Garage, des moteurs et des hommes
A small picturesque Provençal village. Certainly, I grew up there, but today life seems to have somewhat deserted it. Except for the car and motorcycle repair garage where everyone, I mean the men, come to have their car serviced. What do they do? What do they talk about? A breakdown develops into a nail-biting suspense, the garage becomes the place of masculine transmission. Men are amongst themselves and repair metal bodies.
“We work here”, says Christophe, a repair garage owner in a village in the Haut-Var region where Claire Simon spent her childhood. Although she plunges into a mechanical world and the engine driving the film is a place of work, it is something quite different that the filmmaker has come here to find. Christophe’s garage is a bastion of relationships. People go there to have their car window repaired, their brakes changed or simply to hang around the counter of Christophe, who is impulsive and impatient but always ready to help out. Settling into a place and observing all its ups and downs is certainly a documentary practice in which Claire Simon excels. Within a few shots, we are in the garage as if in the café. There’s Romaric, Christophe’s apprentice, who has well understood that the two of them are not very different. He brings his girlfriend along and often arrives as and when he pleases. Then there are the pillars of the garage who seem to know the place of each tool and are bound together by the secret of engines. There are the women who have no manliness to prove and who keep to one side, in their assigned place. Between these men, as between Romaric and his boss, transmission is technical but also linked to the village: its stories, its quarrels and its politics, which bind them all together whether they like it or not. This place, where you could pass by without stopping long, is where ties are honed. The time allocated to the different aspects of the garage is fine-tuned by the filmmaker. The camera plunges into the heart of the mechanics and takes time for side conversations and rumours to discover, behind the most complicated circuits, the complexity of these relationships – between those who have the knowledge and those who don’t yet know, between the young and old, between women and men.
Claire Simon is a French filmmaker. She discovered the art of direct cinema in the Ateliers Varan and made her first documentaries including c (1995) and Récréations (1998). She has also written and directed three feature-length dramas: Sinon oui (1997), Ça brûle (2005) and Les Bureaux de Dieu (2008). She also made the documentary Gare du Nord (2013), Le Bois dont les rêves sont faits (2016) and Le Concours (2017). After her 2020 documentary series, Le Village, (20 x 26-min episodes), in 2021 Claire Simon made the documentary Le Fils de l’épicière, le Maire, le Village et le Monde, due for release this year.