1937. Belgium. Written and directed by Ernst Moerman. With Jean Michel, Françoise Bert, Jacqueline Arpé. Silent; with French intertitles and English subtitles. 17 min.
1971. France/Belgium/West Germany. Written and directed by André Delvaux. With Anna Karina, Bulle Ogier, Mathieu Carrière, Roger Van Hool. In French; English subtitles. 90 min.
1989. Belgium. Directed by André Delvaux. Music by Frédéric Devreese. Special thanks to Catherine Delvaux. 8 min.
Nicola Mazzanti, director of the Royal Film Archive of Belgium, presents masterpieces of Belgian cinema drawn from the archive on its 75th anniversary. The tribute opens with the iconic Monsieur Fantômas, praised by the poet Paul Éluard as a masterpiece equal to Luis Buñuel’s earliest films, in which Ernst Moerman pays homage to Louis Feuillade’s serialist-Surrealist Master of Crime in a caper abounding with adventure, dreams, slapstick humor, and a fanatical anti-clericalism. This sets the tone for Rendez-vous à Bray, which Jonathan Rosenbaum has called André Delvaux’s “most subtle and delicate film, and the hardest to describe…. It has a dense Gothic atmosphere and an even denser erotic texture that defy any synopsis.” Based on a short story by Julien Gracq with a luminous cast led by Anna Karina and Bulle Ogier, Rendez-vous is structured as a musical rondo, orchestrating an encounter between a mysterious woman and a pianist during the Great War as a poetic confusion of reality and fantasy, the mundane and the uncanny. Delvaux’s far-reaching influence on modern Belgian cinema, both Flemish and French, stems not only from the sophistication of his own work but also from his mentorship of younger filmmakers (including Chantal Akerman) and his myriad talents as a musicologist, film critic, and president of the Belgian Royal Film Archive (where he also doubled as a pianist for silent movies). The program closes, fittingly, with magical, hand-tinted images of decaying celluloid in 1001 Films, Delvaux’s celebration of Jacques Ledoux and other archivists dedicated to saving cinema. All films preserved by the Royal Film Archive of Belgium.