Roue de cendres (Wheel of Ashes). 1968. France/USA. Written and directed by Peter Emmanuel Goldman. With Pierre Clémenti, Katinka Bo, Pierre Besançon, and members of the Living Theatre company. DCP from 35mm. In French; English subtitles. Courtesy RE:VOIR. 95 min.
During his meteoric rise as an actor, Clémenti was fiercely principled, ready to turn down roles he saw as too close to commerce or middlebrow fashions (among them: Fellini Satyricon, Les Chemins de Katmandou, La Prisonnière). In 1968, between collaborations with Luis Buñuel and Pier Paolo Pasolini, he spent six weeks shooting Wheel of Ashes with American filmmaker Peter Emmanuel Goldman, whose shoestring budget included a pledge from Jean-Luc Godard. Haunting Left Bank streets and cafés, the film’s protagonist, Pierre, drifts between an ascetic search for deliverance and the pull of carnal love. Bathed in exquisitely sober black-and-white 16mm, a diaphanous Clémenti seemingly unravels while sleepwalking through a Paris on the brink of May ’68. At the film’s 1971 release, Jean-Louis Bory wrote of the portrait of disaffection in Le Nouvel Observateur: “Pierre Clementi is not acting: he’s living his part.”