We are pleased to present the films of Maurice Pialat which we have shown only once before at BAMPFA, in a retrospective the year following the director’s death. Critics consider Pialat (1925–2003) as the greatest filmmaker of the post–Nouvelle Vague era—the director that today’s French filmmakers often cite as a primary influence.
Pialat’s films are alive in the moment
Pialat’s original pursuit in the arts was painting, but he ultimately found his métier in cinema, establishing his credentials by making a series of shorts, mostly documentaries filmed in France and Turkey in the 1960s. Pialat was forty-four when he directed his first feature, the profoundly resonant Naked Childhood. A gifted storyteller who often mined the emotional terrain of his own experiences, Pialat explores the theme of abandonment in his films, whether in the relationships between children and parents or between sexual partners, or the abandonment felt by an artist experiencing the loss of his creativity, as explored in Van Gogh. Pialat’s world is typically that of working-class French families, where life is filled with intensity and rawness; often his films suggest that sadness will last forever. Stylistically, Pialat’s films are alive in the moment; they seek to capture the authenticity of real life. Looking at Maurice Pialat’s cinema in toto, one can see the director’s admiration for the films of other directors, such as Yasujiro Ozu, Jean Renoir, John Ford, and Robert Bresson. Without doubt, Pialat’s films deserve to be much better known here in the States.
Susan Oxtoby, Senior Film Curator