Half a Life (Mourir À Trente Ans) by Romain Goupil
Los Angeles Filmforum presents
Half a Life (Mourir À Trente Ans) by Romain Goupil (Visions of Possibilities, part 8)
Sunday September 16, 2018, 7:30pm
At the Spielberg Theatre at the Egyptian, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028
DCP courtesy of the Institut Français in Paris. Screening presented with support from the Cultural Services at the Consulate General of France in Los Angeles.
Perhaps the best film about the May 1968 left-wing uprising in Paris (and its dispiriting aftermath), Romain Goupil’s autobiographical documentary draws upon his own ample you-are-there film footage, shot over 12 years as events unfolded. Goupil intercuts this old footage with newer material to pay tribute to his friend and fellow revolutionary Michel Recanati, a militant leader who went missing and eventually committed suicide. This winner of the Caméra d’Or at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival is undistributed in the U.S., so don’t miss seeing it in a DCP from France that is temporarily in North America.
Rarely seen in the United States, Romain Goupil’s documentary chronicles his and his friends’ firsthand experiences as militant, teenage Trotskyites in 1960s France during the heyday of French student movements that culminated with the events of May 1968. Michel Recanati was a part of Goupil’s activist entourage who committed suicide in 1978. Prompted by his death, Goupil crafts a vibrantly raw autobiographical essay-style film that uses found footage and a range of sources including photographs, home movies, and interviews. Drawing on Recanati’s life trajectory to structure the film, Goupil succeeds in evoking the implosion of the leftist movement in 1960s and 1970s France while also constructing a filmic meditation on the transition from adolescence to adulthood during this tumultuous historical moment.
1968: Visions of Possibilities: Over the course of the year, Filmforum will present a variety of films reflecting the turbulent global events of 1968, films made in that time, and works reflecting on the long-term effects and disappointments of the activist efforts and violent responses. From the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy to the Democratic Convention and 1968 presidential election in the US, to the strikes in France in May and the Prague Spring and Soviet crushing of it, these films of and on 1968 utilize many voices and techniques to show an era that seemed lost but perhaps now cycles back to our consciousness and actions. Series curated by Adam Hyman.
Special thanks to Lise de Sablet, Consulat Général de France, Los Angeles, and Laurence Geannopulos, Consulat Général de France, Chicago.
Tickets: $10 general; $6 for students/seniors; free for Filmforum members. Available in advance from Brown Paper Tickets at https://halfallife.bpt.me or at the door.
For more information: www.lafilmforum.org or 323-377-7238
Half a Life (Mourir À Trente Ans)
By Romain Goupil
1982, 35mm transferred to DCP, b&w, sound, 97 min., Subtitled
“Romain Goupil's Mourir a 30 ans (Half a Life) recalls the history of the youngest end of the extra-parliamentary French left in the late 60s/early 70s from a perspective that is equally personal and political. Using interviews, documentary footage, and the films Goupil made during his youth, the movie recounts Goupil's own experiences in the political movements leading up to and following from May '68, as well as pays tribute to his friend and comrade, Michel Recanati, whom Goupil worked alongside in politics for many years but who surprisingly committed suicide in 1978 at the age of 30. An unruly child from a middle-class leftist family, Goupil became involved in politics early in his teens (perhaps around the age of 14), joining the Trotskyite JCR (Jeunesses Communistes Revolutionnaires) after quickly becoming disillusioned with the French Communist Party's complacency. The JCR provided Goupil an early education in Marxism-Leninism, and brought him together with other militant young students who would become long-term comrades, including Recanati. Political activism in his school led to Goupil's suspension, and, despite student protests in response, his expulsion, but Goupil refused to become any less political while "maturing" at another school. Goupil's father was in the film industry, so Goupil had access to a camera from an early age and obsessively filmed the events in his life or recreated them in Truffaut-esque fictional versions.
“Mourir a 30 ans draws heavily on this personal archive to tell the story of Goupil's political coming of age, which is also a history of the JCR and the groups that flowed into and out of it. By May '68, Goupil was merely 17, but, along with his equally young militant peers, had already accumulated years of experience of political organizing, including acting as a bodyguard for the Black Panthers when they visited Paris and sojourning in Berlin amongst the German New Left. During the events of May, Goupil and Recanati played leading roles in the Comités d'action lycées (CAL), which brought secondary students into the revolutionary movement. Using rare footage he shot, Goupil recounts the disconnect he felt at the beginning of that month as he went from street fighting one day to sitting in a classroom the next. As is the case with most films on May '68, Goupil's memorializing of those revolutionary days occasionally slips into nostalgia and privileges self-aggrandizement at the expense of historical insight, such as when Goupil focuses on a series of images that place himself and Recanati at the center of the events.
“In the months following May, the fight to continue the movement devolved into a power struggle amongst the different political groups, though Recanati would remain a significant leader for the younger organizations. The film documents how both young men over the next few years continued to participate in rallies and protests, as well as illegal direct actions such as bombing embassies with paint. After an organization led by Recanati violently clashed with police at an anti-fascist rally, Recanati was given a three-month prison sentence and briefly fled underground. As Goupil frames it, the political limits of the period brought out Recanati's personal limits, the fragility lurking underneath his bold facade, which in an unknown manner transformed Recanati's optimism about changing his life into his premature termination.” – Brian Rajski, http://retentionalfinitude.blogspot.com/2011/04/romain-goupil-mourir-30-ans-half-life.html?m=1