Preview: Film Love showcases compelling shorts by French director Jean-Gabriel Périot


Jean-Gabriel Périot’s works make use of found photographs and archival footage.

Atlanta’s Film Love series is presenting an evening of French director Jean-Gabriel Périot’s work — and the director himself — in a fascinating 90-minute program that shows how found photographs and archival film footage can be manipulated in compelling, political ways, scored with driving contemporary music or old songs. It will be shown this Saturday night, April 13, at Poem 88.

Nijuman no borei (200,000 Phantoms) (2007, 10 minutes) could not seem simpler at the outset. Périot assembles hundreds (thousands?) of photos of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, from its construction as an exhibition hall in 1914 through its stately, ruined presence in 2006. The building’s dome — intact, then skeletal after the atomic blast, so both a symbol of resilience and despair — remains the still center at the heart of the restless onscreen collage.

The Devil (2012, 7 minutes) combines footage from the U.S. civil rights movement, mixing the familiar, shocking shots of police dogs and water cannons harrowing peaceful marchers with rise-of-militancy clips focusing on expanding Afros and raised black-power fists. In Undo (2005, 10 minutes), Périot re-creates the silly joy I remember as a child when movies in school were briefly played in reverse. Here the effect is more global and poetic: volcanoes swallow their lava; avalanches race up mountainsides, smoothing out the snowfields; mushroom clouds usher fireballs back into their tidy metal warheads; and EMTs rush their patients out of ambulances and guide them toward healthy days.

We Are Winning, Don’t Forget (2004, 7 minutes) and The Barbarians (2010, 5 minutes) make a bookended couple. In the first, shots of tensely smiling workers in uniform and group photos give way to images of rioting and street protests. So it goes with “Barbarians,” whose original posed photos are of world leaders at economic summits.

Street protests of another sort are at the dreadful heart of Even If She Had Been a Criminal… (2006, 10 minutes). In his now familiar way, Périot whiplashes us through pictures and clips from World War II, only to slow things down with a hideous display of joyous Parisians, battering, jeering at and shearing women accused of sleeping with Germans. It’s the barbaric flip side of “victory.”

#67 (2012, 4 minutes) makes cheerful combinations of shots of produce and naked people in its commentary on the economic, ecological and gastronomic disasters of the tomato-growing industry in Europe. “Before I Was Sad” (2002, 2 minutes) is a brisk comic commentary on modern gay identity and questions of conformity.

If several of his shortest films recall the work of Chris Marker, whose influential La Jetée consisted almost entirely of still photographs, Périot’s half-hour narrative drama Between Dogs and Wolves (2008) most recalls the technique of Belgium’s Dardennes Brothers. We follow, often just behind his shoulder, a handsome, mainly silent, very isolated young man as he walks anonymous urban streets in a suit in search of corporate employment by day. By night he bangs through the streets on his motorbike, delivering pizzas to make ends meet. The film is an accomplished, ominous slow boil that speaks to the banal dehumanization of looking for work, and of work itself.


Arts Atlanta, April 11, 2013