Wednesday, 19 March 2008

BANKING ON THE HERITAGE

“An ideal critic should know what he is writing. He must be convinced himself about his criticisms,” Jean-François Rauger tells me as we begin the interview. The class for the first-year students of FTII in Pune, India had just got over and Rauger was getting ready for the screening of films at the NFAI. I mention to him his role as an acclaimed critic for Le Monde and Rauger gives me some idea about the critic’s world. “It is also important for a critic to adapt according to the readers’ taste, country and context,” he adds. For the veteran, the language of the criticism should always remain simple. “When I was young my writing style was complicated. But gradually I learnt to make things simpler,” Rauger informs.

When asked about the trends in recent French films, Rauger sounds happy with the young directors who try to offer realistic perspective of today’s world. “Olivier Assayas is a good example in this regard. In many of his films Olivier has been showing the effects of globalisation,” he says. In the same context he mentions Indian film industry as a “fantastic example” of the art form that is “resisting the onslaught of Hollywood.” Perhaps, that’s why it has always been “exciting” for Rauger to work in India.

As the director of programming of Cinémathèque Française, Jean-François Rauger has been instrumental in selecting the classics that were screened at the Pune Film Treasures Festival and it was mandatory for the first-year students of FTII to attend the Festival. “It is important for the students to understand the art that is involved with the films,” Rauger avers. “The selected films are special in many ways. For example, Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens, as you know, is the result of several incomplete prints that we sourced from various archives. Students therefore get an idea about the importance of archiving and restoration,” he explains. He then elaborates how students are shown frame-by-frame comparison of Rio Bravo and Assault on Precinct 13 that Rio had inspired. “John Carpenter, who directed Assault, had introduced several surprises in the film deviating from Rio. The differences reflect the changes in mentality of the audience,” Rauger affirms.

Talking about archiving in France, Rauger mentions National Archive Insitute (INA) that is well-known for archiving television content. “But despite Cinémathèque Française, INA and several other archives, much more is required to be done,” he admits, adding, that the “home films are yet to be archived.”

Giving some insight into the functioning of Cinémathèque Française, Rauger informs that the French government mostly funds it. Proceeds from ticket sales of film show also help the Paris-based organisation. “We usually request the filmmakers to deposit an original print of their film with us and enter into an agreement with us regarding rights. There is nothing mandatory about depositing films with us,” he informs.


When asked about Indian connection with Cinémathèque Française, Rauger says so far no Indian organisation has approached the organisation regarding any archiving or restoration work. “However, if any Indian film is being screened in France, we approach the producer with a request,” he adds. Incidentally, Cinémathèque Française is panning a Ritwik Ghatak Retrospective, Rauger informs. When asked about the cost of restoring any film, Rauger says it varies from film to film. “The most expensive restoration work that we have done so far was for 200,000 Euros,” he says.