Everyday Wonder: The Humanist Vision of Nicolas Philibert, week 3

8 Nov

A triple feature at Cinematheque this week, but alas, the end of Nicolas Philibert. In the Land of the Deaf (1992) submerges the viewer into the world of silence, exploring what it is like to be deaf. Following various people of different ages, backgrounds, social status and interests, Philibert once again simply observes his subjects and manages to capture some of the most poignant moments in life. From children learning to lip-read at school, to a wedding conducted totally in sign language, to a punk-rocker signing in a bar and getting odd looks from those around him, this documentary makes us questions the place sound has in our lives and in the cinema. I find it reminiscent of Lindsay Anderson’s short 1955 documentary Thursday’s Children which takes place at The Royal School for the Deaf in England and which is another insight into people overcoming something that most people take for granted.

In Un Animal, Des Animaux (1996) Philibert documents the three year restoration undertaken by the Paris Museum of Natural History of their vast collection of taxidermy animals. The intricate details of clipping the claws of foxes, carefully placing the feathers of birds, and the cleaning and preparing of animals are displayed in great, and slightly disturbing, detail.

And lastly, we have Nenette (2010) Philibert’s latest documentary which follows the life of 40 year old Nenette and her son Tubo, two orangutans at the Menagerie de Jardin de Plantes, Paris. Originally from Borneo, Nenette has spent most of her life in captivity and Philibert contrasts the sounds of her daily life with the activities she fills her time with. The similarities between humans and orangutans has never been more apparent in this up-close and personal account of a mother and her child.


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