The 1981 film by Juliet Berto and Jean-Henri Roger comes out in a restored copy and breathes fresh air into French cinema today.
It is snowing on French cinema, which undoubtedly not sufficiently covered, has caught a nasty flu that mainly colds author or similar cinema. Titanium by Julia Ducournau, Annette by Leos Carax or France by Bruno Dumont, as many films “Signed” and made over-visible by the last Cannes Film Festival, to the point of winning for one of them (Titanium) the Palme d’Or, are struggling to find their audience.
Blame it on the villainous Covid-19? Not only. During the collapse of auteur cinema, certain Franco-French mastodons, from North Bac to Lost illusions, whatever the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic (or thanks to it?) refuel.
Long live the too much
What is the problem, or even the disease, that would justify such a lack of love? Too sad, too hard, too artist? The restored copy of Snow by Juliet Berto and Jean-Henri Roger reminds us that in this area, we are always right to be too much. Like a more homeopathic remedy than a horse, this “old” (1981) author’s film proves, like the polysemy of its title, that snow can warm our hearts as much as it cools our souls.
For their first duo film, both professional and sentimental, Berto and Roger exalt the cliché: snow is a white coat that embellishes and protects as much as it threatens the survival of those it envelops. Snow like a Snow White who would transform into a disturbing witch. For Juliet Berto, who comes from the films of Godard (The Chinese) and Rivette (Celine and Julie), as for Jean-Henri Roger, former member with Godard of the film-collective Dziga Vertov (Pravda Where The East Wind in 1969), Snow is the opportunity to pay tribute to all these magisters while deriving them in their own way.
Anita the barmaid (Juliet Berto), Willy the boxer in love (Jean-François Stévenin), Jocko the West Indian pastor (Robert Linksol), Bobby, the newsboy-heroin dealer (Ras Paul I Nephtali), Betty the addict (Nini Crépon), the cops (Patrick Chesnais and Jean-François Balmer): as many natives of a parallel world who in their satellite wanderings between the Barbès metro and the Place Pigalle run as fast as the protagonists of the Keeping to himself de Godard, except that they rush headlong towards a cemetery where drugs dig graves.
Lots of Rivette also in the exquisite corpse of the film: “snow” is both the password to designate cocaine and its other synonym, “white”, designates the place of the same name, at the time a hub of trafficking . But this rivetization of Snow also says that his goose game is a rigged game that always leads back to the “no luck” box. Hearts beating, love in the pickup, young dealer gunned down “accidentally” by the cops, Snow drops the flakes from the cockroach. But as in the best blues, from this darkness emerges the dawn of a hymn to humanity: mutual aid, solidarity of bad luck, tenderness for all the marginalized.
Documentary retrospect, Snow tells us about a time when there was a first class in a metro where everyone smoked, fairground stripteases between Blanche and Pigalle, neighborhood cinemas where the screening of kung fu films were conducive to many furtive pleasures , local roadsteads, pandemonium of savoir vivre, castagne and betrayals.
A radical and modern film
But this period documentation does not provoke an ounce of nostalgia. On the contrary, in its cinematographic radicalism (well framed by the cinematographer William Lubtchansky), Snow gives ideas for today and many reasons despite everything to hope, cinematographically, humanly, politically (affirmed feminism) and, dare we say it, popularly (cf. the redesigned appearance of some old people of the old popu, including Raymond Bussières and Eddy Constantine).
And above all, a supernumerary gift: Juliet Berto. Which it is surprising that Duras missed it for his cinema as his playing and his phrasing are those of a scoundrel sister of Delphine Seyrig or a desalinated cousin of Bulle Ogier. No need to gloss over in the dithyramb, since everything is beautifully and lovingly said in the song Yves Simon dedicated to her: in Juliet’s Wonderland, Miss Berto was a modern Alice, all of happiness and terror intertwined. A friend, a comrade, to life, to death. The queen of Snow.
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“Neige” comes back to the cinema and will warm your heart – Les Inrocks