Carriere 250 Meters: Film Review

Cultured but accessible bio-doc narrated by screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière sums up his life as piece of film history.

Legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière travels through India, Paris and New York in the accessible yet cultured documentary directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo.

The ferociously creative mind of legendary French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière roams freely over three continents in a clever, offbeat travelogue likely to delight the cognoscenti while perhaps winning new admirers for this giant of the Euro art house. An unashamedly smart, cultured film, Carrière 250 Meters is not a mass market product in any way, but is perfectly accessible to anyone, particularly young people, desiring an insider’s glimpse into continental 20th century cinema. Festivals should provide an ideal showcase for its juicy anecdotes before it moves on to become a specialized dvd title.

Mexican documaker Juan Carlos Rulfo (In the Pit) films his 80-year-old subject with his walking stick and leather baseball cap as he tramps around India, Paris, New York, Spain and Mexico. With the help of memory and observation they search for the keys to his personal and professional mysteries, in a career that has spanned 50 years and more than 100 films. The writer’s first and last stop, however, is back home in a remote mountain village in southern France where he plans to be buried. The cemetery lies barely 250 meters from the house in which he was born and where he wanders with his 8-year-old daughter, trying to give her “roots” while he contemplates the future.

Since Carrière wrote the doc’s screenplay himself, it is natural that he lingers on his laid-back life-style in the village with his second wife and child. Most viewers, however, will be more intrigued by the travel diary he narrates. A natural story-teller, he recounts carousing with pals Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali and Garcia Lorca in Toledo circa 1963. No fly-by-night tourists, they developed some astounding habits and routines. For instance, he and Bunuel used to visit the city regularly to view El Greco’s masterpiece The Burial of the Count of Orgaz, proceeded to a favourite restaurant, and then popped in on the Cardinal, dead drunk.

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis introduces a revealing section set in New York City, “the signature of the planet.” His tales of living there in 1968 are surprisingly frank, describing how he and photographer Mary Ellen Mark and director Milos Forman (reunited for the occasion) formed a loving threesome in a house where Janis Joplin used to come and visit. 

“You don’t travel to see things, but to find yourself” is Carrière’s watchword, and there is a strong sense that he is taking the opportunity afforded by the film to say goodbye to places, like the theater, where he has been profoundly happy. His 35 years of theater work with Peter Brook include the eleven years they spent transcribing the behemoth Indian epic Mahabharata for stage and screen.

His long collaboration with Bunuel, which blossomed into two of the writer’s four Academy Award nominations (for That Obscure Object of Desire and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie) is again recalled in a visit to a Mexican jungle resort, now in ruins, where the director brought Carrière to write once a year for 19 years.

Rulfo, who also has cinematography credit, films these telling scenes with reserve and skilful discretion, always broadening the individual moment with editor Valentina Leduc to include an exhilarating world of fantasy and illusion intertwined with ancient cultures.  In one highly resonant image Carrière, a compulsive sketcher like Fellini, is captured drawing a detailed portrait of the Indian deity Ganesh in the sand, only to have it washed away by a wave a few seconds later.

Venue: Dubai Film Festival (Cinema of the World)
Production company:  Filmadora Nacional
With: Jean-Claude Carriere, Kiara Alice Carriere, Nahal Tajadod, Phillipe Bathres, Iris Carriere, Maya Gros, Darius Gros, Peter Brook, Enrique Barazza, Pierre Etaix, Mary Ellen Mark, Milos Forman, Raghu Ray, Suresh Jindal
Director: Juan Carlos Rulfo
Screenwriter: Jean-Claude Carrière
Producers: Marco Polo Constandse, Alex Garcia, Simon Bross
Executive producers: Daniel Gruener, Beto Bross, Fernando Rovzar, Billy Rovzar, Avelino Rodriguez, Eamon O'Farrill, Natalia Gil Torner
Director of photography: Juan Carlos Rulfo
Editor: Valentina Leduc
Music: Leonard Heiblum, Jacobo Lieberman
Sales Agent: B&W films
No rating, 89 minutes.

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