The distance covered in Jean-Marie Straub and Daniele Huillet's L'Itineraire de Jean Bricard is at once personal and national. Shooting an island in La Loire, the viewer's eye is positioned as if on a motorboat, at the pace of a lesson plan, moving in a direction appearing linear, parallel to a messy tree lined coast. As the eye is caught in the boat's rhythm, one's mind departs with direction and sketches the memory behind these ragged trees, now outlines screaming, like a skeleton.
L'Itineraire lacks none of the essential beauty of the latter Straub- Huillet films. It is similar in sublimity but altogether foreign in aesthetics. Somewhat structural, in the sense that the entire film physically traces a map that is the trajectory of individual memory (TIME), it has none of the common Straub -Huillet elements of austere production design, Marxist film techniques, and overheard discussions of the Gods.
The film is rhythmic though not really musical. Our field of vision is obsessively refused fixity. At many points, we are the kino- eye, and we are watching a different tree or a loop of the same few trees pass by us before any visual security is established. Forward or backward, our motion is limited to the attempt to decipher or to contextualize our own experience.
Coupled with the narration tracing youth, war and what lay in between, the concept of loss is visually foregrounded.
The film's progressive alteration -- both in terms of the coastline revealed as spherical (initially filmed with linear camera moves) and a subsequent tour of the trees as items in a rigid graph, reveals something about the wisdom gained only in returning to revisit the past. Do inconsistencies in memory promote illusion, or is it merely the discrepancies in film emulsion?
The same alteration , strangely enough, is perhaps creating fictions about where we were, who we are and how we became.
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