Many artists break their teeth trying to capture the ineffable lightness of life. Otar Iosseliani seemed to have a privileged relationship with her, to have concluded a secret pact. Unique, unclassifiable, the filmmaker died on December 17 in Tbilisi at the age of 89. Naturalized French, he was originally from Georgia, this small Republic of the Caucasus (4 million souls) which had long remained under the yoke of Moscow, but where the favorable climate and soils had shaped customs more southern than Soviet, a “dolce vita” stingy and fatalistic focused on commensal pleasures. Iosseliani was its custodian, even once exiled in France to escape censorship, and wherever his camera landed (Paris, the countryside, the Basque Country, but also Venice in Lundi matin and as far as Senegal for And the Light fut ), resurfaced like a little piece of eccentric Georgia, land of songs and august tables.
With Once Upon a Time a Blackbird (1970), Les Favorites de la Lune (1984) and La Chasse aux Papillons (1992), he invented a unique, discreetly sophisticated style of writing, a sort of finely articulated cinematic fugue, flitting among little people of characters. A territory of poetry which, contrary to a predominantly talkative cinema, made gesture prevail over words, in the spirit of a revered silent cinema (René Clair first and foremost) and its burlesque continuators like Jacques Tati, to whom we compared it a lot.
Born on February 2, 1934 in Tbilisi, at the time attached to the Soviet Union, Otar Iosseliani first turned to music at the Conservatory, from which he graduated in piano, conducting and composition – the first thing There is nothing trivial about the concerted, even “concertistic,” nonchalance of his future cinema. Between 1953, he went to Moscow, studied mathematics and mechanics at the University, then joined the National Institute of Cinematography or “VGIK”, a prestigious school born in the wake of the Revolution. There he received, in particular, the teaching of Alexandre Dovjenko (1894-1956), but also of his “compatriot” Mikhaïl Tchiaoureli (1894-1974).
First film banned from broadcast in the USSR
His graduation film, Avril (1961), a 50-minute medium-length film, is already a marvel. A young couple moves into a new apartment in a modern building on the outskirts of the village. They love each other in the empty home, but soon allow themselves to be invaded by an accumulation of junk, pieces of furniture and household appliances, which comes between them, and little by little separates them. Without words or almost, this pantomime of domestic life is entirely soundtracked a posteriori, in a comical symphony of objects squeaking and creaking with all their incongruity. The problems were not long in coming: the film was banned from broadcast in the USSR for almost 15 years for “ excessive formalism ”.
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