cinema: film noirs, detective stories, musicals, historical and adventure films and comedies.

Recently Chennai audience had the unique opportunity of witnessing what may be called vintage Alain Corneau. This retrospective of six films including a sample of the genres indicated above, was organised by the French Embassy and Alliance Francaise of Madras. Alain Corneau sums up his philosophy of films. "I am not obsessed with the idea of showing films I myself have made. I cherish too much the idea of a continually expanding cinema ocean." Talking of his own personal creed he says, "Making film is collective work. All films need one another. Cinema is entirely collective, even in its most powerful form of representation."

The films, which were shown in this retrospective were "Police Python 357" (1975), "Serie Noire" (1979), "Fort Saganne" (1984), "Nocturne Indien" (1989), "Tous les Matins du Monde" (1991) and "Le Cousin" (1997).

"Police Python" is a police movie with a difference. The protagonist is a policeman, who falls in love with a girl about whom he knows very little. The film has suspenseful twists.The other police film, "Le Cousin" shows the police force in tussle with the judge over an informer that they use to uncover drug related crimes. The police and the informer share a portion of the booty they uncover. Yet, when they do a serious drug bust, they discover that those involved are politicians and other highly connected people.

"Fort Saganne" deals with the story of an officer in the army. The film captures the periodicity of the theme through the splendour of the costumes and details regarding locations, and the nature of war then.

"Serie Noire" is a sample of Corneau's brand of film noir. It shows an outcast from society, a salesman who becomes a thief and murderer due to events beyond his control. The two most significant films in this package were, "Nocturne Indien" which depicts a young man's journey to India, in search of friend who disappeared and "Tous les Matins du Monde", a musical which relates two different attitudes to music, of a teacher and composer, Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and his disciple Marin Marais.

The first film meanders through different cities in India — Bombay, Chennai and Goa. In a short span of two hours, Corneau captures the differences that exist side by side in India — the rich opulence of the five star hotels and the dire poverty of the slums, the austere spirituality of theosophic society and the superstitious faith of poor people who go on pilgrimages, the mystery of predicting the future and the simple innocent belief of a young girl. The film finally ends as a journey to discover identity and attain self-awareness.

The musical is a search for the inner meanings of music. The master, even though a moralist and dogmatic in his practices finally wins by his sheer skill and passion for music. The film seems apt in a city such as Chennai, where musicians practise for years to attain virtuosity and see music not only as self expression but as a means of communication.


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