Eugène Green, Filmmaker

19

January
2011

It was a complete surprise to discover that Eugène Green (pictured), a renowned filmmaker and “cult figure for cinephiles” in France, was born in New York. I have forever thought of him as French, especially since he’s an authority on French baroque theater and is known for his moving recitations of French literature using period pronunciation (some of which has been recorded).

If you are familiar with the ensemble Le Poème Harmonique, it’s worth knowing that their theatrical productions are directed by Benjamin Lazar, a distinguished former protégé of Green’s.

But the wider world knows Green as a filmmaker.

In an recent interview with Little White Lies Magazine, he discusses his latest film, “The Portuguese Nun.” When asked if his intimate understanding of the Baroque influences his work in cinema, he answered by contrasting period and modern world views.

In the Baroque period people lived an oxymoron, because they continued to develop a scientific model of the universe which seemed to work by itself, but at the same time they believed that the highest reality was God, they still had a spiritual belief. So from the point of view of rationalist thought, this is something completely contradictory. I think that this problem still exists for us today, and that cinema is a way of living the Baroque oxymoron, because the raw material of cinema is material reality, that is what rationalist thought considers to be finite, which does not go beyond itself, which is material truth. But the cineaste can show, can make the audience aware, make people see spiritual energy in these fragments of material reality, and therefore make a spiritual experience out of material things. So in a certain way that functions exactly like Baroque thought.

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(Photo courtesy of the artist)

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