Jean-Gabriel Périot - Portrait: The world


And when, with gladness in his face,
he placed his hand upon my own, to comfort me,
he drew me in among the hidden things.
Here sighs and lamentations and loud cries
were echoing across the starless air,
so that, as soon as l set out, l wept.
Dante, Divine Comedy – Inferno


History in the making

In the early 1980s, a period fundamental to his life and career, Jean-Luc Godard left behind "quick-paced" history to enter a "slow-paced" history. A new phase that, as opposed to the immediate action towards events one is living through, requires the detachment of reflection; no longer "live" testimony but true retrospective questioning, in an attempt to insert that which is not perceived al first glance, transported by the turbine of action. This approach nevertheless always remains at the service of a latent anger: "Friend, do you hear the black flight of the crows over the plains... " The fact that jean-Gabriel Périot borrows this verse from the song of the Partisans for one his installations is not lacking in significance.

The director, close to that "second speed" of history, is not a videomaker of the moment, of material shot and edited live. The essence of his work consists of an immense gathering. His is a work of research and archival images (many personal photographs and images taken from the Internet) that must later be recycled and organized to provoke, through emotion, a hidden meaning, giving rise to the third image so dear to Godard and his heirs. Elaborating this exogenous recycling to make a critical work, of which Nicole Brenez speaks in her pertinent classification of the Forms of re-utilization in experimental practices (Cinéma, vol. 13, no. 1-2), Périot tirelessly pursues this invisible image. Yet the later is not necessarily an affirmation
but often a question, posed about human beings and their often-paradoxical manner of grasping on to the world in which they live. The installation Désigner les ruines is built upon this model: images of men, women, found on the internet, associated with passages from authors the director has read (Kafka, Primo Levi, Karl Marx, Armand Gatti...) Strangely, the faces smile while their thoughts seem insurmountable... Jean-Gabriel Périot, a(p)artisan of the hybrid, remixing memory, to provoke emotion, makes the imag(e)ination, resurface. Provoking and causing a reaction.
Examining human beings and their paradoxes.
Examining fragmented memory, posing questions on ruins and reconstruction. Examining the intimate, examining the social body, replaced in history... its relationship with the world, with time.

Against intolerance, in all its Forms.
Against the principle of preconceptions. Against stereotypes.
We must arm ourselves with a critical sense.
Even if that brings with it risks.

Périot's weapons are humor ("To be a happy man, do as l have done, become hetero: heterosexuality is the future of all gay" is the slogan that closes the film Before I was sad), overturning accusations (no revisionism at any lime), and an insistence that borders on lack of respect for history (through the use of slow motion, even more effective when placed at the end of a series of sped-up images), with the risk of not being understood by his contemporaries. And this way of working provokes irritation. Even if she had been a criminal...: the use of the past conditional places us face to face with our personal contradictions. Images of a war that is murderous (as all wars are), the victory of the Allied forces and the French who shave the heads of the many women accused of having been with German men. Jean-Gabriel Périot never remotely attempts to associate this gesture, which is absolutely incomparable, to concentration camps (no image is shown in parallel), surely not like what certain men did at that time. Ironically, we are the ones who do so, retrospectively, and therein lies the film's power – because should not perhaps the smallest sign of intolerance make us worry about the explosion to follow? And... if these women did commit the crimes of which they were accused was it necessary to punish them so harshly? The two histories are superimposed here (though the editing) and quick-paced history (the film made contemporarily to the act) seems to respond in the affirmative while slow-paced history (a return to the historical film emphasized by the relationship between the acceleration and slow motion) presents violent questions (do the heroes never reproach themselves for anything?), yet despite that offers no answers. Because we have no right answers as it is impossible for us to judge certain acts.


Man and his complexity: Ecce Homo

Man is not invincible and this disturbs us. But then what is this victory of the class struggle announced in the English title We are winning don’t forget? Men in the workplace, on the streets, increasingly speed up processions ultimately though to the revolts of the GB demonstrations in Genoa, in which reappears that image that has become an icon, of the young demonstrator shot by the Carabinieri, lying lifelessly in a pool of blood. The intimate and the collective are inseparable, parts of a whole endowed with a sense (the famous third image...) Man lives in his own world and the world is part of his life. 21.04.02 (of which there exists an installation and a film version) is the most surprising example of this. It is the date of two concurrent events: the director's birthday party, organized by his friends, and the first round of the 2002 presidential elections in France. The director hazards improbable associations, constructed upon memorable moments, fragments of memory... small stories that refer back to history at large. Périot uses the remnants of society in his everyday life (as well in ours), motives that are as disparate as they are concomitant (advertising images, words of people on the street, slogans of politicians and the National Front, images of life, birthdays, film excerpts, paintings, stars, political men...) to express his resentment of the world. Horror, absurdity and an infinite spiral.

What remains of a human being...? A scar that must be healed, contact lenses, dentures (Intimate Diary). A dead body, immersed in its own blood, after a demonstration... (We are winning don’t forget). Mechanical bodies that have sex to the rhythm of machines (Lovers). "It's a world wide suicide" admonish Pearl jam, like a cry of distress that adds to Périot's questions, which take the form of a warning: "We won't have a (festive) tomorrow. We do not live in an extraordinary epoch. Was it better before?" (Undo). How then to once again find love, the only thing capable of saving us? Yet it was without a doubt present in the beginning of Lovers, in a gesture, a look... All this love replaced by mechanization, by the increasingly more insistent rhythm of the images that rush tirelessly one after another, invaded by fear, fear of immobility, fear of death. Above us, rage suddenly rises, wiping out every living being in its path. Dies Irae, a montage of urban streets, the countryside, paths, forests, the underground, tunnels, despite the swift apparition of a city now and then with its inhabitants, removes all trace of human beings. Is it the creation of a tabula rasa from which to rebuild with solid foundations? The search for a sense and a path to follow? Starting in reverse, before the creation of the world even (Undo)? The question has been raised, but the choices are difficult. Nevertheless, we must go forward, it is impossible to stop. Time flows like those images in movement, infinitely. Despite everything, we must continue down the path, whatever the cost. In spite of past and
future errors, against all forms of intolerance.


by Emmanuelle Sarrouy
Pesaro film festival 2007