The inner worlds of Peter Weir, supernatural filmmaker, celebrated at the Cinémathèque

A misunderstanding hovers over Peter Weir, an Australian filmmaker who made the big leap to the United States, and whose Hollywood successes ( The Circle of Dead Poets , in 1989, Master and Commander , in 2003) have sometimes eclipsed parts of a considerable body of work, thirteen feature films in nearly forty years. In addition to a manifest talent as a storyteller, what connects these films is more secret: a supernatural glow which seems to illuminate them from the inside, a metaphysical concern which weaves between them a discreet thread, the only signature of an artist not concerned with forging himself. any “claw”. His films thus sail to the edge of dreams ( Picnic at Hanging Rock , 1975; The Last Wave , 1977) or underworlds ( Witness , 1985; The Truman Show , 1998), as if to remind us that no reality goes without being accompanied by an unknown reverse side.

Sponsor of the 11th edition of the Festival de la Cinémathèque française (formerly entitled “All the memory of the world”), dedicated to restored films, running until Sunday March 17 on a network of screens in the Ile-de-France region, Peter Weir, 79 years old , comes out of retirement (his last film, Les Chemins de la liberté , dates back to 2010) to accompany a mini-retrospective in eight titles, coupled with carte blanche. Cap-beret screwed on the skull, slender look of an Aussie gentleman with a collar, the man arrives in Paris in pouring rain, which is reminiscent of Sydney subjected to climate change in The Last Wave – the comparison is not lacking not to make him laugh. Met when jumping off the plane, the filmmaker, reputedly not fond of interviews, on the contrary appears affable and talkative, spearing his interlocutor straight in the eye so as not to let go.

“Sunken Memory”

From the lost vestiges of Aboriginal society in The Last Wave to Witness , where Harrison Ford hides incognito among the Amish of Pennsylvania, a community frozen in the 19th century, we notice in Peter Weir a relationship with the past which would almost be like a ‘excavation. He likes to point out that, if he had not become a filmmaker, his vocation would have been directed towards the archeology of the seabed. “Thinking back to my old films is like visiting a wreck at the bottom of the ocean ,” he confides, “diving towards a submerged memory. » And the director reflects on the seminal trip he made, at the age of 20, leaving Australia by boat to reach southern Europe in five weeks, via Sri Lanka and Egypt, and dream among the remains of ancient Greece. This taste for ruins, this prescience of rubble “will have been the common thread of all [his] life” , he summarizes.

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