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MONTALVO AND THE CHILD

France, 1988 (MIFF 1990)

Director: Claude Mouriéras

IN HIS FIRST FEATURE-LENGTH FILM, director Claude Mourieras deliberately eschews two of the cardinal tendencies of contemporary mainstream filmmaking. He shot this lyrical film, based on the choreography of Pandora by Jean-Claude Gallotta about a young boy's initiation to adulthood, in black and white and relied on a minimum of dialogue.

The film is told entirely in flashback, from the point of view of the small child who early in the film witnesses his uncle Montalvo slaughtering his pet lamb for a family gathering. After the meal, as the child is about to forgive Montalvo, he is cast aside as the men at the gathering respond to flirtatious Pandora.

The aim of using black and white, says Mourieras, is to break the excessive realism that a standard image gives, "I try to play on texture, on preponderances, on de-saturations of colour, on lingering effects. I believe that an image, like skin, must have a texture, a depth, a roughness". Rather than avoiding shadows and unlit areas of the image, Mourieras uses them to cloak the child, to enable him to hide from the harsh realities of the world to which he will adapt.

With the absence of dialogue, the viewer is forced to focus on the characters in a different way, so that the story is told through expressions, gestures, looks, silences and whispers. At the same time, Montalvo and the Child is not a silent film. " As the sound is no longer in the background of the speech, it can assume a greater importance. I think this is a musical film without much music. A train passing by, the atmosphere of a yard in a block of flats, the songs of birds at night; these take the same importance as musical themes. Synchronous and stereophonic sound recordings give a depth to the image which is essential for me".

There is very little dialogue in the film and what is present is a mix of French, Italian, and a Gypsy/Spanis dialect. As a result, no English sub-titles are provided or necessary.

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