Un monde flottant
Between rain and clearer spells, in the footsteps of Ozu in today’s Japan, people met, wordless encounters… Also some seismic events, a trembling of the ground which does not interrupt the course of the film. And just for the sake of a story: a forgotten umbrella in a hotel room.
Don’t let poverty stare you in the face, but rather let yourself drift like a gourd floating on the river. This is how the 17th-century Japanese poet Asai Ryoi described the present-day sense of the floating world (ukiyo) concept, encouraging his reader to abandon any hope of reward in the hereafter and enjoy the pleasures of the present moment. In his film, Jean-Claude Rousseau responds to this call. He writes, for instance, in Les Draps pliés du grand lit recently published by Éditions de l’Œil: “Nothing in the future is more certain than death. The most perfect, the most definitive certainty. And yet, thought vacillates when faced with death; being sure of this offers us no reassurance.” Subtitled “Sketches and Drawings”, this third film shot in Japan, after Arrière-saison and So Far, So Close (2016), openly draws on the pictorial tradition of ukiyo-e. We recognise Hokusai in his multiple views of Mount Fuji, or Hiroshige with his enchanting landscapes populated by tiny characters, Nara wood where stags with mutilated antlers bellow, bridges suspended over ponds for the photo of young newly-weds. Similarly, the film’s structure remains faithful to the Tokaido Road, which gave genre painting its motifs, placing views of distant cities along the railway lines, as fleeting as a breath of air, edited as an eye blink. But clearly, Un monde flottant is fully part of a more basic and direct relationship to art. The vivacity of the line, the taste for chronicling, the gaiety and anxiety, the acquiescence to the impermanence of things that appears in the accidental or deliberate movements causing bodies and images to falter, and which gives them their true justification. “No need to create without imbalance”; “creation, in art, is simply a series of reinstatements”.
Born in Paris, Jean-Claude Rousseau lived in New York in the 1970s. where he discovered avant-garde cinema as well as the films of Ozu. In 1980, he finished writing the script for Le Concert champêtre and made his first films. After Les Antiquités de Rome, La Vallée close is his second feature-length film. This was screened at the Locarno film festival and then awarded the Grand Prix for documentary at Belfort festival in 1999. In 2001, the Venice Mostra paid tribute to him, followed by a retrospective at the Jeon Ju festival. De son appartement was awarded the International Competition Grand Prix at the 2007 FidMarseille. That same year, the Villa Medicis welcomed him in Rome for a full screening of all his films.