A Word from the Editor
The bulletin begins its fourth year with reviews of recent and new works that are not yet available in the United States. Two of the films are still making the rounds of festivals and we hope that popular demand will hasten their distribution. Don Reid returns with a review of Tous au Larzac (winner of best documentary at the 2012 Césars) a “fiction du réel,” to quote its director Christian Rouaud, and thus within this bulletin’s mandate. Comparing Rouaud’s reconstruction of militant peasants of the 1970s to Claude Berri’s perennial favorites, Jean de Florette and Manon des sources (1986), Reid shows how these works display two sympathetic but contrary views of peasants. We encounter the peasantry of nostalgic imagination and also real peasants determined to defend their economic viability.
The second as-yet-to-be-widely released film is the two-part French miniseries Toussaint Louverture (2012). A subtitled version exists and has been shown on TV5 Monde USA as well as at various festivals, so more’s the shame. I found it quite engaging and Jimmy Jean-Louis, who plays Louverture, riveting. Alyssa Sepinwall does not disagree but she regrets that a serious attempt to depict the Haitian Revolution has proved so inaccurate, especially regarding the brutality of slave life. 12 Years a Slave (2013) is indeed the greater film in that regard (as she suggests), but it too argues that no matter how kind or violent the owner, it is the lack of freedom that matters.
In the Buzz feature, Charles Esdaile reviews Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s last novel to be translated into English, The Siege, a mystery set in Cádiz in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars. Released in the UK in late August 2013, the book was slated to come out in January 2014 in the United States but has now vanished from pre-orders. Still, I like to pay attention to best-selling authors when they tackle French history, and Charles Esdaile offers great insights into the myth of the siege in Spain and the way Pérez-Reverte reinforces this vision at the cost of historical accuracy.
University at Buffalo, SUNY