Shot between 1962 and 1964 with an amateur crew and cast (in their own roles), this film was never edited until it was found by Jean-Pierre Daniel who found the reels in a trunk. It was then shown at the 1971 Cannes Film Festival (section Semaine de la Critique). After that, the film was lost in nature for another 30 years, then was rediscovered again in 2001 by the original director and cinematographer Josée Manenti. The film has its first French national release in 2004. See more »
Experimental trip into autism formed out of layered aesthetics
Mesmerizing like a silent avant-garde experiment, powerful like a biopic documentary, this pseudo-film is a fantastic hymn to the weakness of humanity on both side of the autistic wall. Throughout this disturbing journey into madness, a glimpse of how complex and overbearing the universe of autism can be, is suggested with stunning simplicity.
======SPOILERS======Yves Guignard, an autistic child aged 20, runs away from an oppressive mental institution, and meanders about across the dry and bald landscape of the Cévènnes rocky hills in southern France, bathed by a hi-con sunlight. Joined by Richard, a 13 years old kid from a nearby village, who drags Yves around in one of these infantile errancy after hopes of a new home, a wife, a life free of the grown up's authority. They settle in a derelict sheepfold where Richard locks up Yves, tired of his ivory tower mutism. Fallen in a hole, Richard screams for help while Yves strives to rescue him to the best of his ability, mindless of the emergency.
This unique pedestrian road trip at the pace of a giant tortoise offers a difficult yet poetic allegory on the mental impairment of a walled-in being. A minimalist form, deconstructed montage and de-contextualized soundtrack, wonderfully illustrates the lacking communication in a world disconnected of any surrounding concerns, limited by a blatant short term memory and attention-span disorder. This story unfolding the occurrence of an emergency crisis in the life of an autistic child (to rescue his playground friend from a trap) tragically depicts how the concept of hazard is trivial to him, and only generates a series of anachronistic events barely integrated by word-association. Once Richard screams "Yyyyyyyyves" (off screen) from the bottom of his dark hole, Yves follows his primary flawed logic seized into instantaneity without being able to abstract himself towards a projected future, or his recalled past, which explains the timing of his responses. Instead of reaching for help, he first installs a barricade in front of the ruin as a caution warning. Then he proclaims his death, and proceeds with a symbolic funeral, piling up stones around a wooden cross. Only later would he look around for a rope, and waste countless time trying to attach two pieces of a broken string together. The never-ending noises coming from a close quarry attracts his attention, but he falls into a catatonic contemplation of the revolving machines. Finally he drags along a cable found on a railroad, but loops into compulsive tremor when the cable gets stuck to a tree. These moments of a constant "peaceful panic" tell the struggle of an introverted soul attempting to grasp an hostile environment.Yves demonstrates a remarkable persistence to control each new situation despite the shallow scope of his personal interest hindered by the mental distress. He's like a fly hitting a window without understanding why the path to freedom is denied, why reality resists to be subdued to his will. Even his motion coordination is a fight against his own body. We observe his quest with emotion and worry, every step of the way, while Richard is abandoned to his fate. Ultimately Yves is approached by a daring neighbor girl, but despite his angered nonsensical yelling she walks him back to the institution. And Yves has wiped out Richard from his mind.======SPOILERS====== Yves'voice over, always uttered loudly with an unexplainable rage, like a narrator talking to himself, constitutes of long-winded speeches truncated into portions of unfinished phrases, leaping verbose, assembling randomly a patchwork of ideas collected during his frozen mutism. A lifelong witness of an absurd environment recorded incoherently in a mad mind. We can note words from TV, political propaganda (general De Gaulle's speeches), automated prayers (from catholic lectures), furious insults (of the institution guardians)... An endless wrath against reality concealed to his intelligence. Unlike the parrot's stupid mimic, the human sensitivity emerges through a collection of words that obviously doesn't belong to him. A textbook practice of automatic writing venerated by the surrealists and Sigmund Freud because the subconscious speaks its own infra-language in-between familiar images. Yves' profound resentment against humankind stands out after a while thanks to the finest wisdom: "They locked me up at the mad house, locked up all the way (refering to his own body), that's as much as they could do, bunch of salvages", "the coffin of our childhood", "The mad house it's like hell, it's like communists, it's like the dead", "The dead don't cry, they weep", "The dead when they dream they phone", "The dead bless themselves"...
The juxtaposition of such a layered discourse with such an overwhelming gesture makes this fiction-documentary a tremendously thought-provoking revelation.
When Fernand Deligny meets Yves Guignard in 1958, he had been locked away in a mental institution for 5 years, a traumatic experience leaving him in a prostrated posture blocking any interaction with the outside world. It took years of compassionate patience and watchful attention for Yves to even articulate his irrational disordered monologues. Like the film, his peculiar method engages to apprehend the imperceptible expressions below language because he believes in restoring the dignity in infra-human behaviors. In his eponymous book published in 1979 "Les détours de l'agir ou le moindre geste" he clearly states the intention to act or to behave is more important than the accomplishment of doing. Other books on the same subject are lyrically titled "These autistic children whom project escapes us", or "The efficient vagabonds". This is a serious evolution in the conception of mentally challenged behaviors apparently eccentric, whimsical or unpredictable. Le Moindre Geste is an admirable testimony to experience the impossible autistic world from inside by piecing together, in an unfamiliar manner, the remnants of a lonely daily life.
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