Pourvu qu’on ait de l’ivresse. 1958. France. Directed by Jean-Daniel Pollet. With Claude Melki. DCP. 20 min. No dialogue.
Claude Mauriac spoke of Claude Melki as “a Buster Keaton of the Parisian suburbs, vulnerable, melancholic and sublime.” Melki was an awkward dancer and an obsessive but clumsy womanizer whom young Jean-Daniel Pollet discovered at a suburban music hall just as he was abandoning his academic studies with the idea of making movies. Melki would become the character Léon in five of Pollet’s films, an odd figure who always seemed out of place. As such, Léon was able to marshal his tenderness, humor, and perspicacity to uncover the touching significance of even the slightest of situations.
Gala. 1961. France. Directed by Jean-Daniel Pollet. With Claude Melki. DCP. 20 min. In French; no English subtitles.
Claude Melki’s Léon is working at a nightclub frequented by Black patrons, a burlesque and dramatic oddball in an otherwise Black-centered setting almost never seen in cinema or on television—and certainly not one depicted with such affection and nuance.
Mediterranée. 1963. France. Directed by Jean-Daniel Pollet. Screenplay by Philippe Sollers. DCP. 45 min. In French; English subtitles.
Made from rushes shot by Jean-Daniel Pollet, Méditerranée was a daring attempt to rewrite the language of cinema. The film is a subjective exploration of the Mediterranean basin both as a landscape and a civilization, with text by Philippe Sollers and music by Antoine Duhamel. Jean-Luc Godard paid Pollet’s work a vibrant tribute by asking, “What can we know of this astonishing occasion, when certain men [...] felt at one with the world, united with the light not sent by the gods but reflected by them, united with the sun, united with the sea...? Jean-Daniel Pollet’s film gives us [...] the most essential, but also the most fragile, keys to this decisive and natural moment.”
Digital restorations courtesy La Traverse