La vallée close

La vallée close

Introduced by Manuel Asín & Jean-Claude Rousseau.

La Vallée close, Jean-Claude Rousseau, France, 1995, 144 min


Jean-Claude Rousseau was born in Paris. While living in New York in the 1970s he discovers both the films of Ozu and avant-garde cinema. Following several short-films in Super 8 mm, Rousseau applies this same format in his first feature film, Les Antiquités de Rome (1989), followed by the movie typically considered his masterpiece, La Vallée close (1995). Both films were privately distributed until being transferred to 16 mm in the late 1990s. La Vallée close was transferred with the support of Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet, who requested a screening in the Cinématheque Française along with their own film, Othon (1970). The film was subsequently screened in Locarno and won the Grand Prix for a Documentary Film at the Belfort Festival.

Rousseau’s films are some of the most elliptical and deprived works of contemporary cinema. He makes his films alone, often without recourse to anyone but himself, and always with amateur equipment (first Super 8 mm and later digital video). The materials he uses have a decisive influence on the form of his films. Super 8 mm reels are screened unedited, as they were filmed, and both the story and the structure of the film derive from the order permitted by the reels rather than from the relationship between shots. His work constitutes one of the most speculative editing experiments in the history of film, comparable in its own way to the work of the great Soviet maestros, from Vertov to Pelechian.

Despite using such humble materials, his films were hugely ambitious. The structure of La Vallée close was inspired by the sestina—the most challenging type of stanza for Late Middle Age and Renaissance poets. The plot revolves around blocks of image and sound and could be likened to a great love story, such as that between Petrarch and Laura.

Manuel Asín