Lothringen! 1994. Germany/France. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet. Based on Colette Baudoche, by Maurice Barrès. With Emmanuelle Straub, André Warynski, Dominique Dosdat. 35mm. In French; English subtitles. 21 min.
Straub, who was born in Metz, Lorraine, in 1933, once observed, “I like the Alsatians—they are the only French who have as much irony as Corneille.” In this film, which conjures “a conspiratorial atmosphere of fear and hatred,” Straub and Huillet draw upon a pair of novels by Maurice Barrès, a celebrated Alsatian author, extreme nationalist, crude anti-Semite, and ardent anti-Dreyfusard, to tell tales of perfidy, humiliation, and resistance during the German occupation of Alsace-Lorraine between 1870 and 1918.
Un héritier (An Heir). 2010. France. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on “In the Service of Germany,” by Maurice Barrès. With Joseph Rottner, Jubarite Semaran. In French; English subtitles. 20 min.
Another film based on Straub’s memories of growing up in Metz and a work by Maurice Barrès (a story called “In the Service of Germany”). In 1903 a young country doctor, the son of a French Alsatian bourgeois, is forced to choose between “the French soul and the German deed” by defending or betraying the foresters, mothers, war veterans, and factory workers of the northern Rhine.
À propos de Venise (Geschichtsunterricht) (Concerning Venice [History Lessons]). 2013. Switzerland/France. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub. Based on The Death of Venice, by Maurice Barrès. With Barbara Ulrich. In French; English subtitles. 23 min.
Waters lap gently against the shore as Barbara Ulrich recites Maurice Barrès’s essay about the past glories and tenuous fate of the Most Serene Republic, its once faithful and cosmopolitan but now indolent citizens, its visitors both famous (Chateaubriand, Goethe, Napoleon) and ordinary, its courtesans and pigeons, its solidity and dazzling immateriality.
Itinéraire de Jean Bricard (Itinerary of Jean Bricard). 2007. France. Written and directed by Jean-Marie Straub, Danièle Huillet. Based on the book by Jean-Yves Petiteau. 35mm. In French; English subtitles. 40 min.
Scarred by wartime occupation and postwar pollution, Coton Island is a palimpsest of history brought vividly to life in Jean Bricard’s childhood memories. The island, strategically located on the Loire, was once a lively port town with ash trees, vineyards, and tributaries alive with salmon and shad. But in 1944 Coton Island was occupied by the Germans and became the setting for brutal roundups and executions (including that of Bricard’s uncle) and for small acts of heroic resistance. After collaborating with Huillet on the script, Straub completed Itinerary after her death in 2006. He filmed Coton Island against a stark and leaden winter light; he used deliberatively long tracking shots and nearly still compositions to evoke a kind of enduring resilience.