Danièle Huillet: Avant Garde Filmmaker & Jean-Marie Straub Collaborator

by Andre Soares

Daniele Huillet codirected with Jean-Marie Straub Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach / The Chronicle of Anna-Magdalena Bach, Class Relations, Aaron and Moses, Quei loro incontriIn the New York Times, Dave Kehr has written about the death of Paris-born filmmaker Danièle Huillet, who succumbed to cancer on Oct. 9 at the home of friends in France's Loire Valley. Huillet, who lived with her husband, Jean-Marie Straub, in Rome, was receiving medical treatment at the time. She was 70.

In collaboration with Straub, Huillet created several avant-garde films, mostly shot in black and white, and with little editing or camera movement. According to Kehr, the couple's “aesthetic, grounded in the philosophical materialism of Marx and Engels, was one of extreme realism that resisted superfluous embellishments and editing effects.”

Among their films, some of which were made in Germany (to where Straub had fled after refusing to fight in the Franco-Algerian War) are Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach / The Chronicle of Anna-Magdalena Bach (1968), which delves into the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach as portrayed in the journals of his wife; Moses und Aron / Aaron and Moses (1975), from Arnold Schoenberg's opera; and Klassenverhältnisse / Class Relations (1984), based on Franz Kafka's unfinished novel, America.

Their latest joint effort, Quei loro incontri / Ces rencontres avec eux (These Encounters of Theirs or These Encounters with Them), is scheduled to open in France next week. In the film, aged nonprofessional actors stand in glades and hillsides while reciting bits from Cesare Pavese's Dialogues with Leuco, in which is discussed the relationship between gods and humans.

Reviewing it at the 2006 Venice Film Festival, Variety's Leslie Felperin referred to Quei loro incontri as “unlike anything else showing on the Lido or anywhere else this year. Austere, strangely haunting but patience-testing.” At the festival, the couple were awarded a special Silver Lion for “innovation in the language of cinema.”

Critic Olivier Seguret's obit for Huillet, in La Libération.

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