Death of Laurent Achard, filmmaker from the edges

The world of cinema is not kind to autodidacts as was Laurent Achard, a man of few films, but an ultrasensitive filmmaker, one of the few to have added his unique touch to this portrait of France, begun before him by Jean Renoir, Jean Eustache, Maurice Pialat and Eric Rohmer. Three feature films in a thirty-year career, as splendid as they are ignored, to which are added five short films that sometimes hold their own, as well as four documentary portraits: this is the full extent of a work that is certainly sparse, but which ‘forms no less a world.

Childhood as the seat of primordial terrors and receptacle of intra-family shocks was the secret node of this work, which includes, among other notable titles, More than yesterday, less than tomorrow (1998), The Last of the Fools (2007) and, above all, , Fear, Little Hunter (2004), a matrix short film which earned him most of his reputation. The filmmaker died on the night of Sunday March 24 to Monday, following a cardiac arrest, at Saint-Louis hospital in Paris, at the age of 59.

Laurent Achard was born on April 17, 1964 in Tonnerre (Yonne), in Burgundy, in a working class environment, and had a poor childhood. He often said he discovered cinema in secret, while watching Claude-Jean Philippe’s “Ciné-Club”, on television behind his parents’ backs, and was supported by the wise advice of a college professor with whom he will remain in contact throughout his life. At a very young age, he moved to Paris, became friends with director Solveig Anspach (1960-2015) and entered the orbit of Maurice Tinchant and Martine Marignac, a duo of film-loving producers.

Within their parent company, Pierre Grise Productions, Laurent Achard shot, in 1990, his first short film, What do the dead know? , which he will keep under a bushel, always hidden. The revelation came with the second, Dimanche ou les phantoms (1994), a little thirty-minute masterpiece that festivals were snapping up. The film takes place over the course of a day, which an irascible mother spends by the water with the little boy she is raising alone. The filmmaker examines in small touches the unconscious of this uneasy relationship, dotted with absences, unsaid things, air gaps – the famous “ghosts” of the title.

Beautiful gallery of characters

With More than yesterday, less than tomorrow , Laurent Achard goes to length and meets the man who will become his favorite actor, Pascal Cervo. In this splendid chronicle of a return home, Golden Tiger in Rotterdam, the filmmaker draws his characters from the provincial middle class and accurately carves out a beautiful gallery of characters – viper-tongued mother, loving sister, little brother in pants short. The clear writing, the beauty of the frames, the finesse of the dialogues accompany a rise in secrecy and lurking violence. Achard asserts himself as a filmmaker of the edges: his camera slides between the house and the surrounding nature, where some threatening object always looms.

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