Roue de cendres (Wheel of Ashes). 1968. France/USA. Directed by Peter Emmanuel Goldman. With Pierre Clémenti, Katinka Bo, Pierre Besançon, and members of The Living Theatre company. 35mm. In French; English subtitles. 95 min.
This too-rarely seen link between the New American Cinema Group and the French New Wave traffics in devotion and desire through the existential crisis of a protagonist played by Pierre Clémenti (in between his roles in Luis Bunuel’s Belle de Jour and Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Porcile). Exquisite but sober imagery channels Pierre’s interior state, adrift between the search for spirituality in Eastern mysticism and the pull of lust and love. Made by the American-born Peter Emmanuel Goldman with the help of a grant from Jean-Luc Godard (who took a liking to Goldman’s Greenwich Village counterculture picture Echoes of Silence), Roue de cendres received a notable accolade from Cahiers du Cinéma for being the first film to truly capture certain corners of Paris, including those awash in antiwar and student movement posters. The film’s austere, visceral portrait of alienation anticipates the films of Philippe Garrel and Jean Eustache, while remaining haunting for having been inspired by Goldman’s own experience at a crossroads that led to him retreat from filmmaking.