Jean-Daniel Pollet’s films are an invitation to travel within a balance of opposites in permanent tension: immobility and trance, faces and landscape, image and word, travel and confinement. How does Pollet’s filmography think? Perhaps with the key of the constant work of rewriting, editing based on a few obsessively repeated pieces, like Cézanne repeated his Saint-Victoire mountain: always the same, always different.
“The game pieces are recovered; others and the same ones will be thrown again in the same way and differently”.
First of all, internal rewriting in each film; rewriting that tends to devour it all afterwards, linking the loose pieces of a filmography and of a life through echoes, more consciously drawing a self-portrait each time. These pieces are ideas: confinement in a house or on an island, the memory etched in spaces and on faces, transformation of the immediate reality into fiction. More importantly, these pieces are also images that reappear over and over again (others and the same ones): a statue of Horus, the Doric column of a temple in the centre of the world, a face ravaged by leprosy, foundry workers taken from a 19th century engraving, an old man or a young man in a boat alongside an island (guiding the dead, escaping from schizophrenia, shipwrecked after the Apocalypses). Or a woman combing her hair in front of a mirror in Greece or in Province, compared with a girl who dreams and reorganises pieces in a floating memory journey, that of the Mediterranean, mirror of the filmmaker-demiurge who aligns and repeats texts and images in his editing room. All of the images in Pollet’s films become materials in a permanent rereading that transforms them, and so the sad face of Claude Melki in Pourvu qu'on ait l'ivresse (1957) will break out into trance in L'acrobate (1976); that of Maria Loutrakis will not mean the same in Méditerranée (1963) and Tu imagines Robinson (1967); that of Raimondakis in L'Ordre (1974) will become an icon and symbol in Ceux d'en face (2000).
These game pieces are also game figures: the circular, lateral travelling, the simple shot “of a multiple look”; but none so decisive as the mise-en-abyme shot of a Russian doll, with images fitted into others that contain them: faces in mirrors, shots from previous films in televisions, landscapes contained in glasses. In his film on the Provençal poet, Max-Philippe Delavouët, Pollet hears him say that if he had to reduce everything that exists into two images, they would be the tree and the sun. Perhaps the underlying tension of Pollet’s films can also be summed up in two images, the house and the world, the balance between confinement and travel: from an initial house-castle in La ligne de mire (1958) to Pollet’s house in Cadenet which is home to the daily photograph in Jour après jour (2006); from that initiatory trip to build Méditerranée (1963), to the ghostly journey by Hades-Omonia of Athens, in Trois jours en Grèce (1991). Perhaps both images, the decisive tension that sums up his work are, in turn, etched in that powerful recurring film figure, the image fitted into another: the house contained in the world, the world in the house.
“Images that recur and slowly bring some closer to others, silently fitting some into others”.