Dir.: Frank Beauvais; Documentary, France 2019, 75 min.
Frank Beauvais’ debut documentary is nearly impossible to categorise: best described as an Avantgarde diary chronicling the filmmaker’s seven-year exile from Paris and his life in a village in Alsace: which is set entirely against snippets from hundreds of films, particularly B-movies and horror pics. Admittedly I could only identify Carpenter’s Christine and Von Stenberg’s American Tragedy. They sometimes illustrate Beauvais’ melancholy comments, or elaborate on them. A little like reading Houellebecq, and watching self help movies. But Just don’t Think is very much an acquired taste: you’ll either love it or hate the pretentiousness of it all.
Beauvais also has credits in the music industry and now works as a festival organiser. He moved from Paris to the village in Alsace to be near to his mother. It also provided a new beginning after a failed love affair. Admittedly, he doesn’t much care for his new neighbours: he accuses them of being reactionary and self-righteous. This criticism applies very much to his father, who he hasn’t really seen since his teenage years and who he ends up looking after when he falls ill. The evenings see them sitting together in stressful silence, so Frank shows him Gremillion’s The Sky is Yours, with Charles Vanel, a paternal figure his father admired. Unfortunately, Beauvais senior has a seizure and dies in front of his very eyes.
Apart from this traumatic event, nothing much happens: Frank watches about five films a day, and feels sorry for himself. He spends the summer of 2016 in Paris and decides to move back there in the October. It the meantime he has filled his place with books and vinyl and has to offload it all. A work trip to visit two directors in Porto proves a downer: .He had chosen the waltz from Deer Hunters for the project and learns on the same night about Michael Cimino’s death. Soon Abbas Kiarostami dies, increasing the anxiety attacks of the filmmaker. The 2015 terrorist attacks only make him angry: “The media exploits them with the opportunism of grave diggers”. Beauvais admits, that he is using “films as bandages”, and his mind set is reflected by readings of Aragon. But when ever it comes to people he was close to, Frank distances himself. A young boy, with whom he had a relationship at the beginning of his Paris exile, collects the cat they cared for, and Beauvais only comment is that the last hug they share confirms their split was the right decision. As for the cat, he has forgotten her after a week.
Beauvais shares a lot with JL Godard: aloofness and certain editorial preferences, which remind of the master’s Historie(s) du Cinema. Like Godard, Beauvais has got lost in the movies, and even in Paris he might not manage to get out of it and find himself. He is the prisoner of his obsession, and prefers watching to personal engagement. His austerity manifests himself in the countless images of bloody horror images, which he views with frightening detachment. But there is much to be admired in this tour-de force, particularly the encyclopaedic collection of cinematographic images corresponding to his emotional turmoil. AS
SCREENING DURING IDFA 2019