10 July – 24 July
Jean Eustache was born in Pessac in the southwest of France in 1938, the son of a Communist mason. Arriving in Paris in 1957, he initially worked for the French national rail company SNCF while attending Henri Langlois’ La Cinémathèque française in his spare time. There he met future leading lights of the nouvelle vague including Jean-Luc Godard, Eric Rohmer and Jean-Pierre Léaud. After an initial short film, La soirée, started in 1962 but never completed, a series of fascinating medium-length films followed, including (1964), La rosière de Pessac (1968) and Le cochon (1970). In 1973, inspired by his own life, he made the film he would become forever synonymous with, the epicThe Mother and the Whore, considered by critic Jean-Michel Frodon as “one of the most beautiful French films ever made” and winning Eustache the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. One of the great documents of post-1968 France, while featuring little more than people sitting around talking (the outrage it caused in France stemmed from its sexually frank dialogue, often based on secretly recorded exchanges between Eustache and his girlfriends), it somehow captured the failed dreams and disillusionment of a generation. Mes petites amoureuse (1974) was the only other narrative feature Eustache completed; following this, he made a few shorter works and acted in a number of films including Wenders’The American Friend (1977). Falling into a depression after suffering an injury that meant he would limp for the rest of his life, Eustache committed suicide in his Paris apartment in 1981. Kept from widespread distribution for many years by his son Boris, the acquisition of his complete filmography in 2022 by Les Films du Losange and subsequent remastering mean these pivotal works can now finally emerge from obscurity.
6:30pm DU CÔTÉ DE ROBINSON
Jean Eustache (1964) 42 mins – Unclassified 15+
A portrait of two young men (played by Aristide Demonico and Daniel Bart) on the hunt for fun and girls in cafes around Paris’ Place de Clichy, Eustache’s first completed film manages to reveal the despair and ennui that lies beneath the surface of male bravado. With flirtation quickly turning to revenge, Eustache, who wrote, edited and directed this short, shows us the moral degradation of a world where men believe life is entirely defined by sexual prowess. With Jean-Pierre Léaud in a small role.
7:30pm THE MOTHER AND THE WHORE
Jean Eustache (1973) 220 mins – Unclassified 15+
Described by Jonathan Rosenbaum as “a searing masterpiece that… makes us care deeply about what we’ve lost”, Eustache’s profoundly post-nouvelle vague drama focuses on three twentysomething Parisians in a bizarre love triangle. Alexandre (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is a seemingly unemployed narcissist involved with both a live-in girlfriend, Marie (Bernadette Lafont), and a Polish nurse (Françoise Lebrun) with whom he begins an aimless affair. Less concerned with plot than the confused and ambivalent interrelations of these lost souls, Eustache’s opus is one of the most profound cinematic statements on the malaise that followed the failed revolution of May 1968.
6:30pm MES PETITES AMOUREUSES
Jean Eustache (1974) 124 mins – Unclassified 15+
Eustache’s second and final narrative feature is a frank study of early adolescence based on the director’s own youth. His stand-in is 12-year-old Daniel (Martin Loeb), who falls in with a group of older boys after relocating from rural Bordeaux to live with his mother in a cramped apartment in Narbonne. A conscious departure from Eustache’s opus, The Mother and the Whore, its Bressonian performances and brilliant colour cinematography by Néstor Almendros create a deeply personal yet unsentimental portrait of sexual awakening. With Ingrid Caven and Maurice Pialat.
8:50pm LA ROSIÈRE DE PESSAC
Jean Eustache (1979 and 1968) 68 and 65 mins – Unclassified 15+
This documentary diptych chronicles preparations amongst villagers in Pessac, Eustache’s hometown, for the annual crowning of its most “virtuous” young woman, a ceremony that has links back to the Medieval period. Upon completing the second film, Eustache declared that it should be screened first in any subsequent double feature. Functional similarities between the two films give way to striking differences beyond the contrast between black-and-white and colour cinematography – the earlier festivities are tarred with the rumblings of the events of May 1968, which had occurred only a month prior, while the latter film reveals a loss of communal commitment to the ageing ritual.
6:30pm SANTA CLAUS HAS BLUE EYES
Jean Eustache (1966) 48 mins – Unclassified 15+
Shot using unused stock donated by Jean-Luc Godard, Eustache’s third short is a guerrilla-style comic film starring Jean-Pierre Léaud as a hustler out to make a quick buck and attract girls by taking a job as a street-corner Santa.
Followed by Le cochon (Jean-Michel Barjol and Jean Eustache) 1970 50 mins – Unclassified 15+. This verité-style, ethnographically precise documentary follows the path of a pig from being slaughtered to the dinner plate. “A beautiful, sensitive, big-hearted short documentary that shows not a trace of the despair and defeat radiating from Eustache’s fictional films” (Jared Rapfogel).
8:20pm UNE SALE HISTOIRE
Jean Eustache (1977) 50 mins – Unclassified 15+
The bifurcated structure of this unique film layers “magisterial experiments in staged/performed actuality” (Adrian Martin), with collaboration from Eustache’s friend Jean Nöel-Picq and actors Michael Lonsdale, Laurie Zimmer and Françoise Lebrun. With a title that tellingly translates as “A Dirty Story”, Eustache uses the doubling of a monologue – involving the discovery of a peephole between the men’s and women’s toilets in a Paris restaurant – to deconstruct the nature of oral storytelling, confession, performance and audience perception.
9:20pm NUMÉRO ZÉRO
Jean Eustache (1971) 100mins – Unclassified 15+
This profile of Eustache’s grandmother, Odette Robert, captured across an uninterrupted conversation, celebrates a disappearing and largely overlooked way of life and its collective history. As Robert tells her life story over whiskey and cigarettes, Eustache, filming with two cameras to enable long, overlapping takes, deliberately brings attention to the film’s production – talking to the cameraman, operating the clapperboard and receiving a telephone call. In the process, life and film come together to chronicle the intertwined complexities of human life across the generations.