From “Partners” to “Vernissage”, when the theater makes its own cinema

Recently re-released on DVD, Claude d’Anne’s excellent film Partners is one of those works that have remained behind the scenes of the theater world. The focus is on five films that shed light on behind the scenes.

They played the same piece five hundred times. Also not very good. He (Jean-Pierre Mariel) was the star of the stage, but he is no longer the same, eaten away by alcohol, despair and a mistake that he cannot forgive himself. The focus is on his wife (Nicole Garcia). He revealed her once – she dreamed of playing Gull ! – and here he is, today, who, by his mere presence, exalts the idiotic text of the pretentious, sung by critics and – alas! – the audience … Gabriel only needs to say two lines in the play – and even then he says them only because Marion begged the author (Michel Duchossois) to let him say them. So he hangs around in the dressing room, where he sometimes joins him because he has a request for him, the caretaker of the theater (Michel Galabro)…

Partners a rather bittersweet 1984 film that Doriane Films has just rescued from oblivion. Claude d’Anna chose to take an interest in actors because the transition between illusion and life is constant and exciting for them. Better than others, but no more, they play a role when they put on a show, and cannot become themselves again when they find life partners for themselves … Some give in, give up, withdraw into themselves – like the character of Jean-Pierre. Mariel. Others, like Nicole Garcia, are stubborn, reluctant, survive at all costs without worrying too much about the damage…

A small reminder of films where the inventions of the theater become revelations. Where trompe-l’oeil suddenly reflects the truth.

“Opening Night” John Cassavetes (1977)

Those who have seen the movie will never forget Gena Rowlands (beautiful from start to finish) who, dead drunk, clings to the walls of the corridor leading to her dressing room, falls, crawls, gets up, staggers endlessly to the door that leads to her. to the stage where she’s going to deliver – no one knows how, not even she – the performance… Less do we remember the incredible rehearsal sequence where every time her partner slaps her, as the plot demands, she breaks down in tears. She, as it were, refuses with her whole being, because she has become different, from everything that she accepted before …

Gena Rowlands in John Cassavetes’ Opening Night (1977).

Photo by Faces Distributing Corp.

opening night it’s not so much a movie about aging – as many have said, and they wrote it because Cassavetes said so! than at birth. About a woman and an actress. It is this metamorphosis—painful, dangerous, furious—that Cassavetes captures in a kind of mental odyssey, weighted down with the verbal and visual digressions that he adores and that explain him. If the last twenty minutes are sacrificed for a falsely liberating fake happy ending, the style of the dialogue constantly evokes the elegance and sadomasochism of Joseph L. Mankiewicz (whom Cassavetes greatly admired). Hence the response one of his exes throws at heroin: “In my eyes, you are no longer a woman. You are a professional. You don’t care about anything. Personal relationships, love, sex, affection… I only have a small role in the play, not a very pretty one. I don’t like people. I can’t afford to love you…”

“After the rehearsal”, Ingmar Bergman (1984)

While Henrik (Erland Josefson) is resting – taking a nap after rehearsal – his age! – Anna (Lena Olin), young translator Dream Strinberg, comes, there are a lot of questions in my head. And worries. No more stubborn hatred for the mother, an actress like her, better than her, no doubt dead but ubiquitous. And it is here that the image of this Raquel (Ingrid Thulin) appears, with these intoxications, these invectives and this weariness, which Henrik never forgot…

Lena Olin and Erland Josephson in After the Rehearsal (1984) by Ingmar Bergman.

Lena Olin and Erland Josephson in After the Rehearsal (1984) by Ingmar Bergman.

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Bergman’s pain is the same, whether you experience it or simulate it. Theater and life are constantly intertwined: a kind of Schengen zone where everyone can move freely and freely. It doesn’t necessarily make things easier: Cohabitation can sometimes be intimidating. But Bergman is convinced: “The dead are not dead, but the living are all like ghosts”…

“Ogres” Lea Fener (2014)

For Lea Fener, theater is a big success. Backstage surrounds the stage and extends into space, all around. And now, from city to city, about twenty actors – “cannibals” swallowing the road, joys and sorrows at random – offer their audience a performance composed of songs and dances from two plays by Chekhov: Bear as well as Wedding

“Ogres” by Leia Fener (2016).

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This is a loud film in which actors play several roles, experience several destinies. Their anxieties, their anger, their resentments build up, explode, then evaporate, giving way to the only feeling that people evoke, at least according to Chekhov and Lea Fener: indulgence …

“Germans”, Christophe Honore (2021)

They were to play “Richelieu Room” in Paris, a film adaptationIn search of lost time. But Covid-19 was there. Performances have been cancelled. But rehearsals resumed after some time in a new place, in another theater. We will play? Or no ? And when ?…

The Germans by Christophe Honoré (2021).

The Germans by Christophe Honoré (2021).

Photo by Jean-Louis Fernandez / Les Films Pelleas – La Comedie-Française – Ego Productions / Mediawan Group

It is this suspended time that Christophe Honoré captured: what do actors (in this case from the Comédie-Française) do when they are not acting? Well, they are playing! Even the fact that they play it a little: improvise dinners, strike up intrigues that they themselves do not know about if they invent them or go through them. Gone to be a documentary Germantes gradually turns into a reflection, light, fleeting, an illusion. Like in this Jean Renoir movie (Golden carriage) where Anna Magnani wondered – like we all do sometimes – if her life was turning into a dream.

Broadway Shots by Woody Allen (1994)

On Broadway in the 1920s, backstage is no match for the young playwright David Shane (John Cusack). His play is directed by a gangster who forces his girlfriend – nobody – (Jennifer Tilly) on him as his co-star. The obnoxious alcoholic star (Dianne Wiest) with whom he’s having an affair keeps ordering him “Don’t talk, don’t talk” every time he talks to her, which obviously gets on her nerves. And then there’s Cheech (Chaz Palminteri), the boss’s girl’s bodyguard. With anxiety, David realizes that the advice of this fat brute significantly improves the work, which he, out of vanity, considered worthy of Chekhov and Strinberg …

Broadway Shots by Woody Allen (1994).

Broadway Shots by Woody Allen (1994).

Photo Miramax / Magnolia / Sweetland

Oh talent! All the works of Woody Allen are funny reflections on those who believe they have them. And for those who are like him! are convinced of the opposite. Cheech, he’s going to kill and die to protect his own. Monster or martyr of art?

D Partners, Claude D’Anna (1984). 1 DVD Movies Dorian.

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