• French Competition


Jacques Meilleurat

The well-seasoned film-maker Jacques Meilleurat has always been discreet, making films at a modest pace on a shoestring. His latest opus stages this financial necessity – in the supposed beginning, there is an old fictitious contract signed with a publisher to tell the story of a life scarred by sexual abuse. This diary is dictated into an old-fashioned cassette recorder. That is what the film depicts. « Bernard », the protagonist’s name, is played by the director. He tells the story, his story and takes poses. Sitting, lying down, standing up, ‘leaning against a wall’, but also dancing as though he’s possessed. He also interleaves a handful of film excerpts, made so long ago, which are so crucial here and which evoke fishes characters who are extremely disturbed and who are also crucial here. Short, airy, home-made films cobbled together in the same vein as Méliès or the surrealists, films out of step with what the camera has to offer today. However, if the violence of his remarks continually goes from bad to worse, as for the film – it rolls downhill, peppered with surprises. You’d think you were in hell and on a rollercoaster at that, almost without moving the frame Meilleurat whisks us along on this endlessly bumpy ride. It’s as if he is performing the lamento non-stop and it is a formalist who emerges, a formalist who is passionate about his art, its possibilities, disparities and complete and utter liberty. If Meilleurat leans against a wall it is, of course, in order to do better and aim higher still – onwards upwards and skywards. (Jean-Pierre Rehm) Jacques Meilleurat

Interview with Jacques Meilleurat

1. After En Désordre (2019), which followed a class of teenagers preparing for their professional life, your new film, Lean on the Wall, takes the form of a personal narrative. What was your project?

En désordre was on the ACID’s shortlist at Cannes in 2019, but political correctness decided otherwise – two people were radically opposed to it. Then, the film was screened at the Indépendances et Créations festival in October and I was savaged by people who didn’t understand why I didn’t take a stand. These two events made me react, I said to myself, I’m going to make a film where I’ll be totally involved, hence the idea to tell a story that’s almost me, that I also fictionalised.

2. The film deals bluntly with serious matters, maintaining a certain distance via the tape recorder. Why did you use this device?

It’s a serious topic, people were talking about consent a lot at the time, “yes, I’m going to tell my story with film”. My wife had never seen me as happy as I was when I was making this film. Everything was done in six months, from the writing to the editing. With film, you can tell a story in a very powerful and very personal way, with writing too, I expect, but I’m not so good with words, sentences and continuity. Tape recorders are great, recording voices with a magnetic tape, it’s a thing for memory and archives. This recording device fascinates me, it’s a movie actor. I could’ve told the story differently with lots of details but I didn’t want to, I’d probably have to make it fictional with actors playing the child, the teenager, the adult, the older man, which I’d really like to do, actually.

3. What role did the dance sequences have in the scenario?

The dances are there to bring respiration, but not outside of where it’s being shot. The choice of the whip and the pistol – they’re objects for destructive acts, the final dance, it’s “there you go, things have been repaired”.

4. Cinema is present in the photos, the book by Jean Douchet and above all in two long sequences, one in 16mm and the other TV film. What’s its role in Lean on the Wall?

Cinema, yes, because this story is linked to cinema, to discovering cinema, and the people who introduced me to “amateur” cinema. And then Jean Douchet, he was a very close friend, and the only person who really helped me. The photos are from films I like, but I’m not a film buff, I only watch what I want emotionally and aesthetically. The early film is an extract from L’Aurige (1981). I made four films in a row between 1981 and 1983: L’Aurige, Éléphant, La Promenade désorientée, and À seize heures précises, all lasting from 50 to 55 minutes. The sound film is an extract from a film noir I made in 2018, my first film with professional actors. I showed an extract from the first and the last film, En désordre, which I shot before the film noir.

5. Why did you decide to film mostly in black & white?
Black & white is a lot more striking than colour, and I’m better at it, and what’s more, I don’t have good enough equipment to shoot in colour.

6. Lean on the Wall is behind closed doors and there are very few outdoor sequences. Does the subject match this approach?
Yes, I really like closed sessions. I’ve got an ideal place available for this kind of shoot. The desire to have your own studio is a dream, for my earliest films, I shot them in the same way as Lean on the Wall, behind closed doors.

7. What were your guidelines during the editing?

For the editing, I wanted the narrative to be well-paced.

8. How did you work with the composer Antonin Meilleurat for the music and songs?

I asked Antonin if he’d like to arrange the music for several sequences that I described to him. For the songs at the end, especially Je veux dormir, he composed and wrote the lyrics about what he was going through personally with his girlfriend.

9. You’re in charge of the script, the filming, the sound, the editing, the set and production. Is this approach to guarantee your freedom in your work?

No, it’s no guarantee of freedom, it’s quite difficult to create without any money. For example, I self-funded the 2018 film noir and sank all my savings into it, there were a lot of actors for a complete flop. I’d much prefer if each position were allocated to someone competent.

Interview by Olivier Pierre

  • French Competition

Technical sheet

France / 2020 / 53’

Original Version : French.
Script : Jacques Meilleurat.
Photography : Jacques Meilleurat.
Editing : Jacques Meilleurat.
Music : Antonin Meilleurat.
Sound : Daniel Macarol.
Casting : Rosette, Basile Meilleurat.
Production : Jacques Meilleurat (Cinq films).
Filmography : En désordre, 2019. Gilles et Loulou, 2015. Les quinze élèves, 2003. Provisoires amis, 2000. L’orange fou, 1985. La promenade désorientée, 1983. L’aurige, 1982. Eléphant, 1981.