Dir/scr: Marcel Ophuls. France. 2013. 106mins
Back after a self-imposed retirement of almost 20 years, Marcel Ophuls, undoubtedly one of the most outspoken, witty and intelligent documentary filmmakers of his generation, is back. More relaxed than ever in dealing with the past, this autobiographical essay on his own life and times is richly spiced with quotes not only of events and people he has known but also from all the films he has grown up with, the ones made by his illustrious father, Max Ophuls and those he made himself.
This is much more like a stimulating, convivial evening in the company of cultivated, experienced, widely-travelled personality who has lots of interesting things to tell and does it effortlessly.
After tackling some of the most formidable ethical issues of the 20th century in previous films, Ophuls is no longer out to kill more dragons. Officially, Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Un Voyageur) is a candid story of his life, the camera following him around the world to all the locations that he had gone through in the past. There are memories of his childhood and adolescence, stories about his relationships with his wife Regine, or his parents’ married life; light-hearted conversations with dear friends such as fellow documentarian Frederick Wiseman; with Madeleine Morgenstern, the widow of the man he still refers to as the best friend he ever had, the late Francois Truffaut, or with Jeanne Moreau, who not only played in one of his early attempts to make feature films, Peau de Banane, but actually put money into the production to make it happen.
All through the film, Marcel Ophuls’ adulation for his father comes forcefully through, be it in clips from his father’s films, in episodes from his life recounted with remarkable zest, and the love for cinema and culture he inherited from him.
Looking over his own past record with laid-back humour he smiles widely, reminiscing about his encounters with Otto Preminger and with Marlene Dietrich, and keeps smiling while recounting the vicious attacks at The Sorrow And The Pity which stepped on all the wrong French toes; the troubles he had with Memory Of Justice when the German investors pulled out at the last moment because he was too intransigent for their tastes, or with Hotel Terminus, when the Klaus Barbie trial kept being postponed again and again. And he never forgets to settle accounts with people he doesn’t fancy, be it Brecht, Antonioni or all the French movie stars who were only too happy to visit Adolf Hitler in Berlin.
Because of the subject it would be out of place to expect here world-shattering revelations or facts interpretations of the kind Marcel Ophuls often sprung on his unsuspecting audience before. This is much more like a stimulating, convivial evening in the company of cultivated, experienced, widely-travelled personality who has lots of interesting things to tell and does it effortlessly, with plenty of references and quotes always at hand.
Production companies: The Factory
International sales: Wide House, firstname.lastname@example.org
Producers: Frank Eskenasi
Cinematography: Pierre Boffety, Vincent Jaglin
Editor: Sophie Brunet
With: Elliot Erwitt, Jeanne Moreau, Madeleine Morgenstern, John Simpson, Frederick Wiseman