Everyday Wonder: The Humanist Vision of Nicolas Philibert

25 Oct

And now, on to Nicolas Philbert. The celebrated French documentarian has spent his life looking at the intimate, philosophical, tragic and humorous aspects of everyday life and situations. Fascinated with how we communicate, Philibert often looks at the interaction between different groups: teacher and students in Etre e Avoir (2002), chimpanzee and human in Nenette (2010) and the hearing and the deaf in (1992).

La Ville Louvre (1990) was made over five months and looks at the inner-workings of the Louvre museum and gallery in Paris. After the renovations the Louvre went through in the 1980s Philibert’s documentary helped to introduce audiences to the museum. Running at 85 minutes the documentary covers a day at the museum for those who work behind the scenes; those who hoist paintings onto walls, the cleaners polishing glass, tour guides taking visitors around, historians and conservationists restoring paintings- everything is documented.

Etre e Avoir is Philibert’s most well-played documentary (and a still from the film serves as the wallpaper for the Melbourne Cinematheque’s website). Taking place in a single-room school in central France, Philibert looks at the teacher/student relationship and slowly comes to know each of the individuals in the class as the school year continues. Whilst shot within the classroom the outside world is also shown, and it is a place where not all of the children feel comfortable, accepted, or wanted, allowing Philibert to further present the classroom as a tranquil area. The extremely calm and patient teacher is Georges Lopez (who later came to take unsuccessful legal action over the film claiming that he and the parents had been mislead over the nature of the documentary) who only once raises his voice to his young charges. Following on his tradition with looking at how we communicate, Philibert presents the viewer with a charmingly shot film.

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